Yeti - Thru Hikes

The Great Himalaya Trail Part 1 - Nepal

Ganja La
Nepal. The Himalayas. Home of the highest mountains on earth. This first attempt to hike the massif will be in Langtang - Helambu region. This region is in third place in terms of popularity with visitors. The gentle hills of the Helambu just north of the capital, Kathmandu, are the ideal playground for travelers that are new to trekking or otherwise prefer short treks. This is home of the Tamang and Helambu sherpas. While the Helambu may be visited practically anytime outside of the monsoon season, winter does make it difficult to cross Laurebina La and Ganja La as they are often snowed in from December to February. This dry mountain valley with its Yak herds and Bhotia (Tibetan) inhabitants offers stunning mountain scenery, jungles, and plenty of game. The Langtang National Park provides abundant opportunity to observe nature in various climatic zones, from tropical to alpine. Semi-wild yaks graze in Kyangjin and Tibetan mountain goats live on the enormous moraines above. This is also the home of the snow leopard. But don’t expect to see this shy and elusive animal. The hike, was partly touristic and partly a demanding semi-mountaineering expedition when crossing the Ganja la. This was my debut trek in the Himalayas.161km.The first and most innocent and pure of my Himalayas project.
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Journal
Getting Ready...
February 14th, 2009
Yesterday We landed in Delhi and then In Kathmandu. I like the Nepalese better than the Indians. What a dump these cities are. I guess the rumors about central Asia where true. God, it stinks here. We bought gear today. So cheap. I hope it will be OK. I hope it won't be too heavy. Wow, We are really going to do this. I am nervous. What the hell am I doing here???
And so it begins....
February 15th, 2009
Finally We found this damn village. What a day. I am exhausted.... I wanted Himalayas hey? I am having a hard time even here in the low lands. It was a brutal climb today. We were heavy. We didn't expect it to be this hard. I'm embarrassed. This is a popular hiking region. And I thought I'm in good shape. What the hell will We do when We get to the real stuff?... If We even get there. God, I'm tired. We got here after dark. Luckily We found the village. The tea house owner took us in and gave us food and beds. He was so nice to us. I hope tomorrow We'll have a better day. The views are just great.
Days: 1. End: Chisapani.

February 16th, 2009
This is turning into a disaster. I feel so weak. This is actually getting steeper and We are not even in the hard parts. The weight on our backs just killed us so We got rid of some stuff on the way today. We are currently hiking between villages making our way up to the Gosaikunda. The sacred lakes. We need to decide whether to get a local to help us carry the gear. This is no fun. I'm disappointed with myself. The mountaineering boots are starting to hurt my feet.
Days: 2. End: Kutumsang.

February 17th, 2009
I'm in real pains. My ankles are torn to pieces. I got deep cuts and I can barely walk. This was the hardest day so far. Even after taking Surki Sherpa to help us with the load this was still a murderous and insane day of ascending. We crossed the 3000m today. It is getting more difficult to breathe. We met a few tourists on the way. They are nice. I am so tired and exhausted. Going to sleep in agony. I don't know if I can make it.
Days: 3. End: Tharapati.

February 18th, 2009
We got to Phedi. Barely. The killer ascends and descends are still terrorizing us. No mercy at all. My ankles are just killing me. I got a serious infection already. I soaked my feet in hot water. I don't think it will help. What a shit hole this Phedi is. One house that is a real dump. We are staying here with some Israelis that We met in Kathmandu last week. They are nice. The views are really impressive and beautiful, only I am not really enjoying them. I am weak. Mentally. I guess I am not cut out for this after all. I'm in a really low point right now. Tomorrow We go over Laurebina La and down to the Gosaikunda. The sacred lakes. I really hope I can do this. I will give everything I got left. I am not done yet. At least I'll finish this part. I still carry my backpack even though Its lighter now. Oh, my poor ankles....
Days: 4. End: Phedi.

February 19th, 2009
Made it over Laurebina La. It was hard. I walked so slowly. But I made it. Gave us a bit of adrenaline boost. Cause We were so low in moral. The scenery is absolutely amazing. The lakes are frozen and magical. Oh... I'm in pains. God, I'm such a cry baby. I hate this. We decided to get back to Kathmandu tomorrow from the village of Dunche. I need time to heal and We need some help organizing the second part of this plan. Only now I realize how little did I know about what the hell are the Himalayas. We stand no chance going alone to Ganja La. Hopefully We will make it to the bus. Its a long way down. but its all down. We crossed the 4000m today. This is unbelievable. We were in 4600m today! Nothing like the Himalayas. I can see the entire Lantang range from here! My ankles... I hate my ankles....
Days: 5. End: Laurebina Phedi.
February 20th, 2009
Got to Kathmandu at 10 PM. We are so tired. It was a race down to the Trisuli river, to Dunche. To catch the bus. Only there was no bus. There was a strike. So eventually with the help of Surki We took a jeep and got back. Interesting and very bumpy ride. We met some of the Israelis. Its a Friday evening. I'm so disappointed with myself. I'm upset. Misha is annoying me...
Days: 6. End: Kathmandu (Dunche).

Searching for...
February 22nd, 2009
Michael (Misha) is so annoying! But is he? I think I'm upset with myself and I'm taking it out on him. He did nothing wrong. Why do I always do this? These mental ups and down have got to stop. I still feel I don't belong in this world. I'm not a hiker. I'm just pretending. I wish someday I'll be. I wish it so much. I found this Sherpa climbing guide and two porters. I hope they know what they are doing cause obviously I haven't got a clue. My ankles are starting to heal. That a good thing. We're just hanging out with Itay and Liraz in the Tamel. Gear shops! I love gear shops! 
Days: 8. End: Kathmandu.

February 25th, 2009
I got a good feeling about this kid. Yesterday We met Tom. A young Israeli hiker that just landed. He spent the last 4 months in New Zealand. Hmmm... I never thought about New Zealand before.
He is a really enthusiastic kid. He is shy though... the two chicks he is crashing with are cute!
Damn.... We offered him to join us to Ganja La and he went berserk with excitement. Today was all about getting him the right gear and stuff. Pretty exhausting. I am so happy he is joining us. Even Misha and I got things straight again between us. He is a great guy. Now We have a group. I am really excited. Dandi, the climbing Sherpa looks like a really good choice for a guide. Tomorrow We are starting the main event. Now I am almost completely healed. I hope everything goes well... Man, I like this kid!
Days: 11. End: Kathmandu.

किकि सोसो लोर कयालो (Kiki So So Lor Kyalo...
February 26th, 2009
Finally We got to Syabru Besi. What a grueling ride. But We're here. We're back. I am so nervous. I really want and hope everything will go well. Dandi was a good choice. Tom is just Awesome! Misha is great! I feel better... but nervous.
Days: 12. End: Syabru Besi.

March 1st, 2009
I can feel it. I can feel it close. Ganja La is close. We got to Kyanjin Gompa. The last village in the Langtang valley. The last place to stay before We go to the unknown. Before We go up there.
The scenery is just breathtaking. The white peaks and the huge valley. How can something be so perfect? Very easy days going up the Langtang valley. A lot of laughs and the two Swiss girls We met on the way are really sweet. Tom is turning out to be one of the most incredible persons I've met in my life. He is young though. Man, the laughs We all share. I finally feel the happiness spreading inside. I want to buy a Yak! They are so cool! I saw a lame one with a twisted leg... Maybe I can get a cheap lame one. Yaks are the best! I don't remember the feeling of home now. I've waited for this....
Days: 15. End: Kyanjin Gompa.
March 3rd, 2009
This is going to be hard. I saw it I saw Ganja La from a distance. Last two days I used the zeros We took to get acclimatized. So I climbed on a few ridges near by and then I saw it. What a monster. How the hell do We get up there? And more important is How the hell do We get over that?!?!?! Tom caught a cold. I hope its that and not altitude. Him and Misha didn't really use these zeros to acclimatize. I think it was a mistake. I hope everything goes well. God, what a monster.... Tomorrow, no more games tomorrow. This time its for real.
Days: 17. End: Kyanjin Gompa.
March 4th, 2009
I'm in my tarp in 5000m! I'm camping in 5000m in the Himalayas! Holy Crap! I hope I don't freeze to death. We got to the high camp at around 4 PM after a devastating day. It was hard. But We're good. Tired though. So much adrenaline is pumping inside me. We're actually doing this! Even on the way to the base camp We tackled snow. And now We're in the middle of it. Snow all over the place. Very steep, very rocky terrain. I feel great! So alive! Tom and Misha are having more difficult time. I think its the altitude. Tom has a cold as well. I hope they will be OK. Tomorrow We are there. Ganja La. I can see it from here. Its so close!
Days: 18. End: High Camp.

March 5th, 2009
Ganja La is done. I can't believe I'm writing this.... Ganja La is done!
Everything went wrong today. Just about everything. We got up very early to freezing temperatures. I have never felt such cold temperatures. We got up only to discover that the porters are abandoning us. They have been complaining since We started this. Well, they can go to hell. I asked Tom and Misha what they want to do and they agreed that We move forward. I am happy. I didn't want to quit. Not after everything We've been through. This is our chance. The pass is less than a kilometer away. And not much elevation gain. We done most of the hard work yesterday. Boy was I wrong... It took us more than 5 hours to get there. The bags were heavy and the terrain was just insane. Huge boulders. Icy slopes and snow. Deep snow. Crampons and ice axes all the time. We had some near death experiences taking a slide for a few meters down a slope. But the worst was with Tom. I almost lost that kid. Man, We should really be thankful for our good fortune. He was really close to dying on that slope. Just a few meters before Ganja La.... that was scary. We made it. This was probably the hardest thing I've done in my life so far (Like Misha says...) But We've done it. Eventually We went down from the other side and the ups and downs started to really kick our butt. We camped somewhere on flat moraine. At least its clear of snow. This was brutal. We are exhausted but the tension has gone down. Now, lets finish the job.
Days: 19. End: Near Yangri Kharka.
March 7th, 2009
We're done? Not really. After Ganja La We really didn't expect any more difficulties. But There were. And lots of them. There were about 7 more "small" passes to go through. And Tom just got more and more exhausted. He was really getting worse. I felt so helpless... I felt so guilty. I am the one that got us into this mess. We had no liquid water. Only a bit of snow. So We just ate that cause stopping to melt snow for 4 people is just taking so much time. We were so thirsty. Tom was getting weaker. We moved so slowly cause We wanted to walk together. These are not times to split up. No way I'll let him fall. Eventually, today, in mid day We got to the last pass and saw the villages in the Helambu. Now We need to push it. Tom is out. Dandi is puking. I needed to Cheer them up. How can I do that, when I'm so tired myself. I was so thirsty.... Misha and I took Tom's gear and I walked behind him and kept on pushing him forward. Just a little bit more! He almost crashed. I wanted to kill him when he told me to just leave him there to die. I wanted to kill him myself! After all you've been through? Now you quit? Don't you see how strong you are? You're a though hiker! I wish I was... But I didn't shout or said much. Just kept on pushing him. We got to a village at the end. Completely torn to pieces. But We made it. It became to be a survival trek. But We made it. Tomorrow We continue to a "road" to try and catch the bus to Kathmandu. The kid needs a doctor. Now he is safe. We all are. Ganja La is over. I looked back from the last pass today. Just a last glimpse of where We came from. The monster was out of sight. Behind huge ranges. But it was there. We did it. We made it. We survived it. I feel alive. I feel something. Something I never felt before....
Days: 21. End: Tarke Gyang.
March 8th, 2009
After crazy downhills from hell We made it to the bus. My knees are shattered from the last 2 days. We came down more than 4000m. And it hurts as hell. The bus ride was hard. We got to Kathmandu in early evening and just went to eat a steak. To celebrate. To cherish the moment. Of true friendship. Of a great adventure. Of surviving.
Days: 22. End: Kathmandu (Kiul).

Conclusion
Feeling as usual. No change. Am I an adventurer or am I still looking to shape my personality like a teenage kid? Ganja La is over. And Nepal is over. The thrill is over. But I will return. One day. I will return. From Surki Sherpa and Misha to Dandi and Tom. It was the perfect  adventure. And me? I'm still looking.... For what? I have no idea.

The End

Technical Info
Maps:
A general map and elevation profile of the whole trek. Recommended topographic maps are "Ganja La (Naya Kanga)". Can be obtained in Kathmandu. Although not the most accurate they give some idea about the topography.

Shivapuri - Helambu - Langtang Section
This part is a touristic part of the Himalayas and Nepal. Tea houses all along the way offer you everything you could possibly want, sorry need, in the Himalayas. There is a lot of info on the web about this part. Prices are according to the season and are higher than in the off-beaten treks. You need permits for the Shivapuri NP and Langtang NP. The total cost for both is 1250 Rupees. (According to Feb 2009)
Crossing Ganja La
Once you left Kyanjin Gompa you're on your own. No villages until you reach Tarke Gyang next to the Melamchi Khola about 4-5 days later. You need to pack food and enough Fuel. You can get food at Kyanjin Gompa.
Hiking seasons and water:
Nepal winter is dry. Which means either snow storms in the higher elevations and nothing as you go down. Once you go over the pass you have a very long stretch without liquid water. And at some point even the snow disappears. You need to carry enough water all the time.
If you try and cross in October - November you won't have problems with water sources but the weather will get colder and colder. Snow storms occur on a daily basis in the high passes.
Food and accommodation:
No villages or a supply point for the entire stretch. You are really in a total wilderness and remoteness. You will probably won't see any people until you get down really close to Tarke Gyang. You need to pack food for at least 4 days from Kyanjin Gompa. Expect a slow pace because of the harshness of the terrain and the passes. Only place to get fuel is Kathmandu.
Altitudes:
It is very important to keep a steady pace of gaining elevation and I highly recommend taking a zero day in the Kyanjin Gompa for acclimatization. From there you climb more than 1000m to the high camp. There is an option of camping at the base camp. It is a good flat moraine and only about 300m up in elevation. The disadvantage is that you need to carry extra food. Don't attempt to go from the base camp over Ganja La. It is an extremely risky maneuver. The terrain after the base camp changes dramatically from going mostly in the bush to very steep and rocky with huge boulders. The snow and ice will have their toll on you as well. It is a very technical climb and you will need an ice axe and crampons. Near Ganja La you will also need ropes and ice screws and all the works. If you don't have experience in serious boulder climbing and icy slopes I suggest taking a licensed climbing guide. This is not a place to make mistakes. 
A few notes regarding the route from the Kyanjin Gompa to Tarke Gyang:
  • Starting from kyanjin Gompa, you descend towards the river. Pretty obvious route. You cross a little bridge over the it. You pass between 2 small lakes and you start to climb in the jungle. Keep a general direction of southeast. After about 20 minutes the route flattens. You'll see a pointy peak always to your right. Keep climbing up in the same direction as before.
  • Once you have reached the next flat place you'll see a clear route to the left. (clear only if there is no snow! Look for rock piles that mark the route). Turn left with the route and keep on climbing. Now it is in an east-southeast direction. Look for a small rock pile to the left of the route. Its there. Exposed and very rocky terrain here.
  • Continue the climb which by now is more moderate. You'll see 2 rock piles to your left and after that another one to your right. The route is pretty obvious and clear at this stage. (Not with snow!) You need to keep an eastern direction all the time. A lot of rock piles will mark the way for you. You get and cross an area with huge boulders. Then you'll see prayer flags to your left. (~4200m). You climb on a few steep hills again in an eastern direction. There is a rock pile at the end of the climb. Once you hit that take a sharp right and after a few minutes of scrambling on boulders, you'll see the prayer flags of the base camp to your left. Just turn left and go there directly. (~4400m). Approximate time to reach the base camp is 3 hours.
  • From here you continue in an eastern direction and climb up the ridge. Very steep and hard climb. Follow the rock piles and keep direction. All exposed and icy. May already need crampons and ice axe at this point. After about 2 hours of a climb you'll start seeing Ganja La (in an altitude of about 4800m). Once you near high camp you will walk and scramble on boulders for longer and longer stretches. The climb eases up a bit towards the end.
  • In the area of the high camp there are a few flat spots to pitch a tent. Don't expect anything comfortable. Most likely you'll be camping on snow and ice. The sun is usually over the ridge line by 4 PM and the temperatures drop dramatically. It takes about 3 hours from base camp to high camp.
  • The next morning you better start early. Very early. You will need to follow the eastern crest and a steep gorge will be on your left all the time. Try and get up on the ridge line as much as you can. You'll see the occasional rock pile, but mostly you'll need to make your own route. This is a very steep and icy part. The slopes are just insane sometimes. Huge boulders sometimes 2-3 meters high that you need to get over. Don't be tempted to descend to the gorge on your left. You stand no chance from there. Keep on going in a north-western direction. Crampons and ice axe are mandatory. At some stage you'll see the prayer flags on Ganja La and you'll know towards where to aim for. The last part is the most tricky one. You got some major slippery rock wall to climb. Very Very hard without ropes. It will be on your left. Once you are on the top of the wall just keep on a very narrow ice ledge and in a few meters you'll reach Ganja La. This part is highly risky and needs to be with anchors and ropes and all the works. Don't take chances unless you know what you're doing. And even then......
  • The descend from Ganja La could be worse than the climb up. It is steeper and if covered with ice it is extremely dangerous. Try and reach the pass early so you will still have hard dry ice once you descend from it. You need to keep a southeast direction. The descend eases for a while and then gets very steep again. You got rock piles to mark the way. Pay attention!
  • You need to keep an eastern direction for a few hours. Along a creek. It could be frozen or dry. It depends on the weather god. The route is pretty clear. Then you climb on a crest and take a hard right to a southeast direction. You'll reach a Yak pasture. A few options for a route. Take the southern one which although harder is shorter. Keep on southeast direction. You'll pass Yak Kharka and a few huts for the local Shepherds that come in summer time. Go through the huts and on the crest. You'll see some rock piles ahead on one of the small peaks. After 2 short climbs you'll reach Keldang.
  • From here the route just keeps on the crest. You'll go down from it and then back up. Eastern direction. Follow the rock piles. You need to cross an unnamed pass to the west. Pretty clear route. Then just keep on a south direction on the crest. Lots of ups and down. Very hard sometimes. Keep on following the rock piles and prayer flags. You'll cross several passes in the next day or so.
  • Once you reach the last pass (~4100m) you'll see the Helambu valley and a Stupa (a temple) on one of the peaks. From here the route is good and pretty obvious. You are in the bush line by now. A few hours later you'll reach the village of Tarke Gyang. (~2700m)
This part of the trek is an extremely adventurous and tough route. You need good skills and a bit of luck. Like any other off the bitten high mountain route. The views are just staggering. The weather is very unstable. You need to be prepared for the worse. Don't take chances. Ganja La is very treacherous.

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