At Birendra Lake (3450m) – a short hike from Samagaun
I have been enjoying a lot of perks of my Job. Every year I get chance to hop on treks with international groups and go to remote and exotic locations. This time in April, I had the pleasure to lead a medical group to one of the newly growing areas of Nepal and do the Manaslu Circuit Trek and I must say, the experience is one of a kind!
Beside the well-known Everest and Annapurna treks, Manaslu Circuit trek is also being increasingly popular these days. Turned into a tea house area few years back, the trek is of the same difficulty level as of the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Circuit Treks but offers something totally unique compared to those noted treks. The raw and pure nature, mixture of Hindu and Buddhist (Tibetan) culture, lesser crowd, typical flora and fauna, spectacular mountain views, visit to the base of the 8th highest mountain- Manaslu (8,156m) and the crossing of Larke Pass (5,106m) are the reasons why more and more trekkers are opting for this trek these days. Many people who have been trekking in Nepal for a long time say that the trek gives the impression of trekking in Nepal some 10-15 years ago.
With the Team before the trip!
Manaslu Circuit Trek Itinerary
The trek has a standard 16 day itinerary starting and ending in Kathmandu but this can be easily customized depending on the timeframe one has and one’s interest to skip the motorable path. A few days can be added in if you want some extra time to acclimatize, want some personal time in the mountains or do some side trips to Tsum valley. However, here I will go with the standard itinerary in detail with the major highlights.
Day 1: Drive to Soti Khola (Approx. 775m) via Arughat
Drive time: 7-8 hours (4 hrs asphalt road and 3-4 off road)
Lunch: Dhading Besi
Hotel: New Tsum Valley
Tip: Good to leave Kathmandu early to skip the traffic at Thankot. You can either take a private Jeep, Bus for a bigger size or share a bus to Dhading Besi and get a local jeep to Arughat and then continue to SotiKhola.
Day 2: Trek to Machha khola (Approx. 900m)
Walk time: 5-6 hours
Hotel: Manaslu Inn
Day 3: Machha Khola to Jagat (Approx. 1300m)
Walk time: 7-8 hours
Hotel: Jagat Guest house
Tip: After two and half hours from Jagat, you reach Tatopani, a natural source of hot water. Sit down for a hot tea and freshen up.
This is the first check post for the permits.
Day 4: Jagat to Deng (Approx. 1,860m)
Walk time: 7-8 hours
Lunch: Ekle Bhatti
Hotel: Windy Valley
Tip: Have some time for good photos after 20 mins’ walk. You come across a suspension bridge with 2 beautiful waterfalls.
Day 5: Deng to Namrung (Approx. 2,560m)
Walk time: 7-8 hours
Hotel: Namrung Guest house
Day 6: Namrung to Lho (Approx. 3,180m)
Walk time: 4-5 hours
Hotel: Tashi Delek Guest house
Tip: After Lunch, you can hike up to the monastery, which offers great views of Manalsu.
Day 7: Lho to Samagaun (Approx. 3,580m
Walk time: 3-4 hours
Hotel: Gurung Guest house
Day 8: Rest at Samagaun
This day can be perfect to enjoy the views of the majestic mountains and make side excursion. One can hike up to the Birendra Lake (3,450m), a beautiful glacial lake for a short walk or to Manaslu Base Camp (4,700m) for a long walk. This Base Camp is the starting point of all Manaslu expeditions.
Day 9: Samagaun to Samdo (Approx. 3,875m)
Walk time: 3 hours
Hotel: Tibet Twin lodge
Tip: You can have excursion to Tibetan border.
Day 10: Samdo to Dharmashala (Approx. 4,460m)
Walk time: 3-4 hours
Hotel: Dharmashala Camp
Tip: Early dinner and early sleep is recommended for next day’s early start to cross Larke Pass. There is only one hotel in Dharmashala with additional units of tents. The hotel is very basic. Have a sense of adventure!
Day 11: Cross the Larke Pass (5,106m) to Bhimthang (Approx. 3,720m)
Walk time: 9-10 hours
Lunch: Packed lunch after crossing the Pass and then good late lunch upon arrival at Bhimthang
Hotel: Ganga Manaslu Guest House
On the way to Larke Pass (5106m)
At Larke Pass (5106m), the highest point of the Trek
Day 12: Bhimthang to Tilje (Approx. 1,963m)
Walk time: 5 hours
Lunch: Surke khlola
Hotel: North Face Hotel
Day 13: Tilche to Jagat (Approx. 1,300m)
Walk Time: 5-6 hours
Hotel: Paradise Hotel
Day 14: Drive to Kathmandu (1,400m) via Beshishar
Drive Time: Jagat to Besishar (2-3 hours)
Besisahar to Kathmandu (6 hours)
Hotel: Marshyangdi Hotel
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
Accommodation: Tea house trek is easily possible in Manaslu area. However, the teahouses are pretty basic. It will be a good idea to have a personal sleeping bag (-20) with you for the trek, especially for Dharamasala. In the Itinerary above, I have listed the comfortable accommodation options available.
Fooding: The fooding options are also a bit basic compared to Everest and the Annapurna areas. Go for local food like Dal bhat, chapatis, Potatoes, noodle soup, fired rice and noodles. Meat is too hard to find but still refrain from eating them; eggs are easily available in all the hotels.
Water: Water is easily available in all the hotels and there are few taps along the trail. A Lifestraw or Sawyer bottle will come in very handy or water purifiers shall also be okay.
Electricity and Charging: The charging facilities are very less in the areas. It will be very helpful to take a power bank or solar charger (Goal zero) for the trek.
Communication: The area has very limited connectivity. CDMA phones are available in some places like Jagat, Philim, Samagon and Tilje. Also, there is Internet option available in Philim, Deng, Syal and Samagoan. Wifi facilities in the lodges cannot be fully trusted but the good thing is card Internet, Everest Link like in the Everest area has been started in the area. This Internet facility is reliable and fast but is a bit expensive. (200mb costs USD 5)
Security: The Manaslu circuit trek is a safe area to trek. However, there are few sections which have possible threat of land slide (with rock fallings). So one should be careful, especially in the stretch from Khorla Besi-Tatopani-Dobhan and Jagat-Deng. One should also watch out for the passing ferry mules. Always make sure that you are not on the exposed side of the trail while giving way to them!
Equipment: Apart from the regular trekking gear like boots, jackets, trousers, caps, gloves, sunglasses etc., make sure you carry a pair of mini crampons- they will be a life savior. Do check if your guides and support staffs also have one.
Permits: Manalsu area is a restricted area and Solo trekking is not possible. A registered guide is also mandatory to complete this trek. You need to have Manaslu Restricted area permit issued for minimum of 2 persons. Along with that, you also need to have Manaslu Conservation Area Project fees whereas TIMS card is not required.