Saturday, July 31, 2010

Monsoon Trekking: Langtang

This trip I'm going to separate into posts by region, and we started up in Langtang. Before I get started I just want to remind readers that what I am retelling here is my experience, I do not necessarily recommend the itinerary that I will relate in this story. Also it should be noted that our recent trip into Tibet left us already acclimatized so we had no trouble with elevation and did not have to plan additional days for acclimating to the high altitudes at Kyanjin Gompa or the Gosainkund Lakes.

The route that Donnie and I had decided on would take us up into the Langtang valley from Dunche, then back down the valley and up to the sacred lakes of Gosainkund before descending back down to Kathmandu via the Helumbu region. I really found the idea of walking up to glaciers on the border of Tibet and then returning all the way to my door step on foot a really attractive idea. That one day you could be be in a place that seemed so far away and then literally walk to your door in less than a week was exciting. At least I thought it was. I was also excited to see what monsoon treks were actually like, and my last post gives my thoughts on that.

7 Miles South of Dunche the Road was Washed Out

First thing is you need to get up to Dunche. Now Kim and I had taken this bus up in late February this year and it is one of the worst bus rides I had ever been on. Buses heading up this way leave from the road just across the river and north of Gongabu bus park out on the Ring Road. We arrived around 7AM, but found out that in the off season there isn't an early bus and we had to wait until 8:30AM. Our plan was to take the bus to Dunche and walk to Syrafru Besi the same day if day light permitted. I had heard that the road onward from Dunche was impassible, and judging from my previous experience on that part of the road I'd prefer to walk anyway.

The bus that showed up looked like a Tata truck that was outfitted with a bus frame, and the seats were some of the most spacious that I have sat in in Nepal, a really pleasant surprise. The trip was just as long as the time before, though we avoided any landslides blocking the trail road from the recent rains. That is until we got just a few miles south of Dunche, and the washouts and the resulting road got even a little too scary for my liking. Crossing one wash out the bus lurched a bit and paused waiting for a signal from the kid out on the side of the bus to say it was safe to proceed, I in the mean time gazed down about 2,000 feet at the cliff side and river below me. Not long after this the bus thankfully stopped, but we were not in Dunche. Apparently the road ahead was washed out, we would have to walk about a mile and a bus would pick us up on the other side to take us the rest of the way. We declined to get on the bus and walked the seven miles left to Dunche, arriving just before dark.

Map showing our Actual Route

The delay in getting to Dunche meant that we needed to change our plans slightly and we settled on trying to head for Lama Hotel the next day via Thulo Syrabru, and bypass going down into the valley to Syrabru Besi all together. After an uneventful stay at the Hotel Langtang View, we woke up to clearing skies and made our way down the raod. At one point we missed a turn in the road and started heading down the trail to Singh Gompa and the Gosainkund area, some locals set us straight and we made our way down the road switchbacks, and eventually into the hills. The morning remained clear, and we got great views of water falls coming down the valley walls, and as we approached the village of Thulo Syrabru we got some good views of the Langtang valley.

The Langtang River is Very Steep
Now I have seen the Langtang river and valley before, but never from a high vantage point. The first thing that struck me was how steep the river valley was. This isn't a tiny river, it moves a serious amount of water, but as the photo above shows, it does it at a very steep angle. This was as high as we would get outside the valley, and from Thulo Syrabru the trail descended down through the village and fields, crossed a large suspension bridge and then descended steeply into the valley.

The Langtang River Was Swollen from Monsoon Rains and Glacial Melt

Once down in the river valley the temperature dropped about 15 degrees. The river was running with such force and ferocity that it was sending a fine mist of spray into the air and acting as a natural air conditioner. It also made hearing a bit difficult in places as the tumbling river was quite loud. As we walked beside it the Landslide Hotel and Namaste Restaurant came into view perched on stilts on a ridge above the river, and as it was just about noon we stopped and had lunch. The proprietor, aside from making some good food, promised us a free room if we stayed here on our way back and  we told him we'd try our best to get here on our return from Kyajin Gompa if we could. He also informed us that we were doing at least two days of hiking by attempting to go to Lama Hotel from Dunche. We shrugged and continued on.

I was amazed that no matter how fast the trail seemed to gain elevation the river seemed to never get that far below. Another two hours following lunch we arrived at Lama Hotel. Now most normal people would get here and be more than happy to call it a day, but we are not normal. We had made such good ground so quickly and were feeling strong so we decided to give it a go and head for Ghodatabela, which our maps and books suggested had a couple of hotels. We figured by doing this we would get most of the climbing out of the way today and we could enjoy more time up at Kyanjin Gompa the following day.

Trail Washout North of Lama Hotel

The trail through this section continued to be quite steep in places, turning into switchbacks that would gain several hundred feet of elevation at a time. At one point we came across a section of trail that was completely washed out and had to climb up and around. As the trail slogged on the ten hours of hiking started to wear on me and I finally started to feel quite tired. It was around this time that we came across some Nepali's heading down the trail that informed us that nothing was open in Ghodatabela, and we would have to walk even further, possibly to Langtang village. I checked the sunsetting time on my GPS and determined that if we could keep a good pace we could try and make it to Langtang tonight before we lost daylight. 

We continued up the trail and upon reaching the closed guest house at River Side, we stopped for a brief rest and I ate half of my emergency chocolate stash, I really needed the energy at this point. Donnie was holding up well, but he too was getting worn out. After more slogging up hill we reached what appeared to be the empty guest houses of Ghodatabela, but then we spotted a kid carrying water, and followed her to the guest house door which was ajar. Apparently this family had just gotten here within the hour and were in the process of opening the place up. Thrilled, we barely negotiated for the room and proceeded to get changed into dry clothes. Due to the recent opening though the menu was limited to dahl bhat, which is not something I enjoy much, but I was happy just to have warm food and a bed available. Within half an hour of arriving at the  Hotel Tibetan it started to rain hard, and all I could think is that walking all the way to Langtang in that would have been miserable.

The Fields and Village of Langtang Seen from Up the Trail

The next morning the skies had cleared and we set out for Kyanjin Gompa. we were informed by our host at Hotel Tibetan that all of the yaks were up that way for the summer months and that we could get fresh yak cheese and curd. After passing a police checkpoint we made our way through the small village of Thangshyap and continued on to the larger village of Langtang. By this point the valley actually widened out into a classic glacial valley and the village sat on a large flat area above the river. Nearby were fields of buckwheat and barley with the occasional yak nearby made the village very picturesque.

Wild Flowers Bloomed Everywhere 

The forests and trees gave way to sub-alpine scrub and bushes, all which seemed to be in bloom. The clouds rolled up the valley and swirled around us and the surrounding cliffs leading up to the towering unseen peaks all around us. As we neared Kyanjin Gompa we passed more and more yaks and their herders, porters and even a few other tourists. Just before 11AM we arrived and quickly got ourselves settled at the Yeti Guest House so we could explore the area, especially the nearby glaciers.

Clouds Clear Over Kyanjin Gompa

Although we arrived early and had plenty of time to explore the nearby valley, the hike from the day before had left us a bit exhausted, and neither of us felt like pushing on to anything to far from town. Luckily in the afternoon the clouds cleared and with a relatively short walk we got some good views of the nearby Lirung Glacier and some of the nearby Mountains.

Yaks Run Down the Mountain

Donnie was feeling a bit cold, despite the warm temperatures and went to lay down in the hotel room. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the village, which was filled with tons of yaks. Everywhere you went were small groups of yaks, and the nearby hills and mountain sides were full of them as well. Sometimes a group of them would come running down a trail, swiftly moving over the uneven rocky terrain. I had never seen yaks so active and it was kind of enjoyable to watch. 

Kimshung Glacier as seen from Kyanjin Gompa

Turns out Donnie was coming down with a bit of a cold and wasn't feeling 100%. I had suggested we consider spending a day to do a trip to the Langtang Glacier, but Donnie thought it better not to exert himself too much considdering we would be walking all the way to Kathmandu from here. Luckily the weather cleared for us again the next morning, after some rain the night before, and we headed back down the valley, hoping to make it to the Landslide hotel.

Clouds Cover the Lower Elevation Forests in the Langtang Valley 

This last day in Langtang brought us all the way back through the valley we had just climbed up. As going down doesn't take the same kind of energy as going up, we easily made it down to the Landslide Hotel where we had Lunch and dinner. Donnie's ankle was giving him a little trouble and his cold continued to bother him, so instead of pushing on to Thulo Syrabru, we decided to stay at Landslide for a little extra rest. 

The next entry will cover climbing up to the sacred lakes of Gosainkund and crossing the Laurabina La pass.


  1. Hello!
    Thanks for this article! I'm going to Nepal in August and i was terrified that i won't be able to trek at all!
    I have a question for you, would you recommend Langtang or Jiri to Lukla trek in mid August?
    Is it safe to go alone for a woman?


  2. I just got back from a great trip in the Everest region and got great views and hardly any rain on the trails. So it's possible to have good enough weather in the Monsoon.

    As per this post ( )I am advising against any trekking in the Langtang area, especially for woman on their own.

    I would advise that as a woman you find someone else to trek with, and if you hire a guide make sure they are reputable or female, as male guides have been known to harass their female clients.

  3. The Langtang is an amazing place and the people there are amongst the friendliest on the planet. Yes there have been a couple of strange occurrences there in a place about 20 times the size of London over the years but I would feel 20 times safer in the Langtang over London. The Nepalese are an amazing race of people. It is one of my most favorite spots in the world and I have trekked there many times. You can read a blog I have written about the Langtang here:

  4. I wrote a similar comment defending travel in the Langtang after Aubrey Sacco went missing. I now very much disagree.

    Travel there is not safe at the moment. After talking with a number of people in Nepal and hearing the reports from outside specialists, including people with the FBI, I think there is a very high chance there is a serial killer who lives or spends a lot of time up there. Targets are almost always young woman, and though the foreign ones make the news, I've heard there are disappearances of locals as well.

    While trekking in Nepal is great, I still advise against any trekking in Langtang, especially for young woman.


Related Posts with Thumbnails