Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day Trips from Kyanjin Gompa; Langshisha Kharka & Tsergo Ri

I've already described the basic trek up to Kyanjin Gompa in the Langtang valley in this post so I'm not going to discuss it again in detail. The main difference was that this trip was done in October, so it was drier, the scenery was much less green, and the river was flowing at about half the rate it was in July. There were also a tremendous number of people on the trail, but not so many that it detracted too much from the trip. While I enjoy this region in general, it has to be stated up front that the food on this trek is by far the worst of the three major regions. There are no meat options on any menus, and most menus are exactly the same as they are set by a local comity. What is actually available on the menu will vary greatly from guest house to guest house, as will the quality of the food produced and what the interpretation of the items description actually is. One stand out location for me was Yala Peak Guest House in Syrabru which produced a chicken chili that was soo good that I ordered two plates on my return from the trail (a place where I could order meat again). Nice people, good food, and would recommend this place to anyone passing through. So anyway let's get onto the topic at hand, two really fun trips from Kyanjin Gompa; Langshisha Kharka and Tsergo Ri.

Yaks graze in the Langtang Valley

Langshisha Kharka

Trail to Langshisha Kharka

This is a good long walk that takes you all the way up the valley to where the Salbachum, Lanshisha, and Langtang glacial moraines all converge. To get there you just continue on the trail heading east out of Kyanjin Gompa. You'll follow the valley past the turn off to Tsergo Ri and past the air field. During the walk you only gain about one thousand feet over five or so miles. Round trip this can take the better part of a day so it's best to pack some snacks and bring some water with you, though the trip itself is hardly straining.

Yak in the Langtang River

Along the way you get some great views of the nearby peaks including Dorje Lakpa, and eventually Shisha Pangma, the only 8,000 meter peak in Tibet. During summer and early fall many yaks are still up in the high pastures here, and my trip was colored by many of the large fury animals posing alongside the river and mountains. This portion of the valley also contains a number of semi-permanent stone settlements where herders live in the summer months while tending their yaks.

Climbing Over the Glacial Moraines

Toward the end of the trip you have to start climbing up and around some of the old glacial terminal moraines, though the walking and the trail continue to be quite easy. After this you reach the actual site of Langshisha Kharka, which is marked by a number of poles with prayer flags and a few semi-permanent stone structures. According to a guide I spoke with there is a large festival held here every August that atracts people from the whole region, as far away as Helumbu, to celebrate how the valley was supposedly found; a Buddhist lama chasing a yak high into this place.

Flags and Mountains seen from Langshisha Kharka

My pictures don't do this location justice, as the clouds kind of wash out the snowy mountain peaks. In real life it was quite stunning, and had it not been such a long walk back and the sky starting to spit snow we would have spent more than half an hour here. Many people do indeed go up with tents and spend the night so they can make a more leisurely trip to here. Also I should note that from the location itself you get only direct views of the glaciers where they are high up on the mountains, despite the maps showing that they descend, as ice, into this part of the valley. If you want to see actual glaciers up close you will have to continue up one of the three valley's terminal moraines to get a closer look.

Tsergo Ri

Tsergo Ri Covered in Cloud

This is a great day trip that takes you just under five thousand meters to a top of a peak that gives a 360 degree view of the Langtang valley, and one of the best views I've seen in the Himalaya, second only to Gokyo Ri. The climb is also one of the more challenging day trips, taking anywhere from two to four hours to ascend depending on your fitness, the effect of elevation on you and the trail conditions. Mark and I were gifted with perfect weather, and we started up the trail just on the far side of the stream that is east of Kyanjin Gompa. There are two trails that start up the initial ridge, the one a bit further north in the valley seemed a bit easier, but they both merge quite quickly.

Looking Back at the Initial Ascent

The ascent starts out rather straight forward, pushing up an adjacent smaller peak, and then rounding to the back side of Tsergo Ri. This is where the trail gets a bit more difficult as it requires you to climb over a number of boulders and rocks, sometimes at a strong upward angle. While not terribly difficult it's not a bad idea to take your time through this section, as twisting an ankle here isn't an ideal situation. Although we encountered only the smallest amounts of snow, as you round to the north side of the mountain, it is much colder and if there has been any recent snow fall I imagine this section of the trail is much more likely to contain ice and snow.

Reaching the Top of Tsergo Ri

The top of Tsergo Ri is a very pleasent spot with plenty of space, unlike Kala Patar and even Gokyo Ri. Plenty of prayer flags and polls add to the atmosphere and you can make out Kyanjin Gompa and other nearby features far below you. Most stunning of course is the excellent mountain panorama that unfolds before you, allowing you a really stunning view. You get a perfect view of Langtang to the west, Yala peak to the north and Dorje Lakpa and Shisha Pangma to the east. You can see very clearly the Ganja La pass through the southern mountains as well, and after climbing this I'm certain I would like to travel up that way some time in the future, though not without carrying some decent equipment.

Looking at Langtang from the Top of Tsergo Ri

On the way down we took an alternate route that descends to the east from the peak. This trail takes you out onto a high ridge with quite a bit of exposure. The trail then kind of disappears a bit and we had to descend via a nearby gully until we hit a very clear trail that follows an east west contour of the mountain, we headed west, slowly descending back to the initial part of the trail and returning to Kyanjin Gompa. This route was longer distance wise but was a very easy walk, aside from the bit in the gully, and took about the same time to descend as people coming down the way we had come up. It also afforded some really nice views looking to the south, east and west of the valley.

View on the Way down

Both trips are well worth it if you have the time while you are at Kyanjin Gompa. On our return we went to the German Bakery in town and had ourselves some juice and apple pie, one of the best food options on the trail, and also recommended to anyone passing through. All told I think I ate six peices of apple pie over the three days we spent up there. Other easy side trips around town include the Gompa and cheese factory just north of Yala Peak guest house, the Lirung Glacier, accessed by a trail just over the bridge to the west of town and the lakes near the river just south of town accessed by the trail that leads to the crossing of the Gnaja La pass. 

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