Earlier this year, nine club members completed a 21 day, lodge-based walk through the Tamang, Langtang, Gosainakund and Helambu regions north of Kathmandu. We were supported by our guide Gopi.
I had intended to write this report for Tandanya and the club’s Facebook page but woke up to the news of the devastating earthquake that occurred the previous day on the 25th of April, ten days after most of the club members returned from the trip. The death toll is predicted to climb to over ten thousand. The club members on the walk have been exchanging emails as the reports have emerged from the places we trekked.
Amongst the widespread devastation, it triggered a huge avalanche in the Langtang Valley, where over 300 people are reported missing. Many are certainly dead as Langtang Village was completely covered by the avalanche and only faint traces of it remain. With its altitude of 3,430m, the village is one of the places you stop in early to acclimatise. We had arrived just before lunch time as most trekkers do, at just the time of day that the earthquake occurred, 11.56am Nepalese Standard Time (NST).
We had enjoyed our afternoon there visiting the yak cheese factory (female yaks are actually called naks) and the Langtang Valley Health Service (Australia), a charity that provides Australian medical students for three-month placements and employs and trains two Nepali nurses. We stayed in a lovely family run lodge where the young daughters served the food cooked by their mother. One of the daughters sang songs for us and the other accompanied us up to Kyanjin Gompa the next day, putting us to shame with her speed and agility while carrying a large load of supplies for her father. All part of the wonderful times one has with Nepalis and other travellers, while enjoying the stunning Himalayan scenery.
The Langtang Valley Health Service reports the medical student we met survived as she was out at nearby villages, but the nurses did not. The lodge we stayed in would have been destroyed and the lovely family probably killed. I mention these things here because it was wonderful to attend the recent AGM and hear Mark Proctor report that the club had made a donation to the Australian Himalayan Foundation, the relief fund that Duncan Chessell is involved in. I know many club members who have been to Nepal will feel likewise. We understand Gopi, our guide, survived although his village was very close to the epicentre.
The walk began at Gatlang on the Tamang Heritage Trail. The Tamangs are ethnically Tibetan and the area has been open for trekking for only ten years due to its proximity to the border with China. Gatlang itself is a pristine village of stone houses with lovely carved windows and doors. It is set in a valley of terraced fields, old stupas and forest, which makes for a lovely walk. We then enjoyed an afternoon soak in the hot springs at Tatopani followed by a climb up to the view point at Taruche, 3,700m. We had to walk through snow and were rewarded with a huge panorama of the Ganesh and Langtang ranges.
The second leg of the walk was in the Langtang Valley walking through the forest alongside the Langtang River. It was spring and the Rhododendrons and other flowers were an added bonus. We spent three short days climbing to about 3,900m at Kyanjin Gompa from where some members managed to climb Tserko Ri at 4,985m. During our three nights at Kyanjin Gompa we had fresh snow falls creating a wonderful landscape.
The third part of the walk took us out of the Langtang Valley, up to the lakes at Gosainkunda, over the Laurebina Pass (4,600m) and through Helambu to within 25km of Kathmandu. People were reporting that it had been a very cold spring with snow falls continuing late into the season. This led to some interesting walking on narrow icy paths past some very steep drops! The lakes at Gosainkunda were frozen and covered with snow and the pass was a wonderful expanse of snow with fabulous mountain views along the way. It is a beautiful country for walking.
The Nepali villagers were always friendly and welcoming and I hope club members can give thought to future trips when the Nepalis are back on their feet as they will really need our support.