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Since the opening of Rolwaling valley some years back, the only restricted areas of this region are the close border areas to Tibet. The region has some traditional trekking routes and a number of interesting new options.
The key route is the old route to Everest from Bharabise on the Kodari Hwy (Kathmandu-Tibet), across the Tinsang La pass, via Bigu, Laduk, Chetchet and Simigaon to Beding in Rolwaling, and from there to Khumbu and the Sagarmatha National Park. The shorter version of this is taking a vehicle as far as it goes via Charikot, up Tamakoshi valley beyond Singati and into Rolwaling from Chetchet.
I want to issue a warning against crossing Trash Labsta pass from Rolwaling to Khumbu on a shoestring. Here you need to go expedition style and be proerly acclimatized. This pass is a killer, with no easy options for immediate rescue or going to lower altitude. However, local outfitters in Beding/Na are equipped to escort you across and will rent out all necessary equipment.
A much used local pilgrimage trail goes from Charikot to Kalinchok mountain (about 3800 m), and continuing in a circuitous manner along the ridge to Tinsang La and beyond, either back to the road at Bharabise or making a circle via Bigu, Alamphu, Laduk and Singati and returning by foot or vehichle to Charikot from there.
From Tinsang La you can trek down to Last rResort on the Kodari Hwy and continue west into Sindhupalock district, the pilgrimage lake Bhairab Kund and skirting the Jugal Himal and choose whether to head into Langtang, make a soutwestern route via Helambu to Kathmandu or simply scramble down to lower elevations and hit the road to Kathmandu.
Based in the Bigu, Kalinchok or Rolwaling areas you can make several interesting day trips and some longer routes. IN Ramechhap and in Siindhupalchok there are similar options, and both the landscapes south of Rolwaling and Jugal Himal are by and large unexplored by trekkers.
The trekking route envisaged by EcoHimal is not yet fully operational after the Maoist time, so tea house/lodge trekking is still only possible along Tamakoshi valley and into Rolwaling. This will change over the next few years as gaurishankar tourism takes shape.
Updated Jan 22, 2011
During the hike up the valley past Gongar we came across a snake that we first identified as a small, black cobra, but later identified as common krait. We got it verified by expert herpetologists. It is a first in the uplands of Nepal (common in the Terai). It is the deadliest snake in Nepal, 15 times more posionous than cobra. Smallish, different colorings, but commonly steel black, it is night active and pose no danger during daylight hours when it is either hidden or very docile. At night it seeks warm sports, such as sleeping people. The common scenario is to be bitten when rolling over in bed at night.
It is very hard to determine how common the krait should be around here, but there is no indication of it being prevalent.
Written Mar 6, 2012
There is a nice-looking larvae that is quite a pest. It is not limited to the Gaurishankar area, but quite commen there among fields and grassland around 1200-3000 meters. Its fine hairs cause an intense irritation that may last for quite a while. Walk with shoes/socks in grassland. See the photo for identification - I do not know its popular or scientific name.
Updated Jan 22, 2011
EcoHimal cesed working in Dolakha a couple of years back and the status of their much-advertised lodges is uncertain. Be careful to check out the facts before you count on staying overnight in one of them. I have heard that the Laduk one has been taken to house police and Gausishankar Conservation Area management staff.
In 2008 I visited and stayed at the Bigu lodge, which was still running, but it was difficult to find the holders of the keys and get some service going. Once going it was good, though.
Unique Suggestions: Check carefully the status of these lodges on the route between Bigu and Simigaon before planning to stay overnight there. The situation changes fast along this route, too.
Updated Jan 22, 2011
Hi, I was asked to comment on this, but for now I am just briefly checking in on VT - will come back.
Yes, you can walk from Kathmandu to EBC.
Yes you m a y walk from KTM to EBC unaided, however, select your route so that you can replenish your food reserves. There is not a singular track with tea shop/guest house trekking possibilities on this route. You will need to connect a number of existing routes.
Depending on the route you can walk this section any time of the year, providing the EBC is accessible (snow etc).
You can get a visa on arrival in KTM valid for 90 days. A regular tourist visa will do. In addition you need to fill in forms stating your planned route and pay a trekker's fee for parts of the trip, and pay national park fees (in Langtang and Sagarmatha Nat'l Parks).
You can do this trek without any climbing or scrambling - only the last part up to EBC may be high altitude - toward the end of your trek.
I would not go for a route by ruler out of KTM, that will be boring terrain and instead consider the following route: starting at the northern end of Kathmandu, hiking north-east into Helambu and skirting the Langtang National Park crossing the Melamchi basin a bit to the north and following a roundabout route turning east bit and arriving at Barabhise in Sindhupalchok district where you can cross the river coming out of Tibet along the Kodari hwy. From Barabhise you trek east across Tinsang La, Bigu and make a choice as you approach Tamakhosi river whether to take the high route or the low one. On the low route I would actually recommend skipping Bigu-Singati and follow the Kalinchowk ridge from Tinsang La and onwards to Dolakha bazaar or even Charikot for resupply. On the high route you should NOT go unaided, but seek assistance at the Rolwaling settlement of Beding to take you across the exposed Teshi Lapsta (5700+) and see you off in Khumbu. The Beding people will return with all equipment once you are safely in Thame. Should take 3 nights. Continue either along a high route east toward EBC against the grain of the terrain via Gokyo (I would not do it unaided) or easier, turn SE toward Namche and follow the regular trail to EBC. The low route from Singati/Dolakha takes you across ridges east toward Jiri and on to Lukla on the old, established Everest trail. There are potentially many nice diversions of this route. You will end up in Namche most likely via Lukla, and proceed to EBC.
Food, accommodation and supplies may be a challenge between Helambu and Bharabise. The previous lodge system between Barabhise and Rolwaling is partly functioning, and will soon be reestablished (I am actually working on a program to establish the Gaurishankar Conservation Area linking Langtang and Sagarmatha nat'l parks these days). It may also be a challenge between Tamakhosi river and Jiri as well, depending on the route you follow. Off the main routes in Sindhupalchok, Dolakha and Ramechhap districts there is considerable poverty and hardship. Thinking while I write, I am now convinced that you should go in late September-October and finalise by Mid November latest. This will give you statistically good weather, water in the creeks and village pumps, and good post harvest food supply. I was on a work trek in the Tamakoshi-Bigu area (Shorong khola basin)in late September 2008 and it was foggy and rainy and lots of leeches, but plenty of drinking water and food. People told me the rains extended unseasonally late. The monsoon isn't that precise as it used to be anymore.
You need to consider AMS/HAPE as previous writers have mentioned, and the places are quite obvious if you read yourself up on the route and perhaps use Google Earth. Also consider some escape routes - how to get down to a road/bazaar/accommodation/telephone if you decide to quit. Northern Sindhpalchok and Dolakha are the least trekked areas where you may think about this.
If you google the Great Himalayan Trail you may find bits of info on a program supported by SNV, a Dutch agency, on a trekking route east-west across Nepal. There is a book available in KTM that describes the trek, but it is rudimentary in terms of the kind of info that you ask. A booklet on the Gaurishankar trek was published some years ago by EcoHimal, still useful, but for the lodge info.
OK, this is what I can think of for now.
Written Jan 6, 2011