The Full Traverse of Nepal on the Great Himalaya Trail
The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) is the world's longest and highest walking route, running 4500Km through the Himalaya from Buthan to India via Nepal. After years of research, Robin Boustead realised the first high traverse of Nepal during the post- and pre-monsoon seasons of 2008 and 2009, opening the Nepal section of the GHT: a 1700Km route through the greatest mountain scenery on the planet. This is the challenge my friends and I will set out to accomplish: the Full Traverse of Nepal from East to West on the Great Himalaya Trail. The Team: Christopher McCandless said once "Happiness is only real when shared". I will have the great pleasure to share this adventure with the most wonderful people: the ever-smiling, adventurous woman from Belgium Evelyne De Boeck, aka Eef, ; her attentive and easy-going partner Per-Jonas, aka P-J, from Norway; and the passionate and inexhaustible Marie-Caroline, aka M-C, from France, who will be there until mid-November. If hiring a guide will be compulsory for some parts of the Trail (in particular the high passes above 6000m), our adventure will be a self-sufficient trek, which means we will carry with us all the gear we need to be in complete autonomy. Eef, P-J and M-C are therefore not just friends with whom I go hiking. We will live together for about 150 days, dealing together with the difficulties of the Trail: logistic questions, safety concerns and health issues, most importantly ones caused by altitude. We will share the joys of the Trail while looking after each other and keeping each other safe. The itinerary: From Kathmandu, we will take a plane to the small airstrip of Suketar and start our trek in Taplejung. The ascent to Kanchenjunga Base Camp will be a great way of slowly acclimatising to the altitude, get familiar with the Nepalese trails and have our first taste of this mind-blowing adventure. Nepal is the home of eight of the ten highest mountains in the world. Heading East, we will be walking at the feet of giants through regions such as Makalu, Solo-Khumbu (Everest), Rolwaling, Langtang, Annapurna, Mustang ... It will take between four and five months. From lush rhododendron forest to high altitude passes, we will encounter conditions ranging from +30°C to -30°C. The GHT is not one definite trail, but more a "way of discovering the Himalayas", as its creator Robin Boustead describes in his guidebook. We will follow the High Route as long as possible until the winter conditions force us to go down and then walk along the low route, also known as the "cultural trail." The time frame and weather: We are flying to Kathmandu on the 18th of September. We will spend a few days taking care of the last arrangements (visa, permits, hiring a guide, etc..) which will bring us to the end of the monsoon season. October and November are peak trekking season in Nepal, with long spells of good weather and mild temperatures. However, there still can be a large amount of snowfall in high altitude, something we will have to be vigilant about. December and January are the coldest months, the temperature falling frequently bellow -5°C above 4000m. The skies will mostly remain clear during this period of time, but depending on the temperatures, the conditions and practicability of the trail, we will have to drop down to the Low Route. February is warmer than January, but storms and blizzard come back. However, by then we will have reached the Dolpo and Far West regions, which rain shadow of the Dhaulagiri range and are high altitude deserts. We will have to stay at low altitude in these regions as the higher trails will still be impassable because of the snow. The Reason Why: It all started on the Te Araroa, New Zealand's long distance Trail. I had met Eef and P-J along the way, as well as Patrick, another thru-hiker from California.We all got along very well and decided to stay together for the last part of the Trail, all the way to the end in Bluff. Unwilling to say goodbye and stop walking, the four of us crossed the Foveaux Strait to walk the North West Circuit on Stewart Island. It became very clear that, after sharing such a life-changing experience that is walking the length of New Zealand, we were linked by a powerful bond. A bond, I believe, that only thru-hikers can understand. As the time to say goodbye grew nearer, the idea of doing another thru-hike together came up. How about the Pacific Crest Trail in the USA? But two years ago, 2017 seemed far away and making such big plans that would reunite the four of us again appeared too fanciful at first. "PCT 2017" became a good-natured joke between us, a notion belonging to the realm of fantasy. Until, during our numerous antipodal skype sessions, Eef and I decided to make it real. There will be a PCT 2017. Then it quickly extended to other long-distance Trails. The PCT was alluring, but if there was only one thru-hike we would do together, it had to be big, it had to be memorable, it had to be something we couldn't do on our own with trusted friends. Eef suggested The Great Himalaya Trail: the decision was instantly self-evident. I love mountains probably more than I love anything else. Going to Nepal and hiking in the Himalayas is something I've always considered a dream beyond my grasp. Now it is becoming real.As well as contemplating the awe-inspiring mountain views, I am eager to meet the people, discover their cultures, traditions and religions. Let me take you there.