Upper Muntang Trek
This trek is one of the classic treks that entail trekking in the rain shadow part of the wind-swept desert landscape of the Himalayas with views of implausible gorges, high passes and enormous vistas. The journey to Lo-Manthang entails passing through authentic Tibetan villages, barren ridges, deep canyons, eroded cliffs and Moraine valleys. Its landscape is unrivaled for it has a stupendous wilderness, pristine scenery, snow capped peaks, spectacular 16th century monasteries and caves. The founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava, came here centuries ago to defend Buddhism against the forces trying to destroy it. To celebrate his successful battle, he built the temple of Lo Gekhar that still stands today, surviving along with an unadulterated Tibetan culture that cannot be found elsewhere.
For political reasons travel into Mustang was strictly forbidden and the region remained isolated from the modern world. In 1992 it was decided to allow outsiders in on a very limited basis. This isolation has helped maintain a way of life almost unchanged for centuries.
The trek starts with a scenic flight to Jomsom from Pokhara and hike to the Tibetan village of Kagbeni. As we climb higher following the Kalighandaki river the landscape becomes more rugged and one starts to get a glimpse of the vast plateau, ancient villages of Tangbe and Syangmochen unchanged and unaffected by time and modern culture. En-route we will be passing number of high passes such as Chele La (3,540m), Vena-la (3,870m) and Yamdo la (4,050m) from where we get fantastic views of Nilgiri (6,940m) and Tilicho (7,134m) which dominates the southern sky. From Syangmochen we start the climb passing the village of Chukkar, Tamagaon and crossing the pass of Nyi La (3,950m) and Ghami La (3,800m). Descend down to Ghami La cross the Qumona river to arrive at the longest Mani wall (prayer stone wall) in Nepal. The next highlight is the 24 feet high choten gate that marks the arrival at Tsharang. The next days hike brings us to Lo Manthang a medieval walled city on the Tibetan Plateau north of the main Himalayas range. Lo-Manthang served as the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Mustang, which survives as the Kingdom of Lo or “Upper Mustang”. The next few days we will explore the ancient monasteries, temples and caves around Lomanthang. We return back to Jomsom to catch the flight back to Pokhra.
IncludedUpper Muntang Trek
Day 1: Arrival Kathmandu
Day 2: Kathmandu Sightseeing and Trek Prep
Day 3: Kathmandu to Pokhara overland journey
Day 4: Fly Jomsom and trek to Kagbeni
Day 5: Trek from Kagbeni to Chaile
Day 6: Trek from Chaile to Shyangboche
Day 7: Trek from Shyangboche to Ghami
Day 8: Trek from Ghami to Tsarang
Day 9 - 10: Trek from Tsarang to Lo Manthang and Explore
Day 11: Trek from Lo Manthang to Tamar
Day 12: Trek from Tamar to Shyangboche
Day 13: Trek from Shyangboche to Tetang
Day 14: Trek from Tetang to Muktinath
After an early start we have a good view of the village of Tetang, which consists of two separate settlements surrounded by high walls and from a distance looks like a large fort. The ascent to a plateau is steep and the trail here can be rather difficult to locate. There is an easy walk over a plain, after which comes about three hours of steep walking uphill, with the narrow trail getting precipitous at times, with loose black gravel. After ascending high in the valley the trail makes a right turn and the pass becomes visible above. At the pass, the mountains seem amazingly close, with Thorung, although the lowest peak, looking particularly impressive, having large glaciers clinging to its steep flanks. Tilicho is covered by snow with indented glaciers, while the summit of Annapurna further back does not actually seem as high as its 8000m +. Even Nilgiri’s almost sheer north face is also covered by glaciers.
It is a moderate walk down to Muktinath, with stunning views of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. Their summits are only 34km apart, which accounts for the tremendous depth of the Kali Gandaki valley. Getting to Muktinath involves crossing another valley, which takes some time. The sporadic houses start to become more numerous as we get nearer Muktinath. There are 108 springs which have their source in or around Muktinath and bathing here is believed to bring good luck. Many people also collect the spring water in bottles to take home to relatives. Also at Muktinath is the legendary flame coming out of a rock, around which a Buddhist temple has been created.
Day 15: Trek from Muktinath to Jomsom
As we begin the final day’s hiking, Dhaulagiri glows orange and the yellow in the early morning sun. Today we take a side trip to the Bon Punt soling monastery in Lubra, before returning to Jomsom for the flight back to Pokhara. The trail is rather sporadic. From a small hill the views of Muktinath are good and it is plain that much of the valley is used for agriculture. We soon reach the Panga Khola valley and the track follows the course of the river, but high upstream. We have to cross the river and walk downstream on the other side, which seems like a major detour but is necessitated by the steep cliffs further down.
After a steep ascent and descent we come to an area of pine forest – a surprising change of scenery! We are high above the river again and must cross two bigger side-valleys on the way downstream. Eventually we come to some fenced-in fields and a garden with apple trees, near Lubra’s village school. The settlement of Lubra consists of about 20 houses near a bend in the river and was founded in connection with the establishment of the Bon Punt soling monastery in the 12th century. This is one of the very few Bon monasteries remaining in Nepal. Bon was the predominant religion in Tibet before the spread of Buddhism and is also called the fifth tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. In the monastery are pictures of four Lokapalas and Buddha Shakyamuni. Bags of masks hang from the ceiling. It is still the tradition today that the head member of Lubra’s nine major families automatically becomes a priest.
After Lubra, the trail leads to the Kali Gandaki and we have to leap across the river Panga a couple of times! At the confluence of the two rivers we join the caravan of tourists going to Jomsom.