Friday, April 28, 2017

Why Manaslu Circuit Trekking?

Sherpa Child. Pic by James Baxter


Manaslu is more remote, there are no roads, and it still provides an authentic, less commercialized experience (You can clearly see the difference as you join the Annapurna trail on the way down during the last two days of the trek). 


A particular highlight of the Manaslu area is experiencing the full range of spectacular Himalayan scenery from subtropical jungles and rice terraces to cooler pine and rhododendron forests, high pastures, glaciers and wonderful close-up mountain views of mighty Manaslu, Himalchuli and many other peaks. With the gradual change of landscapes comes a change of people who live in the mountain valleys. The villages - from Nepali farming communities to Tibetan yak herders - become increasingly more traditional the further up you go. Experiencing such mesmerizing natural and cultural diversity while trekking around some of the worlds highest peaks is a truly rewarding and humbling experience!


Around Manaslu the trekking infrastructure is quite good (actually better than I expected). There are many places to stay which are fine if simple and usually ok clean. The food is good almost anywhere and it's certainly filling (get used to liking dal bhat - it's always available and gives you all the energy you need!). The level of creature comforts is probably not (yet) as high as in the Annapurna area and (thankfully) there is often no wifi available but that's hopefully not what anyone is coming for! The area around Manaslu was badly affected by the 2015 earthquakes - as sadly so many other areas around the country - but unlike what some guidebooks claim it was perfectly safe and feasible to trek anywhere around Manaslu with the infrastructure largely rebuild in late 2016 (it should be even better in 2017). 


Trekking solo as an average fit person (and with little training in the weeks before the trip) the trek was doable and enjoyable. Part of the trail is quite rocky, some sections are steep but most of the days are good walking, gradually up or down (on most days it's actually both up and down!) and without any particular difficulties. Compared to other trekkers we sometimes decided to walk at a slower pace - the slower you go the easier it is. The day to cross the 5106m high Larke pass was tough and long. It's the biggest challenge on the trek but it's possible if you're healthy, well supported by your guide and put your mind to it! 


There are probably as many trekking companies as trekking experiences in Nepal and choosing one as an independent trekker with so many options available can be difficult. I contacted Trek Nepal Int'l based on the Lonely Planet guidebook recommendation and excellent reviews on this site. I wanted to make sure to avoid both the "cowboys" as well as the big names in the industry and go with a medium-sized locally owned trekking company - small enough to make sure you have a tailor-made and genuine experience but big enough to provide all the backup and professional support needed. Trek Nepal exactly fits this description and as a big plus for me me they are also serious about responsible, sustainable tourism in the Himalaya.