Trip Report Trekking in Nepal. Manaslu Circuit and Tsum Valley.

sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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1 year in the planning and 22 days walking! It was brilliant and I would say if you are thinking about it, go and do it but do it soon.
It was Snowbuck's wish to go trekking in the Himalayas and after a great deal of thought we decided on the Manaslu Circuit with the Tsum Valley added on. We chose this because we didn't want to walk with lots of people. The Manaslu circuit gets about 8000 trekkers a year compared with 30000 for Everest Base Camp. A friend had done the Annapurna circuit on a motorcycle and we knew we didn't want that. The Manaslu Circuit had been growing in popularity until it was severely affected in the 2015 earthquake when it was closed and there is still rebuilding going on.
The Tsum Valley has been opened for trekking for only 10 or 11 years. It too was affected by the earthquake and is also rebuilding.
Both areas are restricted so you have to have a registered guide apply for all the permits which also keeps the numbers of trekkers down.
The people are absolutely lovely, friendly and welcoming. Both areas are quite different and amazing.
We chose to trek in April as I really wanted to see the rhododendrons in flower and it's a quieter time.
We used Sherpaland for the trek but you could easily turn up in Kathmandu and organise your trek there.
I would highly recommended Sherpaland and in fact we are looking at doing a different trek next year and will use them again. Lobsang is a Sherpa from the Everest area and all his guides are family or friends and all are Sherpas and proud of it.
You could join a group trek but we went with just us, Sange Sherpa our guide and Rakesh our porter. This gave us the flexibility to change things if we needed.
The walk is not easy. It's rated medium to hard and I would say that a few days are medium but most are hard! The altitude goes from a few 100m to 5100m crossing the Larkya La pass but there is plenty of opportunity to acclimatise.
Our original plan looked like this.
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sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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The valley is Buddhist and no animal is killed. There are several monasteries, some large, some small.
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At the top of the valley is Mu Gompa (monastery) where we stayed for 2 nights to acclimatise.
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For the 'rest' day we walked up behind the monastery to 4100m. The scenery was fantastic.
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I did start to have symptoms of mild altitude sickness but these disappeared once we descended and didn't reappear when we started the ascent to the Larkye La.
 

sn0wbunny29

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Change is coming! The Tsum valley is very close to the Tibetan border and the Chinese have already begun building a road. We didn't see any vehicles but donkeys carry goods between the 2 countries. Once vehicles start using the road, things will change.
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We used the road as little as possible and kept with the tracks.
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There are steep drop offs but although I have no head for heights I didn't have a problem.
There were a few dangerous moments when we crossed landslide areas.
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We could hear stones rolling which was unnerving. We also witnessed a helicopter rescue of a young lad who had been caught by falling rocks and had a badly cut leg. It took 24 hours for the helicopter to get to him. Fortunately for him there was a doctor and nurse trekking who were able to assist him until he could be airlifted to hospital. A salutary reminder of how remote we were.
 
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sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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Rivers are crossed by suspension bridges.
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Once we left the Tsum valley we started on the Manaslu circuit. Everything is transported by donkey and there were many mule trains. These are ripping up the paths and encouraging flies. They also stop for no one so time is spent getting out of their way!
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The mountains start getting bigger!
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sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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Getting ready for the big push. The track leads over to the pass.
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So on the day of crossing the pass it was breakfast at 3.30am and then off. The first hour we used headtorches to light our way and then the sun came over the mountains.
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It was a long 6 hour hike through glacial moraines until we reached the pass, but we did it!
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It was then a 4 hour descent to Bimthang on the other side. Rakesh our porter did the same walk in 6 hours with our bags and then came back and carried my backpack! What a hero!
 

sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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It wasn't busy until the night before crossing the pass as there is only one place to stay and everyone congregate there. I'd guess there were about 60 of us then. The last couple of days are when the Manaslu circuit joins the Annapurna circuit and then we really noticed the difference. There were lots more people, the accommodation was better and so was the food but after 3 weeks of no vehicles the jeeps etc were a real intrusion on the senses!
 
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sn0wbunny29

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Weather.
According to our guide, this is getting more unpredictable. On our way up to the pass we passed people coming back down having been unable to cross due to the amount of snow and the pass being closed. Our guide was also surprised at how early the monsoon clouds seemed to be forming as monsoon season usually starts mid May.
We were really fortunate in having almost perfect weather for trekking.

Group or personal trek?
I'm so glad that it was just us and our team. You don't get the group camaraderie in a personal trek but we did chat to other trekkers in the evenings who were on similar schedules to us. The thing that I really appreciated was the ability to adjust things to suit us.
Being of mature years, I didn't want to be always the last or unable to keep up. Sange quickly got my walking speed and skill and suggested some amendments so that we got the best from the walk. He extended some of our days so that we could do some side treks which I wouldn't have missed for the world. In fact, we found other trekkers were asking what we were doing and then doing the same!
Sange was also amazingly accurate in his predictions of how long the walking would take me.
Altitude sickness.
It happens! At 3000m+ I felt nauseous and lost my appetite. At 3700m I woke to a swollen face. Fortunately the swelling disappeared during the day but it happened a couple of days running. We kept an eye on it and as I descended the symptoms all disappeared and didn't return when we headed up to the pass. I did have diamox with me but my advice was to try to acclimatise without and only take it as a last resort.
The trek had lots of acclimatisation time built into it so it all turned out well for me.
Rest days.
These are not rest days! This is when you walk high and sleep low! I loved these. We would go up the side of a mountain and then just sit and rest for 30 mins to an hour. The views were fantastic. On one walk, 2 eagles just came swooping by so close you could almost touch them. On another we watched a family of marmots playing.
Best bit of equipment.
My Steripen! It meant we could have safe water without buying bottled water and adding to the litter problem. I carried sterilising tablets too just incase but didn't need them.
Equipment next time?
Fingerless uv protection gloves. That sun is strong and I have stripes where my trekking pole straps were!
Sadness
The litter on the trails. There is no infrastructure for rubbish disposal. The lads running the mule trains just drop their coke bottles, sweet wrappers etc as they go. Rubbish is collected but then just thrown down a ravine. Snowbuck has already got his retirement project in hand and started talking to trekking companies to see what can be done to help. Sherpaland already sends extra porters to carry out rubbish and they organise a monthly community litter pick in their area of Kathmandu.
Would I go again? Absolutely! I'm already tossing up between Kangchengjunga or Dolpo.
I could go on to bore for hours but won't! Happy to answer any questions though if I can!
 

sastrugi

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Jul 5, 2001
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Weather.
According to our guide, this is getting more unpredictable. On our way up to the pass we passed people coming back down having been unable to cross due to the amount of snow and the pass being closed. Our guide was also surprised at how early the monsoon clouds seemed to be forming as monsoon season usually starts mid May.
We were really fortunate in having almost perfect weather for trekking.

Group or personal trek?
I'm so glad that it was just us and our team. You don't get the group camaraderie in a personal trek but we did chat to other trekkers in the evenings who were on similar schedules to us. The thing that I really appreciated was the ability to adjust things to suit us.
Being of mature years, I didn't want to be always the last or unable to keep up. Sange quickly got my walking speed and skill and suggested some amendments so that we got the best from the walk. He extended some of our days so that we could do some side treks which I wouldn't have missed for the world. In fact, we found other trekkers were asking what we were doing and then doing the same!
Sange was also amazingly accurate in his predictions of how long the walking would take me.
Altitude sickness.
It happens! At 3000m+ I felt nauseous and lost my appetite. At 3700m I woke to a swollen face. Fortunately the swelling disappeared during the day but it happened a couple of days running. We kept an eye on it and as I descended the symptoms all disappeared and didn't return when we headed up to the pass. I did have diamox with me but my advice was to try to acclimatise without and only take it as a last resort.
The trek had lots of acclimatisation time built into it so it all turned out well for me.
Rest days.
These are not rest days! This is when you walk high and sleep low! I loved these. We would go up the side of a mountain and then just sit and rest for 30 mins to an hour. The views were fantastic. On one walk, 2 eagles just came swooping by so close you could almost touch them. On another we watched a family of marmots playing.
Best bit of equipment.
My Steripen! It meant we could have safe water without buying bottled water and adding to the litter problem. I carried sterilising tablets too just incase but didn't need them.
Equipment next time?
Fingerless uv protection gloves. That sun is strong and I have stripes where my trekking pole straps were!
Sadness
The litter on the trails. There is no infrastructure for rubbish disposal. The lads running the mule trains just drop their coke bottles, sweet wrappers etc as they go. Rubbish is collected but then just thrown down a ravine. Snowbuck has already got his retirement project in hand and started talking to trekking companies to see what can be done to help. Sherpaland already sends extra porters to carry out rubbish and they organise a monthly community litter pick in their area of Kathmandu.
Would I go again? Absolutely! I'm already tossing up between Kangchengjunga or Dolpo.
I could go on to bore for hours but won't! Happy to answer any questions though if I can!
Fantastic read and pics, so inspired. Thanks for the detail :)
 
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Goski

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Jul 25, 2013
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Great trip report. Looks fantastic. Fab photos. After shattering both ankles on a mountain in NZ at 41 which made all-day hiking impossible. I'm 51 now and just got an artificial right ankle. Hopefully decent bushwalking will now be possible again once I've recovered from this latest op and if that works out, Nepal (after a couple of near visits) beckons. Doing a less busy trek is what my wife and I would choose to and Manaslu would be an exciting peak to be trekking under. Thanks for the inspiration.
 
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sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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Sorry to hear about your ankle. That's a real bummer. I hope that you heal really well and can get trekking. Our trek was a real joy and I can't wait to go again. I would just suggest that you don't go with an organised group but just yourselves to give flexibility. It's a tough trek and the ability to go at your own pace is a real advantage. I'd love to see your photos when you go!
 
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stallie

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Mar 22, 2006
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Excuse the thread revival...

Good write up. Great memories. I did it with the wife and three kids (7,9 &11) last October. Almost exactly the same as your itinerary. Just amazing scenery and people.
Yes the steripen is a must. No need to buy water in plastic (litter) or boiled water (fuel that's scarce). We trekked for 9 weeks all up (did EBC next) and had no gastro problems. We got all our water straight from the communal taps and steripenned it. Also took a small power bank to keep the steripen charged as we were getting though quite some litres per day with the 5 of us.
 

sn0wbunny29

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Jan 11, 2015
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Yes, we had a power block and also a little portable solar panel that clipped onto the backpack.
We're starting to plan next year's trek now!
 
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