The Great Himalaya Trail
The Great Himalaya Trail Trekking is a network of existing treks and trails which together form one of the longest and highest walking trails in the world. Winding beneath the world’s highest peaks and visiting some of the most remote communities on earth, it passes through lush green valleys, arid high plateaus and incredible landscapes. Nepal’s GHT has 10 sections comprising a network of upper and lower routes (see this map of Nepal), each offering you something different, be it adventure and exploration, authentic cultural experiences, or simply spectacular Himalayan nature.
The trekking route in Nepal
The 1,700 km Nepal section of the trail begins near Kanchenjunga on the eastern border and heads west navigating the domains of eight of the world’s 8000m peaks, from the beautiful but lesser-known Makalu to the famous Everest. It is not the easiest nor most direct route across Nepal, rather a route through the Greater Himalaya. The Nepal section ends in Humla on the Tibetan border.
The route offers an incredible diversity in terms of landscapes, flora & fauna, people and culture: from snow leopards to red pandas; from sub-tropical jungle to fragile high-altitude Eco-systems; from the famous Sherpa’s, to Shamanism, to the ancient Buddhist culture found still in Dolpa.
National Geographic Adventure Magazine Jame’s Vlahos observes, Nepal’s mountains are minimally developed, but they offer a wealth of trade and pilgrimage routes. The GHT elegantly connects these existing paths without blazing a single new trail.
The Nepal section is part of a longer alpine adventure traversing the spine of the Himalaya from Bhutan to Pakistan. These sections are currently being researched, trekked and documented. There still is a a lot of Great Himalaya Trail exploring yet to be done!
Making a difference
Nepal is a poor country and tourism contributes an important 4% of GDP. However this is concentrated, as far as trekking is concerned, in the 3 most popular areas of Solo Khumbu (Everest) region, Annapurna region and Langtang.
By trekking off the the beaten track, you will making a direct difference to communities in these areas by spending money on food, accommodation or services such as guides, porters and cooks. And you’ll be getting to some incredible places, meeting people following ancient cultures and having unique experiences.
Many people come to Nepal to get away from the crowds and to seek challenge and adventure, and equally vibrant nature or solitude. That is more than possible in Nepal.
Few will have the time to attempt the whole route, so it is broken up into sections and short treks along the trail. There are many more places to visit in Nepal than just Annapurna, Everest or Langtang, beautiful as they are! Take with Dolpa for instance.
A short history of cross The Great Himalaya Trail trekking
Not many people have walked the length of the Himalayas in the last few decades (and written about it). However there have been some expeditions with the goal either of traversing Nepal or going further trying to traverse the greater Himalaya range
* In 1980, one inspirational’ Mr Shirahata is mentioned in the classic book Trekking in Nepal by Toru Nakano as having walked the length of the country from east to west’ in Nepal but no further references or information has been found.
* In 1982, Arlene Blum and travel and adventure writer Hugh Swift became the first westerners to complete a 4,500 km great Himalayan traverse across Bhutan, Nepal and India. Starting from the eastern border of Bhutan, Swift and Blum, climbed up and down the Himalayan range over 6,000m passes and down to river valleys at 600m, gaining and losing an average of 1,000m each day to reach Ladakh. This is documented in her book – Breaking Trail.
* In 1983 two British brothers, Richard and Adrian Crane ran the Himalayas, from before Kanchenjunga to beyond Nanga Parbat in less than 100 days. According to the Crane’s book, Running the Himalayas,
In 1980 an Indian army team set out from Arunchal Pradesh in India’s north east corner and, after one and a half to two years of travel along a high mountain route, they finished their journey just north of Leh in the Ladakh region of the Karakorams. it progressed in relay’ fashion and possibly no one member stayed with the expedition for the full course.
They also met the British Women’s Trans-Himalayan Expedition who set of from Sikkim in January 1983 and used buses where necessary on their journey. The Crane’s were however.
travelling super-light. One rucksack, one sleeping bag, one set of clothes, one pair of shoes, and shared between us: map, diaries, camera, penknife, water jar and two plastic teaspoons. No guides, no porters, no shelter, no food, no water. And we would be running. Looked at logically, the idea was preposterous.
* Similarly, in 1994 the French duo of Paul-Eric Bonneau and Bruno Poirier made a crossing of the Himalayas in Nepal in 42 days (October 21 – December 1, 1994) and called their adventure Trans-Nepal-Himalaya. They travelled 2000 km (+ / -55 000 m) between Pashupatinagar (eastern border) and Mahakali (western border) including Everest base camp.
* Then nearly two decades later in 2003, Rosie Swale-Pope ran the length of Nepal, and early Great Himalayan Trail route, with a support team, doing an estimated 1,700km in 68 days to raise money for the charity Nepal Trust.
* Dr Gillian Holdsworth walked a similar route in 2007 which is documented on the British Nepal Medical Trust website.
* Between 2008 and 2011 Jean-Claude Latombe walked a winding trail across Nepal in two sections of 56 and 53 days. His website has a wonderful collage of images of the people and landscapes he encountered.
* In 2010 Sean Burch completed a route across Nepal in 49 days with the help of Nepal Trust
* in 2011 Shawn Forry and Justin Lichter walked an unsupported trek of 57 days across Nepal.
What is the trail?
Until recently The Great Himalaya trail trekking remained an undefined idea – there was no one, logical trail.
In 2006 the Dutch development agency SNV and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu proposed developing an official Great Himalaya Trail from near Kangchenjunga in the east to Api-Saipal in the far west of Nepal. If opening up wild and remote parts of the country could attract trekkers away from the busy areas like Everest, it could benefit more of the 1.8 million people living in the mountains.
Their plans are moving ahead involving all of the affected stakeholders: from renowned mountaineers and trekking guides to the Nepal Tourist Board and the Trekking Agents Association to the village Development Committees in the remote areas the trek passes through.
However it was early 2009 that truly gave birth to a Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal. Robin Boustead supported by his wife Judy Smith and friends who walked the trail in stages beginning in September 2008. It took a lot of research to identify a true high-alpine route that was feasible for trekkers. Robin said: If someone gathered enough information on that area, it would be a great trek for everyone
Robin was that someone and he has documented his route meticulously using GPS. The route, distances, elevations, water sources, villages and camp sites will all be detailed in a guide book to be released early 2010.
Still, the Great Himalaya Trail is new and will evolve over the coming years through the preferences and suggestions of trekkers completing the route or sections of it. This is why it is so exciting to get on the trail now.
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