I am posting my itinerary & photos (click on the links for each day) of the helambu-gosaikund-langtang and jiri-tumlingtar trek here to help fellow trekkers who might want some information regarding this trek. The jiri-Tumlingtar trek is a combination of 2 treks namely the Jiri-Lukla trek (the walk-in route to the EBC trek) and Arun Valley trek. :-
13-Jan : Kathmandu to chisopani
14-Jan : Chisopani to Kutumsang
15-Jan : KutumSang to Mangengoth
16-Jan : Mangengoth to Ghopte
17-Jan : Ghopte to Phedi
18-Jan : Phedi to Sing Gompa (via Laurabina Pass and Gosaikund)
19-Jan : Sing Gompa to Dhunche and Back
20-Jan : Sing Gompa to Bamboo Lodge
21-Jan : Bamboo Lodge to Thanshyap
22-Jan : Thangshyap to Kyanjin Gompa and Kyanjin Ri
23-Jan : day hike to Langshisha Kharka
24-Jan : Kyanjin Gompa to Bamboo Lodge
25-Jan : Bamboo Lodge to Syarbubesi
26-Jan : Syarbubesi to Kathmandu by Bus
27-Jan : Rest Day at Kathmandu
28-Jan : Kathmandu to Bhandar
29-Jan : Bhandar to kinjar
30-Jan : Kinjar to Taktor (across Lamjura la)
31-Jan : Taktor to Nuntala (across Takshindu La)
01-Feb : Nuntala to Bupsa (place before lukla on Jiri-Lukla trek)
02-Feb : Bupsa to Nanjig (over Pangom La)
03-Feb : Nanjig to Bung (over Surke-La)
04-Feb : Bung to Sanam
05-Feb : Sanam to Phedi (over Salpha bhanjyang with side trek to Salpa pokhari)
06-Feb: Phedi to Tumlingtar
07-Feb: Tumlingtar to Kakaribitta (by Bus/Jeep)
08-Feb: Kakaribitta to Siliguri
From 15 Jan (KutumSang) to 20 Jan (Bamboo lodge) we encountered snow everyday and it was snow plodding for a large part of the way. It was moderately challenging to cross the laurebina la and we were also lucky as the path had been broken by another couple coming from the other side the day before. Prior to that no one had crossed the pass for around 10-14 days. It was nice as there were no other trekkers we met till Kyanjin Gompa...
In the 2nd half of the trek I had the privilege of meeting Appa Sherpa (climbed everest 21 times) in person when he and his group @ Sanam were doing the GHT (Great himalayan trail). The Jiri-Tumlingtar trek involved crossing 5 passes around 3000-4000 m range. Only on the passes you could find a little snow/ice. This is a cultural trail and again it was a pleasure as I encountered no other trekkers (except for Apa Sherpa's group) along the way.
To summarize :
Helambu has great mountain views.
Gosaikund is as peaceful and as holy a lake one would see.
The Helambu /Gosaikund has heavy snow at this time of the year
The Langtang is a beautiful forest, with excellent rivers/streams with numerous rapids. Kyanjin Gompa, the end of Langtang gives you a view of majestic peaks and glaciers.
Jiri-Lukla, is a cultural trail, where one gains and loses height several times as I crossed 2 passes. For folks going onto EBC this is definitely good acclimatization,
The Lukla-Tumligtar is another beautiful cultural trail. The height gain & losses were tiring on my knees as you cross 3 passes in this leg. Again one passes through thick forests which culminates in a beautiful river closer towards Tumligtar.
All in all a nice trek experience with a wide range of terrains...
Getting to the trek
This was my first trek of 2012 and the first major (long) one after recovering from grade 3 ligament tear on my right ankle. Took the 2 day long train journey to Gorakhpur from Bangalore on 9th Jan. After reaching Gorakhpur on 11th Jan evening I took a bus to Sunauli and crossed over the border. Found a place to stay and on 12th took a bus ride to Kathmandu. The bus ride was a whole day affair which started at about 6:00 in the morning and reached Kathmandu about 3 p.m in the evening. Went to Paknajol (near Thamel) and checked into the Friends Peace Guest house. After getting a shower got a local NCELL phone. Tried to buy petrol (for my stove) but all the petrol bunks in Kathmandu were out of petrol. Anyway returned and met up with Ashleena, my companion for the trek. This was her first time in the himalayas. Had dinner and bought a few supplies, coffee powder/sugar/milk powder/soup packets/biscuits/chocolate bars for the trek. The next day after breakfast, we went shopping a bit. I bought some vessels for cooking, ashleena bought a sleeping bag and then we walked to the Nepal tourism board office to get the permits for the helambu/langtang/gosaikund trek. The shopkeeper from whom we purchased the sleeping bag also got us petrol from his friend's bike. We got the permits around noon and then took a local bus to get to Sundarijal, the trailhead, which was about an hour's drive.
Jan 13th 2012 : Sundarijal (1350m ) to Chisopani (2350 m)
We started close to 2 p.m from Sundarijal and it was a 4 hours walk to Chisopani. The route is well laid out. There is also a jeep track upto Chisopani, though one does not have to walk on the jeep track. What amazed me most was the fact that you get splendid views of the mountain ranges on the first day of the trek itself.
Enroute one has to get a permit at the Shivpuri National park (NRS 100 for Indians). As soon as one enters the park there is a bridge over a small waterfall. The whole route is breathtakingly scenic. Believe it or not we crossed some snow in the first day itself - portent of things to come. It was evening (and just about getting dark) when we reached Chisopani. Ashleena wanted a comfortable lodge so she chose a 3 storeyed lodge (with attached toilet/bath). I stayed free of cost (room rent) in a more modest lodge right opposite to the hotel she stayed in. We had ,probably the best dal-bhats of the entire trip, for dinner, on our first evening. Besides we had a very interesting & long conversation with the lodge owners around the warmth of a small heater in the dining room.
TIP : There are a number of short 1-day/2-day treks one can do from Chisopani. The trek to Nagarakot is a popular one. If you want to chill out and trek you can plan to spend 1-2 days @ Chisopani doing these short treks/day-hikes
Jan 14th 2012 : Chisopani (2350 m) to Kutumsang (2450 M)
If the views from Chisopani were great yesterday the views this morning were even more spectacular.
We started off in the morning around 9:00 a.m. and it was about 4:30 p.m before we reached Kutumsang. Another day of "Nepali Flats". Though the eventual height gain is only 150M you lose about 700 M of elevation before climbing back up nearly 800-900 M. Kutumsang is another place with great views. One can get clear views of Dorje Lakpa from here
Jan 15th 2012 : Kutumsang (2450 M) to Magingoth (3285 M)
Started from Kutumsang around 9:00 a.m. Today is a steady climb. As we approach MaginGoth one encounters plenty of snow. There is a steady descent of 30-45 mins from the time one sees the first lodge at Magingoth to the main village (which has about 3-4 lodges) and the entire descent was in snow.
As it was offseason only 1 of the lodges was open. We reached here about 2:00 p.m and decided that we could push on further to Tharepati. As the path was completely snow covered the trail was not very cleared. As it happened we took the wrong path and instead of ascending to Tharepati we descended for about 1 hour. The descent was very steep. We felt it was the wrong way so we took off our rucksacks (at around 3:30 p.m) and I retraced the path alone to check where we had missed the way. Also, it was starting to get and it was getting very dark. By the time I came back to the spot where I had left Ashleena with the rucksacks it was about 4:30 p.m. I decided that I would check if the descent to the village was faster. After a few metres/minutes I decided that the village was too far off and I decided that we needed to head back to Magin Goth. Luckily, just as i was turning back we met a person. He happened to be one of the lodge owners in MaginGoth and he was heading from his village (which was located in the valley below) back to MaginGoth. He confirmed that the route we had taken was indeed wrong and the trail ascends immediately from Magingoth and that we had to head back all the way to the village. Ashleena, was down on energy and when he offered to help her carry her rucksack she readily agreed. All 3 of us made our way back to the village. I carried my backpack but was tired too. It had started snowing steadily by now. We reached Magingoth by 6:00 p.m - cold and tired. Ashleena later said that as she had no energy if she had to come back she would have left the rucksack on the way and headed back to Magin Goth. We stayed at the lodge of the person who helped carry Ashleena's backpack. Today Ashleena had lost the confidence of carrying her backpack. So, she decided to hire a porter who would carry her backpack upto Gosaikund. We spoke to the lodge owner. He said his brother would help her carry the backpack to Gosaikund. We were lucky that his brother agreed to be the porter as there was no one else you could find on the way. We had not met a single trekker on the way, except @ chisopani where there were 1-2 folks who were headed to Nagarkot.
Jan 16th 2012 : Magingoth (3285 M) to Ghopte (3440 M).
It was snowing in the morning. After breakfast hung around for about 30 mins to check if the snowfall subsided. On seeing that it did not we proceeded along with our porter on the "right track". After a 2-3 hour climb in the snowfall we reached Tharepati (3640 M) around noon.
As we were approaching Tharepati the snowfall was really heavy and there was a complete whiteout. There are a couple of lodges @ Tharepati, which are pretty close by. However, the snowfall & whiteout was so heavy that we could not see beyond a few metres. Anyway it was nice to break for half an hour and sit by the fire in the dining room of the lodge and warm ourselves. There are 2 routes from Tharepati. One is the on the traditional Helambu circuit which proceeds towards Tarkhegyang. The other is towards Gosaikund lake. We followed our porter towards Ghopte. The route was complete snowed out -:) and the world was in monochrome. Around an hour or so after Tharepati there is a nice solitary lodge. Except the owner, who was a very enterprising lad, there was no one in that lodge. This lad had worked in leh with the indian army supplying food for them. He spoke good english and had even learnt Korean (got a certification) and was set to go to Korea in about 3 months. He rustled up a very hot and tasty chowmein for us. After lunch we headed to Ghopte which was about 45 mins to an hour away (reached around 2-3 p.m). There was a solitary lodge that was open in Ghopte.
It was expectedly cold. The owner was friendly and kept a fire on at the dining room all the time. However, he was not very encouraging. He said that no one had crossed the Laurebina La and come from Gosaikund in the past 10 days. Even before that it was a group that had come and they had ropes etc. He said expect snow upto 3-4 feet on the pass. He also mentioned that the route from Ghopte to Phedi was slightly dangerous. Ashleena was definitely not enjoying the cold. She was debating whether to turn back. However, being a marathon runner, she definitely was not a quitter. The next morning when we got up the sky was absolutely clear and we had good views. Ashleena, decided to go ahead.
Jan 17th 2012 : Ghopte (3440 M) to Phedi (3740 M)
It was a relief for me that Ashleena decided to go ahead to Phedi. I would have felt a bit disappointed had we decided to return without giving the Laurebina La cross a decent try. We started about 8:30-9:00 a.m in the morning. By the time we left the lad we had met in the lodge (located about an hour back) had also come to Ghopte. He was on his way to meet his friend at Phedi. The route from Ghopte to Phedi was again completely covered with snow.
There were a few stretches which looked a bit dangerous, as it was on a narrow ledge. We arrived at Phedi about an hour or so post lunch. There were a few frozen waterfalls that we had seen just before we arrived at Phedi.
There are a couple of lodges at Phedi. We had lunch @ Phedi. The evenings views from Phedi were spectacular. It seemed like we were seated above the clouds. The feeling was pretty similar to that you get when you are seated in a plane.
Please note that the lodges in Phedi are pretty basic. The cots in the wooden rooms are actually on the ground and the space between the cots (2 cots per room) has a wooden floor -:). The place was pretty cold.
The lodge owners were also not very encouraging saying that there may be snow upto the waist @ the Laurebina La. The re-emphasized that no one had come from the other side in the past 10 days. A couple of times that evening we were trying to reach the lodge owners at Gosaikund to see if they were open. The phone was not being picked up. We suspected that the lodges on the other side were not open. We even tried the cellphone of the lodge owner but he was not picking. This would mean that even if we did cross over the pass we would have to travel a long way down before we could find a lodge to stay in. My partner was also not very confident. In fact we had told our porter/guide that the next morning we were heading back. Honestly speaking I was a bit disappointed that evening that my partner wanted to head back. I was thinking to myself let us see how the next morning pans out.
Jan 18th 2012 : Phedi (3740 M) to Sing Gompa (3300 M) over Laurebina La (4610 M) via Gosaikund (4400 M).
As luck would have it the next morning we got up to clear skies and good weather.
My partner decided that she would go ahead instead of going back. The reason being that she did not want to traverse the route we did yesterday again. In a way going forward seemed lesser of the two evils -;). Also, another German couple had crossed over from the other side yesterday. They were staying in another lodge @ Phedi. That was good news as then we would be able to see the footmarks. So we left at around 8:00-8:30 a.m. We made our way upto the Laurebina la. Since the path had been broken the previous day (by the german couple coming down) we were able to follow the footsteps and reached Laurebina La by about noon. It was really cold and windy @ the pass. As I reached about 10-15 mins ahead of my partner I spent the time savouring the lovely views. It was very windy. Taking photographs was a challenge as the moment you took the hands out of your gloves the cold wind made your fingers numb.
My partner decided not to stop at Laurebina la, except for a couple of photographs, and made her way down towards Gosaikund. There is a frozen lake, Surya Kund, you can see @ the top of the pass. It was another 1 hour or so down to Gosaikund. We had to plod through the snow. As one approaches Gosaikund one can see the views of the frozen Gosaikund lake on the way down. We were hoping that one of the lodges @ Gosaikund is open. However, that was not to be. There is a sense of unexplainable serenity in the surroundings. No wonder this is called a holy lake and hundreds/thousands throng to it during the pilgrim season. There is a temple @ Gosaikund and despite the cold there was a "baba", clad in black robes, who lives here. It is said that he has been here for the past 3-4 years without going down and that he stays here through the winter. A brave soul. Besides Gosaikund is another frozen lake called Bhairav Kund. We stopped here, imbibing the beauty of the surroundings. This was like a "picture postcard from heaven".
It was around 2:00 p.m so we decided to have lunch comprising a couple of energy bars for each of us. We decided to head down as we wanted to reach our next lodge before dark. There was snow all the way down, though the main trail was still very much walkable (without much snow plodding).
We crossed another small buddhist temple on the way. One gets breathtaking mountain views on the way down.
It was a complete descent all the way to Sing Gompa where we stayed at the Red Panda lodge. It was 6 p.m by the time we reached here. There are 2 or 3 other villages with lodges in between. However, being off season all of them were closed. The Red Panda lodge is run by a very affable and courteous family.
Jan 19th 2012 : Rest Day / Sing Gompa (3300 M) to Dhunche
We bid farewell to our porter/guide that morning as he had to return to Magin Goth. Ashleena, decided to take it easy that day and take some rest @ Sing Gompa that day. She spent her time reading a book and visiting the Gompa, which was right opposite the Red Panda Lodge. Ashleena was running out of cash and also I was running out of supplies (coffee / chocolate bars etc.). Also, I figured I would get bored resting all day. So, I decided to head down to Dhunche from where I could replenish my supplies, draw money for Ashleena and head back by evening. I started at about 10 a.m. To be about a quarter of the way down there was snow on the trail. Beyond that one gets back to beautiful treelines and one has amazing valley views. You pass by several streams & waterfalls on the way to Dhunche.
Dhunche, which i reached by around 1:30 p.m, is a large village (small town) with say about 30-40 shops across a 100 m stretch and road connectivity. Did all my purchases, had lunch and headed back to Sing Gompa. Reached Sing gompa by 6 p.m. The sunset views this evening from Sing gompa was really beautiful. Ashleena had decided that she wanted to enjoy the trip without carrying a backpack (as it slowed her down). So she engaged the services of another porter, the brother of Red Panda lodge owner.
Jan 20th 2012 : Sing Gompa (3300 M) to Bamboo Lodge (2000 M).
Today we crossed over from the Helambu/Gosaikund region onto the Gosaikund region. It was a steady descent to Thulo Shyabru and then ascent to Bamboo. The initial part of the descent was through snow and beautiful pine forests.
After that as we approached Thulo Shyabru the ground became slushy and slippery. My companion slipped and fell at least 3 times and was covered in mud by the time she arrived at Shyabru. We stopped @ Shyabru for lunch and then proceeded towards Bamboo. One crosses a spectacular hanging bridge.
The one ascends along the river. The river with its numerous small rapids, and thundering sound is an altogether different experience.
It was late evening by the time we reached Bamboo. Here we stayed @ the Bamboo lodge. There was a Buddhist ceremony going on in the lodge. Apparently, the lady of the house had cut a tree and there had been some bad luck in the family after that (at least that is what I understood) so the lama had come to the lodge for 3 days and was performing some ceremony (including reading out buddhist prayers). It was interesting to watch it. Also, there was a party that evening as the owners of the other 3 lodges had gathered in this lodge for a party. It seemed that the tradition,at least in the off season when there were very few guests, was that one of the houses would cook and the others would join them for a dinner and a drink.
Jan 21st 2012 : Bamboo Lodge (2000 M) to Thangshyap (3200 M).
Today was a nice start to the day as we had a hot shower. Like the latter half of the previous day today was an unrelenting ascent, along the side of the river. The sound of the innumerable rapids in the river broke the monotony of the silence of the surrounding forests. Honestly, I have never seen so many rapids in such a short span.
We started at around 9 a.m and reached Thangshyap around 4 in the afternoon. We stopped for lunch at Lama Hotel (2480 M). The view of the valleys with the snowcapped peaks in the distance makes for jaw-dropping views.
The trees provide good shade for most part of the day's walk. This makes the walk much less tiring. There is a steep ascent just before one reaches Thangshyap. We could have gone on further but decided to stay here as this is much more quiet and pleasant stop than Langtang which is about a further hour from here.
Jan 22nd 2012 : Thangshyap (3200 M) to Kyanjin Gompa (3870 M) and Kyanjin Ri (4300 M)
We started from Thangshyap after breakfast around 9:00 a.m. Soon we reached Langtang. En route a number of locals wanted to know where we staying at Kyanjin Gompa. In fact a lady, who has a hotel at Kyanjin Gompa, escorted us all the way from Langtang to Kyanjin Gompa to ensure that we stayed at her hotel. And we indeed did stay at the hotel. As one approaches the Kyanjin Gompa one can see the gompa and prayer flags from a distance. We reached Kyanjin gompa post noon. After settling into the lodge and a quick meal I checked if my partner would like to climb the Kyanjin Ri. She was tired and wanted to take it easy. I was told it would be a 2hour climb to the top and another hour down. So this was to be a 3 hour sojourn. The guide and I started the climb. The guide is really a mountain goat. He was fast. He reached the top in about 45 mins and I took about an hour and fifteen (can account for sometime to take pictures.). Had an "in the face views" of the snow-capped peaks and a real beautiful view of the glacier. After spending a few minutes at the top I descended slowly back to the lodge. The guide ran down and I did not find much point in following suit at that pace as there would not be much to do at the lodge, beside sitting the warmth of the fireplace in the dining room.
While we were soaking in the warmth of the fireplace in the dining room we were in for a spectacular treat. Suddenly, it seemed as if the sky was on fire. The clouds were fiery orange/red (as seen in picture below). I watched this 15 min spectacle unfold before me. I have not seen such a sight before. Nor did I see it the next day I was there.
Jan 23rd 2012 : Day-Hike : Kyanjin Gompa (3870 M) to LangShisha Kharka