The notorious 7.6 magnitude earthquake of 25 April 2015 shook the whole Himalayan nation of Nepal. The beautiful Langtang Valley was completely swept away by the dreadful avalanche that fell from Langtang Ri (7,229m). It claimed over 200 local inhabitants, including several trekkers. The avalanche transformed Langtang Valley into a deserted land. Three years on, the village has shifted and re-established itself. When we reached the area in early September, several hotels and lodges were already rebuilt. As the trekking season was coming up, the whole area was ready to welcome tourists to its traditional beauty and hospitality.
Langtang is the nearest adventure trekking destination towards the north of Kathmandu. The region is known for its ethnic Tamang people with their rich Himalayan tradition and culture. They speak Tibeto-Burman language. Clusters of Tibetan-style villages, with stunning snow filled mountain ranges of Langtang and Gosaikunda are major highlights of the trail. From Kyanjin Ri viewpoint (4350m), you get close up panoramic views of of Langtang Lirung (7229m), Langtang II (6596m), Changbu (6251m) , Kinsung (6781m), Langtang Yubra (6048m), Dorje Lakpa, Naya Kanga (5863m) and Baden Peak (5826m). A side trip to Tsergo Ri (4990 m) which takes 7-9 hours is worth it for the panoramic views of wide enfolding super white snow mountains.
There are plenty of teahouse lodges every 2 - 3 hours that provide good snacks, vegetarian food. The trail has different levels from moderate to strenuous in few places. One has to pass through cliff trails and landslides in some areas and caution has to be taken while trekking. Overall, the trek provides an exceptional landscape view passing through lush green forests, mountain villages, streams and waterfalls, Buddhist monasteries, the rich culture of the Tamang people and abundant Himalayan flora and fauna are rewarding.
Langtang National Park
Langtang National Park lies in the central Himalayan region of Nepal. It is shared by Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindupalchowk districts. Covering an area of 1,170 sq.km, the park was established in 1976 as a buffer zone by the Government of Nepal. It is the third most popular trekking destination among the protected areas of Nepal.
The park is gifted with rich and diverse flora and fauna with more than 1000 plant species. Trees like Juniper, Birch, Silver Fir, Sal, Chirpine, Nepali Alder, Oak forests, etc. are widely grown in the park.
Likewise, over 250 species of birds like Himalayan Monal, Ibisil, Snow Patridge, Wood Snipe, Himalayan Snowcock, etc. are found in the park.
There are also over species of mammals recorded in Langtang National Park like the Red Panda, Clouded Leopard, Assamese Monkey, Grey Wolf, Leopard Cat, etc.
The Trekking Journey: Monsoon Trek to Langtang
Ususally, trekkers do not prefer trekking during monsoon, especially because of the gloomy weather, wet environment, leeches and slippery trails. But if one dares and is willing, trekking during the monsoon offers an unforgettable experience, full of natural beauty and romanticness.
We started our trek towards Langtang at the end of the monsoon. Three of us, Gagan Neupane of Rasuwa Treks, Chandra Lama, a trekking guide and I set off for the trek. Leaving behind chaotic Kathmandu and hours of lengthy traffic jam, our jeep diverted towards Pasang Lhamu Highway from Galchhi, branching off Prithivi Highway. Despit the deteriorated state of the hilly road, Gagan, a young tourism entrepreneur drove skillfully with great confidence. Bravo Gagan bro!
Continuing forward, we passed through the small town of Dhunche, passing the cliff road and crossing Thulo Bharkhu, the hilly road finally headed downwards towards the famous winding road of 12 Ghumti and finally reached Syabrubesi (1530m).
Due to the landslides caused by the 2015 earthquake, the path is dreadful and used only a few trekkers. Therefore, trekkers opt for the safer way via Syabrubesi, Khangjim, Sherpagaon and Rimche. After crossing the suspension bridge at Trishuli River, expect a knee cracking steep climb of 2-3 hours, which is extremely exhausting! Thankfully, it is a two hours descending trek that takes you to Benjhang¸a resting point for tea or lunch from the available teahouse lodges. From Benjhang, the trail diverts right, followed by a gentle path with a gradual climb. The gentle and downward trail is an easy walk until we reached Sherpagaon (2600m) that has 4-5 lodges where trekkers can have lunch or even stay overnight. The steep trail continues for an hour then drops. At one point where there was a landslide, the passage is narrow and steep. At landslide prone areas, stone falls are frequent.
The downhill trail extends till Rimche (2495m). We reached Lama Hotel after walking for 20 minutes. The hotel is famous for an overnight stay in the Langtang trekking region. It is situated on the banks of Langtang Khola and panoramic mountain views. As it was already late afternoon when we reached Lama Hotel, we hurried through the thick jungle, climbing uphill and crossing another landslide area. We quickly moved forward and took a rest at Riverside for a much needed cup of tea.
We met a group of local porters along the trail near Rimche, carrying big loads of mattresses and kitchenware about 40 kg each. Among them was Ram Tamang, a 15 year old from Grang Village, Rasuwa. He was carrying a big bamboo basket (doko) of kitchenware. Despite the rough trail, he was walking in slippers. He had studied till grade 5, and had lost his mother at a very young age. It takes 3 days to carry loads from Syabrubesi to Kyanjin Gompa. The wage for each load was Rs. 8,000. The young Tamang looked cheerful among the group of porters, successfully transporting the goods for the first time in his life.
Pemba Chhiring Sherpa is a 15 year old from Okhaldhunga, an eastern district of Nepal. He studied until grade 5. He came to Langtang with his uncle, who is a cook at the Kyanjen Gompa Lodge. Prior to working at the lodge, he lived at Thangsep for a year. Pemba visited home last Dashain. He often misses home, his parents and his 5 year old younger brother. Asked if he has any friends, “I don’t have many friends here, only my uncle, a porter and Nima.” On talking about his future ambition, “I want to be a good cook and run a hotel when I am grown up,” Pemba smiled optimistically.
A Korean couple was planning to stay overnight, as the husband suffered a headache. Altitude sickness is common when ascending higher trails. If one gets altitude sickness, the best way is to stay to get acclimatized or descend immediately. It could be fatal if ignored.
We enjoyed the tea with Tim Tam and Clif Bar Chocolate that Gagan had in his backpack. We stayed the night at Thangsek which was a 2.5 hour walk. “It’s 5 pm and we need to move fast, “ said Chandra, our guide. We accelerated, and crossed several ups and downs, and even managed to pass by some porters and suspension bridges. Was this the power of the Tim Tam and Clif Bar? We reached Ghoda Tabela shortly, but we still had an hour to reach Thangsek. The darkness engulfed us before we reached the lodge. It was 7 pm when we reached Thangsek (3150m). We stayed at a Tibetan guest house, where an old couple where having tshyakpa for dinner. A lady from Okhaldhunga happily prepared Dal/Bhat. It was an exhausting trek, and we had sips of jhhwai khatte (heated local wine) with the Dal/Bhatt.
Starting the morning with a cup of tea, we had to reach Kyanjen which is a gentle walk of 4.5 hours. We continued our trek along the roaring river. Thankfully, the path was easy and moderate compared to what we experienced yesterday. There were colorful blooms of flowers along the trail. Alas, while moving forward, a blanket of fog enclosed the mountains. Soon, we reached a vast debris area created by the 2015 earthquake.
Remembering The 2015 Earthquake
A devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 struck Nepal on 25 April 2015. The earthquake and aftershocks caused a major panic among the people of Nepal for several months. The epicenter was Barpark, Gorkha; 15 km from Kathmandu.
It was about to be noon. The village of Langtang Valley was calm and quiet in the sunny afternoon. The lodges were busy serving tourists and taking a rest after lunch. Then suddenly, a massive jolt with a massive avalanche washed away the entire village. Over 200 local residents with dozens of tourists died. The beautiful Langtang village was completely wiped off in the blink of an eye. The earthquake still haunts the survivors. For more than a year, local residents of Langtang took refuge at the yellow gumba in Kathmandu. However, it was hard for them to adjust to the hectic, warm and crowded life of Kathmandu. When they returned home, they performed rituals for the departed souls. A chhorten was erected in commemoration of the lost souls.
We visited the chhorten and observed a minute of silence to pay respects to the departed souls. It was a heart touching moment, and we were quite speechless for a while.
After lunch at Sunrise Lodge, we progressed on with our journey. After a gradual climb of 20 minutes, we reached Mundu, where two young ladies where cutting grasses into pieces. As the grass will be unavailable during winter, the women were storing the grass for the Yaks. The ladies, Yangjing Sherpa and Lhamu Sherpa worked at the lodge as well.
A little ahead of Mundu, we met the village people who were gathering for a puja. The Lama was enchanting and performing rituals to keep the evil spirits away.
“We are lucky. The weather will be clearer tomorrow,” exclaimed Gagan. I, however, was unconvinced as the weather was quite cloudy. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable. Wishing for a better weather, we persisted forward.
There was a monastery a few meters towards the other side. After a little while of ascent, we finally reached Kyanjen Gompa (3,843m). After a rigorous trek of 8 - 9 hours, we had reached our final destination. We stayed at a guest house in the evening.
To our disappointment, the sky was covered with clouds when I woke up early the next morning. Keeping our hope alive for better weather, Gagan suggested we climb up to Kyanjen Ri viewpoint. As we climbed higher, we saw the white snow peaks in one corner. We did get a clearer perspective of the snow mountains as we reached the viewpoint, but the weather hadn’t fully cleared. From a far distance, Dorje Lakpa was half-open and so was Nayakanga, Baden Peak, etc. We captured a few photos whenever possible. We got down from the viewpoint and enjoyed tea before returning to Langtang.
The rain started pouring as we crossed Ghodetabala. On our way, we spotted a herd of Ghoral grazing nearby. After an overnight stay at Sherpagaon, we set off towards Syabrubesi. The downhill trek from Benjhang was difficult until we reached Syabrubesi.
Day 1: Kathmandu - Syabrubesi ( 7 hr drive)
Day 2: Syabrubesi- Khanjim or Benjhyang- Sherpagaon (5-6 hr)
Day 3: Sherpagaon-Rimche- Lamahotel-Thangsek (4-5 hr)
Day 4: Thangsek-Langtang-Kyanjen Gompa (4-5 hr)
Day 5: Explore around Kyanjen Gompa, sight trek to Kyanjin Ri
Day 6: Return back to Lama Hotel or onward to Syabrubesi (7-8hr)
stay overnight at Lama Hotel, Rinche or Sherpagaon
Day 7: Drive back to Kathmandu from Syabrubesi