Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Short treks from Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a valley that spreads about 220 squire miles in the central Nepal. Himalaya is just about 50 km crow flying distance away from Kathmandu. The forested northern hills of Kathmandu is gazetted as 'Shivapuri National Park'. Langtang national park with 1,710 sq km area is just about 18 km from Kathmandu. Langtang national park shares border with Tibet in north. The park is dominated by Langtang Himal range, the highest peak of which is 7,247 m. The park preserves one of the last undisturbed alpine eco-system specimen. The park is home of rare species like Snow Leopard and Red Panda as well. The alpine lake of Gosainkunda, the Sherpas of Helmo, intact Tibetan Buddhism villages and the shamanistic Tamang people makes the region vibrant.

In proximity with such a rich alpine landscape and Himalayan foothills, Kathmandu is base for some of the best treks in the Himalayas.

Here are some of the best short trek from Kathmandu.

Kathmandu valley Trek

Langtang and Jugal Himal Range

In the foothill of the central Himalaya, Kathmandu is surrounded by lush mountains reaching to the altitude of 2,782 m. These hilltops and ridges offer magnificent view of snow peaks from Annapurna range in the west to Mt Everest in the east. There are several day hikes and short treks around Kathmandu. The most popular short treks goes into the Shivapuri national park in the north and follows the ridge to Nagarkot hill station.

Gosaikunda Trek

Gosaikunda Lake at 4,380 m

Short trek of 6 days could be organized from Kathmandu to the Gosaikunda Lake and back. Gosaikunda is an alpine lake at the altitude of 4,380 m north of Kathmandu. This is spiritual place for Hindus, Buddhists and Shamans. There are about 108 small and big lakes covering the area of 1,030 hector. The trek to Godaikunda Lake offers the best Himalayan view, trekking in alpine zone and adventure of climbing to over 4,000 m within a week long trek from Kathmandu.
Langtang Lirung seen from enroute Gosaikunda Lake

Langtang Trek

Langtang Valley with Langtang Lirung in the backdrop

Langtang valley is the third popular trekking region in Nepal. The trekking trail head of Syabrubensi is about 122 km north of Kathmandu. Langtang trek takes about a week from Kathmandu and back. The trail passes through beautiful forest of oaks, pines and Rhododendron to the alpine pasture surrounded by snow peaks. The valley is resided by Tibetans who migrated in last few centuries and Tamang who are culturally very close to Tibetans. The Langtang valley has beautiful monasteries, mani-walls, stupas and other Tibetan Buddhist symbolism with high passes, caves, bridges and big rocks marked by fluttering prayer flags.
Tibetan Buddhist Stupua in Langtang Valley
Langtang valley seen from Tserko Kyanjin Ri

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shivapuri hike - The best hiking in Kathmandu

Shivapuri is my all time favorite place to hike / trek around Kathmandu. It is the second highest hill around Kathmandu with its peak reaching to 2,730 m. Unlike other suburbs of Kathmandu, Shivapuri has remained untouched because of its religious significance and importance as a watershed supplying water to Kathmandu. In 1975, conservation work was started with its proclamation as Shivapuri watershed and wildlife reserve. In 2002, it was given the status of Shivapuri National Park and in 2009, it expanded, covering 159 sq km with the addition of Nagarjun forest reserve.
Ganesh Himal as seen from the shivapuri hill north of Kathmandu.
Ganesh Himal seen for the 2,730 m Shivapuri Hill north of Kathmandu
William and Maria looked sporty and fit to do the trek. Before our meeting at ‘Hotel Yak and Yeti’ we exchanged over a dozen emails taking about the hike difficulty and judging their stamina.  William had specially asked if there were steep, narrow pathways with shear straight drop-offs, as Maria was nervous of heights.

It was a fine morning in February (2012) with light haze surrounding Kathmandu. I checked my hiking kits and went to Thamel, where I had to pick up the pack lunch. Within an hour, we were driving north towards Budanilkantha, at the base of Shivapuri. Budanilkantha is one of the famous pilgrimage sites for both Hindus and Buddhists, another example of religious harmony typical to Kathmandu, Nepal. For a student of culture, the monolithic, over 1,000 years old, 16 ft tall sleeping ‘Bishnu’ arises several curiosities. The marvelous statue of Hindu god Bishnu is said to resemble the face of Buddha. After a quick tour of Budanilkantha, we drove towards Shivapuri National Park entrance at ‘Mulpani’. After paying the entrance fee of Rs 250 each for William and Maria (now Rs 500), we walked into the woods dotted with military huts, to come to the dirt road. Following the grove lined with Elder and Oak trees, we arrived at the base of well made cement steps leading to Nagi Gompa. The steps led us around a well-maintained garden and residences of nuns. All overseen by a woman in billowing saffron roves. Nagi Gompa is a nunnery and retreat center, accommodating 108 Buddhist nuns. From the clearings of the monastery, the sweeping view of Kathmandu valley appears amazing.
Nagi Gompa in Shivapuri national park
Nagi Gompa perched high on the emerald green slopes of Kathmandu
The trail further climbs steeply for 1 & ½ hrs to the ridge with scant ground. By now we have come deep into the Shivapuri National Park. The grassy ridge provided a nice break; however, was surrounded by thick forests preventing sight at a distance. I was expecting to see some wildlife but have no luck, apart from the famous Rhesus monkeys. Several surveys have recorded the existence of Indian Leopards, Himalayan Black bears, deer, wild boar and many other precious animals in the park. Shivapuri is also one of the famous bird watching sites around Kathmandu valley, which records over 170 species of birds.  

Bagdwar is the origin of Bagmati River in Kathmandu
The trail further climbs gradually and winds along the mountainside to Bagdwar, the holy site for being origin of Bagmati River. Bagdwar has got few meditation caves, chhaitye (religious object) and sunken water spout with tap designed as a tiger’s head. A hike to Bagdwar is done during the Nepalese New year (April first week) as a celebration. Again, the site is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. There are couple of hermitage on the ridge just above Bagdwar lived by sages. From here, we follow the steep trail towards east climbing for about ½ hr to the top. We could still see snow patches along the trail.
Jugal Himal range seen from Shivapuri hill north of Kathmandu
Jugal Himal range seen from the top of Shivapuri Hill

From the top the view is rewarding. We were looking at Ganesh Himal Range, Langtang and Jugal Himal towards direct north. Manaslu (8,163m / 8th highest in the world) was sticking out of the extensive Himalayan peaks towards south. The fresh air and scrumptious lunch rejuvenated us. After the climb of 4 hrs / 1,000 m from the entrance of National Park at ‘Mulpani Gate’, we arrived to the top of Shivapuri.
Winter days are short and it was a serious hike. We still had to climb down for three hrs. Even though I was bit worried at first about their performance, everything went fine and they really enjoyed the hike. Exchange of good information, good planning and preparation is must for any hike and trek in the Himalayas.