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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Walking up Shivapuri Peak in the Kathmandu valley during Holi festival

Photo: park gates of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park at Budhanilkantha
Yesterday the Holi festival was celebrated in Nepal and as this is a national holiday I decided to take a day off work and walk up Shivapuri peak (2,732m) the second highest peak in the hills around Kathmandu valley. This is a really good hike and would certainly be worth considering if you have a spare day in Kathmandu. Shivapuri peak is located in Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, this place is popular among Nepalis and expats as a place to escape from the busy and polluted Kathmandu valley.

Photo: view from trail to Kathmandu valley
I took the number five tuk-tuk out of Kathmandu down along Lazimpat and across the Ring road then walked the rest of the way to Buddhanilkanta. Being Holi festival there was much excitement and celebrations with water bombs (in Nepali “lola”) and coloured powder being thrown around, by the time I arrived to the Shivapuri Nagarjun park gates I had been well and truled Holi’ed!

Photo: Holi'ed!!
I have visited Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park only once before when I walked from Sundarijal to Langtang however this trail is further to the east so this was my first time through the Park gates near Budhanilkantha. I had spoken to several people who frequently visit this area of the Park and they recommended I take the more direct and steep trail up to Shivapuri summit and then descend on the longer path back down via Nagi gompa. Take the trail to the left just after passing through the Army check post signposted to Bishnudwara and Tokha. This means one can do a circuit up to Shivapuri summit and then ending up back at the Park gates near Budhanilkantha.

As I started up the stone steps I could hear the sound of Holi festivities echoing across the Kathmandu valley below with lots of shouting and laughter then later on as I gained height the hubbub from the valley was replaced by the quiet of the forest. Being March this is the season for rhodendrons to flower and I soon came across the red, white and pinks flowers of laliguras which is the national flower of Nepal.

Photo: rhododendrons (laliguras) in flower in Shivapuri
Walking up the stone steps is certainly a good work out as the trail continues relentlessly up through the forest and then after a few hours walking the path steepens for the final ascent to Shivapuri peak. The summit is a flat grassy area and being Spring there was no view as it is often hazy at this time of year however on a clear day it would be possible to see Himalayan peaks such as Ganesh Himal, Langtang-Lirung and Dorji Lhakpa. I met several others groups on the summit, there were some Nepali friends who had also taken advantage of their day off work for Holi holiday and also several Saddhus (holymen) laying down in the sun.

Photo:stone steps to Shivapuri peak
Photo: summit of Shivapuri Peak at 2,732m
From the summit the path descends on more stone steps down through the forest then after half an hour or so I arrived to Baghdwar, this is a very important place as it is where the holy Bagmati river originates. The temple of Pashupatinath is located further downstream on Bagmati river. From Baghdar the trail is lovely as it passes through a forest with oak, bamboo and more flowering laliguras. After another hour I got to Nagi Gompa, a nunnery and retreat centre, where I stopped for a water break and I could hear the chanting of prayers from the main temple complex.

Photo: Nagi gompa
From Nagi Gompa the trail descends further and then joins a dusty road for the walk back down to the Park gates. On the road I passed several family groups who were out enjoying their Holi festival carrying big bunches of red rhodendron flowers, they were all singing and having a good time together. 

Photo: locals celebrating Holi festival
On getting back to Kathmandu I had a look online for more information on Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park. They key facts are this park was established as wildlife reserve in 1976 and was upgraded to National Park status in 2002. The Park covers an area of 159 km2 from Kakani in the west to Sundarijal in the east. There is a wide range of animals including leopard, Himalayan black bear, wild boar, rhesus monkey (I saw some of these near Shivapuri peak) and Himalayan pika. There are also lots of birds with ornithologists recording 318 species.

Photo: map of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
Please get in touch with us at The Mountain Company if you would like any further information about trekking and expeditions in Nepal and cultural tours of Nepal

Happy Holi!!

Roland Hunter

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