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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Trip report for Naar to Upper Mustang GHT trek led by Tom Lawson and Gopal Tamang in October/ November 2015

Photo: Naar village
In late October, we organised our Naar to Upper Mustang trek along The Great Himalaya Trail. This trek was led by Tom Lawson and Gopal Tamang. Over the years Tom and his wife Jill have both led several treks for The Mountain Company starting with Dhaulagiri Circuit in April 2012 and again in October 2014 then Kanchenjunga Circuit in November 2014. Jill has led our Ama Dablam Base Camp trek too in October 2014.

This year for Naar to Mustang there were six trekkers in the group and in fact all of them had been on trips in previous years with The Mountain Company. We appreciate everyone’s support coming back for multiple treks with us especially this Autumn as Nepal is still recovering from the earthquake in Spring. As usual with our bookings there was a mix of nationalities with people coming from Australia, UK and Canada.

Photo: trail to Yak Kharka above Naar village
The group arrived in Kathmandu on October 30th and next morning Tom gave his trek briefing to the group and I also attended. On November 1st the group drove to Bhulebule to start the trek. The weather was cloudy with some precipitation as the group ascended Marsyangdi valley following a quieter trail opposite the Annapurna Circuit jeep track. Over the last few years trails have been improved away from the road so Tom made sure the group took advantage of these whenever possible. Many trekking groups now take jeeps all the way to Dharapani, however the feedback from this group was they were happy to walk from Bhulebule as the trails away from the road are scenic and varied and are much better than a long, dusty and bumpy jeep ride. 

Photo: valley above Naar village following Lapsa Khola
On November 6th the fourth day of the trek this itinerary heads north up the deep gorge of the Naar Phu Khola (river) and away from the more popular Annapurna Circuit. After one night at Dharmasala camp in the pine and bamboo forests at an altitude of 3,250m they walked up to Naar village at 4,100m where they spent two nights for acclimatisation. During this day the weather cleared and was sunny for rest of the trip. On the spare day Tom and Gopal organised a day walk up in the valley leading to Kang La pass and the group got impressive views of Kangaru Peak and blue sheep. 

Photo: climbing up to Kang La pass
Photo: summit of Kang La pass
Photo: descending Kang La pass
On November 8th the group left Naar village to start the approach to Teri La pass by following the Lapse Khola (river) valley, staying the first night at a Yak Kharka camp at an altitude of 4,400m. This section of the trail is narrow and steep but everyone made good progress to camp.

On November 9th they continued to a higher camp in the Lapse Khola valley at an altitude of 4,600m, planning the next day to walk up to High Camp below the Teri La pass at an altitude of 4,900m. The trail ascends on northerly facing slopes and soft snow from storms a couple of weeks earlier made the trail difficult for group and crew. There was about 10cm of unconsolidated snow on scree slopes and Tom and Gopal decided it was too risky to continue. It was not possible to protect this section of the trail with fixed rope and the decision was made to turn back from crossing Teri La pass. At the highest point reached, Himalayan Griffon were seen circling in the valley and a trail of fresh snow leopard prints were spotted in the snow. 

Photo: Braga village and back onto Annapurna Circuit
On returning to camp Tom and Gopal discussed the options and explained these to the group; everyone was happy to divert the trek to cross the Kang La pass over to Manang and then continue to Tilicho Lake and cross Mesokantha La over to Jomsom in the Kali Gandaki valley.

On November 13th they had a sunny and clear day for crossing Kang La and walked down to the Ngawal village. On the next day they walked along the spectacular high trail then down into Braga village with wonderful views of the Annapurnas before going on to Manang village. 

On November 15th they walked through Khangsar village before camping for the night at Tilicho Base Camp. During the course of the trek we received weather forecasts from and we sent these through to Tom on his satellite phone. For 15th and 16th we received forecasts with warnings of strong winds for Annapurna and also affecting our group on Mera Peak as well.

The next day they ascended along the spectacular trail to Tilicho Lake and camped near the lake. Tom made sure our Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents were well anchored in the event of a windy night but the forecasts for winds to drop proved accurate and it was a calm night, although the temperature dropped to near minus 20 degrees Celsius during the night. 

Photo: Tilicho lake at 4,900m
On November 17th Tom and the group crossed the Mesokantha La and everyone safely arrived to another Yak Kharka camp above the Kali Gandaki valley. I heard from Tom this pass is very steep on descent and fixed rope was used as a handrail for group and crew. 

Photo: summit of Mesokantha La
We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Tom checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress: click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Naar to Mustang GHT

Photo: our amazing trek crew with Susan
The group flew back to Kathmandu on November 20th after a possible record-breaking 15 minute transfer in Pokhara. On their return I met up with Tom and some of the group in Thamel for an enjoyable meal to hear about the trek and their feedback. The group were happy with their trek and really enjoyed crossing Kang La and Mesokantha La passes on beautiful sunny days.

Thanks very much to Tom and Gopal for their hard work in leading this trek and to the Sherpas, Lal and Khumbu, and the cook, Ram.

The Mountain Company plans to organise our next Naar to Upper Mustang GHT trek in late September 2016 as I think the conditions on Teri La should be less snowy at this time of year. For most treks it is possible to cross high passes in November however given the steep trail on rocky scree up to High Camp it would better to attempt this trek when temperatures are warmer and snowline higher. Please get in touch with us soon if you like to join our Naar to Upper Mustang GHT trek in September/ October 2016.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter

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