Nepal trekking: back in action?

Posted by Alex Messenger on 07/08/2015
Nepal: back in action? Photo: Alex Messenger.

It’s been three months since Nepal was rocked by devastating earthquakes. As the autumn trekking season approaches, what’s the situation on the ground? Richard Goodey from Lost Earth Adventures gives his opinion on Nepal’s better known trekking areas.

Here's a summary of which popular areas are open for business and where’s best avoided.

BMC Travel Insurance was the first travel insurer to offer cover for Nepal after the earthquake. Read about how we can cover you for trekking in Nepal.

Annapurna Conservation Area

Very little damage has been reported in this area, which includes the treks: Annapurna Circuit, Poon Hill and the Annapurna Sanctuary. These areas have been assessed on foot and via aerial inspection, with all 30 bridges in the area structurally sound and only 3% of buildings damaged. The inspection covered 30 villages in the region. Reconstruction on damaged buildings has already begun and will be re-assessed post monsoon in the autumn. Trails have seen extremely little disruption or damage from the earthquakes.

These routes are open and will be ready for the 2015 trekking season. In our opinion the Annapurna Sanctuary is a fantastic trek, which encompasses what trekking in the Himalaya is all about.

Everest Region

This region includes the Everest Basecamp Trek. The overriding response by international experts has been positive – that for trekkers you will see very little in the way of damage along the Everest Base Camp Trail. Assessment of this region was completed on foot and via aerial inspection, covering 15 villages (beginning in Lukla) and over 700 buildings. The summarisation of the assessment concluded that the region has sustained very little in the way of trail damage and 83% of buildings have been given a positive report. The vast majority of other buildings (teahouses, residential and commercial) should be easy to repair, with re-construction in process. Further assessment will need to be done on other routes within the Khumbu/Everest region, post monsoon in the autumn.

The iconic and classic Everest Base Camp brings you to the base of the highest mountain on earth. A worthy itinerary on any trekker’s wish list.  

Langtang Valley

The Langtang Valley, Nepal’s third most popular trekking region has been extensively damaged. The valley has been evacuated, with residents temporarily residing in Kathmandu over the monsoon period.  

The region will not be suitable for commercial or personal trekking trips in the autumn, however a local NGO has organised a volunteer trek into the Langtang for November. It is difficult to give an accurate estimate of time as to when this region will be ready to welcome visitors.

Helambu and Gosaikunda Lakes

There have been mixed reports about the conditions within this region. To counter the misinformation, Lost Earth Adventures sent a team to do an assessment. The team trekked from Shivapuri National Park into Helambu, visiting villages en-route to attempt to cross the Laurebina La towards the holy Gosaikunda Lakes. However, the Nepalese army operating in this region declared a very high risk of continual landslides past the village of Therapati into Gosaikunda Lakes and the team could not progress any further. Our team witnessed widespread devastation to buildings and trails within the Helambu region. The general consensus is that locals are waiting until post-monsoon to begin rebuilding.

It is our belief that teahouse trekking will not be suitable in this region for at least one year and until trails are re-routed to regain access into the Gosaikunda Lakes. Re-assessment of the buildings and trails will need to be completed once the building is complete.  

Manaslu Circuit

The Manaslu Circuit begins in the Ghurkha District and the trail follows a spectacular route around the world’s eight highest mountain. It is also possible to trek into the Tsum Valley as an extension to the Manaslu Circuit and to trek to Manaslu Base Camp.

There has been fairly extensive damage to the eastern portion of the route, essentially the first 40km of trail. The primary source of damage has been from landslides lining the route that follows the Buri Gandaki valley.

Currently a team are working together to clear this section and to re-route it. This will also include the building of two bridges – construction of which is not due to be completed until November (though this may be earlier).    

There has been some rock fall on the Larkya La (pass), the high point of the trek, though the village of Samdo, preceding the pass and the villages on the western slopes of the Larkya La are reported to be in good, usable condition.

A team is in the process of assessing the structural damage of teahouses and buildings. The primary point for trekkers to be aware of is the completion of the bridges on the initial part of the trek. This will determine when the route will be officially re-opened. There may also be limited, if any accommodation available on the first 2-4 days of the trek and trekkers will have to be prepared to be self-sufficient and consider a tented expedition, rather than staying in teahouses.

By all accounts we believe that the Manaslu Circuit will be suitable for trekking in November and confident that at the very latest by March 2016, the region will be fully operational. The Manaslu Circuit is one of the finest treks in the Himalaya and not to be missed. 

UPDATE: 11 August 2015

Will trekkers to be required to hire a guide or porter?
Nepali media outlet Republica is reporting that the Department of Tourism is to prohibit independent trekking, and require trekkers to hire a guide or porter. Similar government announcements have been made in previous years, but have not been implemented. We will update this news as more information becomes available.
Read more at myreplubica.com
Read Lindsay Griffin’s 2012 article: Solo trekking ban in Nepal on hold

What about travel insurance?

If you're heading to Nepal, then BMC Travel Insurance can cover you, provided a common-sense approach is taken and the advice of local authorities is followed. 

Lost Earth Adventures is a UK-based independent adventure travel company specialising in small group adventure tours and treks to Nepal, Thailand and Laos. 

Sources:

Myamoto International: A global earthquake strategy, structural engineering and project management company providing critical services that sustain industries and safeguard communities around the world. Reports:

• Damage Assessment of Everest Region, Nepal 15 July 2015
• Damage Assessment of Annapurna Region, Nepal 15 July 2015 

Lost Earth Adventures: Assessment led by Senior Guide, Deepak Bhatta into Helambu and Gosaikunda trekking regions, affirmed by Nepalese army operating in this region. Assessed July 2015

Hillary Relief Collective and Manaslucircuittrek.com: The most comprehensive updates on the status of the Manaslu Circuit from people currently working directly in the Manaslu region. Latest Updates: July 2015

Do you have information about other treks or regions? Email us at summit@thebmc.co.uk or tweet us @team_BMC
 


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Anonymous User
25/04/2016
Today, on the anniversary of the earthquake, I wonder whether you might be willing to share with your clients and social network a book, "Endurance: Earthquake Nepal" by Omar Havana, a Getty Images photojournalist who was living in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck last year. His images were published worldwide and told the story of the earthquake to world and he has traveled the country to document the Nepali people rebuilding their lives.

The book, with an introduction by film director Bernardo Bertolucci, will create an enduring document about the quake and recovery, testimony to the strength and spirit of the Nepali people.

Please take a look and consider helping us bring this work to life by sharing our crowd funding campaign with your clients and network of people interested in Nepal. We are close to the goal but need a little additional support.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2066133663/endurance-earthquake-nepal-a-photobook-by-omar-hav
Anonymous User
16/06/2016
I spent a fantastic three weeks (April 2016) trekking with my wife in Solukhumbu. Route was Gokyo, Cho La, EBC, Island Peak. Very little sign of earthquake damage in terms of buildings, but some significant changes in glacial cover, snow cover and crevasses (according to our guides).
Nepal desperately needs responsible trekking tourism. But it is not a walk in the Lakes. We spent 10 days above 4,200m without any altitude problems, not least because our acclimatisation was planned and executed meticulously by very experienced guides. Our kit was tested by snow, extreme cold and high winds, although I never felt worried given we were led by two (Nepalese) Everest summiteers.
Go to Nepal and share a unique experience. But go with a responsible and experienced trekking company. If you don't speak Nepalese then ensure you have guides that speak your language. Don't nickel and dime your porters. Do pay at least the recommended rates. Follow your guides safety advice.
Nepal is most definitely open for business. And Ama Dablam is the most beautiful mountain on earth.

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