Final blog for the GHT 2019

Posted on 24 Jul 2019

Day 140: At Simikot with monsoonal clouds hanging above us, but mercifully no rain until we arrived at our camp. Leaving Simikot on an uphill, James Baxter caught up with us. Bikash described him as very fit and well organised. We soon parted, his party taking a more northerly route via Limi Valley. I look forward to his book.

We had camp after an easy five hours at Dharapor at 2300 metres. Less flies, and the occasional helicopter flying between Simikot and Hilsa. It was so much more enjoyable not walking in the rain.

We left a lot of things at Simikot, in my case, my mostly wet item as well as consumables that are not likely to be consumed. We have a new mule team, only four mules, down from five.

Day 141: Only a light rain today as we plodded up the steep sided valley, with no traffic. We scaled a 200-metre climb to the well-kept village of Chankhil then did a 200-metre descent, to avoid a landslide. It was an eight-hour walk to a riverside camp on the Salli Khola.

No flies, only the occasional helicopter. Late in the day I met Maria again, this time returning from Hilsa. She went via Limi Valley. Like James and I, we all suffered from three days of rain. I tried to dissuade her from attempting Stage 2 when she returns to Kathmandu.

Day 142: Just a few spits of rain, trekking on the traffic-free road for six hours to Dhumbu at 3000 metres. At about Taplung, I passed a school. I could hear children playing in a building, but not see them. But one kid rushed out with two flowers. Jasmine in 2016 made the mistake of rewarding a child who gave her a flower. I laughed and refused.

Suddenly at Muchu, the scenery changed from a Bari Gandaki (Manaslu) gorge to a drier Dolpo style with gentler slopes (45 degrees instead of 60 degrees).

Day 143: The hint of blue sky soon clouded over with spits of rain. I could hear helicopters in the distance, but not see them. They were flying up the river, a longer and lower route avoiding the cloud.

I experienced some nausea, so I had a light lunch. A 6-hour walk brought us to our campsite at 3800 metres, past Yari.

Day 144: The final day of our trek in the far west of Nepal. The big day. It was an early one too, leaving at 6.30am. Walking along the misty road uphill troublesome with the fact that I was suffering from diarrhoea. I made it to the top of Nara La pass at 4500 metres at 8.10am, completing a 700-metre climb in an hour and a half. I am no Rheinhold Messner though, much more likely a map error.

The mist then cleared revealing a Tibet under light cloud. A long descent past barren steep slopes to the small ramshackle town of Hilsa at 3700 metres you could again hear helicopters coming and going.

Crossing the river towards the impressive China immigration building, Bikash put a ceremonial scarf around my neck, and took a proof of presence photo. I did it. Five months and 1700 kilometres (give or take) later, I’ve completed the Great Himalaya Trail across Nepal.

On the Nepali side of the foot bridge there was a row of lovely prayer wheels. I spun all of them, thanking the gods for letting me pass. I’m actually a devout atheist, but you need luck to get through the GHT.

We relaxed at the Tibetan restaurant there, enjoying two glasses of black tea. It was all I could handle.

Basically, I fell over the finishing line. I had not expected anything better. I was not the first to do so. The GHT has been demanding for so long with no rest day since Ringmo.

Just half past midday it was time to head back. It was a long grind back up the hill in cold wind. Twice a helicopter on the return flight, tried to out climb our steep slope, turning away very late, climbing to the other side, only to skim closely to its slope. I could see its shadow to reliably gauge its closeness.

I was back at the top at 5pm, the mist having cleared. It felt like the longest day, returning back to camp after 6pm. I could not eat dinner, only some fudge cake and salad.

I was surprised how long it took me to fall asleep. Maybe lingering stress. Anyway, a big tick on my bucket list.

Why leave this trek until so late in my life? Basically, World Expeditions did not offer it until 2011, and it did not show up on my radar until 2015.

My strong advice is keep working on your bucket list. It does not have to be travel, but that list will not shrink on its own accord. Do not wait until your health is inadequate or the place restricted or gone.

When you turn 65 you will realise that there is no later, as in I will saveca those fine clothes for later; it is either going to happen in the foreseeable future or not at all.

Day 145: Mist soon cleared to reveal high, fluffy clouds. Only a few spots of rain. While we had a late start of 8.30am, we had walked until 4.30pm, with a quick lunch on the way. We camped at the lunch spot equivalent to one and a half days walking before.

Day 146: A lovely day with the stunning clear, blue sky stretching wide. A slight breeze, but temperatures were just right. Not too hot, and not too cold. Like a summer’s day in England, that you read about in children’s books.

We plodded along the road til about 4pm to a previous lunch spot, for a camp on an earthen roof where you can feel other people walking around.

On the way we passed three other groups, all enroute to Mt Kailas, as you cannot walk on the Chinese side.

Three Germans appeared to be racing two Austrians. The Germans were ahead, but my money was on the younger Austrians. One German woman was wearing a hippy outfit. The third group was a small mixed group of Europeans.

Day 147: The same glorious weather as we took the same detour past the landslide. We had lunch and camp after four hours at Dharapor at 2300 metres. The last camp.

Day 148: A few clouds in sight with no hint of rain, which soon cleared away for a wild blue yonder. Brilliant. It was an early start and I powered on as I climbed up to Simikot. No need to save reserves for later.

The brief roar of reverse thrust confirms that the planes are flying, before we see the place – a 4-hour walk.

Although booked for tomorrow, we try for a flight today. Maybe 5pm is the answer. Given the recent spate of good weather, we should be able to get out without significant delay.

My final impressions

A gem of a holiday. Not just walking through the best mountains in the world, but meeting interesting people, plus I gained $10,000 of knowledge about electronic music from Nick Mason of Pink Floyd on BBC radio, plus $50,000 in realising that I could be a world expert in several computer related topics, and never again have to deal with management.

An enormous win.

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