The Ganesh Himal connector

Posted on 09 Jun 2019

Greeting from Samagaon, the gateway to Manaslu.

The satellite data uplink box failed turning to plebeian Wi-Fi, but only at places where we stay overnight. This should not be a problem in the more popular Stage 5 Manaslu/Annapurna, but in the largely empty quarter of Dolpo, very unlikely. Expect a bit of a late update to the blog.

Day 84 (May 19): Bikash continues leading me, up the hill behind the town. I am the sole trekker with at least 7 people to support me on the Ganesh connector to intercept day two of the Manaslu/Annapurna Stage 5, where another trekker joins me.

I thank Dennis for partly paying for this support. Jasmine and I did urge him to re-join the trek at a later, easier stage but he left Kathmandu in such haste, that we think it unlikely, but he is most welcome to do so. The GHT is now very quiet, with only another different person forecast for Dolpo Stage 6, and just me alone on Stage 7. Company would be appreciated.

Jasmine and I had many discussions about the GHT: the constraints of the seasonal weather, the rigors of the route, and the need to make it commercially viable and doable for potential customers, really limit it to the current format. The boldness of the idea, and its marketing flagship make it hard to abandon, despite the difficulty of recruiting customers. The New Zealand trekkers commented, “Maybe word of the difficulty of the trek has got out.”

Day 85: We continued climbing, past late snow (not present two years ago), up that final steep wooded gully, where all of us swore two years ago. Two days of continual unexpected up does get to you. This time, we emerged at the top at probably 3700m in cold mist and continued on damp muddy conditions to Somdang at 3200m, where a nickel mine has been under construction for 30 years.

I dined here two years ago, the pleasant memories of Matt, Martin and Ian came flooding back. Maybe you should never revisit gems, lest the memory be sullied.

Day 86: A road now exists to Tipling via Pangsang Pass 3800m. That lovely airy path to Pangsang Pass, and probable scene of the lovely goat video in the 2018 blog, is now gone. However, the path from Pangsang to Tipling still mostly exists. We camped in a lovely secluded field in Tipling at 1900m. Despite its name, it is alcohol free.

Day 87: It was hot, up and down to Borang, where another road comes in from the south west. The village of Sertung in the middle is unconnected. Mules do the logistics. I expect it will soon be connected. (Best to do the GHT sooner rather than later, before the trails become busier.)

Just past Sertung, the Ganesh peaks are visible, looking like Annapurna South and Huinchuli from Ghandrung. We head down into the hot canyon at a suspected 1300m, then up to Lapagaon at about 1800m. Camping in a school yard was a nice change, with kids playing volleyball. The caretaker came to open one of the toilets, very different from the West.

Day 88: It’s already hot at 7am, making it a heated climb up in forest to a 2900m pass. Then cooler mist to Nauban Kharka at 2700m, a summer pasture.

If you think these height numbers are all over the place, then you have it in one. The Ganesh connector is up and down, across the grain of the country, not a bang for buck trek in its own right.

Day 89: It was a long descent through damp forest with some small leeches in sight, but they thankfully did not get me. Lunch was above a hydroelectric construction on the Richer Khola, at a guessed 1500, then a warm humid climb to Kashigaon at 1800m.

There is a road from Yarsa to Kashigaon, but I do not know how it connects up with the other roads. We camped at the same school as in 2017. I did not recognise it at first, but a viewpoint from above confirmed it. The old earthquake damaged buildings are now gone, gone to make a big helicopter pad with volleyball court markings. Twice the number of buildings, and a PA system enthusing over a volleyball match.

The lovely little kids wanted to see me in my tent. Bikash told me to close the tent opening but the zipper got stuck. So, I got out to close it, and entered back in the other side. This was a mistake as the kids now knew how to operate the zips. I soon had six faces peering in delight. Fortunately, a member of the crew came to my rescue.

Day 90: Today was hot and humid throughout. I discovered that yesterday a leech had bitten me, and I changed that sock so that the hardened clot in my sock would not abrade the fresh wound.

Instead of the high-level walk in 2017 to Kerauja, then descending, this year was a much easier immediate descent to the main river vilat about 800m, below Machakhola.

The joining group for Manaslu/Annapurna was Chris, a young woman podiatrist from Townsville, Queensland in Australia and our new leader Padum. Lunch, and on again along a particularly boring road to Khorabeshi, same height. Padum said that there is a five-year plan for a road up to Samagaon, and up the Tsum valley to the Tibet border.

Day 91: Today entailed a hot, level walk along a riverside track and had to scramble up past some road construction. Compressed air powered drilling off the road on the opposite cliff wall could be heard at our lunch stop at Dovan.

Arriving at Yaru 1100m, only 100m from the lovely camp site on grass beside the rocky river flats, we were stopped to wait by little path side cafes due to an expected explosion on the cliff face opposite several hundred metres away. After some delay we were all (locals included) moved by two Nepal soldiers to a big overhanging rock. The soldiers also moved some mules away. The second explosion was a big one, and there was a small puff of smoke only 50 metres away. We finally reached camp quite late, at nearly 4pm.

Day 92: Travelling past the walkway clinging to the cliff, there was more road construction up to Jagat. The road will be cut out of the cliff for several kilometres. Perhaps the most terrifying bus ride in the world. The hills will be alive to the sound of Tata horn tunes. It’s a busy time in Manaslu.

Day 93: This day offered a delightful airy walk traversing steep valley sides to windy Deng at 1800m. You will notice from the heights a slow gentle climb. Also, generally now, we only walk for about an hour after lunch. Far cruisier than the earlier “walk till you drop” stages. And the daily late afternoon thunderstorms are now more sound than fury. I have clean socks/underpants/thermal top almost every day. This is living.

And late news, local word is that a tourist track will be made from the Tsum valley up over the dividing spur at 5000m to Bihi Phedi, a short but demanding walk between bus stops on separate roads.

Day 94: It was a long day arriving at Namrung at 2500m at 4pm, in now cooler conditions. Tiring, but not draining, we camped in the usual GHT camp site here under the pine trees, a nice place to put up the feet.

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