Trekking to Langtang
AFTER Everest and Annapurna, Langtang is Nepal’s third most popular trekking area but a world away from the busy teahouses and crowds on those routes. And thanks to its location north of Kathmandu towards the Chinese border it’s also very different culturally with a heavy Tibetan and Buddhist influence in the region.
Langtang was apparently discovered by a lama who followed a runaway yak into the valley – yak is lang in Tibetan and teng means to follow. And indeed yaks still inhabit the valley and are sometimes your only company along the way. Yak cheese (actually it should be called nak cheese as this is the female animal), curd and milk are some of the excellent products on sale along the way.
Most trekkers start the route up the Langtang Valley from Syabrubesi, following the river for three days through pine, bamboo and rhododendron forests. The track ascends pastures to the alpine meadows of Khanjim Gompa where there are outstanding mountain views, glaciers and day hikes to enjoy.
There are a number of permanent settlements along the way, the largest being at Langtang that is heavily adorned with prayer flags. After Lama Hotel the valley really opens up and passes numerous mani walls that are inscribed with the mantra “om mani padme hum” meaning “hail to the jewel in the lotus”. These should be passed on the left side, the direction in which the earth revolves, and are placed as an offering to spirits and devotional in nature.
The last place to stay, Khanjim Gompa, is only 3860m, meaning it’s not a high-altitude hike for those concerned about difficulties with altitude. However, peaks that can be climbed in the area immediately surrounding do reach 4600m and 4984m. Other day walks in this area include nearby glaciers and alpine valleys such as Langshisha Karka which is a little over 4000m. There’s also an excellent nak cheese factory in the village and a monastery.
The Lantang Valley trek can also be extended by following the Tamang Heritage trail and enjoying homestays and local culture or by taking a pass to the holy lakes of Gosainkund. This is best not attempted when there has been a lot of snow. Locals will advise if you don’t have a guide.
While a guide is not required to find the trail, nor required by Nepali authorities, they are an excellent source of information about local culture and a good safety option for trekkers traveling alone, particularly in light of some recent cases of people going missing in this region. They can also advise on local weather and conditions over the passes. A TIMS permit is required to trek the region and you must also pay a national parks access fee. Your guide will organise these or you can get them in Kathmandu from the Tourist Service Centre. The national parks fee can also be paid when entering Langtang.
All images by Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com