Langtang Valley Trek III - Among Himalayan Peaks

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jun 11, 2014

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Flag of Nepal  , Himalayan Region,
Saturday, March 8, 2014

If I had to pick a single place in the world I've been that has the most incredible, most amazing, most stupendous mountain scenery, it would have to be the upper part of the Langtang Valley. As I continued onwards towards Kyanjin Gompa the serrated peaks all around me became ever more astonishing, a whitewater stream running through it, Buddhist religious monuments and shepherds’ enclosures along the way.

My understanding is that Kyanjin Gompa is a monastery that was the highest settlement in the valley. Around it has grown a tourist village of guesthouses and related services and also an interesting yak cheese factory developed with Swiss aid. Kyanjin serves trekkers who venture further up the valley as well as climbers to the surrounding peaks.

My intent was to spend two the three nights, hike up a relatively snow free peak and hike up the valley to Langshisha Kharka (yak meadoe below Lanshisha Peak). After lunch of Sherpa Stew washed down with an Everest Beer I took a short afternoon hike towards the Lirung Glacier.

 Food and drink were at their most expensive in Kyanjin Gompa being the longest poterage into the valley, but accommodation in a guesthouse was still only about $2 per night. That gets you a bed in an unheated room and a heavy comforter to put over your sleeping bag, extra charge for a solar-heated "hot shower" that was so cold as to not be worth considering. And it got cold – the contents of my water bottle were slushy by morning.

I set out early for Langshisha Kharka, a long traverse up the snow-covered but relatively level valley bottom. I ran into Jo again at the guesthouse, and she told me she had hiked up in that direction and back all day, the one tricky part being crossing the stream about one km out of the village. Well, I got to the stream and couldn’t figure out any crossing that wouldn’t get me sopping wet with the exception of some snow bridges others had used. But I’m bigger and heavier than the average trekker and it was getting warmer by the day, so I wasn’t going to chance it.

After about an hour of trying to find a possible crossing I gave up. I turned around and noticed a trange cloud moving down the east face of the Langtang Lirung, the highest peak in the area at over 7,000 meters (more than 23,000 feet). I realized it was actually a huge avalanche falling thousands of feeet down the mountain. Wow!

So I condensed my two planned days in the area into one, returned to town, and hiked up the Kyanjin Ri. While almost everywhere else in the valley was snow covered, the south facing slope of the low peak beside Kyanjin Gompa was virtually snow free. My altimeter watch told me I got to about 14,400 feet at the overlook, about the same altitude as the highest fourteeners in my home state of Colorado. I could have gone further, but this was another situation where I was unsure if there were any other people on the trail above me. I am quite risk-averse in such situations about being the last one on the mountain should I injure myself and can’t make it back on my own and either die of hypothermia on the mountain or become snow leopard food.

I want to give a shout-out to the incredible Tibetan lady who ran the guesthouse I stayed at for two nights in Kyanjin Gompa. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard and do so much and have such a positive attitude and smile on her face throughout it, all while attending to three young children with the baby on her back most of the time. She spoke English fairly well, but everything I ordered she insisted I write down on my tab on a pad myself. When I left after breakfast on my second morning there she asked me to total it up. I showed it to her and sked if it looked right, to which she responded, “I have to trust you. I never learned how to write or do arithmetic”.

My two days hike back down the valley were a breeze, a pleasant sense of accomplishment as I backtracked through perfect weather and continued to run into trek buddies I made along the way. I spent a night in Syubrubesi at the end of the trek with much celebratory beer and some pretty nasty raksi and booked a place in a shared Jeep to avoid the scary and uncomfortable bus ride on my return to Kathmandu.

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