Manaslu Trek Review
If you want an independent assessment of how the Manaslu Trek is, from a no-nonsense travel journalist, then reach for your copy of The Age, Australia’s respected daily.
Leisa Tyler did the standard trek itinerary around Manaslu. Read on below…
Leisa Tyler follows ancient routes and new paths alike on a Nepalese walking trail set among its magnificent landscapes.
At 4am, someone knocks on my door. I’ve barely slept anyway. The altitude is 4460 metres and the air is too thin for deep slumber. I reach for my water bottle, but it’s frozen solid. My clothes, damp from sweat and my falls in the snow, are frozen. I’m in Dharmashala on day 12 of the Manaslu Circuit, a 177-kilometre walking trail that circumnavigates Nepal’s 8156-metre Mount Manaslu, the eighth-highest peak in the world. Today, we are to cross the 5160-metre Larkya Pass, the highest point on the trail and our goal for the past 11 days of uphill walking. But a snowstorm has been raging, making the pass potentially treacherous, and our guides aren’t sure it’s safe to attempt it.
My last wash was a week ago and there is little more to eat than rice, boiled lentils and rancid yak cheese, so I’m eager to press on. The well-trodden Annapurna Trail, endowed with “luxuries” such as showers, is just two days’ walk away.
It’s snowing, but word comes that we will try the pass. Trekkers, guides and porters weighed down like packhorses set off by torchlight. There is no visible path, just an occasional pole poking out of the snow.
The weather clears as the rising sun washes the sky a dusty shade of blue. There is little oxygen and walking is challenging. But the views are worth the pain: gleaming white walls topped with jagged peaks as far as the eye can see. Then word comes that two groups of trekkers ahead of us, enervated by the altitude, have had to turn back.
Following an ancient salt-trading route that snakes along the sides of the Budhi Gandaki, a tributary of the Gandaki River, before crossing the vast Larkya Glacier and plummeting to the Annapurna Trail, the Manaslu Circuit is Nepal’s latest must-do trail. The trail was officially opened to foreigners in 1991, but passing through a protected area required expensive permits and expedition equipment. About three years ago, basic guesthouses, known as teahouses, opened and the government, keen to promote the area, eased licence regulations and costs, making it more accessible for trekkers.
Manaslu’s other big push came from the development of the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT), an initiative of the Nepali government and Dutch aid agency SNV, which uses trekking to help alleviate poverty. About 45 per cent of people living in Nepal’s western mountain region live below the poverty line. Many villages are several days’ walk from the nearest road and locals have very few ways to generate income. Accommodating foreign trekkers is a key one.