Sujoy Das in conversation with Robin Boustead, the man behind the Great Himalayan Trail
SD: What is the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT)?
RB: The Great Himalaya Trail is as much a concept as a walking route. The idea is to have a trail network along the great
that offers trekkers and adventure tourists a range of route options to suit
the sort of experience they seek and, at the same time, to bring sustainable,
responsible tourism to remote communities. The GHT therefore requires a unique
combination of skills, knowledge and experience - that's why so many people
are involved and passionate about the idea.
SD: How long is it?
RB: The highest feasible route (upto 6200m) along the entire
is about 4500km and runs from near Namche Barwa to Nanga
Parbat. However, the documented trail network will be more than
double that by the end of 2012, so there are many route options!
SD: Has the GHT been created and conceived by you?
RB: No, the idea of a trans-Himalayan trail along the length of the range has been around since the 1970s. But it is only recently that many of the individual himals (ranges) have opened to tourists, thus making trans-country routes possible. My dream is see a trans-boundary route so trekkers can cross country borders in the mountains with ease.
SD: Were you inspired at all by other great trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail etc?
RB: The trail that has influenced me most is the Camino network in
The concept there is that your trek begins with making the decision to go to and your journey
begins with your first step from home. I really like the idea of people
developing their own agendas, itineraries and priorities in the Santiago Himalaya... there is just so much to see and do!
SD: How much of the GHT has been mapped and what is remaining?
RB: I published (through Himalayan Map House) a range of comprehensive maps for the central third, Nepal, earlier this year and I am now working on Bhutan and India which should see some results next year. I have also approached
Pakistan about making some GHT maps so the last
major section undone is . Tibet
SD: Can the GHT be done in parts only as the whole trail must take months/years to complete?
RB: As the GHT is a trail network it easily lends itself to being trekked in sections, for example
can be broken into ten treks from two to four weeks. This means that trekkers
can 'grow' into the trail by developing fitness, skills and field-craft over
time. Of course, if you have both time and money then trekking long sections is
a fantastic way to really experience the vastness of the Nepal Himalaya!
SD: Is the GHT meant for experienced climbers and trekkers only or can first timers also try some parts of the trail?
RB: Some sections of the trail are very easy and ideal for novice trekkers, for example, the Tamang Heritage Trail in
or the Darma Valley
The higher routes tend to be more technical and some require serious
mountaineering skills, for example the high route between the India Makalu
and Everest regions. What appeals most to me is that the GHT allows the trekker
to 'evolve' their expertise over time.
SD: Where can one find more information on the GHT?
RB: A Dutch NGO has made a general information website about the GHT in
(www.thegreathimalayatrail.org) and I have been
building a website with trekking information for the entire trail (www.greathimalayatrail.com). I have also
written a guide book to the trail in Nepal Nepal
(www.trailblazer-guides.com), a coffee table
picture book on the GHT in
and produced a range of GHT Nepal maps (www.himalayan-maphouse.com). Nepal India and are in progress. I should
add that all my royalties from products contribute directly to a GHT Alliance
training program that is designed to make trekking more professional and safer
throughout the Bhutan Himalaya.