Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Nar Phu Valleys of Nepal - I

Our team on top of Kangla pass (5320m)
South Col Expeditions trekked the Nar and Phu valleys of Nepal in Sept-Oct 2015. In this two part post the route and terrain is described for future trekkers to this region.

Click on map to see larger image
September 30th 2015
We left Kathmandu at around 8 am for Besisahar. Lok was lucky to arrange a micro bus for us as he had managed to get some diesel given the present difficult situation in Nepal. Due to the fuel shortage the roads were reasonably empty and we made good time getting into Besisahar by 1 . 15 pm. There was a huge traffic jam at the entrance of the town and by the time we reached the jeep stand it was 2.30 pm. There was a premium for the jeep to Koto Qupar- what would normally cost Rs 20,000 was quoted at Rs 33,000 citing the fuel shortage as an excuse. We left Besisahar at  3 pm and headed up the Marsyandi. I was quite shocked to see the devastation near Bhulbhule. With Chinese aid a new Hydel project and dam was being constructed.  Large chunks of the hillside had been decimated to make room for concrete buildings. Debris from the ash mud and stone chips had pullout end the Marsyandi changing its colour from jade green to ash grey. The narrow trail masquerading for a road was full of boulders and fast flowing streams rushing across. The circuit had changed beyond recognition. No wonder very few trekkers walk the route right now. We reached Syange at around 5 30 pm and decided to call it a day. The Waterfall lodge was very scenically situated right on top of the roaring Marsyandi. Tomorrow we would get to Koto Qupar.

The Waterfall Guest House 

October 1 2015
We left Syange at 8 am. The rough trail continued and we reached Jagat in around 30 min. The jeep was only able to do between 6 and 8 km per hour due the terrible condition of the road. We reached Dharapani at around 10 45 am and stopped to show our ACAP permits at the check post. We saw the trail coming down from bimthang and the Manaslu circuit towards the east. We left Dharapani after a cup of tea and headed up the Marsyandi and eventually got down from the jeep at 12 20 pm about half an hour from Koto Qupar and walked the remaining distance. The valley had now opened up and we saw Annapurna  2 in front of us and Manaslu to the east. We stayed at Hotel Himlung in Koto and we had the lodge to ourselves. Krishnan and I walked upto the next village Chame  in about 30 min on an acclimatisation walk and came back in around an hour.  I cleared the permits at the check post so that next morning we could leave without delay. No further news on the fuel crisis hope it would get settled very soon. We passes around 25 Trekkers most of whom were doing the Annapurna circuit a far cry from the number of trekkers who used to do this route earlier.

Annapurna II near Koto Qupar

October 2, 2015
Koto Qupar to Meta
We left Koto at 6 45am - a record for South Col as far as early starts are concerned. We immediately descended to a suspension bridge which we crossed and starting walking on a well maintained trail which hugged the river. After about an hour and 45 minutes we reached another suspension bridge which we crossed and started walking up the right bank of the river. In about an hour from the bridge we reached a small house with an ACAP sign board for Naar Phu. Ten minutes away was another small house where our group had stopped for an early lunch as there were no more tea shops on the way. We had a one hour lunch break and then started for Dharamsala. Five minutes away was a third house where a German team were having their lunch. The trail continued to wind its way up the gorge and fifty minutes away we reached another suspension bridge which took us back to the left bank of the river. Soon after we came to a small cave marked Odar which can double up as a camping spot in an emergency. The trail then went down and within a few minutes another suspension bridge appeared with a sign to the right pointing to a hot spring. We took the left trail and finally got to Dharamsala at 1 20 pm. We found a new shelter had been constructed at Dharamsala but there was no tea shop for meals.

Waterfall across the trail near Dharamsala

We stopped for ten minutes and then started the climb to Meta at 1 30pm. The first thirty minutes followed the river climbing up and down but then started a steep 50 minute push up the hill on a steep gradient which took us to a pass on top of the hill. From the pass Meta was 10 minutes and we reached at 3 15 pm ending a long day. I was surprised to find at least four to five lodges in Meta 3600 metres with at least forty beds. If you can make the push from Dharamsala  I recommend staying at Meta so you save a night of camping. I found that the Nepal telecom Namaste network working in Meta but the signal was weak.

Koto Qupar to 2nd suspension bridge 1 hr 45 min; 2nd suspension bridge to 1st House with ACAP sign Nar Phu 1 hr; 1st house to 3rd suspension bridge 50 min; 3rd suspension bridge to Dharamsala 1 hr 30 min; Dharamsala to Meta 1 hr 45 min to 2 hrs. 

October 3 2015
Meta to Kyang
We left Meta at 8 10 am. In the morning I used my peak finder app and found that the big peak from Meta to the south was Lamjung Himal and not Annapurna I I as claimed by the locals. The path out of Meta was well defined and it was not necessary to cross any moraines as mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide! In 30 minutes we reached a junction with the trail ahead going to Phu and the sharp left trail heading to Nar. The junction is marked. Below us all along this section of the walk we saw the new monastery of Nar Phedi perched on a ledge below the long climb to Nar. The trail continued following the river valley making gentle ups and downs until it reached a clearing with some abandoned stone shelters which was called Jhunum about one hour 50 min from Meta. From Jhunum we crossed a suspension bridge over the river and made a climb to reach Chyakhu in 50 min. 

View from the trail before Junam

There is a small tea shop in Chyakhu where food is available and it is also possible to stay. It is very expensive dal Bhat was Rs 650! The place is surrounded with abandoned Khampa ruins and the icefall of Kangaru peak and the peak can be seen from this section of the trail. From here the trail climbs up to a pass and then drops down across another suspension bridge to start climbing again. From here the plains of Kyang are visible about 10 min below. There is a small hut in Kyang but no food is available. We camped at Kyang as we had tents making the next day to Phu much shorter. Water is available close to the hut and there are also a large number of abandoned Khampa settlements here.

Meta to 1st trail junction 30 min; 1st trail junction to Jhunum 1 hr 20 min; Jhunum to Chyakhu 50 min to 1 hr; Chyakhu to Kyang 1 hr 15 min to 1 hr 30 min.
October 4
Kyang to Phu
The night was cloudy in Kyang and I came out of my tent at around 8 pm- managed some shots of the stars until the clouds closed in again. The morning was also cloudy with low lying clouds on the adjacent ridges. We saw that Pisang Peak had a fresh dusting of snowfall. We left Kyang at around 7 30 am and in 30 minutes reached a bridge over the river. Do not cross the bridge but carry on along the right bank. The narrow trail continued to hug the river as the gorge became narrower. In an hour and ten minutes you reach a new house which is lying vacant- it could be intended as a future tea shop. The trail soon comes to a second bridge - there is a path of the other side which also leads to Phu. We continued along the right bank without crossing the bridge and the trail soon climbed high above the river. The rock faces had now begun to resemble Mustang and at a point around three hours from Kyang the canyon narrows and the river flows through some spectacular looking rock spires. The trail then climbs steeply for around 15 min to reach the Phupi Gyalgu gate - the entrance of Phu. The trail then crosses a ruined Dzong and then some chorten said painted in Mustang like colours and blue painted mani stones. Finally it crosses a suspension bridge and reaches Phu village ( 4060m).

Phu village
 It was the harvesting season in Phu and every house was threshing paddy in the open courtyards outside. We visited the spectacular Tashi Lhakhang Gompa at 4150 m above the village but sadly it was locked and we could not get in. The peak of Kanggaru could be seen opposite the village which is but a mere extension of Mustang.

Kyang to 1st bridge 30 min; 1st bridge to new house 40 min; new house to bottom of climb to the Phu gate 1 hr 10 min; Phu gate to Phu village 30 to 40 min

To be continued next week...

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this blog with us ...........nice and informative for me



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