Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tsum Valley Trek | Route and Timings | Part II

View looking down from Nyile at the Ganesh Himal peaks

A South Col team trekked the Tsum Valley in April-May 2018. This is the second part and final part of the route and timings on this trek.
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April 27 2018 Chumling to Choekhang Paro 
We left the Tashi Delek lodge at Chumling at 7 30 am and decided to go for a walk through the village before heading out on the trail. We hit the trail at 8 am and crossed the first suspension bridge heading east on the trail. The farmland was full of maize cultivation and it was a fairly level walk for the first one hour.  Far above us we could see the village of Ripchet with the Tibetan style houses. We passed a small monastery above the left of the trail and then entered a section of very pleasant woodland forest. In about an hour and 45 minutes we came to a signpost that said Dramba - from here the trail continued to meander up and down for another 15 minutes   On our right we passed the village of Raijam just before a suspension bridge. a signpost here mentions Gho 1 hour. 
We crossed the suspension bridge across the Siyar Khola and started climbing to Gho - we reached Gho in about 40 minutes from the bridge and found two new lodges under construction here which should be ready by the October season.  Gho which is about 2 hrs 45 minutes from Chumling makes a good tea stop. We left Gho around 11 10 am and the trail immediately began to rise steeply passing a number of chortens on the way. It continued up without a break for about 45 minutes and then levelled out for a bit. It then crossed a landslide section which had danger of falling rocks and finally reached a chorten with a sign which said Chaurikharkha 2950 metres. The trail climbed steeply from here for the next 40 minutes before it finally passes three more chortens and entered the village of Choekhang Paro. 
The village of Choekhang Paro with the Ganesh Himal peaks in the background

We walked through the first part of the village and reached the lodge of Bio Hotel Khangsangbo run by my friend Namgyal.  Other than Sky no cell phones work here. Dal Bhat Rs 550 Black Tea Rs 70 Vegetable Omelette 275
Chumling to 1st monastery 1 hour 1st monastery to Dramba 45 minutes Dramba to bridge 30 minutes Bridge to Gho 40 minutes Gho to Chaurikharkha signpost 2 hours
Chaurikharkha signpost to Choekhang Paro 50 minutes.
Chumling 2367m 28 28 24 N 84 57 45E Gho 2500m 28 21 41N 85 0 44E Choekhang Paro 3056m 28 29 25N 85 2 33E

April 28 2018 Choekhang Paro to Nyile
We left Choekhang Paro at 8 am and walked slowly out of the village - the village is fairly spread out and for the first half hour the trail stays within the cultivated fields on either side. It then begins to pass chortens and mane walls and climbs gently out of the village. In some places there are multiple trails including some short cuts which eventually merge with the broader main trail. There are lots of photo opportunities on the way so walking is usually slow. The chortens and mane walls are present at regular intervals so when in doubt about the route just follow the chortens ahead.

Line of chortens near Choekhang Paro
 In about 60-75 minutes the village of Lete is reached and a number of new lodges are being constructed here. From Lete the trail is almost flat passing through cultivated fields of maize and wheat. From here up ahead you can now see the red roofs of Rachen Gompa.  In about 45 minutes Lamagaon appears from here Rachen is a 20 minute walk. We decided to make the short detour and visit Rachen Gompa - the old monastery is very interesting with the walls adorned with many statues of Avalokiteshwara. There is also a room with a huge prayer wheel which can be rotated. The new monastery in the same complex has been built recently and is very modern.  After lunch at Lamagaon we started out for Nyile around 1 30 pm. The trail in 15 minutes entered the village of Burje with some new lodges being constructed here. High up on the left we could see the Milarepa cave complex around 30 minutes from the trail. The trail then dropped to an open meadow next to the river where yaks were grazing. As usual it then passed several chortens and long mane walls to finally cross a small suspension bridge and then climbed to the village of Phurbe. From Phurbe it agaIn levelled out through the cultivated fields and reached a small old monastery at Pangdun. From here the sign says Chule is 35 minutes Nyile is beyond that. From a little after Pangdum, Chule could be seen on the right of the trail, ahead and Nyile to the left opposite Chule. On the way there is a huge big chorten with cracks on the exterior walls possibly due to the earthquake which can be seen from a little after leaving Pangdum.  Leaving Chule the trail makes a sharp turn and then crosses a small bridge and climbs up to the village of Nyile with two lodges one owned by Lopsang which was open and the other owned by   Mingmar which was closed as he was up in the pastures collecting yarsugumba. No phones are working at Nyile except Sky phone - Dal Bhat 600 Black Tea 75 Vegetable Omelette 330
Choekhang Paro to Lete 75 minutes Lete to Lanagaon 45 minutes Lamagaon to Rachen Gompa 20 minutes  detour and back to Lamagaon after monastery visit 20 minutes Lamagaon to Birju 15 minutes Birju to Phurbe 45 minutes Phurbe to Pangdum 30 minutes Pangdum to Chule 40 minutes Chule to Nyile 25 minutes.
Choekhang Paro 3056m 28 29 25N 85 2 33E Nyilie 3365m 28 32 36N 85 6 19 E

April 29 2018 Nyile to Mu Gompa
The morning was clear was an extensive view of Ganesh II to the south. Just above the village of Chule which is below Nyile there is the big wall of Kipu Himal and the glaciers coming down from the mountain almost to the doorstep of the village.. We left Nyile at 8 am - there are two routes to Mu Gompa on either side of the river - we decided to go up the left bank trail and come down the right bank trail on the way back. The left bank trail gets more sunshine in the morning and is the preferred route of ascent. The trail meanders up the Siyar Khola river valley - far ahead above some zig zag bends the shadowy buildings of Mu Gompa can be just about seen in the distance. In about an hour we came to two buildings one with a blue roof which looked like a government office. The trail then started  to climb passing some small huts and we came to a bridge across the Siyar Khola - we could see the right bank trail on the other side with many chortens and mane walls. From the bridge the trail entered a landslide area and continued uphill through the rocks and debris for about 30 minutes. Two chortens then appeared in quick succession and some zig zag bends followed. Finally above we could see the buildings of Mu Gompa - on the trail there was another chorten and a mane wall. A short cut soon followed steeply uphill and in about 20 minutes we reached the monastery with a number of buildings. The Sky phone connection was also not working properly. Dal Bhat 600 Black Tea 100 Pancake 300
Timing via left bank trail - Nyile to blue roof buildings 1 hr from blue roof buildings to bridge  30 min from bridge to last chorten 30 min from chorten to Mu Gompa 20 min
Nyilie 3365m 28 32 36N 85 6 19 E Mu Gompa 3680m 28 35 9 N 85 6 36E

Notes on Mu Gompa

Mu Gompa
The monastery seemed to be a shadow of its former self once housing thirty to forty monks and in  David Snellgrove’s time “in  1956 one hundred monks were  there -  now  there are hardly three to four monks in residence. On enquiry we learnt that some of the other monks were away in Kathmandu and other monasteries - most of the residential rooms were empty and we were able to get three rooms for our group. Food was a basic menu confined to dal Bhat noodle soup tea and coffee. Many Trekkers have stopped staying in Mu Gompa and make a day visit from Nyile for a few hours which is also possible. 
After lunch we visited the  Dhepudoma nunnery and managed to get a nun to accompany us with great difficulty - it was a steep 225 metre climb up the hill to this small nunnery which is more than 800 years old - 3900 metres. The climb up took around 50 minutes and it was 30 minutes down - some of the frescoes on the walls had been newly repainted. 

April 30 2018  Mu Gompa to Choekhang Paro
We had planned a day hike to around 4300 metres to Choshung to see the views but it rained through the night and the morning dawned with white out conditions and clouds swirling around the peaks. The weather looked ominous and we decided to abandon the hike and head down to the warmer Choekhang Paro as the night had also been very cold and windy. We started out at around 8 am with a weak and watery sun and decided to walk back to Nyile / Chule on the right bank of the river opposite to the side we had come. We crossed the river in around 45 minutes on the smaller wooden bridge and the proceeded down the valley. We met some of the locals with their horses going up to the mountain pastures to collect yarsugumba including Mingmar of Nyile whose home stay was closed as he was up in the pastures every day.  We again crossed the blue government building and passed the chortens and long mane walls and entered Chule by around 10 30 am - we had done a leisurely stroll down the valley with a number of photography stops. 
The rest of our trail to Choekhang Paro down followed our uphill route . 
Namgyal cooking dinner for us at his homestay at Choekhang Paro
Mu Gompa to Chule 2 hr to 2 hrs 30 min Chule to Pandun 30 min Pandun to Phurbe 25 min Phurbe to Birju 35 min Birju to Lamagaon 15 min Lamagaon to Ngaku Leru 30 min Ngaku Leru to Choekhang Paro 1 hour. 

May 1  2018 Choekhang Paro to Chumling
It is possible to go down from Choekhang Paro to Lokpa in one  long 9-10 hour day but as we had extra days in hand we decided to take it easy and walk down to Chumling.  Our timings on the return journey given our leisurely walking speed are:
Choekhang Paro to Gho 1 hr 45 min to 2 hr 15 min Gho to bridge above Raijam 20 minutes Bridge to Dramba 30 min Dramba to monastery 35 min Monastery to lower Chumling Ganesh Himal lodge 45 min Lower Chumling to upper Chumling Tashi Delek lodge 20 min.

May 2  2018 Chumling to Lokpa to Philim
We left Upper Chumling at 7 30 am  and followed the same trail down to Lokpa
The down timings are:
Upper Chumling to the Gadikhola Bridge 30 min
Gadikhola bridge to the top of Sardi Danda 45 min Sardi Danda down the 2nd bridge from Lokpa 1 hr 45 min 2nd bridge upto Lokpa 35 min
We stopped for a long lunch at Lokpa at New Tsum Valley Lodge - there are two lodges at Lokpa both owned by the same person.
Lokpa tones lodge 30 min down New lodge to Manaslu/Tsum junction 30 min Manaslu/ Tsum junction to Chisopani 1 hr 10 min Chisopani to Philim 45 min. 

A newly painted roof of one of the entrance gates (kani) in the Tsum Valley
May 3 2018  Philim to Jagat
It is possible to reach Dovan in one long 8 hour day from Philim but as we had time on our hand we decided to stop in Jagat and take a half day off. We were also quite tired with the long days and poor trail conditions.  It was raining heavily from around 4 am and when I awoke at around 6 am the rain had petered off and it was drizzling. We left at 8 20 am after a late breakfast. The trail had improved after the rain - the dust had settled and it was harder and easier to walk. Our  leisurely timings to Jagat were:
Philim to Sirdibas 1 hr 10 min Sirdibas to Salleri  1 hour Salleri to Jagat 50 min. 

May 4 2018  Jagat to Khorlabesi 
We left Jagat by 7 am as we wanted to be in time to cross from Tatopani to Khorlabesi due to the road blasting work which opens the road to Trekkers and locals from 11 am to 12 noon and again from 5 pm in the evening to 7 am in the morning.  We needed to make the 5 pm crossing which we did despite waiting for one hour at the crossing point for the army to let us across. Our timing on the return leg were:
Jagat to bridge below Jagat 40 min Bridge below Jagat to Yaru Bagar 50 min Yaru Bagar to Yaru Guest house 10 min up Yaru Guest House to Syauli Bhatti - New Mountain Hotel 1 hr Syauli Bhatti to Dovan  50 min Dovan to Tatopani 1 hr Tatopani to  Khorlabesi 1 hour.
Crossing a bridge near Jagat
May 5 2018 Khorlabesi to Lapubesi 
We left Khorlabesi at around 7 25 am and we had to walk to long way 300 metres uphill and again 400 metres downhill to Machha Khola which would take around 3 hours. Our start was promising but as the sun became hotter our spirits flagged and we were struggling to complete the walk at the end. Our timings for the day are:
Khorlabesi to top of hill ( Shree Shiva Primary School) 1 hr 10 min Shree Shiva Primary School to Machha Khola 1 hr 45 min to 2 hrs 15 min Macha Khola to Laxmi Lodge Lapubesi 2 hrs 45 min to 3 hrs 15 min. 

May 6 2018  Lapubesi to Kathmandu
We had heard on the way down that the Dhading Besi road had been badly damaged due to landslides and in all possibility we would not be able to go back along that route. On arriving Lapubesi we found that our jeep had got stuck in the landslide at Dhading Besi and was going back to Gorkha. We would have to arrange a jeep from Lapubesi to drive us to Gorkha. A Bolero pick up camper was arranged and we left the next morning at 6 am. It took us 5.5 hours of driving through mud, slush and landslides sometimes in pouring rain to reach Gorkha at 11.30 am – there we found our jeep waiting for us. After a quick lunch we left Gorkha and headed to Kathmandu. Luckily the rain had stopped by then and our driver made good progress and we were in Kathmandu before 5 pm.

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