Great Himalayan Trail: trekking’s holy grail
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 17, 2011
For the first time walkers can take a guided trek traversing the entire length of the Himalayas in Nepal
Have you got six months off? Do you fancy a long walk? If so, World Expeditions may have just the holiday for you.
They have become the only trekking outfit to offer a guided trip along the first completed section of the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT).
Stretching for 1,700km along the length of Nepal, the GHT will take you a mere 157 days to complete. You’ll see eight of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000m, including Everest, and cross passes reaching up to 6,000m, climbing a total of 150,000m. That’s a Snowdon every day for half a year. Oh, and it will set you back £20,500.
The GHT isn’t the world’s longest long-distance footpath. The Continental Divide Trail in the US is 5,000km and the Trans Canada will be three times that. But this steroidal version of the Pennine Way looks like being the most coveted of all. Eventually, the trail’s originators hope it will stretch from the mighty 8,000m peak Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, considered the westernmost outlier of the Himalaya, to Namche Barwa in Tibet. It will connect five Asian countries – Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan.
That version will stretch for 4,500km, but there is no completion date confirmed for such a huge undertaking. For now, the focus is on Nepal – with the first guided treks starting next year. As well as being an enormous challenge, the GHT could also prove to be a welcome money-spinner for a country still recovering from 10 years of civil war. Some parts of Nepal have benefited hugely from tourism, like the Everest and Annapurna regions. Those areas without such famous mountains, particularly in remote western Nepal, haven’t fared nearly so well.
Last year, I trekked along a section of the GHT through the Mugu district of western Nepal, a remote region peopled by Tibetan traders and animist tribes. Thousands of people were relying on aid from the World Food Programme, flown in by helicopter with the nearest roads a week’s walk away. Many young men leave to find work abroad. Tourism, for all its faults, could really make a difference here.
Several adventurous souls have travelled the arc of the Himalaya before, while Richard and Adrian Crane, cousins of television presenter Nicholas Crane, actually ran it in 1983. But the idea of a defined and designated route for trekkers is more recent. In 2006, the Dutch development agency SNV and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development based in Kathmandu committed to developing the idea, and have brought together government agencies and local people.
But it’s the hard work of one man, Australian trekker Robin Boustead, that has moved the project along most. After years of research (read his account here), he completed the trek in two sections, and has drawn anexcellent free map of the trail’s route as well as writing a guidebook. Every water source, camping ground and elevation has been meticulously logged with GPS, but he says that the route will undoubtedly develop as more people do it and discover better alternatives.
For those without the time – or the knees – to do the whole thing in one go, Boustead has broken the GHT down into nine sections, which you can pick off at your leisure. And if you think 20 grand is a lot of chapatties to spend on an adventure holiday, it’s still a lot less than the current price of a trip up Everest – and a lot more exclusive. There have been four thousand ascents of the world’s highest mountain, but only one man has done the GHT.
• The Nepal stretch of the Great Himalayan Trail guided with World Expeditions opens in February 2011. It costs £20,500, not including interntaional flights. It takes 157 days to complete, although it can be broken down to seven smaller stages up to 34 days. For more information and bookings call World Expeditions on 0800 0744 135 or visit worldexpeditions.co.uk