Rajendra Desai

LANGTANG VALLEY is certainly one of the most beautiful valleys in Nepal and elsewhere in Himalaya. Till recently it was not a very frequently visited place by the outsiders. Within last two to three years, however, it has been very much publicised by Nepal government. One of the reasons to do this seems to be the closing of Jomoson-Muktinath trek which was one of the most popular treks and provided the trekker with some most fantastic views of Annapurna, Himal, Dhaulagiri, Niigiri Peak, Tukche Peak etc.

The average elevation of the beautiful valley floor ranges from 11,000 to 13,000 feet. The valley runs east-west. In the north it is flanked by spectacular Langtang Himal massif. This massif has as many as eight peaks Over 20,000 feet high. The highest, being Langtang Lirung 23,770 feet, was attempted by Japanese a few years back. None of these peaks, however, has been climbed. On the south side of the valley is a barrier that ranges in height from 16,000 feet to almost 23,000 feet. The eastern end of the valley is guarded by the most beautiful peak of this area, called Dorje Lakpa, which is 22,900 feet high.

The trek to Langtang Valley starts from a little town of Trisuli Bazar which is located approximately 44 miles north of Kathmandu. Its elevation is 2900 feet. From here the track follows Trisuli River for approximately four days' march. The trail rises through few thousand feet before reaching the village of Dhunche at 6,400 feet elevation. Superb views of Langtang Himal and Kirung Himal can be obtained from here. The trail drops through approximately 1000 feet from Dhunche to cross a river and then rises steeply back to the same elevation. In post-monsoon period numerous waterfalls are seen throughout the march across the lush green mountainside. From here the trail once again drops back to 4800 feet at Syabrubensi which is situated at the confluence of Trisuli River and Langtang Khola. This village is positioned fairly low in the valley and hence does not afford the spectacular views as seen from Dhunche. One hardly realizes that it is the western most point along the foot of the Langtang massif.

From Syabrubensi the track rises steeply through approximately 4,500 feet before reaching Bhanjan Gaon. Depending upon one's uck, from here lovely view of Ganesh Himal can be obtained, e trail now follows Langtang Khola, though staying way above river for approximately a day and a half. Langtang Khola is a raging Himalayan torrent. It falls from approximately 13,000 feet in the inner Langtang Valley to 4,800 feet at Syabru- bensi within a mere three days' march. As one proceeds beyond Sherpa Gaon the high peaks on the south side of the valley appear towering overhead several thousand feet. These peaks appear so high that one who is not well versed with the topo¬graphy of the area could easily mistake them for Langtang peaks. This is especially true as along its length the valley negotiates two sharp bends and one tends to lose the sense of direction.

Trek to Langtang

Trek to Langtang

Just before reaching Langtang Valley, proper, one reaches the village of Ghora Tabela at approximately 10,000 feet. This is a beautiful little village with "Snow View Hotel" to boast about. This hotel is nothing more than an oversized hut with two sleeping quarters containing seven hard beds each and a kitchen without dining facilities. Its rustic appearance seems very much in harmony with rest of the dwellings in the village and primi¬tive it may be, but one finds the sleeping quarters exceedingly comfortable and cozy after six days' march out of Trisuli Bazar.

After a short but steep climb over a pass one suddenly enters the inner Langtang Valley. The valley becomes much wider at this point and a keen hiker immediately catches a few glimpses of the northern flanks of Dorje Lakpa at the far end of the valley. As one moves on it reveals more and more of its hidden grandeur. The beauty of its serrated ridges and the magnificence of its shape is not fully visible until a short distance before Langtang Village. At this point Langtang Himal is totally obscured by gigantic walls which loom over Langtang Village. High peaks of the southern barrier, however, appear conspicuously with many nameless rocky and snow clad pinnacles jutting into the sky.

During the course of the day as one moves higher and deeper into the valley, the clouds in their diurnal pattern come up from behind to hide the surrounding panorama of high peaks. This drama of clouds climbing over the ridges and spurs, playing hide- and-seek with those snowy giants is absolutely breath-taking and overwhelms the onlooker with sheer ecstacy. At this altitude as the going gets a little tough this wonderful drama gives one an excuse to stop and take a breather, and at the same time gaze at this ever changing panorama to one's heart's content.

As you move towards the inner realms of the valley more and more of the southern barrier catches your eyes and so does Yala Peak which is merely 16,000 feet high. Yala peak looks like a volcano and stands out very prominently. No sooner one reaches the grazing grounds of Kyanchin Gompa, Langtang massif spring up in the north, closer than ever before. It is hard to believe that the mountain is towering more than 11,000 feet over your head and is so near. One soon gets the taste of the gigantic scale that prevails in this part of the world.

The village of Kyanchin Gompa with its practically unobstruct¬ed 300 degree panorama of high snowy peaks would certainly be one of the most beautiful places that one might ever visit. As your eyes gaze from the south-west to the east numerous nameless peaks over 17,000 feet unfold their beauty which un¬doubtedly culminates at the eastern extremity where you find one of the supremely beautiful giants of the Himalaya, namely Dorje Lakpa. As your eyes travel further from east to north¬west, still higher peaks of Langtang Himal meet them.

Kyanchin Gompa is at the elevation of 12,700 feet. The main village is separated from the Buddhist shrine and the cheese factory with grazing ground all around. In the northeast is a small peak approximately 15,600 feet'high which can be easily scrambled up to gain an even better view of the all around panorama. One must, however, make an early start if he wishes to get better look at Langtang massif. During our three-day stay at the village the clouds had made it impossible to see the massif after nine thirty or ten in the morning except for a few occasional glimpses. The southern barrier, however, keeps itself visible until almost two in the afternoon when clouds roll from down below to cover them.

Langtang massif forms a huge amphitheatre on its southern side and this amphitheatre apparently has its own weather. This is the reason for the late morning clouds that hide the mountain for the rest of the day. Three glaciers fall very steeply from the side of the mountain to the floor of the amphitheatre which primarily consists of glacial moraine and Langtang Khola emerging out of glacier. A short hike from the village takes one to the entrance of the amphitheatre. Once there you find huge precipices falling in one sweep through seven to nine thousand feet from various summits. It should be noteworthy that the highest peak of the mountain, namely Langtang Lirung, is neither visible from the amphitheatre nor from Kyanchin Gompa. A sharply pointed dome appearing to be the highest point is merely a false summit. The true summit is visible from many places prior to reaching Ghora Tabela, including Dhunche.

These peaks along with the peaks of the southern barrier certainly present numerous climbing possibilities in the valley. During a visit to Langtang Valley it would certainly be to one's advantage to have at least a week's time to spend in the valley in order to explore its innermost points and the climbing pos¬sibilities. Also, if the time permits it would be interesting to climb over Ganja La pass 16,000 feet high in the southern barrier, to return via another beautiful area of Helambu and Gosaikund lakes.

The coming years will see more and more outsiders, easterners and westerners, visiting the valley for trekking and climbing. Time only will tell what this development will lead to. As elsewhere in the Himalaya, things will get expensive and some¬what commercialized. Another problem of more serious nature, however, will also become evident as time goes by. Even at this early stage of climbing and trekking in the valley trash left by the outsiders does not escape one's eyes. Numerous candy wrappers and empty cans are found all along the track and at Kyanchin Gompa. Unless the visitors, their Sherpas and their porters, become more conscious about this problem a day will come when giant trash piles will compete with their neighbouring giants, and as someone said, the Himalaya will not only be famous for the biggest mountains in the world, but also for its biggest rubbish piles in the world.


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