Great Himalaya Traverse

Frequently Asked Questions

How long did it take you?

87 days including the hike in from Taplejung to Kanchunjunga. We followed Doc McKerr’s itinerary for the last 30 days. None of it was easy.

Do you know where I would be able to gather more information on the availability of supplies through the more remote sections of the trail. I would be most interest in where the longest sections of trail are where we would have to rely solely on our own supplies for food and fuel. 

The sections you really need to worry about are the technical passes. Unless you are a very large party, you should be able to adequately scrounge food (albeit low quality) food along the way. Overall, this is not an easy question to answer. Basically you can do the whole trail without resupply. Doc McKerr did this, and we almost did it. The problem is that your access to high quality nutrition is limited so you will most likely steadily lose weight and become malnourished. Before we started out, John asked me what our nutrition strategy was and I replied, ‘calculated starvation’ based on what I had learned of others.. We gained maybe 5-10kg before we left, anticipating we would lose it (we lost close to 15kg each during the trek). You are burning a large amount of calories every day. Most villages you pass through will have a small shop but the only foods available will usually be dried ramon noodles and cheap Chinese biscuits and chocolate wafer bars. We ate a lot of this (often eating the ramon dried). We could have done more with buying eggs along the way, tsampa, potatoes, lentils and rice to fortify the ramon but we were reluctant to cook because of time and fuel concerns and the desire to have a large hot meal of dhal bhat at every opportunity.  We also did everything we could to stay in homes and lodges where we could get Dhal Bhat (and we would pay well for this).  When we were closer, or on, popular trekking routes we gorged as much as we could and also tried to stock up on tuna fish and peanut butter which were often available. The only place where no food was available was on the high technical passes.  We had four food caches in expedition barrels brought in near the high passes. These contained high quality/calorie dehydrated dinners as well as epi gas and gear replacements. We could have spent more money and had more food delivered along the way but we didn’t like that approach. (also note it is difficult to buy high quality dehydrated dinners in Kathmandu- I brough $1,000 worth in Seattle and brought them to Nepal for the trek).  In theory you could stock up on ramon noodles and get across these passes but the dehydrated dinners, chocolate, and protein bars definitely gave us a boost. We always carried a couple canisters of epi gas – this can usually be found on the popular trekking routes but sometimes there are shortages. It’s good to realize you may need to cook on campfires as well (so don’t rely on a jetboil like setup).

I have a multi-fuel stove but as you have said, fuel will be in short supply and even the quailty of the petrol of which it can run will be poor. What is the approximate time withour any source of local food which crossing the technical passes? I assume that there were also long periods here where you had to melt snow as your only source of water? 

If your stove can also attach to epi gas (isobutane, commonly called ‘epi’ in Nepal) AND all types of liquid then you should be good. In theory you can get kerosene in some villages but we had very little luck with this, nor did we need to look much as we were able to stretch out our epi when needed. In general, outside of the technical passes, we were able to choose when we wanted to camp and we did this because a) staying in a village would have meant stopping earlier than we wanted, b) we wanted the solitude.  But quite often we had to balance this with knowing we would be eating dried noodles and using some epi gas. Because calories were important – we would often try to stay in lodges along the way. When there were no lodges we would usually find the local entrepreneur (often the store owner) and negotiate dinner and a place to sleep at night. At first I worried we would be taking their own food supply or displacing people from a bedroom. I think this is a valid concern, especially if more people start hitting the trail or you are in a larger group, but in practice we paid them well, walked away with a full belly, and everyone was the happier. We never melted snow for water. We were able to find rivulets and streams just before crossing the high technical passes. The one catch was when we got stuck camping on the glacier between Sherpani Col and the West Col. We ran out of water and we couldn’t get the stove to work at that altitude (it was an old MSR that only worked with liquid fuel and the pump gasket didn’t work in the cold). It was not a fun night.

 

Should I do the high passes?

If you have experience at alpine climbing and all the gear  - then consider it carefully. Otherwise consider detouring and doing a modified high route. You might get away with soloing one technical pass but all five would be bordering on suicidal.

Navigation

The more Nepali skills and GPS skills you have the easier life will be. Buy your maps through Robin and Himalaya Map House

Should I hike solo?

No. Not if you can help it. There are too many things that can go wrong. There are also some sections that require a guide and a minimum group size.

Can Dorjee Sherpa help support my trip as well? 

Yes – please see Seth’s consulting page. He continues to work with Dorjee.

What are the different major GHT websites? 

There are many sites about the GHT and they are quite confusing. Our aim is provide information on itineraries and GPS files for through hikers. We’ve added a few notes on other sites below. Please send us any info you have on other sites and we will add that as well.

 

www.greathimalayatrail.com: A very nice site created by Robin Boustead who we are big fans of. Check it out – great links and resources. It also covers much more than just Nepal. It also has a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Great-Himalaya-Trail-165553404596/?ref=mf
Content is tailored to the GHT with trip reports and more posted. Site coordinates the Great Himalaya Alliance.

www.greathimalayatrails.com: This used to be a beautiful site and had a different url ending in .org  It is now managed by Samarth an NGO that receives funding from DFID and possibly the Dutch government. In 2014, it still very nice marketing and branding of the GHT as the longest, highest, footpath in the world but now focuses instead on a ‘network of adventures’. It reads like many other trekking company websites in Nepal – all mostly devoid of real content and drawing attention to popular sites that are along (sometimes a bit far away) from the high route. There is no emphasis on thru hiking. The embedded maps are erroneous, tracks are not downloadable, and no primary source citations for the tracks are provided. Efforts to have them fix the tracks or notate the erroneous sections have been met with ‘We will do it next year’ for the past two years. It has a facebook page with many likes: https://www.facebook.com/Great.Himalaya.Trails/info/- posts are frequent but usual tourist fare for the most part.

www.greathimalayanepal.com – a site for ‘The Great Himalaya Trail Nepal Alliance’ (GHTNA) with primary contacts Tej Raj Dahal and Mim Hamal. There is no substantive content on the site for a thru hiker. The focus (relative to the other alliance) is supposed to be only on the Nepal section. We dislike the fact there are now two ‘Alliances’ – that is an oxymoron.

Shawn Forrey – hiked in 2011 with Justin Lichter. These guys are pros! Website

Doc McKerr – we are big fans. He solo’d with no outside resupply in 2013. His website is east2westnepal.org. The tracking device he used with micro blog posts is here.

Katja Staartjes and her husband hiked in 2010 and 2011, their site is in Dutch and English:  http://katjastaartjes.nl/expeditions/great-himalaya-trail/?lang=en

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