Below, please find descriptions of crossing Tilman – the technical pass and crux of this section. -Seth April 7, 2015
We had heard many stories of difficulties in even finding the pass, and there were discrepancies with online maps and paper maps; we hired a local guy when we went through the town of Tembathang to help us find base camp. His name was Norbu and he lives in one of the first houses on the right as you enter the village via the lower trail. This was a wise choice as there are multiple trails to get to Tilman Pass. We met Moritz Steinhilber a two days later who had hired a guide and even they had been lost of 2 days. Our guide was a seasoned mountain man who knew the mountains very well and got us to the base of the pass in 3 days instead of the 4 we thought it would take. Our route did not follow the paper map route and Moritz told us that route did not exist. If you can find “Norbu Sherpa” then hire him. He was the best! The route frequently dropped into glacial bowls and then back up. Basically we went from Tembathang to Panch Pokhari and then Tin Pokhari. We camped two nights and the third night was our high camp. Norbu turned back there.
Moritz had found Panch Pokhari but they had wandered for 2 days before finding Tin Pokhari. With his directions we had no problem. The former felt much more settled with the temple and outbuildings then the latter. From Tin Pokhari it was tempting to forge straight ahead, but that is Tilman East. The main pass was up the morraine to our left as we sat with Tin Pokhari to our back. it was a beautiful hike to the base of the pass along the foot of high peaks as the trail traversed from kharka to kharka on the left side of the morraine. We camped high up on the snow and said goodbye to Norbu in the early morning at about 4am.
We took Tilman Pass, not Tilman East. Both passes are technical and Tilman East has the reputation for being the harder of the two. The way up Tilman took us initially over the lower glacier (no crevasses or any big hazards). The climb up to the pass was steep snow/ice and involved crampons and ice axes. Straight forward. We went directly up and then traversed to the left a bit. The yellow line in the image below represents the advice from the book. It looked ok to us as well, but going straight up was a little faster and less scree.
Going down the pass you want to make sure you get an early enough start that you are not post holing through the snow. The first part of the pass goes down to a flat plateau.
From this plateau it is a much steeper drop to the valley below. We went straight down from here which was very steep. One of our party fell here and almost slid into rocks. We were lucky there was no serious injury. If you traverse to the left (as you descend) it seemed like you could follow the moraine well, but we were worried about post holing down into hidden rocks, we were also worried about rock fall near the valley edges so we kept to the center and plunge stepped a very steep gulley that followed a mostly ice covered little river (at times a waterfall). Again, we had a bad slip here so please use protection or consider trying the lateral moraine to your left.
The steep part ends at a lake. Travelling past this and following the river you come to almost a waterfall – a very steep descent with bad rock down to the Langshisa Glacier bottom. This is the ‘Waypoint-S5-15-Rob’ on the map. We did not follow this down, we noticed a cairn about a 30m climb up to the left (south). From there we followed some cairns and goat trail along this south western section of morraine. The terrain was smooth and easy, grassy like. After a 45 minute gentle hike down through small scrub we came to a kharka and from there a landslide crossing with a little climbing on sand. After crossing 2 rotten gullies – Seth decided to turn back to a scramble trail he had seen earlier that snaked down to the river below (not recommended). John and Kathleen continued along the lateral morraine (not represented in GPS tracks from Delorme). Once the lateral moraine met the valley bottom there was still a drop down to the Langtang Khola from the terminal moraine. At this point there had been various yak trails to follow, but these all disappeared for the most part and you have the most frustrating part of the day. There is no trail so you have to invent the best way to bushwack through as you enter an area of trees, willow bushes, and rocks. Every time you think you have found a trail it fades out into a cow path and then completely disappears. At times you have to say F*^# It! and just go bashing through it. Make sure the stuff on your pack is secured tightly as it will get pulled off. Seth had his pants ripped to shreds and the trees at some point just stole his belt. When there are not trees then there are large boulders with drop-offs that you have to negotiate. Do the best you can through here. That’s not the end however. Probably the most dangerous section is the last hurdle. The Langtang River must be crossed to get to the trail where you can hike out to teahouses and civilization. There is no bridge here or any trees to use as a partial bridge. If the river is running any higher then when we did it then you will be screwed. We barely were able to get across and it was not safe. By the time we got there it was late afternoon so the snow melt had the river at its highest. Morning would be the safest time to cross when the water was at its lowest. Unfasten your backpack straps because if you fall or get your feet swept from under you then you will want to get out of your pack as quickly as possible. You will probably lose all your gear if this happens. The water was swift and about waist deep when we crossed. The current is strong enough that the water piling up on our bodies went up to our rib cages. It was ice cold water. Using poles and each other for support we were able to get across. Our feet and bodies were in serious pain from the cold shock by the time we got across. From there it is still a 3 hour hike to the nearest teahouse in Kyangjin. John was charged by a rambunctious yak during this last bit of hiking but that is probably not a consistent hazard faced by other people crossing this pass. Below is our route, for additional GPS info and other trip reports, please look even further below. We welcome feedback, remember to do your own research and use this info at your own risk; Above all, be safe. A zip file of all files below. Notes on these files are below. Syrabu is misspelled. In general, each file has the origin in the file name with ‘RB = Robin Boustead, RFB = Run for the Border (John, Seth, and Kathleen) and from Robert (Bob) Rosenbaum’s trip report posted on www.greathimalayatrail.com
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-AllItems20140903.gpx – All waypoints and all tracks (see below) This is a helpful file to see all of the differences.
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-AllItems20140903.kml (same as above, for Google earth)
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-RB-20140903.gpx (see unresolved below). Tracks provided by Neha Shrestha. These were from SNV, an INGO that used to manage the GHT development project. I thought they came from Robin Boustead so that initial is in the suffix. I inverted many of these and joined them together unless there was a gap of a few hundred feet plus. This left 7 segments (the numbering accidentally skips 7 and finishes on 8). There are some side trips as well as a loop within these tracks. It also starts quite a bit north of Last Resort. Black in image and maps below.
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-RFB-Delorme-20140903.gpx These are our tracks created by a Delorme Sat transponder set at 10 minute increments. Light green in image below. BEST.
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-RFB-DelormeAndWaypoints20140903 Same as above, but with waypoints. BEST.
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-RFB-Drawn20140903.gpx: Seth drew this gps track prior to departure by connecting waypoints provided by Robin and by looking at the paper map and google sat imagery as a base layer. Dark green in image below.
- S5-LastResort-SyrabruBesi-Waypoints20140903.gpx. A collection of waypoints, most of them provided to Robin Boustead who passed them along. Contributors include Shawn Forrey, Robin Boustead, Bob Rosenbaum, Jamie McGuinness and others (including us). Used by permission. Many can be found on: http://www.greathimalayatrail.com/gpsFiles.php as well as other contributors.
Semi-resolved: None of these appear to be the same that underlay maps on the google pro maps for Langtang Region on http://thegreathimalayatrail.org (right window below) as that route appears to be actually further east and not over Tilman pass. This was confirmed by Robin Boustead during the summer of 2014 and identified as Tilman East. Emails to Neha Shrestha alerted her to this and as of Dec 1, 2014 she said they are aware of this and will address it with an upcoming new website.
In this google earth image below you can see the three different tracks on Tilman Pass. The light greenish track is RFB Delorme Track. The dark green is what Seth drew using Himalayan map house paper map, and waypoints, as a reference and Google Sat images as a base layer, and the black came from segments provided by Neha (originally thought to from Robin Boustead). Here is a link to the same KML file used in the view below. It is the same thing as the zip file but the waypoints are hidden that it is cleaner in viewing. And here it is in google maps View Larger Map
- http://nayakanga.sluiter.eu/Report.html: This is a great website by a Dutch team (Otto and Marja) who crossed the pass in 2010. KML files are available for download – they have not been integrated into this page yet but may be at some point in the future.