13-19 May 2016 #808

Langtang is ready for you. Are you?

The scenic national park is open to trekkers again after last year’s deadly earthquake and avalanche
Yu Wei Liew

All Pics: Liew Yu Wei

Last year’s earthquake at 11:56 am on 25 April shook off a chunk of the southern flank of Mt Langtang Lirung (7,227m) and sent it crashing into the glacier below, bulldozing the ice over a cliff and down on the valley. The shock wave that preceded the avalanche literally blew away the village, and buried what was left under ice and rock 100m thick. About 200 people perished, 70 of them tourists hiking in the national park.

One year later, Langtang Valley is as scenic as ever and it is hard to imagine that such a catastrophic event happened here. The only sombre sign of the disaster is the debris field above what was once a thriving town amidst some of the most stunning scenery in the world. There are scars on the cliff above, and tree trunks on the other side of the valley all knocked down by the force of the blast.

Langtang Village is gone, but as is the Nepali way of life, people have moved on and rebuilt. The trail is open and guesthouses dot the path from Syabru to Mundu and Kyanjin Gompa. The sound of hammer and saw is everywhere.

With trekking numbers down, those who have been lucky enough to escape damage in the earthquake are facing worries of a different kind: even though the blockade is over, everything from food to building supplies has to be ferried up via porters.

Chhemble Lama runs the Sherpa Hotel in Kyanjin Gompa, two hours walk from what used to be Langtang Village. He says his neighbours used to grow their own crops, but stopped ever since the earthquake, now they rely on porters to deliver essentials, which cost two to three times more than before. But incomes are down because tourist numbers plummeted, and Lama worries about making ends meet.

Proprietor of Hotel Ganesh View Lodge at Rimche, Tenzing Dorje, said there were far fewer trekkers this year even though the trail was open and the lodges were in operation. In previous years, his lodge, which accommodates 20 people, would be fully occupied during the trekking season. This season, he has managed to fill only two rooms per night.

The trail up into the Langtang National Park, though littered with rockfall debris in some places, is clear. There is no shortage of teahouses, with at least one in every settlement with beds to spend the night comfortably in. Bedding and blankets are provided, which removes the need for a sleeping bag, although bringing one is recommended, especially in the higher elevations.\

A typical itinerary sees trekkers starting from Syabrubesi to Lama Hotel, then to Mundu on the second day and Kyanjin Gompa on the third, and then returning the same way. To avoid doubling back, those game for a lengthier journey can also opt to trek back up and over Ganja La and return to Kathmandu through Helambu taking 14 days. However, in the three-day journey between Kyanjin Gompa and Melamchi Tarkeyghyang, there are no teahouses, and trekkers will have to set up tented camps. That, and the technical demands of crossing a glacier, make this circuit for experienced climbers only.

Rooms in Langtang cost between Rs 200-400 a night and trekkers also have the choice of an all-vegetarian menu. And if you feel low on energy there is always the Snickers Momo, which is exactly what it sounds like. Or try the 'Sea Buck Throne Juice', a widely-propagated misspelling of seabuckthorn juice – the Vitamin C rich berry extract that is the specialty of the Langtang region.

Read also:

Langtang Lament

A long wait, Tsering Dolker Gurung

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