11 - 24 October 2013 #677

Walking among giants

Trekking around Manaslu and the Tsum Valley: Lower Manaslu and Ganesh Himal, Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons, Himalayan Map House, 2013, 188pp

Two experienced Kathmandu-based adventurers, Sian Prichard-Jones and Bob Gibbons, released a trekking guide this month with the Himalayan Map House. The guidebook, the first of its kind for the region, explores the Manaslu Mountain Circuit and the Tsum Valley trail. Tucked between Langtang and the Annapurnas, many regions of Ganesh Himal and Manaslu Himal have just been opened to outsiders, including the lush and almost otherworldly Tsum Valley.

For those new to the lower Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, or to Himalayan trekking in general, this guidebook will be a useful resource. The guide starts with basic background information to Nepal, including its cultures, customs, religions, and holidays. If you want to plan your own journey, the book offers a plethora of services to choose from, each vetted by the authors, as well as logistic information for flights, permits, and lodgings. More than a brief overview, the background and logistical information is everything an inexperienced trekker would need.

The ‘routes’ section of the guide, by far the book’s biggest asset, offers a day-by-day, almost hour-by-hour, description of what your experience on the trail will be. As the title suggests, the book gives a day-by-day for both the Manaslu circuit and the Tsum Valley, including several variations. Instead of finding out as she goes along, the trekker will know how many ascents and descents to expect, locations for water and food, and otherwise hidden gems to look out for. Each trek offers its own technical challenges, accommodation difficulties, and majestic splendours and the authors give them each good treatment.

The guide delves into an impressive level of detail when discussing suggested diversions to the trail, culled with the help of locals Sonam Lama and Lopsang Chhiring Lama. Advice such as “the older bridge will lead to an easier ascent,” or, “look for Lama Sherap at the Gonhgye monastery, who speaks good English,” ensures that you won’t have to backtrack or get lost in the pursuit of these necessary ‘side-tracks’. The sheer number of them suggests a rich experience for the traveller, even after several visits.

Funny, though admittedly corny, lines such as, “I saw the lodge on the edge of the cliff; good thing I didn’t wake up with a hangover!” add a bit of levity just as one’s legs are about to give out. All-in-all, the book’s charm doesn’t take away from its utility and your trek will surely be complimented by it.

For two routes gaining in popularity and in a region so close to Kathmandu, this guide is a must for any trekker, initiated or uninitiated to the region.

Lawrence Miller