Frontiers of Travel Articles
Travel to Beyond the Annapurnas
Organised group tours: The following tours for Beyond the Annapurnas are available:
Beyond the Annapurna Himalaya, amongst a group of peaks known as the Manang Himal, the eminently climbable Chulu Far East (6059m) boasts a superb summit panorama that includes all of the Annapurnas, as well as a host of little-known peaks in Tibet. Our approach to the mountain follows the trek of the classic Annapurna Circuit for 3 days before climbing to a basecamp above the villages of Gyaru and Ngawa. We go on to establish a high camp on the south-west ridge of Chulu Far East and we make our ascent via straightforward snow-slopes. Descending to Manang in the deep cleft of the Marsyangdi Valley, the second part of this fantastic climbing holiday is our 6-day trek out to Jomsom, via the stunning Tilicho Lake and the relatively rarely-crossed Tilicho La (5260m). Close to the Annapurna Circuit, this expedition manages, nevertheless, to take you well off the beaten track and to provide an unforgettable trekking and climbing holiday.
Situated to the north of Mustang is a region of Nepal seldom visited by westerners - Damodar is one of the last frontiers close to the Tibetan border, where rugged landscapes and ancient culture merge in a very unique interpretation of lands forgotten by time. On this stunning traverse from Mustang we cross numerous high passes including the Saribung La (5600m), and emerge to the regions of Nar & Phu, where Tibetan culture thrives in the small villages and monasteries we pass. The highlight of a trek in this region is the beautiful landscapes, it is a must for keen photographers who will appreciate the scale and grandeur of the high plateaus and solitude this region has to offer. Our September 2012 departure will be led by well known mountaineer and expedition leader Simon Yates.
Descending from the Tibetan Border to Chame on the Annapurna Circuit, the newly accessible valley of the Naar-Phu Khola is one of the most exciting trekking destinations in Nepal. We spend 9 days exploring this lost Buddhist region, trekking northwards as far as the remote stone-built village of Phu, whose inhabitants continue to trade across the border. Retracing our steps only briefly, we then turn off westwards into a broad and rocky tributary valley, passing numerous chortens, mani walls and unusual gateways en route to Naar. Climbing to cross the Kang La (5306m) at the head of this valley, the views of the arrayed peaks of the Annapurnas are nothing short of breathtaking. After an abrupt descent to the Marsyangdi River, we trek out the last two days on the Annapurna Circuit. You can be amongst the first to visit this untouched corner of Nepal!
North of the Annapurnas and off-limits to travellers until the early ‘90s, the ancient and mysterious kingdom of Mustang is geographically and culturally a part of Tibet. Mustang prospered in the 15th Century, when its strategic location enabled it to dominate the salt trade between Tibet and Nepal. Its distinctive, white-painted villages, Tibetan monasteries and impressive wayside inns, a legacy of hundreds of years of cross-border trading, make Mustang a place apart, unlike anywhere else in Nepal. The landscape is different here, too - eroded clonglomerate cliffs coloured by striking earth pigments in variations of red, yellow, brown and blue, with a backdrop of the distant snow-capped peaks of the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri. With the gradual encroachment of the jeep road into Mustang, we now have the opportunity to change and improve the way we run this amazing 2-week adventure holiday. After a flight to Jomsom beside the Kali Gandaki River, we hike for just 2 days from Kagbeni to Geling, then transfer directly to the fairy-tale walled city Lo Manthang and spend a day there, exploring amongst its brightly painted houses and secret alleyways. This approach avoids protracted walking on, or within sight of, the jeep track, whilst still allowing us to see all of Mustang's important villages, chortens and distinctive scenery. However, the best is still to come, as we walk-out from Lo Manthang on the east side of the Kali Gandaki River. This 6-day trek takes us into the most interesting part of Mustang, where very little has changed almost since time began. Crossing passes up to 4200 metres and visiting a succession of remote settlements, such as Dhi, Tange and Tetang, we head southwards towards the looming presence of the Annapurna Himal. Finally arriving at the colourful pilgrimage centre of Muktinath, on the Annapurna Circuit, we take a jeep down to Jomsom to complete one of the best trekking adventures in Nepal.
After a pleasant 4-day introductory hike to Koto on the north side of the Annapurnas, we leave the main 'circuit' trail and trek north to the isolated village of Naar. From here, we strike out on a route that follows the Labse Khola and leads beyond the Chulu peaks into the almost unknown Damodar Himal. We reach the high point of our route at the generally snow-bound Teri La (5560m), a pass 'discovered' by Bill Tilman in 1950. The core of this long and varied route is a brilliant week of trekking through a wild and uninhabited area, with camps at elevations of between 4000 and 5000 metres. We finally reach the upper Kali Gandaki Valley at the beautiful village of Tangge and have a further week to explore the 'forbidden kingdom' of Mustang, including a visit to the outrageous walled settlement of Lo Manthang. If you want to get off the beaten track - try this one!
The Kingdom of Mustang preserves some of the last vestiges of traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture. Situated on the border of Nepal and Tibet, it is open to only a few select trekking groups each season. The trek follows established trails through substantial villages that once served a thriving trade route between Nepal and Tibet. These whitewashed settlements, set amid fields of barley and home to impressive chortens and simple monasteries, reflect the abiding Buddhist culture. The terrain is striking, a semi-arid desert with deep ravines and rock shelves, flanked by snowy peaks. A highlight is the visit to Lo Manthang where the King of Mustang reigns over his tiny kingdom and surveys a world still culturally closer to the heartland of Tibet than to the markets and temples of Kathmandu.*May departures co-incide with the Tiji Festival in Lo Manthang.
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