What to Know About Hiking the Great Himalaya Trail
Megan “Hashbrown” Maxwell
The author hiking in Nepal’s Dolpa region
This past March, I flew to the other side of the world to hike Nepal’s Great Himalaya Trail (GHT). This was my second trip to the Himalaya. Back in 2015, I spent a few months in Nepal hiking in the most popular regions. This time the goal was to get as far from the tourist track as possible.
If you are thinking about hiking the Great Himalaya Trail here’s what you need to know.
High Route vs. Low Route
There are two different suggested routes for the GHT, the High Route and the Low Route (or the mountain and cultural routes, as the locals say).
As the name implies, the High Route is known for its higher elevations. Often, the trail crosses overpasses that are upwards of 18,000 feet. However, the grade of the trail is usually not so bad on the days without passes.
There are several sections of trail where technical mountaineering skills are required. Guides are mandatory in Kanchenjunga, Manaslu, and Upper Dolpa.
The Low Route connects villages of rural Nepal, and offers the opportunity to see a way of life that is far from that of the United States.
The term “low route” might lead you to think that it is in some way easier than its mountain counterpart, but that is untrue. Expect to gain or lose elevations of 3,000-5,000 feet on a daily basis. Many of the passes are over 13,000 feet, which is apparently “low” by Nepal standards.
My hiking partner and I did a combination of the two routes. For the most part, we stuck to the Low Route during the spring and the High Route during the summer.
One of the cool things about the trails of Nepal is the guest house system. If broken into shorter hikes, many regions of Nepal can be hiked without carrying any camping gear or food. With guest house accommodations, you usually get dinner, breakfast, and a hard bed to sleep in. Don’t expect a shower unless you’re in the Annapurna or Everest regions.
I would estimate that we stayed in guest houses 60% of the time and camped 40% of nights.
A stretch of trail in the lower Everest region
The amount of time this trail will take really depends on the type of hiker you are. For example, most GHT thru-hikers go with a trekking agency and have guides and porters. These groups are usually on a five-month schedule. On the opposite end of things, the fastest thru-hike was done in under a month by a runner on the Low Route.
Another factor that will determine your time frame is if you go back to the city to resupply. For example, if you’re hiking the trail in one push it will take significantly less time than if you make trips to Kathmandu or Pokhara.
My partner and I were in Nepal for four and a half months, and we were on the trail for three of those months. We treated our thru-hike as a travel experience and took our time. When we went to the city to resupply, we usually stayed for a week. While in regions with guest houses, we often stopped by three p.m.
There are two ways to handle doing resupplies in Nepal.
Option one is not to do resupplies. Aim to stay in guest houses the majority of the time then you won’t have to worry about carrying very much food. There are regularly small village shops where you can buy supplies. However, the shops don’t stock much food beyond Ramen noodles and packaged cookies.
At least one trip to the city will probably be necessary. Kathmandu and Pokhara (a smaller city west of Kathmandu) are the only places where you can get a new pair of trail runners or replace broken gear.
Option two is to bring backpacking food from home, store it at your guest house in the city, and make a few trips back to resupply. My hiking partner and I got off trail four different times to do a resupply run. Each trip involved a day-long bus ride, five or six rest days, and another day-long bus ride back to the trail.
We also organized permits during these trips back and therefore didn’t have to project permit dates for our entire thru-hike.
The author’s hiking partner doing some bouldering along the Makalu Base Camp trek
Again, this depends on the hiker and the route. Generally speaking, the High Route is going to be more expensive than the Low Route. There are regions where guides are mandatory, there are more permits to acquire and pay for, and guest house prices are higher because it’s harder to get supplies there. The Low Route does not see much tourism and has better road access. Therefore prices are not inflated.
The average cost for dinner, breakfast, and a room on the High Route is about $20, whereas it’s about $10 on the Low Route.
My trip budget averaged $1000 a month. This covered all of my expenses while on trail, bus tickets to and from the trail, a few pricey gear replacements, permit fees, our guide in Manaslu, and splurging on my every whim during rest days in the city. This did not cover my international flights or the resupply food I brought from home.
The Great Himalaya Trail might be for you if you’re looking to hike amongst the world’s tallest mountains, have a unique travel experience, and do a logistically and physically challenging trail.
Fastest Known Time (FKT)
Clint “Lint” Bunting
Fastest Known Time (FKT) record-setting attempts on the long trails have been gaining popularity lately. Until recently, achieving an FKT was a bit of a novelty. Mostly undertaken by ‘repeat offender’ hikers like Scott “Bink” Williamson. His FKTs weren’t noticed by many outside of the hiking community, and there was relatively little fanfare when he set these records. Ten years ago, thru-hiking the PCT in less than 80 days was considered lightning quick, a speed barely obtainable by mere mortals. Nowadays that perspective is being continually challenged and is changing fast.
As more and more endurance athletes learn of the National Scenic Trails, they’re coming to them in droves, each seeking out a unique mental and physical challenge. Thru-hiking a trail is tough enough if you have no time restrictions, as readers of this article undoubtedly know. Hauling your filthy carcass and all the gear it needs to be warm, fed and dry for thousands of miles is an endeavor that many attempt, but few complete. Trying to best a record established by a speedy predecessor is a whole new version of challenge, and being that I’m on trail nearly every year, I often hear thru-hikers voice confusion and dismay at folks attempting an FKT. “You can’t see anything going that fast” is a popular one. “What’s the rush? Who are you trying to impress?” is another common utterance I hear. “I just don’t get it”… oh man, this one kills me.
Now, I have never set an FKT on anything other than “race to the buffet restaurant”, but I understand the drive that brings people out to test their mettle and luck (never-ending pasta bowl, duh). It’s easy to understand, really. To help yourself grasp why anyone would subject themselves to 50 mile days in pursuit of a record setting pace, all the average hiker needs to do is remember how most of THEIR friends and family reacted when they informed them they were headed into the wilderness to walk a long trail. Do you remember telling your peers you were headed out to walk 2000+ miles instead of using your vacation time to relax on an ocean cruise? Do you remember how they furrowed their brow and raised eyebrows, at a loss for understanding why you didn’t want to drink Mai Thais and dip anything you could find into the chocolate fountain, while a DJ played endless dance music and everyone got tan? Remember how you tried to explain to your peers that this epic hike of yours was fulfilling a dream, a challenge to yourself, and a way to connect with a deeper, primal lifestyle?
Sponsor Spotlight- Granite Gear
This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Rob Coughlin, VP of Sales and Marketing for Granite Gear, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Rob a few questions about Granite Gear so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Rob, please leave a comment.
Please give a brief description of your company. What products do you sell? How did you decide which products to specialize in? How long have you been doing this?
“Granite Gear is a 31-year-old Outdoor Gear company that currently specializes in lightweight Multi-daypacks and pack accessories. We identified a need for lightweight packing solutions in the early 2000’s whilst spending time with thru hikers at events across the US. Through years of development and testing, we feel that we’ve found the ‘sweet spot’ of lightweight and cost versus durability.”
Who do you see as your market? How do you reach these folks?
“Our core market is the trekkers on the world’s great long trails. Reaching these consumers can be a tricky one in today’s digital age. Many hikers hit our trails to get away both physically and digitally. Thus, we need to physically have a presence at events both on and off the trails. In addition to the hours we spend out hiking our trails, we sponsor and attend events like Pacific Crest Trail Days where we interact with current and future hikers. At Granite Gear, we know that if we can get a GG pack on your back, you’ll be sold on our solutions. “
Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?
“Giving back to the trails is one of Granite Gears core missions. While we donate finically we also sponsor sections of trails for maintenance, one of our prouder recent programs we have been affiliated with is “Packing It Out.” “Packing It Out” was started in 2015 when 3 hikers called Cap, Spice and Goose packed out 1100 pounds of trash off the Appalachian Trail. Cap and Spice followed this up by packing out almost 800 pounds off the PCT in 2016. Now, in 2017, we’ve formed the “Granite Gears Groundskeepers” movement. The program consists of 16 hikers across numerous long trails across The US. The “Groundskeepers” are carrying the “Packing It Out” torch by picking up trash off the great long trails. Currently, we’ve removed over 600 pounds of trash off trails this season. You can check out their progress here: http://www.granitegear.com/discover/the-grounds-keepers.”
“Bourbon. It packs lighter.”
“George Crosby Manitou Section of The Superior Hiking Trail. Tough hike through the woods with breathtaking views of the inland sea.”
Where will you go on your next vacation?
“The Boundary Waters Canoe Area. If you haven’t been, you must go.”
Is there anything about your company that you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered yet?
“Granite Gear is headquartered in Two Harbors MN. Our facility sits adjacent to The Superior Hiking Trail and only miles from The Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We continue to make the Portage Packs and Accessories found in almost every canoe in Americas most visited wildness area.”
950 Technology Way
Libertyville, IL 60048
501(c)(3) Nonprofit Status
by Naomi “the Punisher” Hudetz
The ALDHA-West Board is extremely excited to announce that we are now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit!
The Internal Revenue Service approved our request to convert from a fraternal organization to a nonprofit corporation effective August 2017. The initial idea was hatched nearly two years ago and approved by the membership at The Gathering in 2016. One IRS form and many follow-up phone-calls later, and we were approved.
The conversion supports our recently revised and expanded mission statement: to provide community education and information about long distance hiking to the public and to teach environmentally responsible backcountry skills and trail etiquette practices. We have worked hard over the past four years improving and expanding our Rucks to support our educational mission.
In 2017, we held Rucks in four locations and taught hundreds of new hikers the long-distance hiking skills they need to be successful. We are considering adding a new Ruck location in 2018.
We are firm supporters of the Leave No Trace (LNT) ethos and work hard to disseminate that message. All of our Rucks have an LNT session - a part of which now includes a "town etiquette" discussion. As the popularity of long-distance hiking increases, we believe it is more important than ever to maintain and even improve the relationships between hikers and trail gateway communities.
And finally, we believe it is vitally important to give back. As a 501(c)(3) we will devote time and money towards protecting our trails and public lands. Trail maintenance and advocacy are both in our future plans in support of our new mission statement and status.
Watch for further updates as we transition! As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments.
This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Mandy Bland, owner of Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Mandy a few questions about Purple Rain Adventure Skirts so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Mandy, please leave a comment.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts is dedicated to providing women with performance apparel that inspires the freedom of adventure without compromising style or function. I specialize in making hiking skirts for long distance hikers. Each skirt is hand sewn in Oregon from performance fabrics. The hiking skirts feature a yoga style waistband and two side pockets big enough to fit your smart phone, map and snacks. Purple Rain Skirts first launched on Etsy in 2014, where I still maintain a presence; however, my web address is: www.purplerainskirts.com, and invite you to come take a look.
Who is your market?
I make hiking skirts for long distance hikers because that’s what I love! Purple Rain Skirts does not do much in the form of formal advertising. I have a couple of trail ambassadors who are helping to spread the word, but otherwise it is my customer’s word of mouth. Seeing a skirt in action on trail tends to spark conversation and that is my bread and butter!
Did you start at a DIYer?
Yes, necessity is the mother of invention! After completing a thru hike of the AT and wearing numerous nasty hiking shorts, I became intrigued by hiking in a skirt. After doing some research I figured I could make a better one myself….and I’m frugal. I hacked up a pair of old convertible hiking pants (the ones that broke on me in the Smokies) patched a pocket and a stretchy waistband on it and hit the PCT. A few miles in I knew I was on to something. Not wanting to go back to a desk job after a section hike, I started sourcing fabric and buying sewing machines on Craigslist. My roommates were very kind to let me take over the dining room table that first year. We’ve grown very slowly and organically. I love being connected to the trail community and encouraging women to get out there and hike. Sometimes all you need is a great fitting skirt to give you the confidence to take on a new challenge.
Backpacking pregnant, Grand Staircase Escalante Utah 2016
What is your goal?
My goal is not to be a big name brand. While I love seeing the women of the Purple Rain Skirts mafia grow I don’t see these skirts being sold at REI. I am currently working with a local woman owned manufacturer to help produce the skirts. This is a big leap for me! As a new mom I had to start looking for help. For 3 years I’ve been a one woman show. It feels good to be expanding and I am eager to get these skirts into a handful of small outdoor stores. Having someone else make the skirts will allow me to focus on new designs. I even have a design idea for pants!!! In the end I want to help build community both locally and on trail. I want to help provide financial stability and flexibility for my family so we can live the life we love.
Oh man this is a tough one! I really loved Holdout Canyon in the Santa Teresa Wilderness on the Grand Enchantment Trail in Arizona. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.
Mandy and son on the Grand Staircase Escalante, Utah 2017
Tom’s Thumb on the Oregon coast will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a short hike to a great view. I hiked that at least once a week with my dog when I lived in Lincoln City.
We are planning to hike the Grand Sawtooth Loop in Idaho this summer. Our little boy will be a year by then and we are really excited to take him on his first extended backpacking trip. We aren’t quite the lightweight minimalists on trail anymore and are learning to take things a bit slower. It is humbling and so worth it.
Purple Rain Adventure Skirts
Mandy Bland – Owner
This year’s ALDHA-West Gathering is in Keystone, CO - one of our first Gatherings in a trail town! There’s lots of great reasons to extend your trip to the Gathering with some time outdoors. Hop on the Continental Divide Trail, Colorado Trail, and/or dayhike a 14,000 foot peak. Best yet, the free Summit Stage bus (which runs as late as 1:30 am!!) saves you from car shuttles so you can do a one-way trip without having to double-back.
Eagle’s Nest Wilderness:
This 21 mile trip is a CDT-alternate through the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, a place that gets a lot less traffic than the official CDT and CT routes. Start in Silverthorne and take the Mesa Corvina Trail to the Gore Range Trail, following a creek towards Red Buffalo Pass and then onto Eccles Pass. If you’re running low on time, take the Meadow Creek trail down to civilization (there’s a Summit Stage bus stop nearby). Otherwise, we continue on the Wheeler Dillon Trail down to the junction with the North Tenmile Trail. That’s another place where we can get back to civilization in Frisco (buses there, too). If you want more time, continue on up and over towards Uneva Pass down to Lost Lake and lastly down to Copper Mountain (where you reconnect with the official CDT and CT route). From Copper, you can pick up the shuttle that runs back to Silverthorne. Or loop up with the Ten Mile Range (the next hike below) and the bike trail to walk back to your car.
Ten Mile Range: This 11-12 mile one-way trip (3,600 feet of elevation gain) is a CDT and CT classic. You can do it from Breckenridge to Copper Mountain or visa versa.
Hike to the Denver Airport via the Colorado Trail:Why drive to the airport after the Gathering when you could hike there (kind of)? Hop on the Soda Ridge trail directly from the Gathering, hike 3 miles then take the Keystone Ranch Road Trail another 2.7 miles to the CT. Alternatively, take the bike path or free Summit Stage bus to the Gold Hill Trailhead on the west edge of Breckenridge and start from there. Jump on the Colorado Trail for the last glorious, 85 or so miles to Waterton Canyon. Aspens should be golden, bighorn sheep should be knocking horns, and the crowds and mosquitoes will be gone. From Waterton, you can grab a Lyft to the Littleton train station and ride it all the way to downtown Denver and the airport. If taking a Lyft sounds like cheating, take the Highline Canal Trail from the end of the CT to its end in the Green Valley Ranch subdivision—just 2.5 hour walk to the airport from there.
If you only have the time to sneak in a day-hike and are feeling the altitude, a trip on the CDT up Herman’s Gulch is a good bet. Yes—it’s still pretty high up, but the elevation gain isn’t as aggressive as some of these other hikes. While the wildflowers that make this area famous may be gone for the season, the aspens will be pretty.
Grey’s/Torrey’s 14,000 foot peaks: Snag two 14ers and call it a day-hike. Visit the high point of the CDT on this famous Colorado hike—the trailhead of which you pass by on I-70 as you finish up the Gathering.
Contributor: Kate “Drop-N-Roll” Hoch
The following is currently one of my favorite backpacking supper recipes. It requires a little home preparation but is simple, filling, and delicious.
Chili and Cornbread Crumble
Chili and Cornbread Crumble ready to eat
1 can chili
1 jiffy corn bread mix, prepared as directed on box
(1 can chili + 1/4 box of cornbread = 1 meal)
Spread chili in a thin layer on solid non-stick dehydrator sheet.
Slice cornbread into thin strips (about 1" wide). Lay flat on mesh dehydrator sheet.
Dehydrate at ~150F approximately 8 hours. Crumble dried chili into a Ziploc bag. Pack 1/4 of the cornbread into another Ziploc bag (break as desired/necessary to fit in bag).
Dehydrating the chili
Add ~10oz boiling water to chili and let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle cornbread pieces on top of hydrated chili. Enjoy!
Please share your favorite recipes with the hiking community by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions regarding a published recipe, feel free to email your questions to the editor.
Charles Baker, ALDHAWest Gazette Editor
This segment of the Gazette, allows members to respond with a simple one word/one sentence answer to a question which they are presented. Answers should be accompanied with a headshot photo - a mug shot will do in a pinch... If you have a burning question you would like to put out to the hiking community, please send it to: email@example.com.
Today's question: "What does the acronym “LNT” stand for?"
Lawton “Disco” Grinter – “Late Night Tramper”
Mike “Hikermiker” Cunningham – “Leave No Trace”
Jon “Recon” Booth – “Love (my) Nasty Trowel”
When I Hike Alone, I Am Truly Free
Amanda “Not-a-Chance” Timeoni
Person A: “Are you going to hike next year?”
Person B: “No, being out there all by myself for so long earlier this Year gave me perspective on things. Like I told you before, happiness is only real when shared… Going out there all by myself just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It just feels worthless.”
Some long-distance hikers have a hard time hiking alone because it invokes feelings of loneliness. Feeling lonely is depressing. You might want to ask yourself “what is the cause of your loneliness?” For Person B, feeling lonely is correlated with their belief that happiness is only real when shared. That’s what Christopher McCandless wrote before he died in the Alaskan wilderness, after spending several days in solitude. Mind you; he wrote that knowing he’d never see another human being again.
If you take what he says literally, it makes no sense; for example, when I think to myself “I am happy,” that proposition is true and it exists. I don’t need to share it with someone else for it to be real. Perhaps what he said can be interpreted as: A person cannot truly be happy without interpersonal relationships. I can imagine a life where only I exist, and that life lacks love and friendship; things that contribute to happiness. When I embark on a long-distance hike alone, I expect to return to my interpersonal relationships where I experience love and friendship, and so, my happiness remains static. It’s not as if I have lost these things when I don’t have them in every moment of my life. Perhaps someone who lacks love and friendship in their normal life will feel less fulfilled by hiking alone.
While I think love and friendship are necessary components to total happiness, they aren’t sufficient. Other things like having good health, and living in a stable economy also contribute to happiness. Another thing which contributes to happiness is freedom to be autonomous, and hiking alone is a good example of that.
Hiking with others does not guarantee happiness. I have found that attachments are maintained only at the cost of great personal compromise. When I hike, my happiness is measured by how much freedom I have to decide on things like - how far I want to go, how fast, when I want to take a break and for how long, etc. It is very difficult to find someone whow ants to hike the same way as you.
So why do I hike alone? Because to do so, I am truly free. When I am free, I feel happy.
This issue of the Gazette's "Sponsor Spotlight" features Matt Tucceri, of STABIL, one of ALDHA-West’s sponsoring gear companies. We asked Matt a few questions about Stabil so that we can get to know them better. If you have any additional questions for Matt, please leave a comment.
1. Please give a brief description of your company. What products do you sell? How did you decide which products to specialize in? How long have you been doing this?
“STABIL specializes in ice traction products all made in Maine for the past 25 years.”
2. Are there products you used to sell, but no longer do? How did you make this decision?
“We have altered and refined products over the years, and have discontinued our ‘Hike’ product this year as the ‘HIKE XP’ will be taking its place.”
Hiker XT traction
3. Who do you see as your market? How do you reach these folks?
“Our market is very broad. We cater to all sorts from the 85-year-old who walks to the mail box, to the long distance thru hiker who relies on our traction products to safely complete any trail they are on.”
4. Did you start as a DIYer? How did you make the leap to starting a gear business?
“We started by catering to people who use our products while working (USPS carriers, Linemen, construction workers) We realized that the people who use our products for work were taking them home on the weekends so they could get outside and enjoy the outdoors on their leisure time.”
5. If you were to play “futurist” in your industry, what would you predict? Materials, design, market, etc.
“I think that the goal here is to always find something that is better, lighter, and stronger. If you don’t strive for these goals you will quickly become obsolete.”
6. Do the big gear companies pose a risk to cottage manufacturers? E.g., can the big companies control the availability of materials or limit retail space opportunities?
“We use all proprietary materials, designs, and manufacture in the USA to overcome a lot of these foreseeable issues.”
7. Do you see the possibility (opportunity and/or threat) that the big gear makers try to buy up the cottage gear makers like we see happening in the craft beer space?
“Of course, there is always that possibility. However, if a company is true to its roots and mission, they will persevere and people will always desire a brand that caters to their specific needs.”
8. What is your goal for your company? How big do you want to be? Are there new product lines you would like to be in?
“Since we do not sell into big box stores and only cater to better independent retailers our growth is somewhat limited. With that being said, a company must always look to grow and expand their brand. We feel there are still plenty of great retailers which we have not tapped into yet. That is where we are putting our focus, and drive.”
9. What do you think are the greatest market opportunities for your product…expand the US market, Europe, Asia? How do you plan to achieve these opportunities?
“Canada. Outside of the United States, this has the largest growth potential for our company.”
10. What do you think was the smartest move you have made? Conversely, what was the biggest mistake you have made?
“Smartest: We have made tremendous strides in captivating and developing our online presence. Sales continue to grow in this market and attention to this channel will only help improve our brand awareness in the future.
Mistakes: Not capitalizing and developing a strong social media presence early on. We have now developed our platforms and brand ambassador programs. As a small company this becomes difficult to dedicate the appropriate time and energy on this vital resource.”
11. Have you found that customers outside the US are skeptical of ultralight/lightweight clothing/gear?
“No, our only issues overseas are knockoffs of our products which are extremely difficult to enforce.”
12. Does your company give back to the trails? What does your company do to promote trails and sustainable use of them?
“We are involved in a number of organizations including the National Park foundation, as well as local and regional agencies that work to preserve and promote the healthy use of these spaces.”
13. Favorite beer?
“Personally: Coors Light”
“As a company: Consensus seems to be a good IPA, or Pale Ale.”
14. Favorite hike?
“Thus far: Mt. Washington in early spring.”
Stride poles on Mt. Washington
15. Where will you go on your next vacation?
16. Is there anything about your company that you would like to talk about that we haven’t covered yet?
“Our company is really all about innovation, and staying committed to our roots where we don’t sell out to big box stores and make cheap product overseas like our competition. We want to have the best performing longest lasting products on the market. It is always great answer the phone and talk with someone that has been using the same pair of cleats they got 10, 15 years ago. That is really what we strive for and what has kept us prosperous all of these years!”
Matt's hiking buddy...
ALDHA-West is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.