Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal – day 4

Naya Pul to Ghandruk trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Nov 3, 2019 – Dhan Kharka to tenting 3640m

I’d stayed at one of two identical lodges at Dhan Kharka (aka Chistibang 3020m).

Mine was profiting local schools, I believe. The other private.


There was not much farming this high. But many sheep.

From there up, up, up several hours. About 640m in ascent.


Today I saw my first yaks. They don’t like grazing below treeline.


I reached Khopra Community Lodge (also profiting schools) about Noon, perched ‘magnificently on a spur with the block-face of Dhaulagiri directly ahead’.

I’d missed the best vistas as clouds had formed during the morning. But I could see a bit of the top of Annapurna South.

Here’s that vista on a clear day.

Game on. I ordered a huge lunch, planning to start up the most challenging part of the Khopra Ridge trek — a possible climb to Khayer Lake (4600m). About 8 hours return for me.

I was excited — but a little worried — as I probably wasn’t acclimatized enough.

My plan, however, was to tent part way up. And continue with a day pack next morning.

During lunch a couple returned. They’d not made it to Khayer saying it was colder and more difficult than expected. Also, having no views was discouraging.

They talked me down. After lunch I climbed for about 20 minutes. Quit right here.

Oh well. Weather happens.

Here’s Khayer Lake. (VIDEO)

Plan B was to backtrack to a seldom used high traverse to Bayeli, the next possible stop on the Khopra trek. I’d probably tent en route.

This trail is adventurous. Though mostly above tree line, a bit of route finding is required. It would be slippery / dangerous in snow.

Though the trail is faint, it is marked by white & blue paint.

One highlight was spotting what I think is a Yellow-throated Marten. An animal I’d never seen before in the Himalaya. It leaves scat on the trails. I got some video.

Another highlight is bamboo. I love bamboo.

About 4pm I picked a spot to tent in a seasonal herding encampment (3460m), close to a waterfall.

One downside of trekking Nepal in November is short days. It was dark by 5:30pm. That makes for a long night in the tent.

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal – day 3

Naya Pul to Ghandruk trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Nov 2, 2019 – Ghorepani to Dhan Kharka

I set an early alarm. BUT everyone in my lodge had already headed up to Poon Hill before I awoke.

Not having people to follow, I used trusty Maps.me offline to find the trail.

It takes about an hour from Ghorepani (2870m) to climb to the famous Poon Hill viewpoint (3210m).


Though I’d heard plenty of complaints about the crowds, I really enjoyed dawn looking over at Dhalagiri and Annapurna.

An ideal time to use my PeakFinder app: Dhaulagiri I (8167m), Tukuche (6920m), Nilgiri (6940m), Annapurna South, Annapurna I (8091m), Hiunchuli (6441m) and Tarke Kang (formerly known as Glacier Dome; 7193m). And Fishtail, of course.

The Pokhara – Jomson planes zipped past frequently.

One of the last to arrive, I was also one of the last to leave.

My $4 room in Ghorepani had a million dollar view.

After climbing all the way UP to Ghorepani yesterday, I now dropped 900m to the Ghar Khola river. It was fast and enjoyable to descend instead of climbing. The non-motorized trail stays far away from new road building.

And Interesting seeing where the farms were at with winter coming.

Many are trying to encourage farmers to switch to petrotoxin fuels. But everywhere I looked, families and lodges were using free firewood, instead.

Up to Ghorepani the buildings all had blue corrugated iron roofs. Here they have more stone houses, many retaining traditional rock-slab shingles.

After crossing the Ghar Khola it was UP again to Swanta (2270m).

Lonely Planet:

The increasing popularity of Khopra Ridge is evident here with the number of new lodges recently built or under construction.

Swanta is the prettiest village so far. Super clean.

But I carried on up the mountain on a narrow path through bamboo forrest.

I was hungry by the time I reached Evergreen Rest Cottage (2540m) for lunch.

Egg noodle soup is my regular lunch feed.

The restaurant is in an isolated, lovely spot close to waterfall, hydroelectric and lumber cutting yard.

I reached Dhan Kharka (3020m) by about 3:30pm. Happy to stop, I lay down for siesta.

Though Ghoripani had no mobile phone reception for my network, Dhan Kharka did — IF I walked out to a rocky point away from the lodge. I was able to post some things online celebrating my 62nd birthday — November 2nd.

62 birthday

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal – day 2

Naya Pul to Ghandruk trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Nov 1, 2019 – Hile to Ghorepani 

I was up about 6:15am with a small pot of milk coffee ($4.50).

Most people get up with the sun and go to sleep early because of the short days in November.

I’d slept in Hille (1510m), an excellent spot.
It’s better than Tikhedhunga (1540m), about 15 minutes further, in my opinion.

Today’s hike is at least 1300m of elevation gain.

It was at Ulleri that I started to see signs offering “Ponny Service”. It you get tired, you can hire a horse to carry your gear for a few hours.

Tikhedhunga to Ulleri (1960m) is said to have more than 3300 stone steps. Unrelenting.

The most impressive site of the day was this cyclist riding DOWN all those steps.

I stopped for breakfast at the top, already having climbed a LOT by 11am. This will probably be my toughest day.

Sadly the road does extend this high. There are not many vehicles, however.

It’s a motor free trail starting in Hille, however. At least it is in 2019.

Winter is coming. Crops still be harvested and dried at this elevation.

I made it to Ghoripani (2870m) by about 3:30pm.
Ghoripani Medical Clinic
Most hikers stay in this village intending to hike up to Poon Hill for dawn.

The weather was misty, however. I’m doubtful about tomorrow.

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal – day 1

Naya Pul to Ghandruk trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles. 

Though you can do this hike in either direction, I opted to walk from Naya Pul to allow for acclimatization to altitude. 

day 1  | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6/7

Oct 31, 2019 – Pokhara to Hile 

Like most hikers, I started my Khopra Ridge adventure from Pokhara.

Coffee and Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Last city meal.

Khopra Ridge is a fairly new and increasingly popular alternative on the Annapurna Massif. Less crowded than the longer established trails.

Raju, owner of Sweet Dreams Guest House ordered me a cab for 1pm. The jumping off point for Khopra Ridge (also Ghorepani Poonhill) is the tiny turnoff called Naya Pul.

A car cost $25 and took 2 hours. Bus might have been 4-5 hours / $5. It’s a very rough road under constant construction.

From Lakeside (593m) the road switchbacks immediately up to Sarangkot (1592m). This is where paragliding starts.

On reaching Naya Pul I decided to walk up as far as I could towards Tikhedhungga (1638m). This leg stretcher would be good warm-up for days of climbing to come. And acclimatization. I started late in the day so I’d only have 2-3 hours of walking.

It’s a dusty, busy road to start. Several vehicles stopped to offer me a ride.

Still, I was happy to be back in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal’s largest (supposedly) protected area. Unfortunately, I don’t see much protection. Instead there are more roads, more development.

About a half hour from Naya Pul you reach 2 checkpoints: TIMS and ACAP.

As an independent trekker I got my permits in person in Pokhara:

TIMS $30 (Trekking Information Management System)
ACAP $20 (Annapurna Conservation Area Project)

In addition, two different schools en route asked for money. I donated to both.

You can catch a ride, even a bus, all the way to Tikhedhungga if the weather has been good.

Here’s the worst section I saw day 1.

Eventually Nepali mountain villages will build trails parallel to the road, otherwise hikers will stop coming as they have on the Royal Trek.

There was one nice off-road section day 1.

The homliest looking lodges are called Homestay.

By luck I found a wonderful group of lodges off the road near Hile.

My room was $3 and chow mien $4.50. Lodges in each village should have the same fixed prices.

The availability of electricity has much improved over past decades.

Here’s my foothills vista at 1470m.

Blake “Deluxe” Robinson walking all U.S. Parks

Blake Robinson is well into his attempt to Walk The Parks.

Walk The Parks is a journey exploring the 49 National Parks in the lower 48 via human power, mostly walking.

Patreon.

Click PLAY or watch him on YouTube.

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Walk The Parks  STATS Total Days: 675 July 25, 2017 – October 8, 2019 Total Miles: 9,848 Hiking Miles: 9,115 Biking Miles: 483 Rafting Miles: 250 Total Elevation Gain: 1,500,031 feet Total Steps: 19,502,711 National Parks Visited: 30  Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Great Basin, Zion, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, Isle Royale, Acadia, Petrified Forest, Joshua Tree, Channel Islands, Redwood Forest, Pinnacles, Death Valley, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, North Cascades States Visited: 23 Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, California, Oregon, Washington Highest Point: Mt. Elbert, CO 14,329 feet Lowest Point: Badwater Basin, Death Valley -279 feet! Longest Stretch without Shower: 15 Days Horrible Digestive Issues requiring medical attention: 1 Cases of infected poison ivy requiring medial attention: 1 Longest Day: 35 Miles Longest Stretch between water: 60 Miles Longest time between resupply points: 20 Days while rafting the Grand Canyon; 10 Days while hiking Smiles per day: So many Number of amazing people met: This is one stat that continually amazes me. I have met so many absolutely incredible people on this trip! Thank you so very much! #walktheparks #somuchmoretogo #savingmoney #19moreparkstogo #ishouldaddAKandHI #pct2019 #thruhike #tentlife #thruhiking #triplecrown #winning #liveyourdream #thetrek #trekthepct #pcta #appalachiantrail #pacificcresttrail #continentaldividetrail #hayduke #nationalparks #chooseyourpark #yellowstone #grandcanyon #northcascades #yolo

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WHAT happened to Nepal’s Royal Trek?

trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles

The Royal Trek was named because Prince Charles and his 90 person entourage followed this route in 1981 shortly before he married Princess Diana.

It was once a BIG DEAL. Mick Jagger did it too, for example.

Some walked a loop to and from Pokhara. It was jungle.

But by 2019 (during the dry season) you could drive most of this route. Take a taxi to any of these villages. Buses run to each, in fact.

Road building has degraded the experience to the point where very few hikers now visit.

That’s a shame because it’s a great way to see three of the highest peaks in the world from one spot: Manaslu 8,156m, Annapurna 8,091m, Dhaulagiri 8,167m.

Companies will still guide you. 9 days for $600 and up.

We did it independently in 2 days. Walked no more than 35 km.

A taxi from Lakeside, Pokhara to Kalikasthan cost $26.

It’s almost entirely a road walk now. Dusty at times.

Do not go unless the weather is clear. You want to see the big mountains including Machapuchhre (Fishtail).

The highlight for us was not the mountains, however, but learning about Gurung village life in the foothills.

You’ve heard of the Gurungs. They’ve been prominent soldiers in Nepalese, British and Indian armies.

Winter is coming. They were bringing in firewood.

Every village now has water pipes. But in the old days it was carried up from far below. Rain collected in giant concrete cisterns.

Our plan was to hike to Syaklung where I assured the guys there should be plenty of guest houses and restaurants.

Despite having 3 online map apps and a hard copy of the Around Pokhara Valley map, our main method of navigation was to ask people ‘which way to the Royal Trek?’

Eventually … we were lost.

Backtracking to the village of Lipeyani, we were incredibly fortunate to meet a gentleman named Rishi who had come up to the family farm for the Diwali festival. We met his people too.

Moma is age-71, but still works the farm. Her eyes have been damaged from decades of cooking smoke.

She picked fresh ginger and chilies. Their small, hard oranges were excellent too.

Rishi’s brother brought fresh buffalo milk for our coffee (Nescafe).

For Diwali, Nepalis clean and decorate their homes.

Fresh coats of mud applied.

They illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas (oil lamps or candles), electric lights, etc. .

They offer puja (worship) to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth. Many homes have a trail into the house.

Rishi suggested we stay in his village instead of Syaklung Danda, our intended stop. We were very happy we did.

It was Dal Bhat for dinner, of course. The staple. But for an appetizer we were offered a special treat — dried, smoked, spicy goat meat from the high Himalaya. They call it sukuti.

That night we were welcomed into the annual Diwali festivities. Much dancing, chanting and singing. And a bit of drinking. I had the local boiled rice wine called roxy.

We slept well on hard mattresses. And dreamed of having the big vistas early morning.

It dawned not as clear as the previous day, but we did see the three big peaks from one vantage.

Mission accomplished, we decided to walk out as directly as possible to Begnas Lake. Our Royal Trek route ended.

It was mostly downhill on dirt or paved roads.

Rice looks to be the most important crop.

Rishi is a specialist in rural development. He told us these village are in trouble. The young people leave for the cities, India or the Middle East, and those who remain have trouble making ends meet. He consults on new initiatives for the foothill farmers.

Begnas lake is impressive, but I prefer Lakeside, Pokhara as a tourist destination.

We took lunch at a local restaurant in Begnas Tal Bahar, then caught the Lakeside bus.

It’s only 30km back to town, but the local bus is SLOW. If I did it again, I’d taxi back to Pokhara.

Other highlights:

  • hillside rice terraces
  • no permits required
  • a good first Nepal hike to start acclimatization
  • low risk of altitude sickness

Best months for the Royal trek are March – May and September – December. It can get cold at night.

Annapurna: A Trekker’s Guide by Sian Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons might still include the Royal Trek. Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (2016) does not.

If you like this vista, do the Royal Trek on your own. You’ll be unlikely to see any other foreigners.

day hiking Peace Pagoda, Pokhara

One popular destination close to Pokhara, Nepal is Shanti Stupa, a Buddhist pagoda-style monument.

There are great views of the Annapurna range on a clear day.


Though you can taxi, cycle, or walk — best is crossing Fewa Lake by local boat.

A long paddle, Josh helped out the boatman.

From the bottom it’s a steep climb on stone stairs. Perhaps 45 minutes.

It’s  115 feet tall and 344 feet in diameter.

We’d come up for sunset not knowing that it closes about sunset. We didn’t get the chance to see Buddha.

So the highlight for me was the flower gardens.

We returned by boat, as well. It was dark by the time we got back to Lakeside.

The Diwali festival was ramping up. We happened upon three fire dancers at landing.

Worldwide, there are many similar Peace Pagodas. Check out any you come across on your travels.