Solo Trekking Langtang in Nepal
For anyone considering solo trekking Langtang and wondering whether or not a guide is truly needed, I hope this a account is useful.. and for any of you out there that are just waiting for good opportunity to shake your head and laugh at my latest antics, I’m confident that this latest adventure will fit the bill. This was the third part of celebrating my 30th, just after finishing an unguided low altitude trek with some great friends, giving ample opportunity to develop my thoughts at 30 and then jumping off that 160 meter bridge to celebrate my 30th I thought I’d wander into the Himalayas on my own… close to Tibet… hey, why not?!
Possible without a guide?
This is the major question, so let’s get to it. Langtang is not only possible without a guide, it is actually quite simple and relatively safe, provided you’re not prone to falling into freezing rivers or breaking your ankle or chipping a tooth or cracking a fingernail… I guess ‘safe’ is a relative word no matter what. But, I am pretty certain you will survive… though if you don’t, please don’t come back to haunt me, I’ll probably misread the signs and end up on some random trip to some forgotten village to look for the soul of my haunted house or something, and I really just can’t add more locations to the bucket list… It’s increasingly long and ill attended to…. but, don’t think you can’t visit me from the afterlife 🙂
I will also certainly mention that even having a very basic understanding of the Nepali language will give you a huge advantage as very, very few tourists ever learn this language and thus the locals have an incredible appreciation for those that make the effort.
You’re going to start hearing a lot about needing a TIMS card. This is absolutely true as it is the system that is used in order to track trekkers. Basically, this is what you will use at all checkpoints to show where you are, and where you’re planning on going. Not only is this important, but you actually won’t be able to proceed without it. However, contrary to what you may be told you do not need to get it before you leave. In fact, when I finally got to the TIMS office in Kathmandu, it wasn’t even possible to get my TIMS card before hand. I ran around town getting photos and all that, just to be told that the bus will stop on the way and I can get the card on the way up… In fact, the bus did stop, I lost the photos… no problem… none at all. But beware, it is costly, which brings us to the next question…
How Much Will Solo Trekking Langtang Cost?
There are a couple of factors regarding price for your Langtang trek.
First of all, the TIMS card is non-negotiable and (at the time of writing) it cost 5000 rupees, or just over $50 USD. The rest of your costs will vary greatly depending upon what season you hike.
If you go in the high season (March – late May and Sept/Oct) then you should probably count on about 500 rupees per room. If however, you go in low season (I went at the beginning of June), then you will often get accommodation for free as long as you eat at your guest house.
Dal Bhat is the staple that most trekkers eat every evening at the guest houses. Really, you can’t beat the value. You get at least two full plates of Dal (lentils) and Bhat (rice) as well as vegetables. The prices start reasonably at the beginning of the trail (200 – 300 rupees) and may get as high as 450 rupees by the time you get up to Kyanjin Ghompa at 3800 meters. These prices are absolutely negotiable, especially if you show up with another trekker. If you trek in the low season, you can get your room for free and negotiate 300 rupees per Dal Bhat. Breakfast in the morning can be pricey (another 250-300 rupees) and not fantastic. Bringing trail mix, granola bars or some other light snack will go a long way.
The cost that most trekkers forget about is water. It gets super expensive! At the beginning of the trek you may be lucky to find bottled water for 150 rupees (7x it’s normal price) but by the time you get up to Kyanjin Ghompa you will likely be paying upwards of 350 rupees (a whopping 17x normal price). But look at the bottle, what you’re drinking is basically what you have all around you: pure, Himalayan, glacier-fed mineral water. If you are willing to brave it, then you can definitely get quite a bit of decent looking streams en-route to fill up your water bottle. Just try to pick the streams where no humans or yaks might be increasing the minerals in the water by leaving their own contributions up above you.
Including the TIMS card, it costed me just under 10,000 rupees ($100 USD) to solo trek Langtang (8days) in the off-season. However, I bought no water, packed some snacks and shared other lunches with a friend I met on the trail as well as bargained for cheaper dal-bhat by arriving with said friend. If you budget 1000 rupees/day after the price of the TIMS card you should be set.
There are none! I really mean none! This is the actually why it cost me so little, I had no choice. I forgot that I would have to buy the TIMS card and was suddenly left with a mere 5000 rupees. The driver even directed me to the only ATM after the TIMS station so that I could withdraw some cash but it was out-of-service. After that, there was literally no ATM until I returned to Kathmandu 10 days later. You may have better luck than I, but you might as well be safe and take enough cash with you… y’know, so you don’t have to drink the yakky water.
When To Go?
This is totally up to you. I would stay away from Dec-Feb where it’s incredibly cold, and July/August where it rains a lot. March-May and Sept/Oct are supposed to be quite busy, so you have a lot of people on the trail and are rewarded with amazing views (yet may have troubles finding accommodations and it’ll be more expensive). In early June I can tell you that we had beautiful mornings, empty trails (don’t worry about getting lost, you won’t) and empty guest houses. The only downside was that from 1pm until 5pm every day the clouds would roll in. I love low seasons, and think that you should not discount trekking in the so-called ‘monsoon season’… It is seldom that it will rain all day, it will normally rain in the afternoon for a few hours and the rest of the day will be clear. Plus it will scare away the rest of the trekkers.
How Many Days?
They say it’s a 8-10 day trek. In reality, that includes the bus going both ways, which takes a full day in each direction and is a ton of F.U.N. (Freaking Unbelievable Nerve-racking).
Kathamandu – Syabrubesi (10 hour bus)
The bus stand is a little tough to find. The ticket costs 300 rupees but it might be worth it to pay your guest house to book it for you. You may have to do some negotiating just to get them down to 500, but honestly, the taxi will cost you about that anyway. The direct bus will leave around 7am. If you like being scared to death with great views than do your best to get a window seat on the left hand side of the bus (you may need to speak Nepali to negotiate that).
Syabrubesi – Lama Hotel (5 – 6 hours, 1000 meter elevation gain + lunch stop)
Go up the main road, veering to the right. You’ll have a TIMS check in as you come down towards the river, and just before you cross the first bridge. After the bridge, go to the right, find your way through the village (exit is up to the left) and then follow the only trail that leads away. DO not take the second bridge but rather stay on the left side of the river. Honestly, it’s very well marked and you should have little problem finding your way. If you are unsure, then don’t be shy to ask someone on the path… English is limited so just say ‘Lama Hotel?’ and point in the direction you are going. The response should be clear, but if they continue to try to speak to you than remember the line, ‘maph garnus, mero Nepali raamro chaina’ (sorry, my nepali is not good). They will really appreciate that you have bothered to learn that much… trust me, it’s more than 98% of the travelers you meet have bothered to do.
Keep in mind that you can stop wherever you choose, and especially in the high season you may be better off stopping in one of the little villages where few people stop.
Syabrubesi – Doman……….. 1:45
Doman – Pairo…………………… :35
Pairo – Bamboo Lodge ……. 1:20Bamboo – Lower Rimche ….1:30
Lower – Upper Rimche……….. :15
Upper – Lama Hotel……………. :25
Lama Hotel – Langtang Village (7-8 hours, 1000 meter elevation gain + lunch stop)
Now that you’ve become comfortable with the trail, you can easily find your own way, if the trail separates, look for a sign and it’ll point you in the right direction, but this will hardly ever happen. If there’s no sign, just stay left as it is probably only separating to go around a stupa.
Lama – Riverside ……………….. 1:10
Riverside – Woodlands ………… :15
Woodlands – Ghora Tabela …. 1:00
GT – Thangsyap …………………… 1:05
Thansyap to Chamki …………….. :25
Chamki – Langtang ………………. 1:20
Langtang Village Rest Day (3,400 meters)
You can continue if you are feeling really good. If you do not have altitude medicine with you, or have not been living at altitude for awhile (above 2,500 meters) than it’s not recommended to continue to Kyanjin Ghompa today.
Langtang Village – Kyanjin Ghompa (3-4 hours, 400 meter elevation gain)
This is a short day, but you’re up at altitude now. You will find that the trail itself is not difficult yet you struggle quite a bit just to continue walking. Go slow, shortness of breath is normal. Drink a lot of water and be aware of any headaches.
Langtang – Mundu ………………… :35
Mundu – Sedum ……………………. :30
Sedum – Kyanjin Ghompa …… 2:00
Kyanjin Ghompa Rest Day (3,800 meters)
Wander around and enjoy this beautiful tibetan village. You can also wander up to the foot of the glacier or do one of the two peaks:
Kyanjin Ri (4,700 meters) – 2.5 hour ascent with 1.5 hour descent
Tserko Ri (4,984 meters) – 4 hour ascent, 2.5 hour descent.
If you do not have much experience in the mountains than doing these peaks solo may be a little dangerous. They are high elevation and even the possibility of falling and spraining an ankle can become a huge problem. Better to find a trekking partner if you can. If you have a few extra days to hang out at Kyanjin Ghompa, you will be rewarded with beautiful views, of glaciers and 6000+ meter peaks in each direction as well as getting to know some of the Tibetan exiles who live up there… definitely worth it, plus it gives you a chance to acclimatize and find a partner with whom you can do one or both of the peaks.
The most common way to return is to take your time and do it in three days like this:
Kyanjin Ghompa to Lama Hotel (6-7 hours, 1400 meter elevation loss)
Lama Hotel to Syabrubest (5-6 hours, 1000 meter elevation loss)
Syabrubesi – Kathmandu (10 hour bus)
However, if you’re pushed for time, you can lose a day of that by starting early in the morning and going as far as possible on day 1 (you can likely make it right to Syabrubesi) and then hopping on the last bus (9:00am) back to KTM. I started at 9:00am, had no intention of doing it in one day, had massive stomach issues and still looked like this:
Kyanjin Ghompa – Doman (9 hours, 2000 meter elevation loss)
Doman – Syabrubesi (1:30 hours, 400 meter elevation loss, arrive at 8:15am)
Syabrubesi – Kathmandu (10 hour F.U.N. bus)
Need to Bring
Certain items may be added to this list depending on seasonality, but the essentials, in all seasons are:
2x socks (wash one while wearing the other)Hiking shirt & shorts
Slip on/off pants
Warm change of clothes for the evenings
Sleeping Bag (though in low season you can always find blankets)
Passport (to get the TIMS card en route)
Snacks (or much more cash)
Tensor bandage (in case)
Altitude Medicine (it helps)
Okay, I outlined what SHOULD be done. However, I really suck at following my own advice… So, just to let you know, I did not stop at Langtang village, did get a headache, DID find someone with altitude medicine to lend me, DID climb both peaks without having time to acclimatize, DID get severely dehydrated and sick as a result (accidentally being a little too cheap again) and DID NOT bring enough cash…. Also threw out my knee on day one and had it wrapped for the rest of the trek (hence the tensor bandage) and thus got great use out of my very humble beginnings in Yoga… And I still had a fantastic time and don’t regret one minute of it… In fact, this was one of many reasons why I was absent from my blog for so long.
So, if you take a little more time then Solo Trekking Langtang in Nepal is not only possible, it’s actually quite easy and safe.