A Remote Trekking Option For Nepal Far West Section Of The Great Himalaya Trail

Written by Roland Hunter FRGS (Mt Everest and Mt Makalu summitter)
Written by Roland Hunter FRGS (Mt Everest and Mt Makalu summitter)Managing Director & Founder, The Mountain Company

Since 2010, The Mountain Company has organised treks along The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT). In Nepal, we have focussed on the more remote sections of the GHT. From East to West, we have enjoyed exploring these trekking trails:

East Nepal: Kanchenjunga to Makalu GHT
Mid East Nepal: Makalu to Everest GHT
Mid West Nepal: Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT

The “blank on the map” for us was the GHT section in Far West Nepal. I visited Simikot for a short trek in 2012. This was a familiarisation trip by The Great Himalaya Trail Development Project. After having been to this region once I was been keen for The Mountain Company to return to the Far West. Also, some of our regular trekkers wanted to see this region after having already been on walking holidays to other places in Nepal.

In April 2022, we sent one of our international leaders, Adrian (Ade) Summers, and Nepalese guide, Galden Sherpa, to do a reconnaissance along the classic Nepal Far West GHT trek. Our aim was to find out if trekking in the West of Nepal is the Best?

Nepal Far West GHT
Nepal Far West GHT | credit Ade Summers

Our April 2022 recce to Nepal Far West

The aim of Ade and Galden’s recce was to find out firsthand the viability of a commercial trek along the classic Nepal Far West section of The Great Himalaya Trail. The route is from Jumla - Rara Lake - Simikot - Limi Valley to the Tibet border at Hilsa. The plan was to get first-hand information on the trail, campsites, plus general logistics of trekking in the Far West of Nepal. 

But, after a few days, we found out there is a new road most of the way to Simikot and onto Hilsa. In fact, the road from Rara to Simikot is so new that the bridges have not yet been built. Ade decided to bail as it was pointless and no fun at all as the road mainly follows the old trekking trail. There are now very few walking sections left and these are mainly shortcuts walking between the road bends. After Simikot, the road heads north and crosses the Nyalu La Pass (4,949m)  pass over to Limi Valley. This road continues northwards into Tibet. There is also a jeep track through the main villages in Limi valley all the way to Halji village.

Ade Summers describes his experience as follows “Basically, in my opinion, all the known trekking routes along the classic GHT in the Far West are significantly impacted. The trek from Jumla to Rara Lake and onto Simikot is 80% road and within a few years, it will be 100% jeep road. The Simikot Limi trek is also impacted by the road expansion and is not really a viable option for a long-term trekking route.”

These roads have not been well built from an environmental point of view. That being said, of course, we understand it will be of significant help for this region to have road access. It will make it less expensive to truck food and supplies in and for locals to sell their crops, travel for work, and seek medical help. It is, what it is. Change is a constant factor with trekking in Nepal! So we decided to look for an alternative trail… 

Before Ade departed Kathmandu, he met up with Robin Boustead and Ian Wall who kindly shared their knowledge of this region of Nepal. Robin walked the whole GHT in 2008/2009 and wrote the Nepal Trekking & the Great Himalaya Trail by Trailblazer Guides. He has also worked with the Himalayan Maphouse on mapping the Great Himalaya Trail. Ian lives in Nepal and is a mountaineer who has organised many expeditions including to the Far West of Nepal.

Interestingly, both Robin and Ian talked to Ade about the same remote trekking trail from Simikot. This trek itinerary follows the Dojam Khola valley northeast towards the Tibet border and then the Sakya Khola into Limi Valley. In fact, my interest had already been piqued after reading expeditions reports to Far West Nepal in the Alpine Club Journal. The Dojam Khola and Sakya Khola route was already in our minds as a Plan B…

Nepal Far West GHT
Nepal Far West GHT | credit Ade Summers

Plan B: A Remote Trekking Option For Nepal Far West GHT

After Ade arrived in Simikot by jeep, we took another look at our Plan B trek along the Dojam Khola and Sakya Khola routes. I got in touch with Ian Wall to get more information about the alternative GHT trekking trail. He very kindly sent detailed notes from previous expeditions that he had organised. Thanks so much, Ian!

While in Simikot, Ade met a local guide who had recent knowledge of the Dojam Khola trek. After discussing the route with him, both Ade and I got excited as it sounded absolutely superb! It is a wild and very remote trek. It has amazing mountain views of unclimbed peaks. It is also possible to get views of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in Tibet. There are also visits to ancient Tibetan cultures and monasteries in the Limi valley. In fact, this route is far better than the classic Nepal Far West GHT trek that it has replaced.

In April 2022, Ade and Galden were unable to do the recce of this new trekking route along as there was too much snow on the high pass. With information gleaned from our sources, we know that the Dojam Khola and Sakya Khola trek follows remote river valleys in an anti-clockwise direction to the Tibet border at Hilsa. After landing at the airstrip we leave Simikot and drive by jeep to our first camp at Dojam. From there we start the trek heading east along the Lurupya Khola before turning more northerly up the Chuwa Khola. We follow a narrow pony trail up the steep-sided valley. From near Syamboyak, the valley opens out as we follow the Dojam Khola. From Gurukpa camp we follow the Ning Khola where the valley retains its dry river bed appearance.

Further up the valley is the Tibet border and the unclimbed peaks of Chandi Himal. Whereas we turn off to the West into a side valley. We start ascending to our camp at Medoking at around 5,150m in the shadow of an un-named peak at 5,894m. The next day we cross Nying La at about 5,500m and descend to our camp at Nying Kuna. From there we walk out towards Limi Valley. 

On a rest day, we walk to a viewpoint to see Mount Kailash and the Holy Lake at Manasarovar. Our remote trek continues as we head West into the Sakya Khola valley located to the north of Limi Valley. Very little is known about this valley. It has been rarely visited by foreign trekking or expedition groups. From Sakya Khola, we cross over a broad pass around 5,000m heading south to reach Halji village in the Limi Valley. We have a rest day and visit Halji’s ancient monastery. We continue our journey on the traditional trekking trail to Hilsa on the Tibet border. From there we get a jeep to Simikot and then flights back to Kathmandu via Nepalganj.

Our Nepal Far West Exploratory GHT trek in November 2022

Ade Summers will head back to lead our Nepal Far West GHT Exploratory trek in November 2022. We have set up the itinerary on our website from his knowledge learned from his discussions with the local guide, Robin and Ian plus his recce to the Simikot area in April 2022. We plan to send Galden Sherpa to do a proper recce of the trail in June 2022 along with our local guide from Simikot. This should help develop our knowledge of the trail and the campsites. You can view the route on Google Maps for Nepal Far West Exploratory GHT.

Our November 2022 departure will be very much an exploratory trip in the true sense of the word. Being adventurous and flexible is required if you would like to join Ade on this trek. We already have six trekkers booked in this group so it is now guaranteed to run. We have decided to restrict the maximum group size to only ten trekkers. Please get in touch with us soon if you are interested as it is likely we will fill the group.

Google Maps for Nepal Far West GHT
Google Maps for Nepal Far West Exploratory GHT

When is the best time of year for Nepal Far West GHT?

In the Autumn/ Fall season, the optimal timing for this trek is from late October through to the end of November. In November there is normally stable and sunny weather in the Himalayas after the monsoon has finished in October. November has low levels of precipitation which means the river levels will be lower too. So river crossings should be easier and less risky. Therefore we have selected November as the date for our Far West Nepal GHT Exploratory trek to be led by Ade Summers in 2022

The other time of year to do this trek is in the late Spring/ early Summer trek. The optimal dates are similar to Upper Dopo in May/ June. This is the window between winter snows melting on high passes and the start of the monsoon in late June or early July.

For more detailed information take a look at our Blog article When Is The Best Time Of Year To Go Trekking In The Nepal Himalaya?

Nepal Far West GHT
Nepal Far West GHT

Our Conclusion

The classic Nepal Far West GHT is not a trekking route that we will organise as it now follows a road for most of the way from Rara Lake to Hilsa. The other options for trekking along the Great Himalaya Trail in the Far West of Nepal are to either go north or south of the Simikot to Hilsa road. Our Dojam Khola route goes to the north of Simikot anti-clockwise into remote valleys along the border with Tibet. Whereas the route further to the south is from Simikot to Darchula.

There is some debate about where the endpoint of GHT should be in West Nepal. Darchula is on the border with India and Hilsa is on the border with Tibet. I suspect both GHT sections would be amazing experiences along rarely trekked trails. But, our preference is to go north to trek through the higher mountains and get the Himalayan views including Mount Kailash. Perhaps one day we should send Ade and Galden to do a recce of the trail to Darchula!

The Great Himalaya Trail is a network of trails that cross the Himalayas along the East to West axis. Trekkers walk different variations of GHT but follow the concept of traversing the mountain range. Dojam Khola and Sakya Khola routes should be included as a good option for the Far West of Nepal GHT. It is one of the most off-the-beaten-track sections of The Great Himalaya Trail. 

We are very excited to explore this remote region of Nepal in November 2022. Nepal Far West Exploratory GHT will be our most remote trek in the Himalayas. It is even more off the beaten track than Upper Dolpo to Jomsom GHT and Lunana Snowman trek in Bhutan. To wrap up, if you are looking for one of the wildest and most remote treks in the Himalayas then West is Best!

Trek on!

Roland Hunter
The Mountain Company