Trip report for Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT (Nepal) in Spring 2024 led by Adrian Summers

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
Nying La pass in Far West Nepal GHT trek in Nepal
Nying La pass in Far West Nepal GHT trek in Nepal

There are remote treks and then there are uber-remote treks like Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT! The word “remote” is often bandied around by operators to help sell a trek although with this itinerary it is the real deal. For example, currently, there are no other operators promoting treks over the Nying La. Over my 20 years of organising treks in Nepal, I have only ever heard of one other trekking group crossing this pass.

In May 2024 we organised our second group trek to the Far West of Nepal. Our first group trek was in November 2022 and you can read more about how it went in our Trip Report for Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT in November 2022. As you will read, Adrian (Ade) Summers and I researched trekking in the Far West during the pandemic years while we were stuck at home. In Spring 2022, Ade did a reconnaissance trek for us. In the Summer of 2022, we sent one of our Nepalese guides, Galden Sherpa, on another reconnaissance trek where he successfully crossed the Nying La. By now we have a lot of history and experience of trekking in the Far West of Nepal!

Our leader for our May 2024 group was Ade Summers (UK) and our Nepalese guides were Sanja, Tsering (a local guide from Simikot), and Suman. Our cook was Chiring. We decided to send Sanja and Suman to Simikot two weeks before our group arrived in order to check the condition of Nying La and the trekking trail. In practice, this went well and they crossed the pass with no issues and then reported this positive news to us before the group arrived in Kathmandu.

The main change to our organisation in 2024 versus 2022 was to switch the time of year from Autumn to late Spring season. As you can read from our Trip Report, our November 2022 group was unable to cross Nying La due to too much snow following a heavy snowfall in early October from a cyclonic storm. It was also very cold on the trek. We know from having organised seven treks to Upper Dolpo in Mid-West Nepal that snow can linger on the high passes into late May (especially if there are late snowfalls in April or early May). Therefore we set the start date for our 2024 Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT trek on May 25th and in practice they crossed the Nying La pass on June 6th.

Ade sums up in his own words his experience leading this trek:

“An amazing and successful trek to the Far West of Nepal. Amazing culture and amazing mountains. Highlights were crossing the Nying La pass, seeing Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar but closely followed by the visit to Halji monastery a 900-1300 year old monastery with a fantastic prayer room. Exploring this remote area of Nepal was a joy, meeting remote local communities and trekking through the wild rugged valleys gave us a great sense of adventure and the true meaning of adventure travel.”

As you can see from our itinerary for Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT we include two buffer or contingency days in case of delays. Specifically, the risk is flying into and out of Simikot. This is a STOL airstrip with visual flight rules so a plane can only land or take off if there is good visibility. On the way into Simikot, their flight was cancelled due to bad weather although they successfully landed one day later on May 28th. On the way out they flew out as planned on June 19th. Ade decided to use their second contingency day as a rest day in Halji.

It is worth explaining the options if there is a forecast of bad weather for several days. Usually, helicopters can fly in cloudy conditions although they are more expensive than taking a plane. If we can fill a helicopter with five people then the extra cost is about US$900 per person.

If the group does not have the budget to take a helicopter then Plan C is to drive. It should take two days of driving by road from Nepalganj to Simikot. The first day takes about 12 hours of driving to a place called Lepche where we stay overnight in a basic lodge. On the second day, we walk for three hours and then drive for three hours to Kharki river. After crossing the river (no road bridge), we take another vehicle and drive for 1 hour to Simikot. Hopefully, the bridge will be built soon so in the future it will be possible to drive the whole way with no walking needed.

Ade’s group left Simikot and started their trek on May 29th. The first day’s walk is to Dojam Khola where they camped at the Gompa (monastery). From here they enter a remote region with no villages where locals go over the Summer months to graze their yaks and goats. After four days of walking up the Dojam Khola (river) they arrive at the beautiful campsite at Sumna at an altitude of 4,145m. The other side of the valley is fed by the glaciers in Tibet flowing down from the Chang La. After Sumna it takes a further three days to cross Nying La pass at an altitude of 5,470m. This pass is not technical although it is important to have guides with prior knowledge as the trail is not very obvious, especially on the descent. When our group crossed the pass on June 6th there were only a few small patches of snow so this validated our thoughts about the best time of year.

Overall the weather was pretty good throughout the trip although this group had a couple of cloudy days before crossing the Nying La. After that, it cleared up and they had lovely sunny days, especially for their day walk to Mount Kailash viewpoint. Towards the end of the trek, I could see on the satellite images that the monsoon rains had started in the East of Nepal. It takes time for the monsoon clouds to move over to the Far West of Nepal although the last few days of the trek were cloudy. Fortunately, they had no issues flying out of Simikot after the trek. I have copied Ade’s comments on the weather: “Really good, no major weather issues. At High Camp for the Nying pass, we had light snow and rain, but it did not come to much. The rest of the trip was pretty good. Hot at times and windy at others.” Both Ade and I feel that starting a week earlier would be the optimal time as it gives more buffer at the back end against earlier monsoonal weather disrupting flights out of Simikot.

After the pass, they descended a very remote and isolated valley for two days and only saw a few yak herders near Traktse. On June 12th the group walked to the Mount Kailash viewpoint on the border with Tibet (China). This is a day walk of 20km and it took them 7 ½ hours. They were fortunate to get clear views of Mount Kailash and this is another highlight of this trek. Afterward, they trekked through the Limi Valley and enjoyed a rest day at Halji. This is a great campsite and the group enjoyed visiting Halji Gompa and seeing their three prayer rooms. After taking a look around the village they came back to camp to relax.

You can see where this group went from daily GPS check-ins on Google Maps at Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT May 2024

An area we have been focusing on recently is to improve the food provided on our camping-style treks. We know proper nutrition is needed for long and challenging treks like in Far West Nepal. We aim to reduce the number of carbohydrates at each meal and increase the amount of protein and vegetables. We have updated our list of provisions to include more pulses, beans, lentils, and soya. In addition, we bring out tins of freezed dried chicken from the UK. We also have a dehydrator machine used for dehydrating vegetables and then we vacuum seal in bags for use on our camping treks. For 2024 we have developed new menu plans incorporating the extra provisions and have provided training for our cooks. We have made significant progress although we will continue to train our cooks over the Summer months before the Autumn trekking season.

From our side, it is very satisfying to finally cross the Nying La pass with a group! We learned a lot from our three treks in the Far West region of Nepal and used this cumulative experience to organise our May 2024 group. Significant logistical challenges exist in operating a trek in a place so far away from Kathmandu. However, it makes the effort worthwhile when we run a successful trek and receive positive feedback from our trekkers. It is encouraging to see there are still remote places to explore in the Himalayas where you are unlikely to see any other trekkers. However, the drawback of accessing these places is that it is quite expensive. We need to take several internal flights (Kathmandu - Neplaganj - Simikot - Nepalganj - Kathmandu), pay for permits, and provide the logistics to support the group in a remote area.

You can read all of our AITO reviews for Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT and I have copied two of them below:

"Another amazing trek with The Mountain Company (TMC). The Far West Trek is a new trek through a very remote region of Nepal. Though some of the trails are very rocky and some long trekking days, the remoteness and the beauty of region are worth the effort. Also, meeting villagers and seeing their way of life in this remote region was a special cultural experience. Throughout the entire trek, Ade, our western guide, and the Nepalese crew ensured we were well looked after. You are never left on your own if you happen to be trekking at a slower pace. The crew member ensures that you take your time and offer a hand if and when you need it. The chef cooked us delicious and nutritious meals, and we even got apple pie and cake. This is my seventh trek with TMC and will continue to trek with them. This is because Roland, owner/director, put safety of the crew and trekkers his priority. This is evident in the planning of each trek with built-in contingency day(s) if and when required. Roland works with the local Nepalese crew and ensure they have all the right gear (clothing, footwear, equipment) to do their job. He responds to all questions and concerns in a timely manner." by SnoMo on July 3rd, 2024

"The Far West Nepal Exploratory GHT trek is a +20 day trek to a very remote region of western Nepal. This area is rarely visited by westerners and you are likely to see very few other trekkers. The landscape is varied and you'll pass through forest, high alpine desert, river valleys, villages and mountain passes meeting only a few local yak and goat herders. The trip included crossing the Nying La pass at 5400 meters (which only very few people ever does!) and visiting the Mount Kailash view point on the border with Tibet. Later the trek passes through villages with visits to very old Gompas (Buddhist temple) with impressive wall paintings. The trek is remote and includes a good amount of travel but is well worth the effort! This was the third trip we went on using The Mountain Company as operator. We will definitely come back again! As always the trek was extremely well organized and the guide as well as the local crew were excellent. The cook was very good at providing varied 3-course meals in the middle of the mountains including both pizza and chocolate cake besides the more traditional Nepali/Indian dishes of dal, rice, curries etc. All the food was of high quality and there were plenty of it to go around. The Mountain Company is well worth considering for any treks to the Himalayas as they treat their local crews well, have excellent safety measures and do a big effort to finding routes and itineraries which are away from the many roads being build in the region. By including trips to remote regions where fewer trekkers go they are also spreading the impact of tourism both in terms of over-crowding, ecological strain and boosts to the local economy. Not everything has to go to the Everest region! We highly recommend the Mountain Company." by Simon S 03/07/2024

I would like to thank the guides, cooks plus the rest of the trek crew for their hard work in making this trek a great success. Well done to our group of intrepid trekkers! Thanks for embracing the GHT ethos and for your spirit of adventure.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter
The Mountain Company