Schaller seeks Matthiessen . . . to accompany him on (and possibly assist with) an Anthropological Field Study in Mustang, Dolpo, Mugu and Humla

The numbers (give or take):

25 days in MUSTANG,
21 days in Upper (and 10 days in Lower) DOLPO,
9 days in MUGU,
20 days in HUMLA (including the Limi Valley).

That’s 85 total days of trekking through some of the most isolated–and strikingly beautiful–landscapes in the world. Despite the sheer beauty, these can also be arduous landscapes, mind you, the trek including at least twelve passes over 5000 meters and likely many a fast running glacial river to ford. In this way, three parts fitness (physical and mental) to one part desire is required.

But my prospective trekking partner also needs to understand that perhaps more important for this particular trek is that these high Himalayan regions are the traditional homelands of ethnically and culturally Tibetan agro-pastoralists, people like the Lo-pa of the kingdom of Mustang and the Dolpo-pa of the four high valleys of the Dolpo region. These socio-cultural considerations are perhaps more important because a primary intention for organizing this trek is to conduct anthropological research on how the people in those areas perceive and interact with the hazards they confront as they dwell through those landscapes. In other words, for this expedition I am looking for a trekking partner who might find it interesting to come along on (and possibly even take an active part in) an anthropological field study.

A follow-up to and expansion of research I conducted in Dolpo in 2010, the study being planned for this spring will provide background material for my doctoral dissertation in Human Ecology at Lund University in Sweden. In this regard, I am looking for someone to accompany me who is interested not only in seeing (and experiencing) the crushingly beautiful landscapes across which we will trek but who is also eager to engage with the extraordinary people who dwell through those landscapes in their being in the world. An example of what I mean by engaging with the people is that even in reading about these areas you are rightly uncomfortable with how these groups and their cultures are typically represented, like when they are described on trekking company websites as being somehow unchanging in time and unaffected by global currents in space. To be sure, the people in the high Nepali Himalayas do not somehow live in the 13th or 14th century as such sites (and Lonely Planet authors) often depict them. Nor are they by any means isolated from the entirety of modern existence, as if far-off global political, economic and environmental changes have not affected them (they have, significantly). To engage with the people, therefore, in my mind means (among other things, of course) to approach them as they are within the 21st century times and spaces of their particular embeddedness in their being in the world of the high Himalayas.

Please note, however, that I am NOT (necessarily) looking for someone who has training in or more than a general interest in anthropology, sociology or other social sciences. Indeed, I would be very pleased to have someone along who is more interested in poetry or ecology or ethnomusicology or any other topics that are in themselves interesting. I would also be open to someone who is just wanting to take time away from the hustle and bustle of whatever life they have chosen to live or someone who wants to fulfill the dream of an unforgettable adventure. All I ask is that you have a general sense of awe in your own being in the world as well as for how many other ways there are to be and thrive in it. As such, it might be better to think of this search for a trekking partner to accompany me on this long, hard journey more like Schaller looking for his Matthiessen, an allusion with which I would suspect that anyone with interest in the areas to be visited on this trip is familiar.

Do understand that I am NOT looking for an assistant and that this call is for neither a paid position nor an expenses-paid trek. I wish I had the funds for such things, but I do not. As such, my partner will have to pay his/her own way in terms of permits, transport, visas, equipment, porters/sumpters, food, insurance, etc. (see below for some budget estimates). I will, however, cover some of the costs that are specific to this being a research study, including at least the majority of the significant cost of a guide/translator. That said, I can assure you that I make every effort to travel lightly and as cheaply (but safely and comfortably) as possible. in other words, this will not be a luxury trek by any means but corners will also not be cut that jeopardize safety.

This all said, you would be more than welcome to assist in the study, if you have an interest and a capacity to do so. If not, then I would ask that you please just enjoy being along as a companion on the trek.

By the way, for the 2010 study, I asked a barista I met at the coffee shop to which I went to write to accompany me (he had funds). A good guy with whom I got on very well, he had just finished his undergraduate degree in biogeography. Now, he is completing his Master’s in Anthropology, the trek having changed his whole opinion about social science research. In other words, this trip will change your life, one way or another.

Inquire of me for more details and to present yourself as a possible partner, please! See next boxes for more about me, atmosphere and costs.



5 replies
  1. Hello Gregory ,
    Great Travel , I appreciate you and would like to give Thanks for organizing such magnificent travel .
    Padyatri .

  2. Hi, I am currently in Nepal and would be interested in joining this trip. Please contact me if you are still looking for a trekking partner.
    Regards Tui

  3. Hi Gregory,
    This sounds like an amazing trip. Very interested in the journey, especially taking the time to really absorb the landscape and people and customs. My background is in biology and writing: I work as a science journalist. I’m heading to Humla in May with some Nepali biologists. Can we talk/message to see if I might join you in April perhaps, before meeting up with my group?

  4. Hello Gregory,

    Your travel plan in the High Himalayas of Far West Nepal sounds incredibly amazing. Having trekked the region in 2011 backpacking the Great Himalaya Trail, Nepal, I have been absolutely consumed by the experience ever since and have been wanting to conduct another travel in the region for similar reasons as you state. However, I am not a person with much educational background. All the formal education I have acquired is a high school equivalent. Nonetheless, I have an immense curiosity drive and a huge passion developed through observation of my surroundings.

    Should this travel partnership be realized, it would be be a great opportunity for me to engage in an incredible journey of experiential educational travel. I hope to hear from you.

    A bit of my background. I am originally from Darjeeling (raised) and have travelled quite extensively along the High Himalayas of India and Nepal driven by an intense personal interest to observe the geology, people, cultures and traditions along the region and I speak Nepali as my first Language. I should also mention, I would be able to manage the expenses on my own for the time stated.

  5. Hi Gregory,

    I’m very interested in your journey and your research. I am an ecologist with a strong interest in human culture. Would you consider a having someone join for a portion of the trip? I’m curious if it would be possible to trek with you for either the beginning or end of the trip.