Western Nepal Trek – Darchula to Dolpo

Highlights (Some Memories from the trek) :
-33 days of continuous trekking across 6 districts (Darchula,Bajura,Bajhang,Mugu,Jumla,Dolpo) traversing 500+ kms with no Rest Days.
– A beautiful / Remote cultural trek. Almost no other trekkers seen till we reached Phoksundo.
This trek provides variety. The forest cover/greenery, meandering rivers, remote villages, fields, passes (Lek) in Darchula/Bajura/Bajhang districts gives way to barrenness in Mugu, which is characterized by the mighty Karnali & the forests surrounding Rara Lake. The forests of the Mugu region & Jumla leads into the “Spiti” like desert region of Dolpo, the crowning jewel of which is the emerald blue Phoksundo lake. The lower altitudes are characterized by Hindu Religion while the upper reaches of Mugu,Jumla & especially Dolpo are home to Buddisht/Tibetan with variety of Buddhism called Bon Buddhism.
– Rara Lake (aka Mahendra Tal) : The biggest lake in Nepal is set amidst beautiful forests. It takes one day to circumambulate the lake. One can get a complete view of the lake from a viewpoint called Murma Top. When climbing from Murma village to Murma Top one is going through dense forests and suddenly out of nowhere one starts getting the view of the Rara Lake. The views spectacular to say the least. As one ascends the viewpoint marked by a temple (& a telephone tower), the view starts getting even more breathtaking. I can write reams about the beauty of the lake – but it wont do justice. One just has to see & experience it…
– Crossing the Barbare Lek (4300M pass) between Chopagaon & Hurikot (or Kaigaon). This stretch is very beautiful & it also cuts short the time & has a magnificient views. This is an old route that is rarely used nowadays.
– Crossing the Kagmara la (~5200 M) was a nice adventure. Since our porter did not want to camp in the cold @ higher altitudes after crossing the pass, and due to the unavailability of water at the first camp site after crossing the Kagmara La, we ended up walking in the dark till about 8 p.m on the day we crossed the pass. We had started the day early as well at an altitude of about 3800M, crossed the 5200M and descended back to an altitude of 3800M. Nearly a 1300M climb & descent. Not the most advisable way to trek but then that is how it played out.
– Waterfall before Phoksundo lake : It is majestic and is comparable to Jog Falls in its height/massiveness. The surroundings, the backdrop & the roar of the waterfall compounds its beauty to leave you spellbound.
– Phoksundo Lake : The “Jewel in the Crown” the Phoksundo Lake. It is impossible to even imagine the beauty of the lake. The photographs of the best photographers, the brushstrokes of the masterful painters in the world, the words of the most erudite writers, nor the lines of the genius poet can quite capture “the feeling & the experience” of witnessing Phoksundo lake in all its splendour. One is bound to think that he has experienced the “indescribable beauty” as one camps @ Rignmo, the village just beside the Phoksundo lake. As one ascends to a viewpoint, marked by prayer flags, towering 400M above the Phoksundo lake you might be excused if your heart skips a beat as you try to comprehend the sheer magnificence of what you are witnessing. But wait, you have not seen it all. Follow the path beyond the prayer flags (and you would only do this if you are heading towards Shey gompa) to the other side of the lake, where the Phoksundo Khola feeds the lake, and one would realize that half the lake was not even visible from the campsite at Ringmo. Suffice to say that I have been blessed to have what I would describe as “once in a lifetime experience”.
– Kanjiroba Himal (~6900M): Beyond the Phoksundo lake, the Phoksundo Khola snakes through the beautiful pine forests at the foothills of the majestic Kanjiroba Himal. The grandeur of the Kanjiroba Himal dwarfs everything else in its presence. If one had witnessed one side of the the Kanjiroba himal when descending from Kagmara La, from the Phoksundo khola one can see the other side of the himal – and what a view it is.

Phoksundo to Shey ? : An experience to remember
– Shey Gompa was supposed to be a 2 day trek and the next village after Shey was another 2 days. So we had stocked up our rations for 4 days at Ringmo and set off.
– However, along the Phoksundo Khola we made a navigational error (we came to this conclusion after reaching bangalore). We went up the wrong side stream & hence reached the wrong pass (we did not know it at that time). After crossing the wrong pass on the 3rd day after leaving Phoksundo tal, we descended into the 1st wrong valley.
– On the 4th day we retraced our path and in an attempt to find the right route to Shey gompa we crossed the 2nd wrong pass and entered the 2nd incorrect valley. To make matters worse the weather uncharacteristically became bad and it started snowing so we had to retrace and cross the 2nd pass back over. It was late afternoon by this time and it had started snowing a bit more heavily. I wanted to cross the 1st pass also, lest the weather gets worse but my trekmates were exhausted. We camped in the snow. We were running short on rations. The snowing continued heavily through the night of the 4th day.
– On the 5th day (after leaving Phoksundo) the conditions had worsened. There was completely whiteout and the snowing had wiped out the tracks completely. We could not even see the 1st pass. Since we were running short on rations we decided to see if we could still cross the 1st pass in the limited visibility. We could not. We went up the wrong path, kept slipping in the snow – which covered the rocky terrain and exhausted ourselves. I was dead tired. In a few hours (around noon) the weather worsened and we decided the best course was to camp – with a prayer that the weather would improve the 6th Day. We were rationing our food. The discourse of our porter was one of peril, reconciliation to fate/death & generally negative. The whiteout and the snowing continued through the 5th night (after phoksundo) and when OT (Kaverappa) stepped out of the tent at 4 am the weather had not shown any signs of relenting. He was also not feeling very positive. I forgot to mention that after Phoksundo, that the zipper of the front of my tent also stopped working so we could not close the front of our tent. Also, the front of both my waterproof trekking shoes had broken and water / snow could seep in. The porter’s shoes (And we had bought him a new pair) were not waterproof.
– Anyway on the 6th day at around 8 am we had some maggi and packed despite the light snow. The weather had not opened up, but the visibility was marginally better. We simply had to make it across. We identified a point which seemed like the way back across the 1st pass. I was feeling healthier today. So, I started opening the route through the snow and did not rest for the next 2 hours till we made it to the top of the pass. Our porter and Kaverappa followed. Luckily for us weather held up till we reached the pass and on the other side of the pass it seemed a shade better. We still had a tricky completely snow covered descent in front of us. Without resting further we descended quickly to the “high camp” of the 1st pass by around noon. I was extremely hungry so we decided to have some coffee & biscuit and then restarted a tricky snow covered traverse to the “low camp” of the 1st pass. It was in the later afternoon that we reached “low camp” and by now we felt safer. We knew we would live :). When we looked behind the weather on the other side of the pass had not cleared up completely , though on this side of the pass the weather had cleared up by evening (it did not snow). Another coffee break and we retraced our path to a phoksundo khola. The rations were severely depleted as it was the 6th night after leaving phoksundo. We did have some dal bhat that night. We had also consumed some of our emergency ration (snicker bars/dates).
– Next morning (7th morning) we had a scanty breakfast (whatever little rice and dal was left), packed and made our way back to Phoksundo which we reached late in the afternoon.
– Nature/mountains has a mind of their own and one just has to respect that. We got to see the most spectacular views of “a window to barrenness of the upper Dolpo” from the top of the passes and also experienced the amazing contrast in views before and after the snow.

You can find below trip report of the Western Nepal Trek from Darchula to Dolpo, outlining the itinerary, link to photos and highlights.


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