Around Manaslu Part Two


Around Manaslu Part Two by Issie Inglis 

Day 10 – 13 Shyala to Bimthang, over the Larkya La

The next days are fairly short as you start to gain altitude more quickly.

even still the walking is not difficult or steep. Once again the terrain changes, the trees are mostly gone and it becomes more arid and Tibetan like.

It is lovely walking up to Samdu, along an open barren valley with views of Peak 29 and Himal Chuli behind, and some more good views of Manaslu.

Samdu village is a bit of a border town and in 2008 it was a really busy crossing point for loads of mule and yak trains coming from Tibet and from Bimthang. In 2009 we saw none, it was a bit bizarre. Samdu is the last village before the pass and most groups stop here for an acclimatisation day before heading up to the high camp before the pass.

There are quite a few opportunities for acclimatisation walks here either up to prayer flags above the village or towards Tibet, although it is very cold as soon as the sun goes at 3. During the day though it is quite pleasant.

I did a really clear briefing here so that everyone understood exactly what was happening on the Pass day which was in two days time. The sirdar and I also briefed the porters and sherpas about who was doing what with regards to looking after clients and porter staff on the descent.

The walk up to the high camp at Larkya Phedi from Samdu takes about 3 and half hours. If it is cold when you leave make sure everyone has sticks with them as there are a few streams to cross and they can be frozen and very icy and difficult. It is a beautifully sunny campsite with great views. In 2009 suddenly we had loads of people with us on the way up, having seen very few all the way until Samdu. The campsite is not large. Or at least the flat parts of it are not. They have however built some accommodation here now which can take about 40 and getting bigger every year.  If you see a lot of people in Samdu, get away early to ensure a bed for the night.

This is where you need to be watching each other more, as on both occasions I have done this trip, I have had people with altitude issues here as it is quite a big height gain from Samdu.

Larkya Phedi to Bimthang over the Larkya La 
Depending on how you are going this has the potential to be a very long day. We got up at 02.30 and were away for 04.30. Some people baulked a bit at this but it is definitely a good idea as some took 11 hours (13 hours in 2009) for this.

5 hours to the top of the Pass. It is very straightforward, just slow as it is high (5100). We got to the snow at about 4700 but it was easy, and it is not a glacier so no crevasses. It was pretty cold and windy once we got above camp but as soon as the sun came out it was fine. I asked everyone to wear down jackets to start with and that was good so no-one got cold.

I sent one Sherpa ahead of the porters to watch them on the descent and made sure they were all ahead of us when we set off even although it meant waiting a bit till the mess and toilet tents were taken down. It just means you know everyone is ahead of you so if someone has a problem you can sort it out.

Fantastic views on the way up and at the top. The walk up is really lovely. As you come up towards the col, you can almost see it but there are lots of undulations before you actually get there. There is a beautiful frozen lake and just above this to the left is the col. Not well defined but loads of flags. Both times it has been cold and windy on the col.

The first part of the descent is along a broad ridge for about 15 minutes easy and gentle, to the second col. The potential for sliding comes when the ground steepens up and you need to make a diagonal descent on slippy snow. When I did it in 2008 the snow was grippy, but in 2009 more people had been down it and it was hard packed, well trodden snow. We had Grivel spiders with us (highly recommend taking these) which were fantastic and perfect for the job.

You may need still to chop some steps out and descend cautiously. Everyone managed fine with sticks but if the snow had been any harder I would have fixed a line. Timid people not used to walking in snow will find this hard and might need a rope on. The descent continues steeply but it faces the sun and becomes less snowy, more rocky and icy but less chance of going a long way, just slippy and difficult and slow to negotiate.

It takes about two hours to get down this section and on to a better path (still quite steep). The path veers round to the left and there is an opportunity to actually stop on a flat heathery patch for probably your first real break since starting. Although there is still about 40 minutes of steep descending to go we had been going for 7 hours by this stage so really needed a break. (In 2009 there was a lot more snow and the snow level was right down almost to where the path flattens out – very steep and snowy, in 2010 there was no snow at all, in 2013 the group did not make it over the pass and turned back – you won’t know til you get there).

It is still a long way to camp from here as once the next steep section is over there is another 3 hours to get down to Bimthang.

At least all the porters are ahead of you and if your cook has anything about him he will be sending kettles of juice back up the path for the weary. This a really hard day for some people. 2008 – 11 hours, 2009 13 hours. Once we got off the snow and steep ground I sent most of the group on with the sirdar and walked down with the slower ones.

The campsite at Bimthang is wonderful though, the best on the trip. If you can have an extra day at the other side and have a strong group, I would highly recommend staying a night here. Here you really feel you are in the middle of the mountains, great views and a beautiful site. Beer can also be had if you feel the need from a few teahouses. There is lots of opportunity for great walks from here. We had a rest day here in 2009 and it was just wonderful if a bit chilly at night.

Join Issie for the final installment of around Manaslu next week!