Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur Kathmandu, Nepal
US Office: 35 Evergreen Lane Middlebury VT 05753
The classic trek around the world's eighth highest mountain, Manaslu, 26781 feet / 8163 meters. Pass from Semi-Tropical to Alpine climate zones, from Hindu temples and towns to Buddhist monasteries and villages, and from highways and horns to the abode of the snow leopard.
17 to 21 days, Kathmandu to Kathmandu (or Pokhara) From US$ 1890 per person
Up early, and drive west along the Prithvi highway, named for the Gorkha king of the Shah dynasty who conquered Kathmandu in 1768. Turn off the main road at Dhading and drive to Arughat Bazaar.
Up the Buri (or Budhi) Gandaki River valley all day, headed almost due north. Ganesh Himal to the east and Gorkha Himal to the west are your companions today. Tonight's stop is at Almara, in a particularly steep part of the river valley.
Continue north along the Buri Gandaki to Labubesi
You're beginning to gain significant altitude now, and the steep river valley opens up to give spectacular views of Himalchuli and Manaslu behind. Stay at Tatopani.
The land is changing as you gain altitude - almost a mile high now - and the vegetation shows the change. Camp at Jagat, where you'll really begin to feel like your in the middle of the great mountains. Jagat is the entry point to the 'restricted area' where you'll need a different permit.
Today you pass from Hindu Nepal to Buddhist areas. You'll see that the people, architecture, and religious symbols all change. Prayer walls made up of stones engraved with ancient prayers will be your way markers until you come down from the high pass. Camp at Pangsing.
Trek to Ngyal (Nyak), an large, prosperous village near the confluence of the Buri Gandaki and Shiar Khola rivers.
You turn west today, as the valley becomes very steep. Camp at Prok, about 8,500 feet / 2600 meters high, and very close to Tibet. Manaslu and its great glaciers now dominate the landscape.
Continue west, still following the Buri Gandaki and gaining another 1,000 feet / 300 meters of altitude. Camp between Namdru and Bangsam, near the base of the Lidanda glacier.
A relatively level day, to Bho Gaon.
An uphill day today, as you begin to gain altitude toward the Larkya La pass. Pass several gompa (Buddhist monasteries) and stay in Sama Gaon (11,300'). The Gompa here is worth a visit, either in the afternoon or tomorrow morning, as you pass near it.
Another steep day, to the village of Larkya Bazaar at almost 13,000 feet. This is the Tibetan plateau, and most of the people here are recent refugees from the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
The climb to the high pass, the Larkya La, begins today. Because of the altitude you'll take two days to make the crossing. Camp tonight at about 15,000 feet in a somewhat sheltered area. The views up here are beyond imagination.
Up very early, and set off over the Larkya La (17,100 feet / 5210 meters). It's a very difficult climb, and the initial part of the descent on the other side is also tough. You'll feel a great sense of accomplishment tonight in Larad!
Downhill now, following the Dudh Khola (Milk River). Its name comes from the frantic froth into which the steep descent and rocky riverbed whip the water. Stay at Sangwro Kharka, at about 11,000 feet / 1850 meters.
Downhill again, to the large Gurung village of Tilje. You're almost back to the low country, and only a day from the heavily traveled Annapurna Circuit trail - but Tilje still feels like the middle ages.
Trek down to the Marsyangdi Khola and the main Annapurna trail. Follow the river south to Tal, once a small lake, now drained.
Stay with the river and trek down to Jagat, 4,100 feet.
An easy day along the river that ends with a steep climb to Bahundanda, Brahmin Hill.
Walk out to Bhulbhule, where you will pick up a high-slung bus and ride 45 minutes down to Besisahar, a boom-town that services the hydroelectric station a couple of km south of town.
Ride down to the Prithvi Highway on a good road and drive back to Kathmandu (or Pokhara).