In this post some recommended side trips will be suggested. It is highly recommended to include at least one side trip in your itinerary.
Base point: Prok
(We haven’t done this trip, information is based on a recommendation from one of the lodge owners in Prok). This is a recommended day trip to a mountain lake located at an altitude of 3685 meters. It takes about 3-4 hours to reach the lake from the village of Prok. The mountain scenery from the lake is superb, but the effort is worth only in clear weather. Note that in early autumn and late spring clouds start to cover the mountains even early in the morning, so plan accordingly.
Base point: Lihi
(We haven’t done this trip, information is based on a recommendation from an Australian guy who works on educational projects in Lihi). An hour walk from Lihi up Hinang Khola takes you to the large Hinang Gompa. The monks there are welcoming and it is possible to sleep in the Gompa. Further on, the trail continues up towards the Himal Chuli range. The mountain views are spectacular, and you can visit the Hinang glacier. Taking a local guide that knows the area and the glacier is highly recommended. While we were there, there was a report about a monk attacked by a bear up on the trail in the glacier area. Be aware…
Base point: Shyala or Samagaon
We have done this trip, and enjoyed it although clouds covered Mount Manaslu.
It is a day trip that starts in a branch of the trail between Shyala and Samagaon. From the branch it takes about an hour to reach a Yak pasture area and additional one and a half hours to reach the Gompa, which is located at the end of a vast grassy plateau surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. This is one of the best places to get a view of Mount Manaslu and its surroundings, but again – the effort is worth only on a clear day. The Gompa includes a small prayer hall and some monk dormitories built into the mountain. There are no accommodation facilities here but it looks like a tempting place for camping. Morning views from here will probably be awesome.
Base point: Samagaon
We have done this trip. Birendra Tal is a turquoise lake at the foot of the Manaslu glacier. It can be reached by 45 minutes walk from Samagaon. Those of you who like to wash bath in distant waters will find it enjoyable to dip in its chilly ice water. The lake can be visited on the way from Samagaon to Samdo, as it is a relatively short diversion from the main trail.
Manaslu Base Camp
Base point: Samagaon
We have done this trip. Manaslu Base Camp is the first of a series of camps used by climbing expeditions to Manaslu. During the climbing seasons, the place is packed with tents, equipment, guides, porters and expedition members either anxious before the climb or exhausted after a climb.
We visited the place on October 9th, when only 3 expeditions out of 25 this season still remained on the mountain. Nobody really knows what’s the altitude of this place, including a veteran expedition chief, but it is somewhere between 4400 and 4800 meters. In any case it is high enough to make to climb there a bit demanding. The steep climb from Samagaon takes about 4-5 hours. The trail has a short start in the forest then becomes exposed on the steep slope above Samagaon north of the impressive Manaslu glacier. As you gain altitude the scenery becomes more and more spectacular – the glacier just nearby, the turquoise lake beneath, and mountains as far as the eye can see. The last part of the climb is the steepest on a slippery trail on a narrow moraine. Beside the experience of seeing the camp activity and meeting climbers, the surrounding mountain scenery is breath taking. Although there are some glacier based water sources on the way, carry enough water with you. The descend to Samagaon takes about 3 hours.
Tibetan Border – Rui La
Base point: Samdo
We have done this trip. From all side trips, this trip was the most difficult to arrange, since we had no information about it, and even the locals were not sure about the details.
From Samdo there are basically two options to get to the Tibetan border. Option one is seeing the view from Lajyung Bhanjyang, a pass at 5098 meters east of Samdo. The locals did not recommend this option as it is not commonly used and the trail is not clear (Yaks rule these hills and mark numerous trails there). Option two is the “main road to Tibet”, meaning the main trade route to Tibet that goes through Rui La pass at 4998 meters north of Samdo. The nearest Tibetan village is only a day walk through this route, and a motorable road in the Tibetan side is a two days walk… We chose this option as locals recommended it is a frequently used trail and claimed it can be done on a long tourists walking day.
You start by going north from Samdo as if you are going to Dharamshala: crossing the Athahra Saya Khola and climbing from the other side. But instead of going west towards Dharamshala you continue north along the western side of the Athahra Saya Khola (The trail is so clear that it can be seen when you approach Samdo from Samagaon…). The trail climbs gradually along the Athahra Saya Khola, then descends gently towards the river bed crossing a side river on a wooden bridge. It then climbs again and goes beside the river on its western side. After 3 hours walk from Samdo the Athahra Saya Khola turns west. On this point there is a small wooden bridge and on the other side of it a clear slope that leads to a distant mountain pass. Cross the bridge and begin to climb on the slope. At its bottom, the trail may seem unclear as there are several Yak trails going up, but as you climb it is clear that your way is… up… The climb to the top of the Rui La pass, at 4998, takes another 2 hours. Along the way there are beautiful sights of Manaslu in the distance, as well as the Hindu and Fukang glaciers just behind you as you climb. The Rui La pass is a “classic” “U” shaped mountain pass. Prayer flags mark the pass and a border stone marks the border between Nepal and “Dzong Who” – China. Numerous mountain ranges can be seen on the Tibetan side, and if you are patient enough, wait to see a Yak caravan crossing the pass to bring goods into Nepal. The way back to Samdo took us 4 hours, so if you plan to do this trip be prepared for a long day, start early and take enough drinking water with you.