Top Ten Himalayan Treks - Page 2
Nepal: The Ultimate Everest Trek
Say what you will about the Khumbu, that it's too crowded, too Westernized. But there's no way a serious trekker can miss the Everest region of Nepal, which contains four of the eight highest peaks on earth. To see it all, start from Lukla and trek the main drag up to Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital. From Namche, head up the Dudh Kosi valley to the Gokyo Lakes and Gokyo Ri, an 18,000-foot lookout point with stunning views of the Big Four peaks (Everest, Cho Oyo, Lhotse, and Makalu). Then cross 17,800-foot Cho La to the Everest Base Camp area. Hike up 18,100-foot Kala Patar for the classic in-your-face view of Everest, then walk to the base camp itself if you like. Then head back down the valley to Namche Bazaar, stopping at famed Tengboche monastery.
Pakistan: Concordia and Gondoro La
Our Top Ten Treks certainly must include a close-up look at K2, second-highest mountain on earth. The classic route starts at Askole and proceeds for a week up the Baltoro Glacier to Concordia, a spectacular glacial intersection ringed by four 26,000-foot peaks (including K2) that has been called the "Throne Room of the Mountain Gods". From Concordia, the K2 base camp is a day's walk along the Godwin-Austin Glacier. To return, most K2 trekkers retrace their steps down the Baltoro, but a more challenging alternative is to climb from Concordia to Gondoro La, a difficult snow-covered 18,400-foot pass into the Hushe Valley to the south. The pass crossing typically requires crampons, ice axe and ropes, but is within the capabilities of the hardy trekker.
Sikkim: Goecha La
No more than a few dozen Americans trek in Sikkim each year. Tucked between Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim is a tiny former independent kingdom forcibly annexed by India in 1974. Trekking by foreigners is strictly limited to only a few routes, in guided groups only. The best (and most popular) trail leads from the village of Yoksum to a 16,400 foot pass, Goecha La, which lies directly beneath the main summit of 28,000-foot Kanchenjunga, third highest peak in the world. The out-and-back route, which takes about ten days to negotiate, passes through Phedang, Dzongri, and Jemathang. (These are place names only; there is only one small village above Yoksum.)
Tibet: Trekking to Mt. Kailas
Quibblers may say that Kailas, a dramatic 22,000-foot peak, lies on the Tibetan Plateau and is therefore not technically part of the Himalayas. And that this trek includes a two-day jeep leg. Let 'em quibble. The trek to Kailas at least starts in the Himalayas, in western Nepal. The trek from Simicot along the Karnali river valley to the Tibetan border takes about a week. From there, you'll need a vehicle to take you across the plateu to Kailas itself, where you'll join thousands of pilgrims making the ritual five-day 32-mile circumnavigation of the mountain. In keeping with Buddhist custom, you'll take the clockwise route. (It's not necessary to do the route on your hands and knees, prostrating yourself every few seconds, as some pilgrims do.) The return trip retraces your steps to Simikot. It's certainly the most spiritual of all the treks listed here.
Kyrgyzstan: The Turkestan Range
At the northern end of the Himalayas vast 2500-mile sweep lie the Turkestan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, a range of 15,000 to 18,000-foot peaks and Yosemite-like valleys with sheer granite walls more than a mile high. The valleys are populated in summer by nomadic tribesmen who tend their herds of sheep and yaks. The Turkestans may well be the next great trekking area. All the elements are there: big snow-capped mountains, a network of beautiful valleys and connecting passes that allow convenient trekking routes, interesting local people, readily available pack animals, major cities (Tashkent and Samarkand) nearby, and a very exotic national culture. The most popular trekking route winds through the Aksu , Orto-Chasma, Karasu, and Karavshin Valleys.