Trekking in the Manaslu Region of Nepal
The Manaslu region lies in the west-central part of Nepal and is considered an isolated and relatively off-the-beaten-path trekking destination in the country. It is situated in the Gorkha District and the whole region is under the protection of the Manaslu Conservation Area. Trekking in the Manaslu region of Nepal is quite an exotic affair because the region is very rich in biodiversity and cultural prominence. The topography of the region is comprised of tropical biomes that changes to alpine, temperate and arctic climatic zones as one moves up the elevation. Because of its favorable topography of long open ridges and glacial valleys combined with the Manaslu Himalayan range, trekking in the Manaslu region has been gaining steady popularity over the years. Permission to trek in the Manaslu region has only recently been granted by the Government of Nepal. The region was open for trekking journeys only in 1991. Its relative seclusion has made the region one of the best places to observe its unsullied natural and cultural attributes. For a large majority, the trekking trail in the region follows an ancient salt-trading route that lies along the Burhi Gandaki River. The region is home of the Mansiri Himalayan range, that also consists the famous Manaslu Himal- the region’s namesake. While trekking in the Manaslu region, the paths are accompanied by Himalayan peaks that range in altitude from 6,500 meters to above 7,000 meters. The Mansiri Himalayan range is separated by the Annapurna by the Marshyangdi River in its southwest and the Dudh Koshi River to its northeast.
Highlights of Trekking in the Manaslu Region
The region is wholly a part of the Manaslu Conservation Area, a protected area that was established in 1998. Covering an area of 1,663 kilometer square, the area comprises of the region’s mountains, glaciers and many water bodies. It was established to protect and conserve Manaslu’s fragile and diverse ecology and natural resources. There are over 9,000 inhabitants occupying the Conservation Area and it has a record of a large variety of plants, birds and animals under its protection. The region is home to more than 30 species of mammals like the Snow Leopard, the Musk Deer and the Himalayan Thar. There are over 100 species of birds and countless species of plants in the conservation area. The people of Manaslu rely heavily on its natural resources for livelihood, along with animal husbandry. Because trekking in the region hasn’t reached a famed position held by other popular trekking regions like Everest or Annapurna, few trekkers are seen here, making it virtually crowd less. From glaciers, pastures and amazingly serene and tranquil Himalayan Mountains and unique cultural presence, the region has lots to offer for trekkers, especially for those who seek an isolated region for trekking without crowds. A special permit is needed to enter the restricted area, and the cost of the permit is about 50 USD per week spent at the area. Trekkers are also required to travel in groups of two or three with a licensed guide.
The Manaslu Himal
The Manaslu Himal is also known as “Kutang” in Tibet and is the eighth highest mountain in the world. The name “Manaslu” is derived from Sanskrit and it means “the Mountain of Spirits”. It is a derivation of the word ‘Manasa’ which means ‘intellect’ or ‘soul’. Mount Manaslu is the highest peak of the district of Gorkha and is located 40 miles east of the Annapurna. The mountain is also often referred as “a wall of hanging ice and snow” and has three distinct sides that steeps down. Peaks like Ngadi Chuli, the Himalchuli and the Baudha surrounds the mountain and the Larkya La Mountain Pass lies to its north. While trekking in the Manaslu region, the Himal makes its prominent appearance. Since Manaslu was first climbed by the Japanese, the mountain is held closely in the hearts of the Japanese people.
The Tsum Valley
The Tsum Valley is a distinct part of the Manaslu region. It is a sacred Himalayan pilgrimage valley that lies in northern Gorkha. Trekking in the valley was restricted, and only has been recently permitted from 2008. The peaks of Ganesh Himal and the Sringi Himal form a beautiful foreground to the valley and it is occupied with ethnic people who follow the ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture and tradition. They have their own unique dialect that isn’t found anywhere else in the country. The valley is littered with chortens and Gumbas, Mani stone walls and prayers flags and religious monasteries. Tsum Valley is also the place where the saint Milarepa mediated. The valley was initially divided into thirteen provinces and was ruled over as a single territory and has many remnants of its historical status as an individual kingdom. Due to the valley’s remoteness, it has been untouched by modernization and has managed to protect and preserve its century-old culture. Drained by the Shear Khola, the Tsum valley has famous monasteries like the Rachen Gumba and the Mu Gomba which lie on a plateau in the foothill of the valley set against the cerulean mountains. The region of Manaslu is mostly occupied by ethnic groups of Chhetri, Brahmin and Tamang, Tibetan, Magar and Gurung people.
The Larkya La Pass
The Larkya La Mountain Pass is often the highest point of the Manaslu Circuit Trek. It is a dramatic mountain pass that offers good views of the valley below. The pass is covered in snow and the vast expanse of glacial saddle makes the pass quite fascinating to cross. It is situated at an elevation of 5,220 meters and is decorated with colorful prayer flags that provide good contrast against the white of the snow. View of mountain peaks like Himlung, Cheo Himal, the Kang Guru and the Annapurna II are spectacular from the pass.