The Ruby Valley (take two)

After twelve days hiking the Tamang heritage trail and Langtang Valley we were physically and mentally ready for a second attempt at the Ruby Valley. We had enjoyed our ‘mini break’ but were busting to make some westward progress. After twelve days of good weather we were hoping that at least a little of the snow that had made our last attempt so difficult would have melted.

Day 49: Syabrubesi to Gatlang

On day 49 in Syabrubesi we woke up at 5.30am to a booming thunderstorm. Rain poured down outside. We knew the Kurpudada and Pansang Passes that we were about to reattempt in the coming days would be getting yet another walloping with snow. We asked the owner of our hotel if she could please call the lodge in Somdang to check it was open. When she heard we were planning to go to Somdang she immediately told us ‘no tourist go to Somdang anymore’ because ‘there are bad people on trail’ and ‘tourists disappeared on the trail’. With a few more questions we heard this happened nine years ago. This combined with a section in our trail notes which states we should be watchful of local theives made us slightly uneasy.

We went about town collecting supplies. Aiming for a maximum calories to weight ratio meant minimal nutrition:As we headed up the steep hill towards Gatlang we made elaborate plans for what we would do if the ‘bad people’ came for us. Some of which perhaps became a tad too creative.

In Gatlang we again stayed at Tamang Home where we were literally welcomed with open arms and treated like Kings. Sadly Changba was too tired to pay us much attention and quickly passed out in a bundle of blankets in the corner of the dining room. We went to bed early, tired and nervous about the coming days. In the middle of the night we were woken by yet more heavy rainfall meaning yet more snow up on the passes.

Day 50 – Gatlang to Somdang
The next morning we were awoken by one of the Israelis staying in the room next door making a turkey gobble sound as little Changba ran in and out of their room squealing with delight.

As we looked up toward the Kurpudada pass our hearts sank as we saw it was covered in a fresh white blanket of snow. We trudged off in the rain, feeling miserable. But as we got higher we gained confidence as we saw that despite the recent snowfall there was still significantly less snow than there had been two weeks ago.

We reached the Kurpudada pass relatively easily as the snow was rarely more than ankle deep.Similar to last time we were quickly shrouded in a thick mist, which made it difficult to judge depth and see the undulations in the snowy road ahead of us. We stumbled and lurched our way down the other side, looking like we’d both just downed a bottle of wine.

We reached Somdang after six hours, an hour quicker than last time. Again the village looked bleak and desolate in the thick mist, but there was much less snow compared with when we’d last been here. The houses no longer had a snowy lid on their roofs. We wondered if this town ever saw the sun.

Somdang:

As we reached the hydro plant we saw Suman Yoshi standing outside. He came and said hullo, and seemed quite surprised to see us back. Suman told us a group of nine tourists and four Nepali guides had gone over the Pansang Pass to Tipling two days ago. This was brilliant news as it meant not only that the pass was passable, but also ensured fresh footprints to follow. Cheering, we headed for one of the lodges where a young Nepali man and his mother greeted us.

The dining room we’d seen two weeks ago still retained a precarious tilt, but the rotten cabbage was gone:That evening another storm came through causing hail to come through the roof all over our beds. We went to bed crossing our fingers and toes for good weather tomorrow.

On day 51 we woke up to a bluebird sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. We felt absolutely elated.

We set out, following a snow covered road. Thankfully the snow was rarely more than ankle deep.

For the first time we could see further than our nose and realised what a beautiful valley we were walking in.

As we got higher we could see beautiful views of the Kurpudada pass we’d crossed yesterday, Lauribina and Gosiakund, and Langtang beyond.Ironically, the avalanche prone section we’d heard and read about was no longer, as the road had been extended through this section making our path much wider and no trouble at all.

After three hours of relatively easy walking we reached the Pansang Pass – which turned out to be one of the easiest passes we’ve done! Two weeks ago it would have been difficult due to the depth of snow and lack of food. But we likely would have made it, albeit very hungry, tired and grumpy.

Views from the pass into the next valley:

We tobogganed on our bums down the other side before entering another beautiful pink rhododendron forrest.

After seven hours hiking, 600m elevation gain and 2km elevation descent we reached Tipling. Our knees were creaking like wooden floorboards. We found a homestay where we had a very public wash using the water tank in the front yard.For those of you who’ve never tried it, it turns out that scrubbing your bits and peices whilst fully clothed is quite a challenge, particularly when you have an audience.

On day 52 we thanked our friendly host and headed on our way toward Lapagaon in light rain.En route to Lapagaon or ‘Lapa’.

We passed a few people carrying dozens chickens to market:

A uphill climb through the forest eventually brought us to Lapagaon.

Stuck behind a door with legs on the ascent to Lapa:In Lapa a little boy showed us to the local hotel – a dark dingy tavern with three rooms sandwiched into the attic space. We were given a quirky little room accessed via two other rooms, with a patchwork of wood and corrugated iron making up the walls.We were joined that night by a friendly Canadian/American group who worked for an NGO and were touring local villages where they had projects.

Day 53 involved a nice morning followed by a rather shitty afternoon. We started off with a brilliant breakfast of chapati, egg and donuts. Then a steep climb out of Lapa, gaining 1000m elevation to reach Mangro pass (2700m).

Leaving Lapa:

On the other side of the pass we were treated to another stunning pink rhododendron forrest.

We reached a cold, misty clearing called Nauban Kharka where we had planned to camp at 12.30pm, after only four hours of walking. We decided to keep going to the nearest village called Yarsa, three hours away, where we’d heard there was a local hotel. This is when the fun began. To cut a long story short we ended up having a slight disagreement about which path to take and unintentionally took an enormous detour that almost got us lost, before finally finding our way back to the trail by zigzagging down through steep rice terraces. From there, Yarsa was a further hour up a relentless steep stone staircase. When we finally reached Yarsa after nine hours walking we’d both come close to tears, and everything was hurting: our feet, knees, and our pride.

In Yarsa we were thoroughly dissapointed to find that the local hotel was in fact the local shop which had a spare single bed on it’s covered balcony. That night we slept like statues so that we didn’t knock each other off the bed.

After a steep downhill climb the next morning we crossed a river which brought us firmly back onto the tourist trail and to Machhikhola, the beginning of Manasulu circuit.

Please consider sponsoring us by donating to PHASE Nepal (www.phasenepal.org): an NGO that improves healthcare, education, and livelihood opportunities for disadvantaged populations in remote and resource-poor Himalayan mountain villages. Any donations can be made (with many thanks) via the following link: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=AndrewWands&pageUrl=1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s