Our names are Isabella (Izzy) and Andrew (Ronnie). We hiked The Great Himalaya Trail in the spring of 2019 over 107 days.
We first visited Nepal in 2011 to complete the three passes hike in Solukumbu region including the walk out to Jiri. Ever since we’d been busting to come back to Nepal. In early 2018 when we decided to move from Australia to the UK we began searching for a challenge to complete along the way. After googling the ‘best long distance hikes in the world’ one Saturday afternoon we came across the GHT, and decided then and there we had to hike it.
After a year of preparations packing up our lives in Sydney we finally arrived in Kathmandu on February 6th 2019 to do a combination of the high and low routes. We walked approximately 1700km from Phalut, the eastern border with India, to Darchula, the western border with India, crossing countless passes and valleys with a vertical ascent of over 83,000km. An unusually high snowfall (many locals told us it was the most snow they’d seen in 30years) made the higher passes difficult, and at one point resulted in us taking a 12 day detour on the Tamang Heritage and Langtang Valley trails while we waited for the snows to melt before we could again continue west through The Ruby Valley. We were self-guided and unsupported apart from for Manaslu Circuit, where a guide is compulsory.
The route we took was so diverse; in the course of one day we could be walking in thigh deep snow, and then later sweating it out in a hot and humid valley floor. The views were absolutely magical, simply out of this world; and the kindness, generosity and friendliness of the Nepali people was equally breathtaking. There was always someone willing to welcome our sweaty, smelly, dirty, tired bodies into their homes each day and night, and cook us a delicious dal bhat. We were constantly helped by kind souls who pointed out the way, and even one man who walked us 2hours back to the trail when we’d got ourselves into a bit of a pickle near Phalut. It was this incredible hospitality that had first caused us to fall in love with Nepal, and which motivated us to use our trip to fundraise for Phase Nepal: a Nepali charity that works with remote and resource poor Himalayan communities to increase livelihood, health care and education opportunities. Any sponsorship donations can be made via the flowing link with many thanks: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=AndrewWands&pageUrl=1
Neither of us have any mountaineering experience. Having had long debates about including the technical Tashi Labsta pass in our route, we arrived in Nepal to find that this pass was not actually possible this year due to the amount of snow. For the rest of our route we tried to stay as high as possible whilst avoiding any technical passes. This meant our low route sections largely followed Linda Bezemer’s ‘low route’ itinerary, while we hiked the higher route for Gosiakund Lake, Langtang, the Ruby Valley, Manaslu, and Annapurna sections, and took a detour to Phoksundo Lake and over Kangmara La pass. A hugely helpful resource was Toby and John’s itinerary table (https://cargocollective.com/nepaltraverse) which we used regularly to assist with planning our day by day itinerary.
We carried a tent and a stove, which although used relatively infrequently proved invaluable in the remote sections where accommodation and a hot meal were at times illusive. Our packs were relatively heavy (15kg and 17kg base weight) with older hiking gear that we couldn’t justify upgrading.
The GHT was not without it’s challenges. We had many stressful times dealing with navigational issues, regularly finding ourselves misplaced if not entirely lost. The huge daily ascents and descents on the low route were gruelling and relentless and wreaked havoc with our knees; the heat of the far west was simply hideous; and the constant and unchanging minute noodle and dal bhat diet wore thin towards the end of the trek. We both got a really excellent batch of food poisoning when were just 5 days from the western border, which resulted in an agonisingly slow limp to the finish line, in amongst regular dashes into the bushes.
These challenges, although miserable in the moment, where one of the many things that made the GHT such an utterly awesome experience. We had an absolutely unforgettable time spending 107 days high on mountain views and endorphins, hanging out with some of the most wonderful people in the world.