OverviewThe Langtang Himal is an area/range north of Kathmandu, bordering Tibet in the north. The highest mountain of the range is the only infrequently-climbed Langtang Lirung (7,246m). Of main interest to people visiting the region is the superb trekking area of the narrow east-west facing Langtang valley, which offers great close-up mountain-views and very decent range of teahouse accomodation.
Defining which area exactly falls within the 'Langtang Himal' might be a bit confusing, since the term seems mainly to refer to the range north of the Langtang valley, comprising the peaks of Langtang Lirung (7,246m), Langtang II/Ghenge Liru (6,581m), Kimshung (6,781m) and Yansa Tsenji (6,575m). The slightly lower ranges to the south and south-east of the valley are also referred to as the 'Kangjala Himal', the 'Dorje Himal' and the 'Lingshing Himal'. The highest mountain of this area is Dorje Lakpa (6,966m). Directly to the north-east of the Langtang valley in neighbouring Tibet lies Shisa Pangma (8,013m), which is however unfortunately not visible from the valley. Shisa Pangma is part of the 'Jugal Himal', which according to Wikipedia's page of the mountain is 'often considered a part of the Langtang Himal' as well.
Except for Langtang Lirung, which was first explored by Tilman in 1949 and first summited in 1978 by a Japanese-Sherpa expedition, finding information on the climbing-history of the other main peaks of the area is very difficult (trying to google 'Kimshung' or 'Yansa Tsenji' mainly produces results for Sushi-bars or Vietnamese restaurants).
Well-covered on Summitpost are however the Trekking Peaks of Tsergo Ri (4,984m), Yala (5,500m) and Naya Kanga (5,846m).
The whole Langtang-area lies within the Langtang National Park which was established in 1976 and is mainly inhabited by Tamang, an ethnic Tibetan group which generally follows a form of Tibetan Bhuddism.
Trekking in the LangtangThe main reason for people visiting the area is the superb trek up the Langtang valley, which can be done in 7 to 10 days. The main starting point for the trek is in the lower western end of the valley, either in the villages of Dhunche or Syabrubesi. Both villages can be reached by a really long (8-10 hrs. for about 120kms!) and uncomfortable bus-ride from Kathmandu. From Syabrubesi it is usually a three day trek up the valley to the highest guesthouses at Kyanjin Gompa (ca. 3,800m), with accomodation facilities along the way at least every few hours. However, the usual stops are at 'Lama hotel' (a cluster of guesthouses at about 2,500m) and at the village of Langtang (ca. 3,400m). A very nice - if even a bit longer - alternative is to start in the dusty trailhead town of Dhunche and trek the first day to the beautiful village of Thulo Syabru. This trek offers on the first day some really nice views to the Ganesh Himal in the west over the Bhote Kosi valley and into Tibet in the north.
Until you reach the area between Lama hotel and village of Langtang the valley is very narrow and views of the mountains of Langtang are a bit limited. The highlight of the whole trek is for sure the area around Kyanjin Gompa (ca. 3,800m - the place has plenty of accomodation) which can be used as a base to do some really interesting day-hikes, so be sure to plan at least 2-3 nights there in order to explore the upper parts of the valley.
Some of the hiking-options around Kyanjin Gompa are:
- Climbing the summit of Kyanjin Ri (ca. 4,600m) directly to the north of Kyanjin Gompa. Its a half-day trip (800m up) which offers very good views of Langtang Lirung, Kimshung and Yansa Tsenji to the west and north.
- Climbing Tsergo Ri (4,984m), a full-day return trip. For more info on this summit follow the link to the mountains main page.
- Only a short trip to the south of Kyanjin Gompa are the small Tsona lakes. You may see Yaks grazing there and have beautiful views of the surrounding peaks.
- Hiking further up the Langtang valley to Langshisha Kharka (4,100m).
The main drawback of the entire trek (apart from the bus-ride from Kathmandu) is that you have to go back by the way you came. If you want to avoid this, there is also the possibility of exiting (or entering) the valley over the Ganja La (5,100m) to the south of Kyanjin Gompa, therby linking the Langtang trek with a hike through the Helambu area. For this option - that can only be done if the pass is snow-free - you have to be adequately equipped (no teahouse accomodation), self-reliant and be well acclimatized.
Info on the Trek
Trekking seasons:The weather-pattern of the Langtang area is similar to the rest of Nepal, meaning due to the monsoon rains the best time is either in spring or in autumn. Winter can be a problem in the upper part of the valley, the route over the Ganja is very likely to be no option due to snow.
Transport: Well, that's the main drawback. Although you don't have to rely on an unsafe and frequently-cancelled flight (like to Lukla), the bus-trip to Langtang is really the worst part of the whole journey (chatting in the guesthouses in the evening with fellow trekkers, almost everybody seems to agree on this point). There are a few buses each day, starting from the northern ring-road in Kathmandu (all in the morning). It's easiest to buy the tickets in advance at one of Thamel's travel-agents. Until half-way at Trisuli Bazaar the road is asphalted and you might be tempted thinking it's not that bad. Soon, afterwards, however, the it becomes a dirt-road with terryfing views down the valley directly next to the bus. Although you usually have a reserved seat if you start in Kathmandu, things will get very tight along the way as more and more people with their luggage and livestock enter the bus. As an more expensive and slightly quicker alternative you might consider hiring a jeep with driver (we were quoted about 80 - 100 EURO one way for the whole car), hoewever, don't expect cars to be available for hire at the trailheads back to Kathmandu unless you have made an arrangement before. For the very well-off (Japanese tour-groups and the like), there is also the alternative of hiring a chopper from Kianjin Gompa back to Kathmandu (has to be arranged beforehand in Kathmandu, we were told about 2,000 USD for the whole helicopter one way) This has also the advantage of not having to backtrack down the valley.
Accomodation: Like in the Annapurna- and Everest-regions, trekkers in the Langtang valley can rely entrirely on teahouse accomodation along the trekking route. The level of comfort in the lodges and the meals provided are mostly quite similar to the other two more popular teahouse treks of Nepal. Since the area is protected as a national park, the lodges are discouradged from burning too much firewood. If there is a lack of trekkers to fill up all lodges in a given village of the upper part of the valley, some lodges will be closed down so that firewood can be saved (which lodges close is by a principle of rotation so that every lodge gets its share of business). However, as usual in Nepal, most lodges are very very similar anyway, so it should be no big deal if a certain lodge may be closed. I didn't see anybody bringing his own tent and for the standard trekking route is also really not necessary. However, it makes sense to bring your own tent and supplies if you want to explore the uppermost part of the valley (Langshisha Kharka) or cross the Ganja La.
Permits: A TIMS-permit and a national park entry ticket (Rs 1000) has to be obtained in advance at the Tourist Service Center in Kathmandu (permits issued instantly). There is a checkpoint on the way to Dhunche and a couple of army checkpoints along the way. Don't expect to be let through without a permit.
As of 2010 Maoist-insurgents are not an issue anymore in the area, but its always wise to check the latest travel-advisory. Strikes (locally called 'bandh') still frequently shut down Kathmandu and can delay your departure to Langtang.
Communications: There are very slow internet-cafes in Dhunche and Thulo-Syabru but nothing further up the valley. If you have a Nepalese SIM-card in your mobile-phone, there is reception at the trailheads, but not beyond these pointd. Some lodges along the way offer Satellite-phone connection with their phones, however, when we tried it didn't work, so don't count on it.
Maps & Guidebooks: Reasonable locally produced trekking-maps (such as Nepa-Maps) can easily be found in Thamel, but cannot be purchased on the trek. The Lonely Planet 'Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya' (9th edition 2009) covers the area very well.
Guides & Porters: If you need a guide or a porter, trekking agencies in Kathmandu can arrage trips to Langtang. The Langtang valley is also found on the itineraries of some (expensive) foreign tour-operators. However, doing the trip on your own is straightforward enough. By hiring a porter directly at the trailhead-villages you can bypass the tour-operators in Kathmandu, however, porters hired along the way are unlikely to have the compulsory porter-insurance.
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