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The Great Himalaya Trail
Ė the highest trek in the world


Photo courtesy National Geographic

The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) in Nepal winds through one of the world's most dramatic mountain regions, wherein lie many of the rugged, ice-clad fourteen 8,000m peaks, iridescent blue lakes, surreal valleys, arid plateaus, and highland villages frozen in time where life remains as it was centuries ago, inhabited by some of the most remote communities on earth, some still practicing polyandry.

Stretching the entire 1700 km length of the Himalaya in Nepal, from Kangchenjunga in the east to Humla / Darchula in the west, the main trek of the Great Himalayan Trail is a network of established trails linked with new and recently developed ones, far-removed from the hub of oft-trodden commercial treks. Some of the treks cross high Himalayan passes with unparalleled view of surrounding mountain landscapes, where there are no teahouses, no human habitation for miles, and no marked trail.

The ten treks that constitute the GHT are strewn along its upper and lower routes, each trek offering a novel thrill and experience, of varying duration and difficulty, some require camping equipment while others can be done teahouse style. The upper and lower routes are not well-defined, continuous, or demarcated routes. In fact, at many places one can switch from one to another and follow the path of the heart.

The upper trail, at an average altitude of 3000 to 5000 metres, is the high mountain route possessed with adventure and sense of exploration. It stretches over a distance of about 1,700 km and passes through spectacular, high altitude mountain landscapes, crossing high passes with altitudes up to 6,200m. The trek, which can take 150 or more days, requires high degree of physical fitness and some trekking and mountaineering experience. The remoteness of the trek necessitates camping and a mountain guide. The Upper Trail starts in the east, just north of the Kanchenjunga Base Camp and ends in Hilsa in the western district of Humla.

The lower trail is a quaint, picturesque cultural experience that goes though the habitat of small communities and indigenous ethnic groups. Also called the cultural route, it goes mostly through the mid hills at an average altitude of 2000m, through lush forests, rhododendrons, pastures, rice terraces, and tiny settlements that offer a glimpse of Nepalís village life. However, there are still a couple of passes to cross with the highest being the Jang La at 4519 m between Dhorpatan and Dolpa in West-Nepal. The trek, though dotted with small guesthouses or homestays, requires camping in some of the more remote sections of the route. The Lower GHT starts at the eastern border with Sikkim at Simhalila Bhanjyang and ends in Darchula at Nepalís Indian border in the Far West, stretching over a distance of 1,500 km and around 95 days.

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