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July 15, 2021

The Great Himalaya Trail Nepal: Opportunities and Challenges

  • Sanjib Gurung

The Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) is across the Himalayas route from east Namche Barwa Tibet to west Nanga Parbat Pakistan. The original proposed GHT concept of the trail was to establish a single longest and highest alpine trekking trail starting from the eastern Himalaya range and ending at the west Himalaya Range that includes a total of roughly 4,500 kilometers length of the path passing through Tibet, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Sanjib Gurung and Maria together
Sanjib Gurung with is client Maria Theresa in 2019

The Great Himalaya Trail Nepal is a trekking route across Nepal Himalaya which includes a total length of roughly 1,400 kilometers from east Nepal Mt. Kanchenjunga to end west Nepal at Mt. Api Himalaya. It is one of the longest, most adventurous, and highest altitude trekking trails in the world. It passes from subtropical jungles to high altitude alpine ecosystems, through villages of Buddhists, Hindus, Sherpas, Tibetan refugees, Lhomis, Shamans and crosses many high passes as well. There are two routes Upper and Lower in GHT Nepal. The Great Himalaya Trail Nepal mainly focuses on the Upper route which is a technical & Adventurous trail and crosses many high passes. The upper route starts from Khang-La in Eastern Nepal that lies on the Indian border and ends at Chhangru 3000m in the West at the Indian Border (It needs to explore from Simikot to Chhangru trail via Mt. Api and Saipal Base Camp). The GHT Nepal trail links every Mountain of Nepal from Kanchenjunga to Api. It is a great chance to see 8 of 14th above 8000m mountain including the world’s highest mountain Sagarmatha (Everest) too.

The upper route passes through established trekking areas like Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Sagarmatha, Rolwaling, Langtang, Manaslu, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Dolpa, Rara, Humla, Saipal, and Api and it takes around 117 days to complete this trek in one season and it takes around 60 days each to complete in two seasons. The route also crosses 2 passes above 6000m, 21 passes above 5000m including Daldong 5562m peak and glacier walk. From an adventure point of view, it can be considered the highest, longest, and most adventurous trail in the world. It can be a great attraction for tourists who are fond of adventurous destinations.

Life Teaching Experience of Swiss lady with Great Himalaya Trail The lower route passes through the mid-hills of Nepal with an average altitude being 3000 to 4000 meters above sea level. This route is about 1300 kilometers and takes roughly about 110 days to complete the trek. This trek can be refreshing as one can blend in with nature, enjoy the diverse yet beautiful landscapes and panoramic Mountain Views. Traversing through the low GHT offers an extraordinary diversity of landscapes, cultures, and experiences.
The Great Himalaya Trail Nepal has been divided into 10 clusters and it covers 15 districts from Taplejung to Darchula in the Mountain range.

Possibilities
The Great Himalaya Trail has a big possibility in mountain tourism as the trail is all over the Himalayas. Travelers can experience the mountain lifestyle and can observe beautiful mountains including 8 of 14 mountains above 8000m. The Great Himalaya Trail can create jobs for local people and can generate an economy in rural areas. In the present context where Nepalese people have been forced to go to foreign countries for work due to increasing unemployment in our country, this trail can be a milestone by creating employment for Nepalese youths and can help to improve the economy of our country.

Life Teaching Experience of Swiss lady Trekker with Great Himalaya Trail 

The Government of Nepal can enhance its revenue by the collection of Taxes. There will also be significant growth in the income of locals. The GHT can be world-renowned for offering rare and unique opportunities to travel through exceptionally scenic, remote, and diverse landscapes. The GHT will work towards permanent protection for all trails, and keep them well maintained and effectively managed. GHT host communities will be empowered to share ownership and benefits that direct future tourism development and establish community-managed standards. The GHT will achieve its goals by enhancing the strength and commitment of partnerships, staff, volunteers, and the broader adventure travel community. GHT host communities will always be recognized as the primary custodians and guardians of fragile Himalayan landscapes, cultures, and traditions.

Challenges
The Great Himalaya Trail Nepal is the hardest and longest trail in the world. There are many challenges to overcome while attempting the GHT Nepal. Travelers have to struggle with many high passes, glaciers, crevasses, and many more. Only the alpinists or skilled mountaineering and trekking people can successfully overcome the challenges of this trail. Weather is another major challenge for the trekker. Navigating through heavy rain, foggy weather, flooding, snowfall is the challenging part of GHT Nepal. Sometimes because of heavy snowfall in high passes, travelers can’t cross the passes. Roughly it needs more than 4 months for the GHT Nepal, so time and money both are needed for the GHT Nepal. Because of these constraints, fewer people are interested in GHT Nepal.

Furthermore, for most parts of the trail, except for popular trekking routes, there are no walkable trails, and travelers might get confused by yak trails and cliffs. Some parts of the GHT Nepal include big glaciers and death crevasses too. Most high pass areas have rock slides & avalanche problems and no there are no rescue/emergency shelters over there.

The Great Himalayan Trail is known as the world’s longest mountain adventurous trail in the world but it is not recognized by the Government of Nepal nor by any national or international institutions. The high walking trail surpasses the entire country in the Himalayan region of Nepal passing through more than 15 high passes. The lower range passes through the communities of the hilly region of Nepal.

There is always a debate about tourism as development or destruction. Some communities are dependent on tourism but not all the communities might be directly linked with tourism. The majority of the Nepali population is dependent on agriculture and roads are the basic prerequisite for market linkages. The future of the Great Himalayan Trail remains uncertain and when the whole country is heading towards rapid infrastructural development the threat for the existence of the trails is high.

There have been many cases where the popular trekking trails have been replaced by motorized roads. One of the biggest examples is the Annapurna Massif Trekking Trail which was hugely impacted by the roads which shortened the number of trekking days and also saw a huge drop in the number of trekkers in the region. Climate change and global warming add huge challenges for the Great Himalayan Trail, rapid melting of the glaciers and ice along with avalanches and landslides risk the travelers’ life and even risk destroying the trail as a whole. The trails change every year and are getting riskier with the global rise in temperature.

– The writer is a mountain guide, who completed TIGHT in 2019.

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