Guerrilla trek: Nepal’s unexplored trekking trail tests your navigation skills

guerrilla trek trail dolpa
Many people who have done the guerrilla trek say they easily get lost on the way.

We got lost!

We could not find the trail ahead nor could we see anyone. All we could see were mountains and hills. We did not know where we were or where we were going. We were lost!

Our plan for the day was to get from Maikot in Rukum to Dule along the guerrilla trek trail. It was a steep uphill climb. Halfway up the climb, we missed the trail and did not know where to go. We soon realised going uphill does not necessarily mean you reach the destination.

The trails around Dola are not easy. We learnt that the hard way. It is not as popular as others and it does not have tea houses along the way.

Our plan was to get to Dule and stay there for the night before heading forward via the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. We thought the trip would get easier from then on. 

But we got lost. We got lost in the wild forests between Dule and Maikot. Not only did we lose our way, we even lost our fellow trekkers who had made the journey together in the morning.

We did not have phone reception. All we could do was shout to communicate. But at one point, even that stopped as we got divided into two groups. Desperate to be found, we started climbing to the top where we found cell phone reception and made contact with the other group.

It was 7:30 pm. It was cold. It was very cold. We found a deep corner where there was no wind, collected dry leaves and dung and lit a fire to stay warm. We had contacted the other group but had no clue where they were.

We got a call from them. “We found a shed. We also found water. We should stay the night here,” said our friend.

I was relieved. I was tired. We all were. But the phone call gave us renewed energy and hope that we could complete the guerrilla trek and we headed up and started yelling. They heard us and responded by flashing lights at us.

The desperation

But they were around two hours away from us. I thought maybe they were not our group. But they were and as they were around two hours downhill, I did not want to move.

I was angry. I then asked Krishna if he would go to Dule with him as I guessed Dule was only three hours away from where we were.

After our stubbornness, the group that was down started climbing up. Telling them to come slowly, we headed towards Dule.

But we got lost along the guerrilla trek. Again. In the wild in the dark.

After walking up for a while, we realised we took the wrong trail. I felt how anger was bad for my health. I realised had only two of us walked up, we would have been lost. Maybe for good.

As we found our way to the correct trail, we met the other group.

They took a shortcut and found the trail that headed to Dule.

As this was a new place for us, we had taken three porters with us from Maikot to help us with the trail and our bags. But they were with the latter group.

It was 11:30 at night. We were still in the jungle. We had not eaten anything. We had not even had a drop of water for hours.

Walking in the dark, we saw a few houses. Dule was in front of us. There was an eerie silence.

We were happy to see the houses but soon our happiness turned into sadness as we realised there was no one in the village. They left the village to escape the winter.

But we were hungry, thirsty and tired. We had to get in and finally found a way into one house. We were so desperate that we were willing to break in. Technically, we did break in.

We then split up. Some fetched firewood while others started to look for water. We ate noodles we had carried and some local liquor and slid into our sleeping bags and slept.

The night was really cold. I woke up at 2:30 am and could not sleep. I went out, started the fire and sat by it the entire night.

People started to wake up one after another. As everyone got up, we started our journey.

The hope

The uphill was misty. We were all tired. We had not had proper food, which made walking extremely difficult. But we had finally made our way to the Guerrilla trail.

The trail was better than what we had taken earlier. It was well-marked and had enough resting spots. I felt that the journey would be far better now.

When we told the locals we were taking the trail to reach Dunai, many discouraged us, but we were not backing down.

In our team, Raju is an experienced trekker. I had also done the Annapurna and Manaslu circuits and trekked high passes before. I was confident we could do the guerrilla trek too.

We started the trek uphill. The trail was easy. Stopping and resting gradually, we started walking up. The three porters were reluctant to carry on so we bid them farewell and took the trail to Dolpa via Yangkhar, hoping to reach by 11 pm.

Everyone had a spring in their step. Everyone was in the mood to have fun. Listening to music and singing along, we started our trek with renewed energy. I do not know how did we get the energy, but it was great to see everyone in a mood to walk.

Nisan and Saroj climbed up the hill briskly. When I caught up with them at the top, they were having a blast looking at the panoramic view of the mountains. We were surrounded by mountains.

The dread

But we soon realised we were lost again.

“The trail ends here,” said Nisan.

When Nisan said that, we were all shocked. When we looked down, we saw Dule, where we had spent the night.

We then started to get down again. We were extremely hungry. The water we carried finished. As a result, we put snow in our botters and used it to quench our thirst during the rest of our guerrilla trek.

It was 2 pm. We had walked for hours, but there were no homes or people in sight. We wanted to eat but we did not have an option. But we finally found water.

After eating some snacks, we started to take uphill towards Pupal.

We were climbing a hill where people climbed to collect yarsagumba. We had to cross the Sisne Pass and the Jang La Pass via Pupal Lake. All of these were over 4,500 metres high.

It was 6 pm. Saroj and I reached Pupal Lake. Others were behind us. Raju and others arrived after an hour. 

“Nisan is having issues due to the altitude,” said Raju.

Saroj went down to get Nisan as we waited for them to come up.

An uneasy chill flowed through my body. If he was having a hard time, it was going to be difficult for us to continue. There was no way to call for help either as there was no cell reception.

Nisan and Saroj came up at around 6:45 pm. Nisan looked well. He was tired but he seemed okay. But the guerrilla trek ahead was going to be tough as we had to go through the Yamkhar ridge, which was one of the steepest hills we had come across in the trek.

The mountains were sparking in the moonlight. We were walking based on instinct as there was snow everywhere.

It was dark. Our lights had stopped working due to the cold. We were forced to use our phones to show us the way. As the battery started to drain, we were desperate to reach a place where we could rest.

With the battery dead, we could not even check the time. As per our estimation, it was around 10 pm. Like everyone else, I also fell. My bag went one way, the stick another and me another. I was falling down, my life flashed before my eye as I started remembering my family. I was hanging on and a part of me felt this was it. If I did not hold on, I would fall some 800 metres below.

My friends took a long time to pull me up. As I got back up, my body started to shiver. It was cold but it was also due to fear.

We did not know what to do with the rest of our Guerrilla trek plan. We could not stay as there was no place to sleep and we could not go on as the trail was not clear.

The perseverance

We came across a river. A part of me felt glad that I had not fallen off a cliff. But then walking on the iced river was equally daunting as I felt we could fall into it.

We started to head up again. As we started climbing the hill, we saw how that was the only hill around the area without snow.

We climbed the hill hoping to find a solution, but we were even more confused. On one side we saw landslides and on the other side, we saw a gorge.

It was cold. We were hungry and thirsty. We could barely move as we did not have the energy to do so. There was no place to sit down nor did we find water to drink. We were so cold we were soon on the verge of turning into snow ourselves.

We decided to stay on the hill. We did not know if we would see the morning, but we had no choice but to stay there.

The wind was constant. We were in the open at around 4,300 metres. Maybe it was fate, it did not snow that night. But it was cold and windy. We survived.

We started walking along the guerrilla trek trail again. We reached the base of Jang La and saw a stream where we drank water constantly.

All our snacks had finished. We had some leftover biscuits and chocolates and shared them among us. That was our breakfast and lunch.

Then started the uphill to Jang La. We were almost certain we would find a village after Jang La. We reached the top. We were sick of snow and mountains. We wanted to rest and eat but then we got lost. Again.

The other side of the pass does not see the sun as much. The snow there was thick. And it was hard to estimate where to go. We saw a green forest and that became our target.

We know that passes should be crossed before noon. But by the time we crossed it, it was already dark.

I was at the front. I was hoping to meet someone to get information. The guerrilla trek had been about hope after all.

We saw some prayer flags and thought we had reached a village. We were wrong. 

It was 7 pm, another day we had been walking in the dark. We did not have lights nor did we have phones. We kept on walking and finally saw some light.

We saw a white horse gazing far away and started to walk towards it. But that horse, like us, was lost.

The success

After hours of walking, we finally reached Tupisera village. We were looking for refuge, but many were reluctant. One guy finally agreed and we had a place to sleep. We even got to charge our phones as the place had electricity thanks to a micro hydro project.

Sandesh called. They were behind us and we asked a few locals to go help them. After two hours, they arrived.

After that, we did not get lost through the guerrilla trek. We reached Dunai and capped off what was a difficult but unforgettable trek.

This is a trek that will remain with me forever.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Thakuri is a traveller.

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