After reaching the top of Kyanjin Ri 1 in Langtang, I was staring at another hill just as tall as the one I had taken 90 minutes to climb.
“That’s Kyanjin Ri 2 and above that is the summit of this hill,” said Sonam, our guide. “Do you want to go?”
Walking on the narrow ridgeline of Kyanjin Ri had been on my bucket list since 2017. Fast forward six years, and I was staring right at it. Did I want to go? Yes, I did. But as I walked along the trails of the Langtang valley trek and approached the narrow ridgeline on Kyanjin Ri, of which one side had been whipped out by a landslide, I froze.
Over the past three days prior to that moment, I was excited. People had been telling me and Swarup how dangerous the drop was from that particular part of the ridge.
“People look down and feel dizzy,” said one.
“I’ve seen grown men cry on that part,” said another.
Maybe it was a culmination of everything that was said to me because when I approached that climb, I started to second-guess myself. Over the years I have seen what happens to people who doubt themselves in the mountains and I turned back.
“Do you think we made the right call,” asked Swarup when we returned to the Langtang village.
Personally, I think we did. We had chosen the Langtang valley trek to be close to the mountains and at over 4,200 metres, we were more than close. Everywhere we looked, there were mountains. While Langtang Lirung stood out the most, our eyes were fixed on the peaks like Dorje Lakpa, Naya Kangri, Loenpo Gang, Changbu, Gangchenpo, Morimoto and Ganjala Peak.
It is safe to say that while the decision not to go to the top of Kyanjin Ri might haunt us in hindsight, I for one believe that climbing a few hundred metres more would not have changed the view significantly. It would sure have delayed the end-of-day drink in the Langtang village.
With a beer in hand, I had no regrets because all I was taking back from this trip was the view from Kyanjing Gumba and the memories I made during the Langtang valley trek.
The Langtang valley trek is one of the best commercial treks in Nepal. The trek begins at Syabru Besi in Rasuwa and takes you all the way to Kyanjin Gumba from where you can reach peaks like Kyangin Ri (4,700m) or the Tsergo Ri (5,100m). That is not all, you walk through different terrains to reach Kyangin which sits on one of the most beautiful valleys not just in Nepal but the world.
The Langtang trail starts off next to the Langtang river and takes you through the Langtang National Park walking through forests, crossing shady suspension bridges and multi-coloured rhododendron forests. The trail is probably the easiest in Nepal as there are only two major uphill climbs in the entire trek that takes you from the forests to above the treelines to the foothills of the mountain. It is truly an experience and one that I for one will experience once again.
Living with the basics
The tea houses along the trekking trail are not very well equipped. They are basic, to say the least. After Syabru Besi, you do not get electricity until you get to Thangshep, so make sure you pack power banks or solar chargers. The tea houses are basic, so make sure that you prepare yourself mentally before heading to Langtang. You have to pay between Rs 500 to Rs 1,000 for the rooms though. This goes both for domestic and foreign tourists.
The national park
Langtang National Park is the first Himalayan national park in the country. The flora and fauna in the national park are sure to leave you in awe during the Langtang valley trek. There are langurs flying from one tree to another and sightings of ghorals and danphes are also quite common. If lucky, you can also see the elusive snow leopards and the endangered red pandas.
Like most parts of the mountains, the people you meet during the Langtang valley trek are incredibly warm and hospitable. You do not see village life as there are only a few villages mostly at the end of the trek, but the people that you meet on the trail tell you all about the trek and how the place became so popular over the course of the past three decades. The people from the area are mostly Tamangs who migrated from Tibet centuries ago, but the region also has small Sherpa settlements with almost all of them Buddhists.
The food you get during the Langtang valley trek is quite delicious. You get a diverse range of dishes from dal bhat to tuna pizza. The best thing, however, is yak cheese, served with roasted potatoes, pasta or spaghetti. Seabuckthorn juice, made from a local berry that tastes like passion fruit, is another stellar treat.
As you climb high, the Langtang valley trek trail changes. The forests give way to something that not many people get to see. You have heard people say Nepal is like Switzerland, and when you start going above 3,000 metres, you realise that as the treeline ends and the mountains start to appear in your face. It is truly a trek that gives you memories (and pictures) for a lifetime. It is easy and in three days, you get a view of the mountains like no place else.
The highlight of the Langtang valley trek for me is Kyanjin Gumba. The place, set in a valley, will be with me for some time as will Kyanjin Ri. The climb to the hilltop is not an easy one. It is steep and offers some great views of the mountains.
The first peak, where I stood, offered breathtaking views of the surrounding Himalayan mountains, including Langtang Lirung, Dorje Lakpa, and Langshisha Ri. The panoramic views from the summit are truly spectacular.
Since you are climbing above 4,000 metres, the air does get thinner but once you reach the top, it is quite worth the push. Most people only go to the first peak at around 4,200 metres, but some venture out and head towards the second and final peak which offers a different perspective.
The trek for us ended at Langtang village. The village, before the 2015 earthquake, is believed to have been a lot different to the one I visited. As I walked towards the village, Sonam, our guide, pointed to the rubble we were walking on, stating many houses were buried there.
The village was known for its traditional houses, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty, but now things are very different. That said, the village still has its charm with old ladies basking in the sun, talking to each other and tourists passing by and yaks grazing on the green pasture.
The Langtang valley trek is easy. I had heard a lot about it for the past few years and when I actually trekked it, I realised how true every word was. Maybe it is a recency bias, but this is probably the best trek I have done. Some parts of the Annapurna Circuit were great, but Langtang is a trek that I will remember for years as I will probably go back again to climb the Tsergo Ri and maybe even to climb the top of Kyanjin Ri.