I love to travel alone because of its swift lightness. Of both logistics and responsibilities. My first experimentation was a camping walk into the hidden Tsum valley and Manaslu circuit. The crux of the well-researched wandering full of surprises was Larkey pass (5,106 meters). In bad condition, it forces everyone to wait or return. But before that icy wonderland with its James bond moments, I sweated my way into places frozen in glacial time. The photos of my research were two-dimensional and map, always small compared to the walk. I was hooked. I went off into the mountains whenever I could. With time I grew more daring. I have changed with it, I learned it to be personal and having value only when shared. Or not.
It’s super cool and the bag is always so heavy. It’s like a masochistic mania. The views are worth it, though. Always.
The thing is, I have been told by friendly faces everywhere, it was not wise to hike alone. Mostly because the trails I took were always less traveled.
In mid-winter 2016, I went towards one commercially isolated section of Nepal Ght. There were sets of low passes and a minor peak called Paldor, between the much loved Langtang and Manaslu circuit.
Circumstantially in that snowless year, I started from Dhading Besi. I passed villages golden with barley, ready for harvest on vast slopes. My bag was prepared for days of camping I had planned, so it was heavy in the narrow steps between those ethnic Tamang villages.
The trails were carved on cliffs and centuries old. After leaving Tipling, the highest permanent settlement of Dhading district, I aimed for one of my first goals, Pangsang pass. I camped in the forest before reaching the pass the next day. In the camp, two local brothers stopped for a talk and invited me back down to their village. It would be very cold, they said on the ledge I had set camp on. They left without me, confused at my stupidity.
At the pass, a young girl and her two children had kept one tea shop open. She told me they would get down to the village as soon as I left. The nights were already frigid. I stayed there for two nights. Pangsang Pass was tantalizing in its color and vista. The sharp ridges there are made for running. You feel free in Paldor between a chain of Himalaya looming on your north and a smooth curve of the earth to your south.
I got lost on a trail I was told not to follow on my way to Paldor Basecamp. I had close encounters with wild boars and Himalayan bears that are common. I can be stupid sometimes.
I camped, tired after a vivid day. I missed a bridge somewhere so had to cross a frozen river and scramble up a slope to meet the actual trail the next day. I emerged into the abandoned mine of Lari. The empty crumbling houses and the dark entrance of the tunnel were unnerving, alone. But it’s a perfect camping spot with a view, firewood, water, and flat ground.
I pushed further up as clouds gathered below me. I knew I would be trapped if it snowed. The trail was always narrow and exposed. I pushed on to Paldor base camp and set camp below the imposing Lari spire. It was hours of work to melt old ice and make it drinkable. I could have used an extra pair of hands. Food was noodles and boiled potatoes. The night was frozen and a cloud bank rose to engulf everything. As I tossed and turned unable to get entirely warm in my sleeping bag, I prayed for no snow. It’s a dramatic place and feels far away.
Packing the camp is lazy work. I descended the valley before the grey cloud broke, my trash with me. Somdang is a quaint place among great purple spruce. I had salty noodles and started climbing up another pass towards Gatlang. It was going to be a long, painful day but on the first up I met an engineer working on the road. He was about my age and from the cities as well. He was awed by the size of my bag but more by the notion that I was traveling alone. He told me he wanted to explore Nepal as well. I wished him luck and climbed the never-ending jeep track. It was hot and there was no water along the new trail. On the other side of Khurpudanda Pass, 3710m, you see the folded faces of Langtang and Gosaikunda range fill the horizon. The downhill to Gatlang is long. I had started my day at Paldor Basecamp and I was not in my best mood when I had to go around looking for a place to stay. It was already dark.
I surprised the gracious woman and her daughter-in-law when I knocked at their doors. They had already cooked for the evening but they shared. The next day to Syabrubesi would be as long because I rested by Parvati Kunda, for too long.
This was before HAL introduced me to the concept of fastpacking. Learning with them, my bags have gotten smaller. Light and fast is the motto. After Paldor, I have been lucky to see more or less trodden Nepal. Without any major accidents.
I recently asked a friend who hasn’t yet been in the mountains two questions.
Q: What would you choose between a popular destination and an elusive trail?
A: obviously less traveled places.
Q: Are you willing to hire a guide for it?
A: yes, for safety.
Yes, for safety, orientation, and company. There is comfort when all you have to care about is the journey, not the destination. It’s a vacation. Healthy self-care wondering where the volatile nature of the wilderness is watched by someone you have decided to trust.
Mountains don’t care.
What does this mean for local enthusiasm for outdoors observed in the growing trend of flocking hills stations trending on TikTok, romanticization, and self-discovery?
I still prefer to travel guided by my own wit and experience because there seem to be very few around me who want to do what I want to do. But I know the comfort of company and assurance of someone who knows the way and the best spots.