Looked at from the plains of India, the Nepal Himalaya form an almost unbroken stretch of white snowy peaks for five hundred kilometres from Kanchenjunga in the far east to Kanjiroba, just west of Dhaulagiri. But then for nearly two hundred kilometres there is a distinct lack of high, shining white mountains. Only on the north-western border of Nepal do the mountains rise up again to soar beyond 7000 metres. This is the seldom visited Api-Saipal massif a remote region that has remained little changed while places such as the Annapurnas and Khumbu boast espresso serving internet lounges!
For those who have been everywhere else to those who just prefer to get well off the beaten path, this trek promises to offer one of the treks of a lifetime. Sub-tropical valleys, flowering rhododendron covered hillsides, alpine ridge traverses, high valleys below the 7000m peaks of Api and Saipal, glaciated passes and cultures ranging from the Hindu aligned tribes of the foothills to Tibetan aligned Bhotias in the north, this trek offers all the diversity of the classical Himalayan trek - all over ground that has seldom or never seen a foreigner.
The only pre-requisite for this trek is that you be reasonably fit and have a love for getting off the beaten track. Typically, as with most exploratory treks we will be following local paths everywhere up to the alpine zone where plants stop growing in profusion - from any such place upwards, the route will be on scree, moraine, snow and rock. There is no scheduled climbing although you are encouraged to bring/hire basic climbing gear such as crampons (and boots to take them), harness and ice axe for possible snowy pass crossings or should any easy smaller peak reveal itself. There may or may not be steep terrain to negotiate on a pass - if there is, rope will be fixed and the pass negotiated in an orderly and safe manner. Indeed we may be turned back at several points by an impasse but we will simply find another way around - there is always another way around, the trick is to find the most interesting one possible!
We are unsure of the maximum altitude of the trek but it’s very unlikely to be more than 5500m with a possible optional day excursion to a higher point. The nature of the landscape in far western Nepal is not radically different to many other parts of the Himalaya. Like just over the border in Kumaon (Nanda Devi region) and in far eastern Nepal, the foothills are extensive and range southwards for a quite a distance from the crest of the main massifs meaning there are high ridges, forested to 4,400m and deep valleys. Roughly speaking for 22 days we will be walking in a north-easterly direction.
We will fly to Dhangadi then take a bus to the Chamlia river near Gokuleshwor. Our trek then starts up the valley of the Chamlia river, a typical medium sized Himalayan glacial river in a sub-tropical setting. Days should be hot with plenty of swimming opportunities. After about four days we will have climbed up the valley to over 3000m, we will establish a base camp then take a foray up to the base of Api Himal. This will serve us well as acclimatisation for the next stage which will be our first pass attempt at 5400 metres that will take us over to the upper Seti valley, crossing an old trading route that leads to the Urai Lagna pass (written about in Spy On the Roof of the World by Sydney Wignall, recommended reading). Time permitting we will gain a high point on this ridge so that we can get good views of Mount Gurla Mandhata which is particularly holy to the Tibetans and Hindus. We will then make our way to the eastern branch of the upper Seti to walk under the north face of Saipal and then over a 5300m pass leading to the upper reaches of the Humla Karnali watershed which eventually leads us to the district administrative centre of Simikot, from where we fly back to Kathmandu.