I’ve wanted to trek through Tsum Valley ever since seeing a slideshow at MEC snowfest in 2013 and am I ever glad I finally got the chance. Tsum Valley can be added as a side trip to Manaslu circuit which is been coined the “new Annapurna circuit”. Annapurna is insanely busy, so I was excited to try Manaslu with the addition of Tsum Valley.
The night before leaving, I met my fellow Trekkers at the agency and was a little unsure as to how we would all get on. Originally a group of two, became a group of four and by combining with another group of two we were now six off on a 20-day adventure together.
After a harrowing 10 hour public bus ride brought us to the start of the trail, I was very worried when I saw the number of hotels and other trekkers, who were already drinking and not being very eco-conscious. This was not what I had envisioned. Also to my dismay, no one else in our group wanted to share a porter – so with one part ego and one part being cheap, I also opted to carry my own pack. This was a huge mistake – not only was I the 2nd oldest, I was by far the slowest and by day 3, I was really suffering.
On day 5 we headed towards Tsum Valley – a restricted area that has only been open to trekking since 2008. This sacred Himalayan pilgrimage valley takes you back in time and offers a glimpse of the traditional Tibetan lifestyle with far fewer trekkers. Dotted with thousands of chortens and several historic Gompas (monasteries) along with prayer flags and mani wheels, it’s hard not to feel spiritual connectedness to the area and it’s very friendly inhabitants.
After only five days we were back on the Manaslu circuit. We managed to be well-spaced from other trekkers, which was good. As you get higher the food prices begin to skyrocket and it is cold, so very cold – but the payoff was finally getting to see the Himalayas!
Without doing a day-by-day (read: super long) account of what we saw and did every day, it’s hard to fit all the amazingness into one post. The scenery of course was incredible, the locals were extremely friendly and welcoming, and we lucked out with perfect weather. But what really made the trip was each other. The way the 6 of us connected was rare and I will cherish the time we spent together.
* In my rush to get this done before checking into Kopan, I completely forgot to mention to literal high point of our trek, Larke Pass, the day we had been preparing for by acclimizing and bringing warm clothes. At 5106 meters, it is the highest I’ve ever been before this trip. Mu Gompa, our destination in Tsum Valley was 3709 M and I definitely noticed the altitude there. We departed at 4 am and were a long train of headlamps and donkeys and arrived just as the sun was coming up. My fellow Trekkers warned me about the side effects of diamox, but I went with my gut and took it anyway. I was glad as I did not have any side effects and with the help of a porter, I felt great going over the pass and was even lucky enough not to suffer knee pain on the steep decent on the other side.
This was not an easy trek – it was both mentally and physically exhausting. I would definitely have changed a few things if I could rewind and start over, but 80% of it was fantastic and that’s pretty great. I am humbled and full of gratitude and amazing memories.
Next up: 5 weeks at Kopan Monastery