May 20, 2001
On April 22, the Whatcom County Manaslu Expedition set out from the ancient town of Gorkha, birthplace of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, to circumnavigate 8156 meter Manaslu. After receiving the blessing of Hanuman the monkey god, Cindy and Russ Pheiffer-Hoyt, North and Chris Moench, and the Van Zandt Yaks set off on a 23 day journey that would find us sleeping in our green tents in such places as Ksorsanitar, Bihi, Lho, Samagaun, Samdo, Bimtang, and Bahundanda. Last year 458 trekkers got permits for this restricted area, 42 of them Americans.
Under the guidance of Kami Sherpa and his incredible crew, we followed the Buri Gandiki River for 17 days over steep trails cut into the walls of the valley and over bridges that defied gravity. We ascended from tropical forests of sal and banana trees through successive climatic zones of chestnuts, oaks, pine, spruce, hemlock, true fir, birch, and finally into the alpine zone. We hiked from summer to winter and back to summer again, and from Hindus to Buddhists to Hindus again. The changes in climate were matched by the diversity of ethnic groups we met. Most fascinating were the medieval stone villages on the north side of Manaslu, a day's walk from Tibet. It is said that with the Chinese invasion of Tibet, Tibetan Buddhist culture is better preserved here than in Tibet. In dress and customs, in economy and religion, little has changed here in hundreds of years. Rather than walking through zones of climate and ethnicity, here we walked back in time. For most of the trek, the views of stupendous mountains, valleys, and glaciers were omnipresent. Finally, we saw a herd of blue sheep, something Kami had not seen in 23 years as a trekking and climbing guide.
On the 18th day, we set out at 3:00 a.m. to cross 17,200 foot snowy Larkya Pass and begin our descent through blooming rhododendron forests back into summer, Hinduism, and the 20th century; at least as it is known in Nepal. The scenery, the villages, the people, the culture, the weather, the flowers, and our companions on the Whatcom county Manaslu Expedition 2001 combined to make this a near perfect trek. These pictures can only give a glimpse of a trek that the Lonely Planet describes as geographically spectacular and culturally fascinating; and that Kami says is the best in Nepal. Hopefully, they will whet your appetite for a slide show to which you are invited.
We plan to
return home in the first week of July, and until then, send our
love to all of you.
Photo A. Whatcom County Manaslu Expedition 2001 consults
Hanuman for guidance and protection as we depart Gorkha.