The High Passes of Everest

The High Passes trek is one of the most challenging treks available in Nepal. Located entirely at the Everest (Khumbu) region, you must cross three individual passes which are above 5,000 meters.


Overview

It is comparatively a lengthier trek compared to most other treks in the region. Kongma La 5,535 m, Renjo La 5,360 m and Cho La 5,368 m are classified as the 3 high passes.

  • The first leg of the trek begins at Lukla, a small airport town in Khumbu. The trail ascends up towards Renjo La and Gokyo valley.
  • The second leg of the trek passes through Cho La Pass, and towards the Everest Base Camp. You can hike up the Kala Patthar 5,643 meters as well.
  • The third leg takes you towards the Kongma La Pass, and concedes at Lukla.

Renjo La Pass

Renjo La is one of the high passes located in Everest region at an elevation of 5,360 m (17,585 ft). It is the first pass you reach, following the path leading to Gokyo.

The Renjo La trail is quite strenuous; snowfall during winter makes it difficult to attempt the pass. Renjo La and surrounding regions are culturally Tibetan and Sherpas are the indigenous tribesmen.

Cho La Pass

Cho La at 5,420 m (17,782 ft) is another high pass located along Gokyo trail in Khumbu valley. It connects the village of Dzongla to the east and the village of Thagnak  to the west.

One can cross Ngozumpa glacier on the way to Cho La. To the east the trail joins the classic Everest Base Camp route.

Crossing Cho La can be physically demanding. One can get best view of Lobuche peak from the top. Crampons come handy while crossing the snows.

Kongma La Pass

Kongma La at 5,535 m (18,160 ft) is another high pass located between Chjukung village and Lobuche. it is the final pass located to the east of Everest Base Camp. It is also the highest pass among the three passes. The panorama of surrounding mountains is quite amazing when seen from Kongma La.


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Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP)

ACAP is one of the first conservation projects undertaken in Nepal to conserve, protect and decentralize the nature conservation attempts. It spans over 5 different districts and covers the entire Annapurna massif. It is also the largest conservation areas available in Nepal.


Overview

Annapurna Conservation Area or ACAP is located at the mid-western region of Nepal. It covers 7,629 sq.km and spans over 5 different districts, namely; Manang, Mustang, Kaski, Myagdi and Lamjung. The ACAP HQ is located at Ghorepani village, one of the most visited tourist places in Nepal.

ACAP
ACAP

The area has two distinctive climatic regions within a span of 120 km. The southern hills of ACAP region receive frequent rainfall, whereas, the northern most parts receive no or less rainfall, hence, the latter are known as rain-shadow areas.

The deepest gorge in the world – Kali Gandaki, and Annapurna I – Eight-Thousander, is located inside the ACAP.

Gurung and Magar are the predominant ethnic tribes in the lower ACAP regions, whereas Thakali, Manange and Loba are mostly found in the higher regions.

Tourism is undoubtedly one of the major benefactor of the ACAP project. The proceeds received from the permits are used for the local conservation programs.

Wildlife & Flora

ACAP is rich in biodiversity and is a haven for the 1,226 species of flowering plants, 102 mammals, 474 birds, 39 reptiles and 22 amphibians.

History

ACAP was launched in 1986 with the initiation of King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) to protect the environment with sustainable community development in Annapurna area by the local people without any intervention from the Nepalese Government and/or any other institutions.

It was gazetted in 1992 and is managed by the National Trust for Nature Conservation. The main motto of the project is to conserve the resources, tourism management, community development, education and extension.

ACAP with the participation of the trekkers have been able to increase the standard of living of the local population, protect the environment and develop sustainable tourism.


Trekking

A trekker is required to obtain an ACAP permit before entering the region.

The ACAP covers;

  1. Annapurna Base Camp
  2. Ghorepani-Poon Hill
  3. Lower/Upper Mustang
  4. Annapurna circuit
  5. Sikles trail

Hence, anyone doing these treks must obtain the ACAP permits. The region receives more than 100,000 trekkers in a year, mainly due to the popularity of the base camp and circuit trails.

Entry Permit/Fee

  • SAARC National – Rs. 200/ USD 2
  • Non-SAARC National (Except Nepalese) – Rs. 2,000/USD 20

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5 Fun Facts about Samosa (Cuisine)

Samosa is probably the most favorite snack in the entire South Asia. It is part of a daily diet of the most people. However, there’s more to its history than just being a favorite snack. Samosa has its roots in the old Persian culture.


Overview

Samosa is a triangular shaped cuisine, filled with various ingredients and are generally fried before serving. It’s generally eaten hot and with assorted pickles. A famous snack of most people in South Asia, most sweet makers, diners and street vendors sell Samosas on a daily basis.

Its gastronomy is divided into two parts; Cone and fillers. Cone is generally made up of beaten flour; and the filler may vary according to geographic regions and cultures.

The Samosa filled with mashed potato and vegetables are the most famous kinds found in South Asia. Most Muslim households and northern regions of South Asia, Central Asia and Middle East add minced meat (Mutton, Chicken or Beef) with various spices or rich dry fruits and sweets such as Halwa as the filler.

History

Silk route trade
Silk route trade

Samosa is claimed to have originated in the Middle Eastern milieu before 10th Century. The word Samosa and the early ingredients has roots in Persian culture. It is believed to have been brought by the traders traveling from Central Asia to South and East Asia through the silk route.

It was introduced to the Indian subcontinent in 13th or 14th century by the traders. Since then, the locals have acquired the taste for it and have reintroduced their own samosa filled with vegetables which are commonly eaten today.

The chroniclers of Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Dynasty have mentioned about Samosa which were mostly eaten by the royals during the meal and were generally filled with meat or fruits/sweets.


Fun Facts

  1. Despite the popular belief, a vegetable samosa has lesser calories, less than 300 cal, and are generally healthier meal option if cooked properly with right ingredients.
  2. Vegetable samosas are the most common kind of Samosa eaten around the world. Its counterpart, Samosa with minced meat are generally eaten in certain geographic regions or cultures; Muslims, Turks, Persians, Middle-eastern tribes, Tibeto-Burmese and Northern Himalaya tribes.
  3. Samosa can be eaten as it is or can be prepared into various other popular Indian cuisines, such as; Samosa chat, Samosa Chole, Samosa Paav etc.
  4. The shape of Samosa resembles the Pyramids. The word Samsa was originally named after the Pyramids of Middle east.
  5. Samosas were introduced in western societies through Indian cuisines which included vegetable samosas.

Kumari – The Living Goddess

Kumari symbolizes a goddess like figure who is revered by the inhabitants of Kathmandu. Also known as the living goddess, a young girl is specially chosen through intricate customs and traditions to be declared a goddess for a certain period of time.


Kumari Jatra

Kumari Jatra/festival celebrates the Kumari, a virgin deity. A custom started by King Jaya Prakash Malla of Kathmandu, offers tribute to the major goddess Taleju Bhawani. Kumari is popularly known to be the incarnation of Taleju Bhawanai.

Kumari overlooking from Kumari Ghar
Kumari

The procession of Kumari, accompanied by the relics of Bhairava and Ganesha, is carried out in a chariot throughout Kathmandu city for 3 days following the Indra Jatra. The first day procession leads through downtown Kathmandu; the second leads through the uptown; and the final procession is carried out in the midtown.

The selection process of Kumari is an elaborate affair, headed by the Newar Buddhist priests. The operation is carried out in accord to the law dictated by Vajrayana Buddhism. The girls aged 4-7 are pre-screened and selected for a task involving meeting the deities in a dark room. The one who remains composed and calm throughout the process is declared the goddess. The locals believe that the spirit of Taleju Bhawani enters the body of the girl hence giving her the spiritual identity, and the term of being a goddess remains until her first menstruation.

Legend says,

Taleju Bhawani was the king’s political and social advisor and would give important tips to the king on good governance. However, during one of their meetings, the king, overwhelmed by desire, attempted to rape the goddess inside the Taleju Bhawani temple, prompting the goddess to disappear and vow never to appear before the king again. Worried by the goddess’ proclamation, the king begged her to reconsider her decision. Taking sympathy on the poor king, Taleju pledged to reside within the Kumari, a virgin girl from the city.

Jaya Prakash Malla identified the right Kumari and built a palace for her in the Hanumandhoka area. In honour of Taleju Bhawani and the Kumari, he began a separate procession called the Kumari Jatra, which happened to fall on the third day of Indra Jatra.

It is celebrated as a part of the greater festival Yenya Punhi or the Indra Jatra. The festival belongs to the Newar community of Kathmandu valley, the predominant inhabitants of the region. Celebrated as a street festival, it carries a historic and mythological significance to the bygone Malla Kingdom of Nepal.

Today, the festival is marked with grand processions and is observed by locals and tourists alike. It remains one of the major festivals of Nepal.

A Trip to Jomsom & Muktinath

Jomsom is a small town located in the discreet region of Mustang district. The Muktinath temple in the outskirts of Jomsom is major attraction of the region. A tourist destination, Jomsom is also an important economic and geographic hub connecting Nepal with Tibet.


Jomsom

Jomsom is the district headquarter of Mustang region. It connect Upper Mustang with other important cities in the South. Also known as Dzong-Sampa or New Fort,  it is located at the altitude of 2,700 meters; and covers Kali Gandaki river on both sides.

Kali Gandaki Gorge
Kali Gandaki Gorge

The Dhaulagiri and Nilrigi peaks are clearly visible from the town, along with the northern side of Annapurna mountain range.

It is 67 km away from the tourist city of Pokhara. You can choose to take a short flight, bus or jeep to Jomsom from Pokhara. The road can be treacherous throughout the year due to its poor condition. It goes along the side of Kali Gandaki until Jomsom, and passes through important towns of Beni, Parbat, Lete and Marpha.

The region is also popular for its unique apples and locally produced wine. Marpha exports most of its apples and wines to nearby towns.

It also forms a section of the greater Annapurna circuit trek and Upper Mustang trek. One must reach Jomsom to access the discreet Upper Mustang region, however, you aren’t required to obtain ‘restricted area’ permit to reach until Jomsom.

Muktinath

Muktinath is a temple located at the Muktinath town in the outskirts of Jomsom. Located at 3,710 meters on the foot of Thorong La pass, it is mostly visited by both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims.

In Hinduism, the temple is considered to be 106th among the available 108 Divya Desam (premium temples) considered sacred by the Sri Vaishnava sect. The Hindu pilgrims must visit the temple one their lifetime and offer prayer along with holy bath under the 108 stone taps available inside the temple premise.

In Buddhism, Muktinath is considered an important place of dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers, and one of the 24 Tantric places. They understand the statue to be a manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

It is believed that, Guru Ringpoche (the founder of Tibetan Buddhism) mediated at Muktinath before heading towards Tibet.

The temple is located 22 km away from the Jomsom town. One must take a locally available jeep, mule or bus to reach Muktinath. You can also choose to trek. The area is flourished with newly opened hotels, restaurants, shops and other services.

Due to its sheer altitude and geographical proximity, the temple remains inaccessible throughout Monsoon and Winter.


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Leah Thomas & Her Mera Peak Feat!

Leah Thomas (26) hails from Vermont, USA. An outdoor enthusiast, she guides rock climbing trips at Cat Ba, Vietnam through Asia Outdoors.

She recently completed her 17 days trip to Mera Peak summit. An arduous climb, Mera Peak makes up for the highest climbable small peaks in Nepal. At 6,476 meters, Mera Peak makes an exciting trip which includes both trekking and minimal climbing experience.

She says,

From the start, Caravan Outdoors was really easy to work with. I talked mostly to Salman who helped me through each step of the process of getting signed and getting to Nepal. I had never done anything like this before, climbing a peak, and they were very helpful in directing me to what I needed to get and do before arriving.

I ended up being the only one on my trip, but it was great. I summited Mera Peak (6400+ meters) which I had my doubts on doing since I was coming directly from sea level, but was able to do it with no major problems!

It was a great experience, the guides were amazing, the trip was amazing! I can’t say enough good things, I’m already looking to go back and do anther trip!

From Her #Insta



I like the suffering. I like being tired and cold and exhausted at the end of the day, I even like knowing that I have to do it all again the next day. I like knowing that it doesn't matter that I haven't showered in weeks, that I haven't changed my clothes in weeks. Out here you can separate yourself from society, from all those social norms that you're required to do. The being exhausted, dirty, hungry, sweaty, cold, hot is part of the adventure. The suffering is part of the thrill. Knowing that you and only a select few others are willing to go through something so painful and difficult, yet come out the other side wanting to do it all again, creates a close community found no where else. There is pain in suffering. There is also great adventure. . . #sufferfest #sufferinginadventure #type2fun #nepal #trekking #longdistance #adventure #liveformore #dontjustexist #live #adventuremore #travelmore #travelwander #seemore #domore #pushlimits

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Gosainkunda Lake

Gosainkunda is one of the most revered sites inside Nepal. The lake situated at Gosainkunda is visited by millions of devotees and tourists throughout the year. It’s mostly visited during the local festival of Janai Purnima.


Overview

Gosainkunda is a fresh water oligotrophic  lake located inside the Langtang National Park of Rasuwa district. Situated at the altitude of 4,380 meters, you must trek for days before reaching the holy lake. It has a surface area of 13.4 ha; and it was declared a Ramsar site back in 2007.

The lake freezes and remains inaccessible throughout October-February. Spring (March-June) and Autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit Langtang region. The weather remains clear during these times of the year.

It makes up for many sources forming the Trishu river. There are 108 smaller/larger lakes in the area.

Legend & Pilgrimage

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

The Hindu mythology of Puranas attributes Gosaikunda as the abode of the Hindu deities Shiva and Gauri. The Hindu scriptures and the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata refer to Samudra manthan (Churning of the Sea), which is directly related to the origin of Gosaikunda.

It is believed, Lord Shiva created the lake when he thrust his trident into a mountain to extract water to quench his thirst after swallowing the poison.

The water of the lake is considered holier and significant during the events of Gangadashahara and Janai Purnima. Thousands of pilgrims make a visit on foot to Gosainkunda during these festivals.

Trekking

Gosainkunda forms a greater trekking trail in Langtan region. It can be reached during both Dhunche-Helambu trek and Langtang trek.

Lauribina La Pass at the altitude of 4,610 meters forms the toughest part of the treks. The surrounding mountains of Langtang Lirung and Ganesh Himal are clearly visible during the trek. The farthest you can reach is at Kyanjin Gompa inside the national park.

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.


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Langtang National Park

Langtang National Park is located inside Langtang region of western Nepal. The fourth national park of Nepal is also the first Himalayan national park, and the expanse of the park reaches 3 different districts. It is also home to one of the rarest animals in the world; Red Panda.


Overview

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.

Kyanjin Gompa
Kyanjin Gompa

The area extends from 32 km north of Kathmandu to the Nepal-China border. The inhabitants of the region are culturally Tibetan and are mainly the adherent of Buddhism.

While the main reason for the park is to preserve the natural environment, an equally important goal is to allow local people to follow traditional land use practices that are compatible with resource protection.

Tamang tribe of people are the major inhabitants of the region, followed by Sherpas. The former were the followers of Bon religion, which later got assimilated into Buddhist teachings.

Wildlife & Vegetation

Around 25% of the park area is forested. The northern part is mostly covered by mountains. The region is home to wild dog, red panda, pika, muntjac, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan tahr, ghoral, serow, rhesus monkey and common langur.

The most available vegetation at lower Langtang regions are Oaks, Chirpine, Maple, Fir, Blue pine, Hemlock spruce and various species of rhododendron.

Langtang Lirung

Langtang Lirung
Langtang Lirung

Langtang Lirung is the highest mountain located inside the park. Par of the Langtang Himalayan range, it is measured at 7,234 meters. It’s included in the short peaks of Nepal and is opened for climbing.

It was first climed in 1978 by Seishi Wada and Pemba Tsering, from a Japanese-Sherpa expedition, via the East Ridge route.

Trekking

Langtang makes up for one of the most sought for trekkings in Nepal. A comparatively shorter trek than Everest and Annapurna, the highest you may reach during the trek is 4,983 m at Tsergo Ri.

The trek may last anything from 11 to 15 days, and it may take you to Gosainkunda lake, Tsergo Ri and Kyanjin Gompa.

The region was heavily devastated during the major earthquake of 2015, however, the locals have rebuilt the region, and today it’s is fully operational. Langtang Trek is suitable for all kinds of hikers. You must be accompanied by a guide to enter the region; a strict policy maintained by the government of Nepal in light of unforeseen accidents in the region.

From mid-October to mid-December and from mid-February until mid-April the weather is usually clear but cold at higher elevations. From mid-April to mid-June, it is warm but often cloudy with thunder showers, spring flowers are at their best.


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Phoksundo -The Deepest Lake of Nepal

Phoksundo is a fresh water lake located in the Dolpo region of Nepal. It is popularly known as the deepest lake in the country, and makes up for one of the best trekking experiences in Nepal.  Reaching the lake isn’t easy either. You need to trek for days and up to 3,612 meters to reach the site.


Overview

Phoksundo or Shey Phoksundo is an alpine fresh water oligotrophic lake located in the Dolpo region of mid-western Nepal. It lies to the north of Dhaulagiri mountain bordering Tibet and inside Shey Phoksundo National Park.

Phoksundo Lake
Phoksundo Lake

With the depth of 145 meters, Phoksundo is known to be the deepest lake in Nepal. The lake and surrounding was designated a Ramsar site back in 2007. At the lake’ southern end, the village of Ringmo lies on the 30,000-40,000 year old landslide dam that formed the lake. Past the dam, the waters of the lake plunge over a 167 meter tall waterfall, called Phoksundo Waterfall.

The lake is rich in biodiversity and also supports various wildlife in the region. Snow leopard, musk deer, Blue sheep, Tibetan wolf and frequently traversing Yak caravans and cattle.

Visitors are prohibited from stepping inside the lake, as it is considered a holy site by the local inhabitants.


Dolpo region

Upper Dolpo is a high-altitude region located at western Nepal. A rain-shadow area, Upper Dolpo receives least rainfall; therefore, most of the terrain resembles a desert like landscape and can be trekked throughout the year. It lays close to Tibet in the North, therefore, the inhabitants, local culture, dialect and architecture, resembles its northern counterpart.

The Dolpo people have practiced trading salt through caravans for ages. Eric Valli, a renowned French filmmaker made a movie based on the life of the people of Dolpo, named “Caravan.” It was nominated for Oscars in 1997.

Phoksundo National Park

Shey Phoksundo National Parkestablished in 1984, is the largest and only trans-Himalaya National Park in Nepal. Covering the entire Dolpa and Mugu districts, the park is home to some of the most exotic and least seen wildlife.

The national park is home to 6 different species of reptiles and 29 butterflies. Snow Leopard, Grey wolf, Musk deer, Blue sheep. Goral, Great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan Tahr, leopard, Jackal,Himalayan black bear and yellow-throated marten dominate the wildlife. Rhododendron, Caragana shrubs, Salix, Juniper, White Himalayan birch and the occasional Silver fir are the most found flora inside the park.


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The Red Panda

The Red Panda is the most elusive of the wild animals found in the world. A predominant inhabitant of the Himalayas, Red Panda has been listed as the most endangered species due to major loss of its habitat and human encroachment. It is one of the most protected wild species in Nepal, India & China.


Overview

Habitat Map
Habitat Map

COMMON NAME: Red Panda
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ailurus fulgens
TYPE: Mammals
DIET: Omnivore
AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: 8 years
SIZE: Head and body, 20 to 26 in; tail, 12 to 20 in
WEIGHT: 12 to 20 lbs


The Red Panda or Red-bear cat is a mammal of Ailuridae family found mostly in the Eastern Himalayas. Almost 38% of the total population is found inside Nepal. It has reddish-brown fur, a long, shaggy tail, and a waddling gait due to its shorter front legs; it is slightly larger than a domestic cat.

It lives in the trees, feeds mainly on bamboo. Due to its omnivore nature, it seldom feeds on bird eggs, birds, and insects. It is a solitary animal, hence, its sightings is one of the rarest among the entire wildlife.

It has been listed under the Endangered species by IUCN, due to its dwindling population. Human encroachment has been the major cause for its habitat loss.

Habitat & Breeding

They reside in the rainy and high-altitude forests, similar to Giant Pandas, in the mountains of Nepal and northern Myanmar (Burma), as well as in central China.

They spend most of their lives in trees and even sleep aloft. When foraging, they are most active at night as well as in the gloaming hours of dusk and dawn.

Red pandas are known to have a sweet tooth for bamboo, however, they feed on fruits, acorns, roots and eggs as well.

They are obscure animals except when mating. Females generally give births in the spring and summer, typically one to four cubs at a time. Young red pandas remain in their nests for about 90 days, and are solely nurtured by mother pandas.

Facts

  • Only about 10,000 Red Pandas are estimated to be living in the wild.
  • China has the largest known population of Red Pandas. About 42% of the entire population is found inside the protected regions of China.
  • Even though they were placed in the Racoon and Bear family before, the extensive research has proved they are unique species and have since been placed in the Ailuridae family.
  • Red Panda is the only surviving member of the Ailuridae family.
  • There are over 86 protected areas inside China, India, Myanmar and Nepal dedicated to the conservation of the Red Panda.
  • There are only two recognized species of Red Panda, namely; Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani.
  • Red pandas have a long gestation period (roughly 135 days) for an animal that weighs only 11 pounds at maturity.