OA Expedition to Langtang Valley, Nepal

Having only just returned from our exciting expedition in Nepal, memories are still fresh.  The chanting of ‘Om mani padme hum, the Buddhism mantra, heard as we walked around both Swayambhu Stupa, or monkey temple as it is often referred to and again at Boudhanath stupa, one of the largest stupa’s in the world made the initial welcome to Nepal all the more enchanting.

But the real purpose of our expedition was to trek into the Langtang valley, an area of Nepal that was most devastated in the 2015 earthquake. On Saturday 25th April a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal. This caused 40 million tons of rock and ice to fall from the South West face of the 7,227metre mountain, Langtang Lirung, into the valley below, completely destroying Langtang village. 243 people lost their lives, considerably more lost their only means of generating an income. Extensive rebuilding and huge efforts to encourage trekkers back to the area have ensured the trails were once again open and the Tea Houses and Lodges rebuilt. One of our aims by trekking in this remote area, some 8-10 hours perilous road journey north of Kathmandu,  was to help ensure what the local residents needed most; the return of sustainable environmentally conscious tourism.

Leaving the surreal oasis of calm that is the Summit Hotel in Kathmandu our adventure, definition; uncertainty unknown, commenced immediately with the journey to Syabrubesi.  From here, the following morning, we started our trek, gaining over 2,000 metres of ascent in the first two days.  Midway through our second day, we escaped the clutches of the trees and foliage for the amazing snow peaked mountains which engulfed us with spectacular views at every angle.  These majestic mountains exceeded 7,000 metres and their awe and beauty were truly breath-taking.  As we approached the former village of Langtang we also witnessed the destruction and devastation these same majestic mountains can bring.  Where once stood the village of Langtang was now only a rock and scree expanse that extended some 800 metres across.  If you looked carefully enough, huge chucks of ice the size of small lorries were still visible amongst the rocks and boulders.  It was unnerving and slightly surreal walking through complete and utter destruction where only a single building survived.  The monastery, protected by a huge shield of rock was all that remained.

In an amazing example of ingenuity, hard craft and perseverance, New Langtang has been built just the other side of the destruction.  It is here we stayed in a local Tea House and even had our first hot shower since leaving Kathmandu.

Our trek continued up to Kyanjin Gumba (3,800m), again we stayed in a local Tea House or Lodge. After a ‘rest’ day in which everyone summited an acclimatisation peak at just under 4,400 metres we set off towards Yala Peak Base camp. 1,000 metres of ascent was required, no easy trek when going up and from 3,800 metres.  At Base camp, we were camping higher than the highest mountain in Western Europe.  Rising at 3.00am with the gleam of ice in the beams of our head torches as we prepared ourselves in our tents for the summit attempt was a new experience for everyone.  The ascent to our chosen objective, a subsidiary peak of Yala Peak at 5,157 metres, whilst technically straight forward, tested our resolve to the maximum.  Was the effort and hardship worth it?

For a complete answer, just ask any of those who joined this expedition.

Russ Tong
Head of Outdoor Activities

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