Have you already conquered the world’s top treks? Already hiked the Inca Trail, made the trek to Everest Base Camp, and scaled Kilimanjaro? Do the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails seem passe? Then get ready for a new long distance trekking route set to open in the Himalaya next year, that will challenge even the heartiest of backpackers with its distance and altitude.
Known at the Great Himalaya Trail, this new route will run approximately 2800 miles through some of the most remote and stunningly beautiful locations on the planet. The snow capped peaks of the Himalaya will tower above hikers as they pass through Bhutan, Tibet, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, on a route that will be an epic undertaking from beginning to end.
The trail will begin in Namche Barwa in Tibet and extend all the way to Nanga Parbat in Pakistan. It is estimated that it will take roughly 150 days to hike the GHT from end to end, although it will also be broken up into seven sections, which can be completed in 18 to 35 days depending on which segment a trekker elects to do. Much of the route will be inaccessible by road, but will instead pass through remote villages that will allow for resupply, while giving backpackers a chance to immerse themselves in the unique and fascinating local cultures.
Distance isn’t the only consideration for those looking to complete the GHT. Altitude will be an ever present challenge, with the trail climbing through high passes and along mountain routes in excess of 18,000 feet. Weather will also be a constant threat, with the chance of heavy snow a possibility at nearly any time of the year, and a freak blizzard could potentially close the route for a number of days. Political relations between the nations through which the trail passes are, at times, a bit tenuous as well, meaning that the route could be shut down along disputed borders.
To date, only the route through Nepal is complete, although work continues in each of the other countries in an effort to be ready by February 15 of next year, when the first trek, led by adventure travel company World Expeditions will get underway. Those interested in joining the inaugural trek can book the entire route or one of the seven subsections now, although space is limited and demand is expected to be high. Trekking the route independently is being discouraged at the moment due to the number of permits and visas that are required.
For Nepal, the Great Himalaya Trail is an opportunity to expand the options for adventure travelers who already visit the country in droves. But for the other four countries along the Great Himalaya Trail, the new trekking route gives them a chance to begin to tap more fully into the growing adventure travel market that has, for the most part, eluded them. With the travel industry looking to rebound this year, the hope is that in 2011, long distance trekkers will be ready to take on this new route, and bolster their struggling economies in the process.