Famous Sherpas to hike the length of the Great Himalaya Trail

Two famous Nepalese Sherpas are preparing to hike the entire length of the Great Himalaya Trail in an effort to raise awareness of the effects of climate change on the region. The duo will set out on January 15th and hope to encourage economic development along the new trekking route as well.

Apa Sherpa and Dawa Steven Sherpa will begin their journey in eastern Nepal in the village of Ghunsa and will travel 1056 miles west until they reach the town of Darchula. The entire hike is expected to take roughly 120 days to complete, passing through 20 different districts along the way.

While the GHT is an impressively long trek, it is the altitude that presents the biggest challenge for most hikers. It is considered the highest long distance trail in the world, rising above 18,880 feet at its tallest point. That altitude isn’t likely to be a problem for these two men however, as they have both climbed Everest multiple times. In fact, Apa holds the record for most successful summits, having scaled the highest mountain on the planet 21 times. Dawa Steven has stood on the summit of the mountain twice as well, giving the men plenty of experience at high altitude.

In addition to the altitude, the GHT is known for its incredibly scenic vistas as well. The Himalayan Mountains make a breathtaking backdrop for the trek, but climate change is having a dramatic impact on that place. As the planet has warmed, the glaciers throughout the region have gone into retreat, severely limiting the amount of fresh water that is available to the people who live there. Even now, many of those people have to walk several hours each day just to collect water for their daily use. The two Sherpas hope to spread the news on this impending crisis in their home country.

Climate change isn’t their only priority however, as they hope to encourage economic development along the Great Himalaya Trail as well. The route opened earlier this year, and while hikers have begun walking the route, the infrastructure to support them is not fully in place yet. Apa and Dawa Steven hope that their hike will help bring attention to the trail that will also inspire new restaurants and inns to open along its length, making it easier for adventure travelers to undertake the long distance trek.

Great Himalayan Trail on schedule to open in 2011

Way back in February of this year we told you about the Great Himalayan Trail, an epic hike more than 2800 miles in length that will eventually wind its way through the mountainous regions of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. The trek, which is expected to take roughly 150 days to hike end-to-end, is scheduled to officially open in early 2011, although there are still some challenges to over come before the boots of adventurous travelers begin to walk the route.

2011 is being called Nepal’s Tourism Year, and the country is gearing up to promote itself as the top adventure travel destination on the planet. The GHT will play a role in that celebration, as roughly 1200 miles of the trail passes through the country, and while it is expected to officially open in January or February of next year, some are already questioning if that will happen as planned. Ang Tshering Sherpa, a former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, says that the trail has mostly been promoted and built by private sector dollars thus far, and he is calling on the Nepali government to inject some much needed funds to help launch the trail in early 2011.Without those funds, he feels that the GHT won’t get the recognition that it deserves to draw trekkers to the route.

Meanwhile, the Nepal Tourism Board named American Sean Burch as one of its Goodwill Ambassadors this past week. The 40-year old Burch recently completed an endurance run across Nepal, from the border of India to Tibet, that followed 1250 miles of the GHT, in just 49 days. He will now help to promote the epic new trail abroad, while also encouraging economic development in the villages through which the trail passes.

That economic development will be important for the future of the GHT. On other trekking routes in the region hikers find teahouse lodges and simple restaurants every few hours along the route, but there are large sections of the GHT where those amenities are not yet present. But the trail will provide opportunities for enterprising individuals to build these places, which should help the economies of each of the countries that the GHT passes through.

Trekkers interested in hiking some or all of the trail, should check out GreatHimalayanTrail.com for more information on the available routes and what to expect when it officially opens next year. Start planning your trek now and be sure to let your boss know you’re going to need 150 days off to make the hike.

New epic trekking route set to open in the Himalaya in 2011

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.