Travel

Journey to the Rolwaling Valley in Nepal

journey to the rolwalling valley in nepal

La Capitale’s globetrotter series

He’s passionate about hiking and has travelled the world in search of new challenges such as Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and the Inca Trail. Nothing seems to stop him. I’m referring to Gaétan Lapierre and his trip to Nepal in 2012, more specifically to the wild, uncharted Rolwaling Valley, close to the border with Tibet.

Rolwaling Valley

The Rolwaling Valley is located between the Everest and Langtang regions. The mountain of Gauri Shankar (the goddess and her consort) towers over the mysterious Rolwaling valley. Many myths and legends about the Yeti, the abominable snowman, originated in this valley.

The trip

The ultimate goal was to reach the summits of the Yalung Ri at 5,750 m and the Pacharmo Peak at 6,273 m. To help plan his trip, Gaétan reached out to the Karavaniers, a company specialized in trekking expeditions.

If you visit the Karavaniers’ website, you can read stories about Babu Chhiri Sherpa, the well-known guide who volunteered in 1998 to help plan their expeditions to Nepal. The Karavaniers can’t say enough about this man they describe as somewhat pot-bellied with a disarming smile, who climbed to the top of Mt. Everest 10 times and went 21 hours without extra oxygen. It was a lucky coincidence that Tendi Sherpa, Babu’s brother, was the guide for Gaétan’s group!

Gaétan Lapierre in the footsteps of Babu Chhiri Sherpa…

His adventure in Nepal began on October 2 when his group of five left Katmandu, Nepal’s capital city, travelling by bus to Suri Dobhan. This nine-hour ride through mountains and valleys dotted with rivers was an adventure in and of itself.

As with any mountain trek, the first days consist of short hikes in order to acclimatize gradually to the environment. Gaétan says this trek requires rigorous physical, technical and mental preparation. And you need to have the right gear: crampons, ice axes, rope, helmets, climbing harness, etc.

Nights

At the beginning of the expedition, the group set up tents on villagers’ land. One woman even invited them in for milk tea. Poverty was clearly visible in the first villages the group travelled through. In spite of this, the inhabitants were generous and friendly.

After leaving Na Gaon, the “adventurous” part of the trek began, and the group had to make camp in uninhabited areas. The route they followed was for the most part unspoiled and wild. For seven days, the group didn’t encounter any villages. One of their campsites was not far from the biggest glacier lake in Nepal, the Tsho Rolpa. At 4,580 m in altitude, this grey lake has become considerably larger over the last 50 years due to the glaciers melting.

Climbing Yalung Ri

The group scaled to the summit of Yalung Ri first. Climbing it requires mastering basic cramponning techniques and ascending on snow since the path is made up of glacier till and loose rocks. Gaétan told us that it was well worth the climb since you are rewarded for your efforts by “an amazing panoramic view of the Himalayan giants from the summit.”

Climbing the Trakarding glacier

Gaétan told me that one of the most difficult stages of the expedition was the eight-hour crossing of the Trakarding glacier, an impressive glacial valley. They had to hike over fields of loose rock, which is very demanding on the leg muscles. At night, they were so tired, they were shaking.

Crossing the Drolambu glacier and reaching the Parchamo base camp

According to Gaétan, this stage is the most beautiful one of the expedition. Going up and down the steep inclines required the group to use all their resources. The view over the Tengi Ragi and the Dragka are awesome. Gaétan mentioned that the porters on this stage demonstrated incredible skill.

The summit of Parchamo

Rising to 6,273 m, the summit of Parchamo was conquered for the first time in 1955. Unfortunately Gaétan was not able to reach the summit since a chasm prevented the group from advancing and made climbing too dangerous.

The descent

The descent took four days, during which the group stopped in three villages: Thame, Namche Bazar and Lukla. Namche Bazar is known as the Sherpa Capital since it is the last town that intrepid Everest hikers pass through. Gaétan was suprised by how many people were in the busy town.

Gaétan returned to Quebec marked by Nepalese culture. One day a woman said to him: “People go to Nepal three times.” Gaétan returned once in 2013. We’re betting the woman will be proved correct…


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