Trekking In Nepal: An Essential Guide

The Most Challenging Treks In Nepal

The Most Challenging Treks In Nepal
By Stuart Butler

At some point trekking becomes mountaineering, requiring technical skills, equipment and experience.

Here are a few routes that sit between the two. The following, some of Nepal's most challenging treks, require plenty of fitness, prior experience and a qualified guide.

The most challenging treks in Nepal

Nepal's hardest and most difficult treks
Hiker on Himalayas view from Island Peak trek Nepal

View from Island Peak, one of the most challenging routes in the Everest/Khumbu region

The most challenging treks in Nepal

Nepal's hardest and most difficult treks

Island Peak in Chukkung Everest Base Camp trek Nepal

On the way to Island Peak, in the Everest region

Island Peak trek (Everest region)

Difficulty: Strenuous, mountaineering skills required

Trek duration: Six days

Max. elevation: 6,189m

Accommodation: Camping

Start/end point: Lukla

Not technically a trek but a mountain climbing expedition, Island Peak (6,189m; more accurately called Imja Tse) is one of Nepal’s official trekking peaks. It’s a relatively easy ascent compared to many other trekking peaks and its proximity to the main Everest trekking trails means it’s by far the most popular. This is no stroll in the park though. Ropes, crampons and ice-axes are all needed and there’s a short stretch that involves ice-climbing.

Teri La and Saribung La (Upper Mustang)

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trek duration: 18-22 days.

Max. elevation: Teri La 5,595m, Saribung La 5,600m

Accommodation: Homestays and camping

Start/end point: Kagbeni/Koto

This is only for the most adventurous and experienced hikers with full expedition support. The Teri La (5,595m) and Saribung La (5,600m) passes connect Upper Mustang with the valleys of Nar and Phu. Each trek is around three weeks long and requires several nights camping well above 4,000m. Ropes, crampons and ice-axes are likely to be needed.

Ganj La trek (Langtang region)

Difficulty: Very strenuous and dangerous. People have died attempting this crossing.

Trek duration: Four days from Kyanjin Gompa

Max. elevation: 5,106m

Accommodation: Camping

Start/end point: Kyanjin Gompa/Tarke Ghyang

The most challenging and dangerous trek in the Langtang region is the crossing of the high (5,106m) Ganj La pass, which links Kyanjin Gompa at the head of the Langtang Valley with Tarke Ghyang on the Helambu Circuit.

This should only be attempted by very experienced trekkers with a good support team. You will need camping equipment, a guide who knows the route well, ropes, ice-axes and crampons.

Saipal Base Camp trek (Far Western Nepal)

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trek duration: 18 days

Max. elevation: 4,550m

Accommodation: Camping

Start/end point: Cahinpur

This very remote trek leads through pristine conifer forest to the base camp for Saipal (7,031m), western Nepal’s highest mountain. This is possibly the quietest trek listed in this book and any agency offering this will probably have their own variation of the walk.


Trekking Makalu to Everest

Makalu to Everest trek

Difficulty: Very strenuous. Borderline mountaineering

Trek duration: Minimum 21 days

Max. elevation: 6,143m

Accommodation: Camping; very basic herders’ tea houses, trekking lodges

Start/end point: Num/Lukla

One of the most challenging treks in this book is the Makalu to Everest traverse via the very high passes of Sherpani (6,135m), West Col (6,143m), Baruntse Base Camp (5,700m) and Amphu Laptsa (5,850m) before descending into the Everest region at Pangboche. You should allow a minimum of three weeks for this trek and a lot more if you want to explore the Everest region in depth. You will need full expedition equipment, an experienced team, mountaineering experience and to be prepared for many nights’ camping above 4,500m.

The Most Challenging Treks In Nepal

Stuart Butler

Stuart is the author of Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal, the Rough Guide to Nepal, the Tibet chapter of the Rough Guide to China and the Bradt guide to Kashmir & Ladakh. He also writes widely about East Africa and conservation issues.

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