Upper Mustang in Nepal is an unbelievably beautiful area both in scenery and culture. We did the trek from Jomsom to Lo Manthang and back in 10 days (including 2 days in Lo Manthang). The following information is based on our experiences on the Upper Mustang trek. It is not intended to be a guide, but hopefully will provide extra helpful information.
- We did the trek in May 2018. At that time, you had to have a guide as it is considered a Restricted Area. It is better financially if you hire a guide (and porter if you wish) and pay for your guesthouse and meals on your own. We found that guides chose guesthouses that are best for them, but not necessarily best for you.
- We included our trekking times. Note that we were already acclimatized but were carrying our own full packs. Times do not include breaks.
- There are many guesthouses along the trail, but not nearly as many as other treks in Nepal. We trekked when the Tiji Festival was occurring so most of the guesthouses were completely full.
- Permits are required to trek in Upper Mustang and will be obtained by your trekking guide.
- Much of the trail is now on dusty, gravel roads which can be busy with jeeps and construction trucks. You may want to bring a mask to cover your mouth and nose. There is an alternative trek that takes you off the road from Lo Manthang to Muktinath, which can be done for the return.
Day 1 – 2 Jomsom to Chele (Day 1 To Kagbeni – 2 ½ hrs, Day 2 to Chele – 3hrs)
The first 2 days of the trek follow along the Kali Gandaki (River) valley. It’s a large valley with barren mountains for the length of it. These two days are mostly over dusty, gravel roads and trails that are close to the river on day 1 and up to 200 m above the river on day 2. There are a few ‘oasis’ villages along the trail. Their bright green fields of wheat, buckwheat and barley stand out against the grey and brown landscape. The towns of Kagbeni, Tangby and Chele have very interesting architecture with houses that are interconnected and feel like medieval towns. You have great views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Ranges at times during these two days. There are quite a few Guesthouses in Kagbeni and Chele.
Day 3 Chele to Shyangmochen (5hr 33 min), ascent 1060m, descent 590m
The trail out of Chele climbs steeply up and around a barren hill and then continues to climb along the gravel road following the contours of buttresses of the mountain above. After 2 hours you reach the windy Chele La, 3630m and have gorgeous views of the Annapurna Range. The trail slowly descends to the cute village Samar (For alternate route see Day 7 below). After Samar the trail drops and climbs to cross 2 gorges. Then there is a long climb to Bhena La (3860m). From the pass you can see the trail on the other side of the valley, but it’s a long way around to reach it and a long climb up to Yondo La (4010m). When we were on the trek there was a lot of construction on the road making it more dusty than usual. From the pass you can see your destination, Shyangmochen, 3800m (5hr 53 min). The town has 3 Guesthouses and not much more. Some people stayed in the next village of Geling instead.
Davy 4 Shyangmochen to Charang (5 h 31min). ascent 890m, descent 870m
It snowed overnight so we had a later start than planned, but the views of the were spectacular. Instead of the brown landscape everything was covered in glistening white snow. The hike from Shyangmochen immediately climbs to a small pass, Shyangmochen La, 3850m with views of the Annapurna Range. There are a few ups and downs on the long walk on a road to the other side of the valley and Nyi La (4020m). The pass is a moderate climb and on a trekking trail but doesn’t offer much for views. You then rejoin the road which wraps around a mountain and climbs to a small pass overlooking Ghemi and the beautiful red mountains across the valley. Follow down to Ghemi which is a very cute town with a lot of the typical Mustang yellow, red, black and white painted chortens and prayer wheels. Some people stay in Ghemi where there are a few guesthouses. From town you cross the river and then climb up to a few more chortens and the longest mani wall in Nepal. The road continues up and right until you can join a trekking trail to Choya La (3560m). From the pass follow the road downhill for a long time until you finally reach the town of Charang (3560m). The town has a few old and interesting chortens and prayer wheels and an old Gumba that is painted with red, black and white stripes. There are quite a few guesthouses in Charang.
Day 5 Charang to Lo Manthang (3 hours) ascent 450m, descent 250m
From Charang the trail descends to cross the river and climbs up to the same elevation on the other side. From here the road gradually ascends up a broad valley. After 1 hour you pass a large, colorful chorten a short while later you arrive at large open area where there’s a new building being constructed and a ruined one to pass. At the right-side end of this area is the beginning of the climb to the pass. It’s initially steep up the road but flattens out and ends with a small steep climb to the chortens and Lo La (3950m). You can see Lo Manthang in the valley below. The road follows the gorges of the mountain as it descends to a creek before Lo Manthang. There’s a small climb up to the village. Click on the link for more information on Lo Manthang.
We stayed for 3 nights in Lo Manthang, but the trekking days below are listed as if the trek continued.
Return to Jomsom (or consider the alternate trail to Muktinath)
Day 6 Lo Manthang to Ghemi (5hr 31min)
From Lo Manthang we took an alternate route through Drakmar. The trail is a slow climb through 3 passes over 4000 m. You should have nice views of the Annapurna Range, but when we were there it was very cloudy. After the last pass the trail crosses around the mountain side through a marmot habitat and then crosses a flat valley until you climb up again a short hill to reach the 8th century Ghar Gumba. From the Gumba, the trail climbs again up to a ridge at 4150 m and then crosses a meadow which takes you to a very steep, sandy gully filled with interesting stone pillars to the valley below and the town of Drakmar (4hr 15min). Some people stay here for the night, there are at least 2 guesthouses. The trail until now has been a hiking trail but joins the road after Drakmar. It climbs up and around a mountain until you are above the very long mani wall from day 4. You can see Ghemi below (3510 m).
Day 7 Ghemi to Chhuksang (7hr 45 min)
Retrace your path from Ghemi to Samar. After Samar instead of climbing the road all the way to the top of the pass, take the trail on the right which leads to a small valley and the town of Ghyakar. Before Ghakar the hiking trail climbs steeply down to a creek and then climbs up on the other side to a long tunnel which takes you to below Ghakar. Go through town and then buckwheat fields until you reach the suspension bridge which will take you back to the original trail. This way is a little shorter, but also more interesting than the road. Continue on your original path through Shyangmochen (some people stay here) to Chhuksang.
Day 8 Chhuksang to Jomsom (4hr 55min if walk to Jomson)
Retrace your route back to Kagbeni and catch a jeep or bus to Jomsom or trek all the way to Jomsom.
For pictures from Richard’s Everest Summit click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFmsecd6yN0