"Perhaps the best way to sum this trip up is the word WOW"
It didn't start that way though as three members of the team were delayed out of Manchester and missed there connection to Kathmandu. This meant that the whole team finally began the trek from Syabru Bensi a day late. How to make up the time without jeopardising our acclimatisation for Yala Peak was my main worry as we trekked up the beautiful Langtang Valley. Unfortunately this time we didn't get any sightings of langur monkeys let alone the elusive red pandas in the area either.
My worries dissolved when several days later we arrived at Kayajin Gompa and all spent the afternoon hiking up one of the several excellent viewpoints in the area. We would climb to the High Camp next day and spend our time acclimatising higher up. The ascending balcony path from Kayajin Gompa to HC is fantastic with views straight on to the magnificent Gangchempo, first seen by Tilman in 1950 and nicknamed Fluted Peak. Our arrival at HC was a bit less dramatic. There was no snow on Yala Peak. On my previous visits it had been an elegant white sharks fin. Now it was just rock and rubble with a small glacier clinging on the the north ridge.
The next day we hiked up the nearby Tsergo Ri, the summit of which gives jaw dropping views of all the peaks on either side of the valley and intrigueingly a view straight up the Ganja La.
Our ascent of Yala Peak began, as always, with rising before dawn. The route is mostly on steep moraine but it is interspersed with some interesting scrambling until just below the summit. Here a short steep butrees leads to the summit tower. We fixed a rope up the buttress and the team jumared up it. We were now tantilisingly close but on inspection the exceptionally dry conditions had made the summit rocks loose and the drop from the shoulder was enormous. We turned and descended.
It was a twelve hour day by the time we finally reach Kayjin Gompa.
The next day we were off again. Concerned by a Sirdar Kungas report from last year that water was a problem beyond the Ganja La. We camped at the viewpoint of Ngagang Kharka, a place I had only previously visited in waist deep snow and the next day started up for the Ganja La. It is a tough haul up the the pass not made easier by the need to be constantly aware of the potential for stones to tumble down from the slopes on either side. One fantastic distraction was the sight of snow leopard prints in the area, but sadly no sightings.
Again we fixed a rope for the final steep section at the top of the pass. From the top we had the most fabulous views in both directions. Behind us stood Yala Peak dwarfed by the mighty Shishapangma, the only 8000m peak entirely in Tibet behind it and ahead lay the wilderness of Helambu. We camped by the only source of water at the base of the moraines.The next day was a big one as the expected water sources at Kelding and at Dukpa were both dry. Finally after a 10 hr day we camped in the forest below Ama Yangri Stupa.
The final few days were a delight of wide open views across the whole region and sitings of peaks as far off as Everest and the Rolwaling. We visited huge golden statues and enjoyed a wide variety of bird life and festival atmosphere in the small settlements along the way.
Langtang and Helambu certainly have it all, except perhaps the crowds.