Lakhs of tourists embark on their trekking adventure every year towards the majestic Himalayas in Nepal with expectations of a soul-stirring and life changing odyssey.
These intrepid trekkers are prepared for the challenges as well as the stunning rewards they are to get along these adventures.
While most people opt for the more popular and obvious trekking routes such as the Everest Base Camp trek or the Annapurna Circuit, the Manaslu Circuit trek has also managed to beckon many trekkers with the promise of the experience of a lifetime.
This underrated trekking route takes the trekkers along untouched landscapes, with scenic vistas unfolding before them as they drown in the raw and authentic cultures of the region.
From lush forests to high mountain passes, this trek has it all as it offers you an ever-changing backdrop of landscapes.
Traversing along the less-trodden corners of the Himalayas, this trek can be quite daunting as along with the rewards, this trek also gives you challenges that test the limits of one’s spirit.
As this trek gives you an intimate experience of nature’s grandeur, one must be prepared to tackle the physical and mental challenges that you will come across.
So how difficult can this trek really get? Read on to silent your echoing thoughts about the challenges during the Manaslu Circuit trek.
What is the difficulty level of the Manaslu Circuit Trek?
The Manaslu Circuit trek is considered a strenuous trek in terms of difficulty. It takes you to the untouched corners of Nepal, and therefore presents many challenges like no accessibility, challenging length and duration, altitude, and so on.
Other factors like challenging trail and unpredictable weather combined with the rather basic and remote accommodation add to the difficulty of the trek.
The trekkers need to walk for long hours on the rugged terrains of the Manaslu region and it goes on for 2 weeks. Therefore, the trek also presents equal challenges towards mental endurance along with physical stamina.
However, with proper preparation, the trek is not impossible. While prior experience makes the trek much easier, beginners can conquer it too with additional efforts and guidance.
Challenges that define Manaslu circuit trek difficulty
Now that we know that Manaslu Circuit trek is quite challenging even though it’s not dangerous or impossible, the pertinent question arises that what could be the reason of the difficulty of this trek. Well, there are quite a few factors which make this pristine trek a challenging adventure.
Length of the Trek
Starting from Machha Khola, this trek takes you looping around Mt. Manaslu through the remote areas of Manaslu Conservation Area. Among the top long-distance treks, this trek is a 177 kilo meters (about 109 miles) long odyssey from Machha Khola to Larke Pass and finally concluding at Tal.
There is no way around the miles as there is zero road connectivity along the trail. So even if you want to shortcut the trek at some point, no vehicle is available at your disposal, compelling you to cover the distance on foot.
The distance of Manaslu trek can be daunting to most of the people embarking on the trek, especially for novices with not much prior trekking experience. Depending on your speed, the trek takes you at least 14 days to complete.
The number of days could increase as well depending on your physical and mental state. Therefore, it is crucial to be prepared for strenuous long hours of walking for an average of 5-6 hours every day for 2 weeks straight.
Setting the stage for your adventurous journey full of challenges, this trek has a very rugged trail that differentiates the Manaslu Circuit trek from the infamous Annapurna Circuit trek. At times you might feel like your spirit is being tested amidst the winding trails of the Budi Gandaki Valley.
The trek features numerous steep ascents and descents as you go along the Budi Gandaki River. Not making it any easier, the rocky trail will add to your test of physical endurance. You will see more of the backs of mules and porters than the back of fellow trekkers rucksacks as you go through the narrow and challenging trails.
You will cross hundreds of steel suspension bridges, and at some places you might not even be lucky enough to find a steel bridge. Many times, the river crossings are made up of temporary wooden bridges that you must cross.
There will even be times when that temporary bridge has been flown by the river, compelling you to cross the river even without a bridge. As this trail is quite underdeveloped, you will go through highly landslide prone areas, sometimes even to find a blocked way.
However, you will always be accompanied by stunning views and landscapes of either green lush forests or towering mountains amidst the desert-like landscape at the pass, giving you the true essence of trekking and making you even drag your feet if you must.
While it might not seem like an issue at a cursory glance, altitude is one of the biggest challenges during the Manaslu Circuit trek. Starting from around 900 m (about 2952 ft) at Machha Khola, this trail takes you as high as 5,160 m (16,929 ft) at the Larke Pass.
That right there is an altitude difference of 4,260 meters (13,976 ft). Although the ascent is done over a certain period of days, this gap in elevation can lead to many health-related issues. For most trekkers, the elevation of 5,160 m (16,929 ft) is way beyond the altitude that they are used to of.
With the increase in elevation, the oxygen availability becomes less and less and decreases by about 11%. You might encounter high altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness, which can be life threatening at times.
Therefore, it is very important to allot at least a day for acclimatization which helps your body adjust to the elevation. To prevent altitude sickness, you should walk slowly and plan shorter trekking days if that is what your health demands.
Be prepared in terms of clothing items and gear that might come in handy to tackle the temperature related challenges. Hydration also plays a role in keeping you physically healthy throughout the trek.
Lack of Training
To successfully complete the Manaslu Circuit trek and conquer the challenging Larke Pass, one needs to have a commendable level of physical fitness. If you are physically fit and have planned the trek properly, even a novice can successfully complete this serious challenge.
Challenges like steep ascents, descents, and long hours of walking at an altitude that can test your respiratory and cardiovascular health, which can be tackled with training.
While prior trekking experience is an advantage, acclimatization combined with a good level of endurance, fitness, and preparation can make your experience much better.
If you are not physically active, we would advise you to start a fitness regimen combining exercises that can help you build your endurance for the trek. You can include cardiovascular exercises and strength training, along with simple activities like running, biking, or walking at an incline.
You can also achieve physical fitness by climbing up the stairs of a tall building which helps you boost your stamina. Also, a full physical checkup is highly advisable before you embark on your adventurous journey as you get informed about challenges that might affect your ability to complete the trek, if any.
Another challenge that you will encounter in the Manaslu region is the unpredictability of the weather due to its tendency to be localized. Although a general prediction can be made based on the month and the season, an accurate guess of what each day in the mountains will bring is less and less possible.
The temperature can go from hot to freezing cold within a matter of a day with unexpected rain as well as snowfall at higher altitudes. Starting from a subtropical climate, the temperatures can go from as high as 25°C (77°F) to a low of – 15°C (5°F) depending on the season.
If you are trekking the region during monsoon, which is highly not recommended, you will come across other weather-related challenges like high rainfall, landslides, and trail blockage. Winters might bring along freezing temperatures as well as snow avalanches at times.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to be prepared mentally and be equipped with gear and clothing items to tackle everything from rain, fog, snow, cold, or hot temperatures even if you are trekking the Manaslu region during the best season.
Prior Trekking Experience
Being a strenuous trek, prior trekking experience is an invaluable advantage for those embarking on the Manaslu Circuit trek. It makes the trek a lot more enjoyable and hassle free for the trekkers.
People who have prior trekking experience are aware of many aspects of the trek like the food in the Himalayas, the culture of the locals, navigating the trail, the struggle of waking up early on some days, and more.
Also, the most important advantage is that they are aware of the sore feeling in the muscles after a long day of walking which can be a dreadful imagination for the beginners.
However, this is not to say that beginners cannot embark on this journey. Beginners too can embark on and conquer the remote trails of Manaslu. But they do require additional guidance and support.
If you are a beginner, you must prepare a lot more in terms of packing, physical fitness, as well as knowledge of the trails. It is highly advisable that you go on regular hikes to familiarize yourself with the muscle pain and build stamina for long hours of walking.
Because of the remoteness of the Manaslu Circuit trek, you will have access to rather basic lodging options. So set your expectations accordingly.
The trail features teahouses with basic amenities and the facilities thin out depending on the location. As you ascend deeper on the trail, luxuries like individual rooms, attached bathrooms, and other familiar comforts become less and less available.
Most of the locations on the Manaslu circuit trek like Machha Khola, Jagat, Ghap feature simple and cozy twin sharing rooms with facilities like attached bathrooms sometimes being available.
However, on higher locations like Dharmasala, you might have to bear with triple sharing rooms or even dormitory at times given the remoteness of the location.
Places like Samagaon also offer hot shower facilities and Wi-Fi and other amenities are usually intermittent. Wherever available, the trekkers are expected to pay an additional amount to get access to these facilities.
The Manaslu Circuit trek has just recently started getting popular, thus containing comparatively less trekkers traffic. So, running out of rooms is a rare sight and you might even get private rooms at lower altitudes if you are lucky.
All in all, the accommodation in the Manaslu Circuit trek can be challenging given its simple nature. However, it is always warm with the hospitality provided by the locals.
Improper diet can be a block in your journey as it might cause problems like food poisoning and obstruct your trek. When in Manaslu region, you are amidst the Himalayas with no connectivity to the road.
Therefore, it is very important to be cautious about what you are eating throughout the trek. The best diet advice for the trek would be to stick to vegetarian food, as eating meat-related items could increase the risk of food poisoning. If you have any other dietary restrictions, please avoid eating those items as immediate treatment can be a challenge in the region.
Eating the local cuisine including the regular Nepali food – Dal Bhat Tarkari (rice, lentils, and curry) is the best option. It keeps you away from any kind of health problem while refilling your energy for the trek as it is a balanced diet.
Some of the teahouses might also provide other food items on the menu like Momo, Potato, Noodles, etc., and you will be eating lots of garlic and hot drinks to help with acclimatization. You can carry water purifying tablets or buy water bottles from teahouses for pure drinking water.
Although Manaslu Circuit trek is a physically and mentally demanding journey, stunning and dynamic landscapes unfold in front of you making every challenge worth it as you conquer the untamed magnificence of the Himalayas. At the end of the day, it is within the challenges of this trek that the true essence of the stunning Manaslu region lies.