Not so much an adventure with purpose as a set of adventures with a common purpose this month. Everyone has heard of the Annapurna trail, Mount Everest and other Himalayan hotspots, which draw thousands of trekkers and mountaineers to Nepal every year.Well, now there is a new trail in development which is likely to go straight to the top of many an adventurers to do list, and the people behind it hope it will to spread the benefits of trekking tourism to little visited regions of the Himalayas.
The Great Himalaya trail, a feature of Nepal Tourism Year 2011, is set to be the longest and highest alpine walking tracks in the world. Winding its way through 4500kms of the worlds highest peaks and most remote communities, it links five Asian countries: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. We catch up with some of the trail blazers behind early expeditions to find out more about whats going on.
Robin Boustead on researching the trail.
Robin Boustead is widely recognised as the man behind the trail. The concept had been banded about for a while, but the idea really came alive in 2008/9 when, over 152 days, he walked the length of the Nepal section. Speaking to Katy about the development of the trail, he explains:
I got a bit bored with leading treks in Nepal to be perfectlyhonest. Then in 2002 I was there working on another project when I received a fax from the Home Ministry. There had just been an agreement with the Chinese over where the mutual border was between the two countries. This demilitarised the Nepal side of the border, opening them up to trekking for the first time in over 50 years. That sparked a little bit of interest in me. There were nine areas that had never been opened to tourism before and apart from a few anthropologists, they were completely unvisited. So I thought wow that sounds pretty wild and interesting, so I went off and researched them. As I was doing that I researched the areas between the main trekking routes and I slung them together and an idea of the GHT came about.
The Nepal version took me 152 days. There was some time spent researching where the trail could go. No one has ever attempted to walk the length of Nepal in one season along the high route. It took me two seasons to do it because I needed the extra time to research trails and stuff. At the moment there are some people attempting to break in a trail but of course they are going to have to break for winter. You need 5 /6 months to do it and to be post monsoon. At this time of year there just arent enough days before the winter snows close the high passes.
Robin has just finished the Bhutan GHT network, and plans to spend 8 months next year researching the Indian section. His guidebook Nepal Trekking and the Great Himalayan Trail is released by Trailblazer on November 15th, and he will be leading the inaugural commercial trek on the GHT in February this year – a 157 trek broken into sections, run through World Expeditions. You can read his full interview with Katy Dartford here:The Great Himalayan Trail and the man behind it all.
Dawa Steven Sherpa on the importance of the trail.
Dawa Steven Sherpa meanwhile, WWF climate Change Ambassador and voted one of the Top 5 young conservationists of the world in 2008, plans to take a team to walk the lower trail or cultural route from West to East over 135 days. Leaving in January 2011, they will visit many rarely seen communities, and hope to encourage awareness of the importance of Tourism in Rural Areas. The reasons for this are numerous he explains:
Firstly, there is the simple matter of stimulating the economy. A household statistic in Nepal is that every tourist gives 11 Nepalis jobs, directly or indirectly. Tourism has great potential to bring sustainable development, Tourism brings new jobs and energises the local economy, lifting people out of poverty.
Secondly, nature. Nepal is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the World, and tourism has a major part to play in the preservation of wild life and forests. For example, the Everest region is much more forested than it was in the 1960s. The local people in the villages in Chitwan form voluntary patrolling groups to counter poaching activities. They realise that having a vibrant natural environment is directly related to the appeal for tourists and visitors. Tourism also brings opportunities to local people who would otherwise be involved in illegal logging or poaching.
Responsible and sensitive tourism can also truly help protect local cultures whilst also bringing progress to these same communities. In Nepal there are 91 recognised ethnic groups with their own language and unique cultures, but these are under threat from younger generations migrating to the cities and further abroad seeking economic opportunities.
Finally, he believes tourism is an important tool to help ruralcommunities adapt to the impacts of climate change, by reducing their reliance on subsistence farming for survival. Apa Sherpa, Leader of the Expedition, 20 time Everest Summiter, Nepali hero and legend, is a living example of this. In 1985, when the Dig Tsho Glacial Lake burst due to increased Global warming, he lost his livestock, farms and his house. Working first as a porter, then later as a mountain guide, tourism gave Apa the chance to rebuild his life. Today he is a world record holding Everest Summiter, due to the opportunities tourism brought to his door step.
Sean Burch running it!
As you read this, Sean Burch, one of the worlds greatest extreme endurance athletes has just finished his world record breaking run across the Great Himalayan trail. In 55 days he completed 500,000 feet of climbing, descending and running for 1,100 miles at altitudes over 20,000ft. He hopes to use the expedition to promote tourism in alternative regions of Nepal, as well as raising the profile of the Nepal Trust, a not for profit working on various social and ecological programs in remote regions of the Himalayas.
The Nepal Trust has been the implementing organization for the GHT Development project with UNWTO, and is able to organize treks along the GHT. They facilitated Shauns expedition, as they did the 69 day run by Rosie Swale-Pope in 2003.
Jeroen, Director of Operations at the Nepal Trust had this to say: ‘The Nepal Trust hopes that the GHT initative will open up the more
remote and unconventional areas of Nepal for the international public,
by promoting not only tourism, but also social and economic development
for those communities living along the trails.’
Doing it yourself?
For more information on the trail sections, visit http://www.thegreathimalayatrail.org.
A route overview map and a series of more detailed maps of the high-level route will be available from Himalaya Maphouse in 2010.
Dont forget the trekking guidebook made by Robin, launching in November through Trailblazer.
Be inspired, there are loads more stunning images from the different sections of the trail on their Flickr page:
If you are inspired to head to the Himalayas, check out the itineraries on offer from the muchbetter members who have all proven their commitment to supporting the local region. You can contact them direct through us. Trekking holidays in Nepal. Trekking holidays in Indian Himalayas
Article taken from the MuchBetter Adventure Mag. Sign up for it here