Well, it’s been 7 months since I returned from Europe, capping off a long 1.5yrs of mostly thru-hiking in 2016/17. Honestly, I was quite ready to nest for an extended period back home in Portland, OR. Maybe it’s the cumulative amount of thru-hiking at least a solid 5 months each of the last 7yrs, or the fact that I’ll be turning 40 (that came quick!) later this year, but I’ve definitely downshifted a bit.
If the Great Himalaya Trail didn’t have a seasonal window that requires a spring (or fall) start, I could have easily continued working (substitute teacher & nanny) through June this year before setting off on another long hike. This past fall and winter, I tried to get more of a mental break from trail logistics, blogging, and social media. That stuff takes its toll, and I’ve enjoyed the mental and emotional space. Now that it’s time for another season, I’ve had some personal resistance, to kicking myself back into gear; particularly with the blogging. However, as I currently sit in JFK Airport, about to take off for Kathmandu, Nepal, it’s starting to sink in that something big is about to start, and I feel it all coming back to me.
There’s a routine to all of this that I guess I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. People ask me if I am excited before I leave, but it’s not like that. Putting on my pack and heading to the mountains just feels natural and like home. It’s just part of life for me, and that’s pretty cool when I’m able to step back and take it in. I know this lifestyle is one many only dream of, so I don’t take it for granted. It’s just interesting to me that, given the enormity of the Great Himalaya Trail, I feel so calm and natural. Not sure what it means, but it’s nice. For those of you long term followers, I’m “in the pocket.” I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and it feels just right.
Now, let’s talk about the Great Himalaya Trail for a bit. I feel like there are so many small details I could go into to explain the level of research and planning on this one, but just thinking of all that gets me feeling stressed. All that will come in time, and my next post will address more of those logistical details. Most of you aren’t as interested in the detailed trail logistics as you are with the main concept; we (more on my hiking partners below) will spend the next three months walking ~900mi crossing the length of Nepal from east to west through the Himalayas.
The GHT high route is the multicolored line indicating each region. The pink line is the low route. The elevation chart matches our modified high route plan running east to west. So, the left side of the chart is the right side of the map heading west.
The concept of the GHT is the brainchild of Robin Boustead; a man with great enthusiasm for the culture of Nepal and a love of the Himalaya mountains. At the heart of it all, Robin wanted to create a route (with low and high route options) that would cross the length of Nepal so that hikers could become deeply immersed in the Nepalese culture. Not just the touristy tracks of Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna region. The GHT is a whole other experience.
For example, our first leg, we will likely go three weeks before reaching anything more modern like showers, heating, or any kind of internet service. We will carry what food we can, but will be reliant on tea houses for a lot of our diet. These won’t be the modern touristy tea houses that are more like European huts. No, we will be in very remote places where westerners aren’t an everyday occurrence. One group that recently did this first leg did not meet a single westerner the entire first leg. These tea houses are extremely minimal; more like stone wall structures that shield from the elements, but not the temperatures. Understandably, the hygiene in remote parts of a third world country will not be what we are accustomed to. The resources just aren’t there. I’ve been warned that in some areas, it won’t be uncommon for the hands that collect yak dung for fire to be the same hands (maybe rinsed off) that will handle served food.
This does mean a greater likelihood of food poisoning, diarrhea, and giardia. Actually, it’s the norm on the GHT to often be dealing with some digestive ailment. We’ve all come prepared with a full medicine cabinet of options for when it will likely hit each of us. The most common food in tea houses will be dal bhat, which mainly consists of lentils and rice. We’ve been warned that this is not the most sustaining diet to thru-hike on, and we all should lose a significant amount of weight. Good excuse for my double breakfast this morning that included a bbq pizza and Little Debbie brownie. We all are purposely coming into this one with a bit of extra weight on us knowing it will soon be lost.
Back home in Portland, OR “training” for the GHT. Eating Nepalese food. Mo-mos (right), dal bhat (right), and chai tea.
So, by now, many of you are wondering why even put ourselves through all this!? I haven’t even mentioned altitude sickness (our high point will be near 19,000ft/5,790m) and the spectrum of weather and temperatures to be expected. Well, it just kinda evolved. I hiked with Griggs in NZ and Tasmania last year. He would quite fondly reminisce on his first Nepal trip in 2015. At the same time, my good friend (and veteran thru-hiker) Buck-30 and I were discussing possible challenging trails to team up on. Nepal came up, but we both wanted a thru-hike experience. We knew the GHT existed, but figured it was out of our range of ability. Then, after more research and asking around, we found out that a modified high route would be possible. We could mostly stick to the high route, yet take the lower route around the few high passes that require mountaineering skills. Since there are so many variables on this hike that are out of our control, there’s a likelihood that one of us may have to bail or come off for one reason or another. By inviting Griggs to join in, we become even stronger as a unit. If any of us need to tag out for a leg or gets sick, it won’t impact the other two as we are on a tight schedule to get through before monsoon season gets to the west side of Nepal at the end of June.
On the flight to Kathmandu with Griggs.
I really can’t imagine a more compatible grouping for the three of us. I’ll surely have fun documenting our mix of personalities and how the group dynamics play out. I’m sure we will drive each other nuts at times, but I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. Both Buck-30 and Griggs are strong, mature, reliable, friends and thru-hikers. We all know how to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves. It’s just so unique to not only be in the position to do this route myself, but to also have such good and reliable friends who can also do it. That kind of opportunity doesn’t line up often, so we need to take this chance while we can. Here’s a fun intro to each of the guys. I look forward to the two of them meeting one another as well.
Griggs Domler (Griggs is his birth name)
Profession: Currently a retired computer programmer who invested in just the right stocks at just the right time, and now is a full time traveler. Yep…you read that right.
Started Thru-Hiking: 2015
Thru-Hiking Resume: Colorado Trail, Nepal (Everest Region), Pacific Crest Trail, Long Trail, Te Araroa, Tasmania (various multi-day trails), Continental Divide Trail, Baekdudaegan (South Korea)
Total Miles Hiked: ~9200mi
Why I Like To Hike With Griggs: After spending 2.5months hiking in the Te Araroa and Tasmania with Griggs, I found that he’s likely the most compatible hiking partner I’ve ever had. I think his trail name should be rhino with the way he plows through stuff. I swear, he’s a machine both in body and mind. The information that brain can hold just amazes me. Griggs is just real easy to be around. He is the first thru-hiker to not only be ok with my pacing, but wants to push even more. It’s a rare find and I’m looking forward to teaming up again.
Why Griggs Is Interested In the GHT: “My first trip to Nepal only whetted my appetite to return to this beautiful country. From the indescribable grandeur of the high mountains, to the lush green valleys of the lower reaches there’s just something special about the Himalayas, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to explore them further. By all accounts the route is challenging and variable, with unpredictable weather and the monsoon season looming in the distance, but we have a strong team to tackle it. Looking forward to getting back on the trail!”
Any Thoughts On Hiking With Wired?: “Erin and I have compatible hiking styles and preferences, and from the crazy rains and fords on the Te Araroa to the steep technical terrain of the Arthur’s range, we worked well together and got along without getting on each others nerves, (no small feat spending every waking hour with someone for months :-). I appreciate hiking with someone with experience, strength and a good attitude, and she has all that in spades.”
Brian “Buck-30” Tanzman
Trail Journal: https://www.postholer.com/user/buck30/3178
Profession: Accountant for Ernst & Young (only needs to work seasonally 3-6 months/yr).
Started Thru-Hiking: 2002
Thru-Hiking Resume: Appalachian Trail (x2.5), Pacific Crest Trail (x2.25), Continental Divide Trail (x2), Arizona Trail, AAWT, Larapinta, Bibbulmun, Colorado Trail, San Diego Sea to Sea (x2), Te Araroa, Pacific Northwest Trail, Hayduke Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, FLT, Bigfoot Trail, Great Divide Trail, Lowest to Highest, Israeli National Trail, Patagonia, Hot Springs Trail, Wonderland Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail
Total Miles Hiked: 29,428mi
Why I Like To Hike With Buck-30: I actually originally met Buck-30 in 2011 on my very first long trail (PCT) when he was doing trail magic. I remember being impressed his hiking resume. Then, in 2015, he was a great resource for when I was preparing to hike the Hayduke Trail. Through that, we struck up a friendship, and he’s now one of my best friends. We hiked the Wonderland Trail together in 2016, but it’s tough to find something we both haven’t hiked yet. We have a good brother sister dynamic in which we surely get on each other’s nerves and know what buttons to push, but it’s all in fun. It will be interesting to see if we ever want to talk to each other again after this one, ha! It’s just so rare to know another person that can relate to living this kind of thru-hiking lifestyle over so many years. Those that aren’t aware, Buck-30 tends to do trails early on in their development, and keeps a comprehensive and humorous journal of his trips on Postholer that many use as a guide/reference on other lesser traveled routes. Here’s a podcast interview he did recently. I have to give my first of many shout outs to Buck-30 for taking the lead on doing the trail logistics for this one. Many people are already asking me for beta, but it will likely be Buck-30 who will best compile it all after the hike for a comprehensive resource. I owe him some Diet Coke for sure!
Why Buck-30 Is Interested In the GHT: “I want to do the GHT cause I’m running out of places to hike in America and I hear eating dal bhat every day for 3 months is better than drinking a gallon of diet coke a day (he’s not exaggerating!). Also, the mountains look very big and challenging.”
Any Thoughts On Hiking With Wired?: “I’m worried about hiking the GHT with Erin as I will have to be on my best behavior. If I misbehave it will be noted in the blog and I will never be able to hike again. I’m also worried I will end up carrying everything she drops along the way.”
Erin “Wired” Saver
Profession: Substitute Teacher & Nanny
Started Thru-Hiking: 2011
Thru-Hiking Resume: Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, West Coast Trail, Teton Crest Trail, John Muir Trail, Great Divide Trail, Hayduke Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Wonderland Trail, Lost Coast Trail, Sierra High Route, Wind River High Route, Kings Canyon High Basin Route, Larapinta, Bibbulmun, Te Araroa, Tasmania, Haute Route Pyrenees, GR5 (French Alps).
Total Miles Hiked: 14,900mi
Why Am I Interested In the GHT: The GHT will surely be my biggest challenge yet. I really don’t know that I’ll find one more challenging that interests me. There is the obvious physical challenges that lie ahead, but I’m most interested in challenging myself to find a way to feel comfortable in situations I can’t control. I like to use trails to work on aspects of myself that I also find challenge in daily life. For me, the most prominent at this point is probably my unease in conditions I can’t control and my struggle to trust others. This trail will require me to move forward with a lot of unknowns and a ton of uncontrollable factors that come with being in a third world country. I find those kind of situations stressful, and my stress tends to go to my stomach in the sense that I lose hunger. The challenge will be for me to find a calm in not knowing and not being able to predict much of what’s coming. Also, just trusting in agents, guides, and my hiking partners. This isn’t a hike I can do on my own, so I’ll need to relinquish that control and put my trust in others at times. Also, when you have an opportunity to do something like hiking the length of Nepal, you take it! Let’s do this! More details to come on the GHT next post before we take off for the first leg.