Upper Humla Valley
Key information: Upper Humla Valley
- Follow an ancient trade and pilgrimage route up the remote Humla (Karnali) valley, crossing the Himalayas into Tibet.
- Revel in wonderful scenery: the milky Humla in its deep gorge, the forested slopes giving way to the crags and peaks of the high Himalayas.
- Pass through remote villages, witnessing a little-changed way of life.
- Experience the transition from the Hindu to the Buddhist world, and from the sharp new rock of the Himalayas to the crumbling bed of the ancient Tethys sea.
- This is a high walk in mountains (crossing passes up to 4,580 m): be prepared.
Walkopedia rating(Top 100)
- Walkopedia rating89
- Natural interest15
- Human interest12
- Negative points2
- Total rating89
- Length: 5-6 days
- Maximum Altitude: 4,580m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
The Humla Valley runs, seemingly forever, from its source in Tibet, through the impacted Himalayas of Western Nepal down to join the Ganges on the hot plains of India. An ancient pilgrimage and trade route between Tibet and Nepal follows its milky-blue, glacier fed upper reaches, making for an unforgettable trek.
As well as magnificent and varied scenery snowy peaks, cliffs, crags, gorges and waterfalls you will meet caravans of yak, mules, and pack goats, and pass through remote hill villages amid their terraced fields, where life's essence has changed little over the centuries. You will travel from the Hindu world of the foothills to the monasteries, chortens, mani walls and prayer flags of the Tibetan world.
The vegetation changes from productive little fields and forests to the thin grasses and scrub of Tibet, as the trail climbs steadily towards the high pass across the Himalayas.
The area was closed until the mid 2000s and much of it was effectively controlled by Maoist insurgents. While this means you may not meet any Westerners at all, it also means that you need to plan carefully before you travel.
WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk
Upper Humla Valley Trek, Nepal
The Humla river rises high on the Tibetan plateau, disappearing into an impenetrable gorge through the peaks between Tibet and Nepal, then winds, seemingly forever, down through the impacted Himalayas of western Nepal, becoming the great Karnali of the Indian plains.
The valley has for centuries been a route for trade and for pilgrims on their way to the fabled Mount Kailash in western Tibet, the axis of the ancient Buddhist and Hindu cosmos. Few pilgrims come this way now, but trade is thriving. While salt mined in Tibet used to be hauled.....READ MORE
Other accounts: share your experiences
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There was little in the way of guidebooks when we walked this route in 2006.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Mid September (after the monsoon has finished) until late October (when winter hits Tibet). Late spring is also a possibility.
Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.
Fly to Simikot from Kathmandhu, via Nepalgunj: very seasonal (low cloud during monsoon can stop flights for days). Other ways to Simikot are slow and difficult; it is not on a road.
Those on organised expeditions are likely to be transported from Kathmandu.
The trekking route follows the Humla Valley westward from Simikot, diverging after three days where the river turns north into an impassable gorge. It climbs westward up another beautiful valley, crossing the high pass over the Himalaya after another day and a half, then dropping to the Tibetan border at its end.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Altitude: can affect some; potentially fatal. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
- Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- This is remote country: food and other supplies will not be readily available and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
- Health risks: this is a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.
- Maoist insurgents are known to operate in (indeed, effectively control) this area. A knowledgeable guide is essential (as of 2007).
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Guided or independent?
You could, in theory, do this trek independently: this is not advisable while the area remains under control of the Maoist insurgents, and in any event would be a lot less enjoyable and interesting then with a good guide and support.
People generally form or join organised/supported expeditions. Expedition organisers include:
- Great Walks of the World (http://www.greatwalks.net/), who organised our expedition. We were generally pleased with the expedition and its organisation.
Camping is the only realistic option.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
Other things to do in the area
Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar in Tibet: Trekking up the Humla valley is the perfect way to acclimatise to the rigours of the Tibetan plateau.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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