Manaslu is the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8,163 metres above sea level. Trekking is popular in this mountain region. It is located in the Mansiri Himal, part of the Nepalese Himalayas, in the west-central part of Nepal. Manaslu was first climbed on May 9, 1956 by Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu, members of a Japanese expedition.
Manaslu is the highest peak in the Gorkha District and is located about 64 km east of Annapurna. The mountain’s long ridges and valley glaciers offer feasible approaches from all directions, and culminate in a peak that towers steeply above its surrounding landscape, and is a dominant feature when viewed from afar.
The Manaslu Circuit Trek usually starts in Arughat Bazaar and ends two to three weeks later in Besisahar, the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit Trek. Until recently the trek required camping, but the building of tea-houses means the trek can be completed using local accommodation. The trek requires a Restricted Area Permit of $50 per week and that trekkers travel in a group of at least two persons with a registered guide. The trek lies on the newly developed Great Himalaya Trail.
The trek follows an ancient salt–trading route along the steep-sided Budhi Gandaki river. From Deng, the slopes of ravines ease and views of snow peaks start appearing from Ligaon. Further, from Lhogaon (Lho), an impressive view of Manaslu, with its double peak, appears described as “a soaring monarch with a double-edged summit towering above fields of barley”.
The route follows the pine-forested Syala village, which has the backdrop of many horseshoe-shaped peaks, and reaches the village of Samagaon (Sama) at the foot of Manaslu. There is a Buddhist monastery at Samagaon, where monks and nuns reside. After half a day’s trek from Samagaon, the village of Samdo is reached. Samdo is the highest village in the Budhi Gandaki valley and is inhabited by Bhotias. This village commands a view of the valley and Pang Phuchi village with a backdrop of the Tibetan border. Further trekking leads along a major secondary valley to the Larkha La (Larkja La). Along with this route, Cheo Himal, Himlung Himal (Nemjung) and Kang Guru are seen, along with occasional views of the Annapurna Massif. From here, the meadowland of Bimtang (Bimdakhoti) at elevation 1,500 meters is reached, from where Manaslu is clearly visible. From Manaslu, the circuit passes through Dudh Khola (a tributary of Marshyangdi river), criss-crosses Marsyangdi River before reaching Bhulbule, Tarukha Ghat, crosses the Chepe Khola and Dorandi Khola before returning to Gorkha.
Two alternative routes are also popular. One is on the Annapurna Circuit trail but leaves it at Dharapani to reach Manang, crossing Thorong La and Jomsom (Kali Gandaki valley). From Jomsom flights depart to Pokhara. The other alternative route is from Bhulbule, crossing Marsyangdi to Khudi, divert from Annapurna trail and trek cross country through valleys and ridges to Sisuwa town on the bank of Begnas Tal. From here a road approach is available to Pokhara.
When trekking through the Manaslu region, ten peaks of over 6,500 meters in height are visible, including peaks of over 7,000 meters elevation. People add Tsum Valley and the Ganesh Himal Base Camp as acclimatization trips before going on expeditions through the high passes. The Tsum region, which was restricted for tourists for a long time, is now the center of attraction for intrepid trekkers, with the government of Nepal recently opening it for group tourists. In order to retain its pristine culture and sustain its fragile ecosystem, the Tsum Welfare Committee is involved in the promotion of responsible tourism in Tsum. However, local participation for sustainable tourism is still a challenging task with a long road ahead.