At a glance
Trekking Destination: Rolwaling Valley Trek
Transportation: private and public vehicle
Trekking hour: 5-6 hours each day
Duration: 22 Days
Rolwaling valley trek is sandwiched between the over-popular Langtang Region of Kathmandu and the Everest Region of Everest fame to the east. The Rolwaling Himal, along the Tibetan border, forms the northern border of a wild, beautiful east-west valley that, due to its isolated location, has been largely closed to trekkers; home to Hindu and several Tibetan groups of which the Tamangs are in the majority, followed by Sherpas and Chhetris. The region is rich in flora (with 16 major vegetation types) and fauna (with 34 species of mammal, 16 of fish, 10 of amphibian, 8 of lizard, 14 of snake and 235 of birds).
The Sherpas named this valley Rolwaling – “The Grave or Furrow” – due to its location along the Rolwaling Khola deep beneath the countless ice-giants that tower above this unusual east-west valley. Rolwaling is considered a beyul, one of only eight sacred, hidden valleys in the Himalaya serving to protect the dharma.
There are over 50 spectacular peaks that tower to heights above 6000m, crowned by the double peaks of Gaurishankar on the border and the two Melungtse peaks in Tibet. Gaurishankar is the Sherpa’s most sacred mountain and is also important to Hindus. The highest, northern, summit (7145m) is known as Shankar (a manifestation of the god Shiva) and the southern summit (7010m) is called Gauri (a manifestation of Shiva’s consort).
Our camping trek requires good walking experience and physical fitness, but does not require any experience of rock or ice work. The adventure begins with a scenic drive eastwards along the Tibetan Highway to Lhasa. It then turns northwards, climbing gradually into the high Himalaya. The scenery is everywhere captivating.
The trek begins the following morning along footpaths that undulate between ridge and river-crossings through ancient rhododendron, oak and pine forests interspersed with terraced fields adjoining the numerous villages of the region. Many suspension bridges across gorges help shorten the climbs. Magnificent peak views could be had from high ground such as the Daldung La (3900m), and then more continuously as the path rises.
Northwest of Simigaon and our route is Bigu Gompa, an unusual, beautiful and ancient nunnery of the Kagyupa sect. Bigu means “Seed” in the Sherpa language and, particularly since the late 1950’s it has grown as an important training centre for nuns. Today it is home to 300 nuns. We will visit the ochre colored Gompa at Beding, the largest village in the Valley.
Beyond Beding, we climb to the last settlement in the valley: the summer pasture village, kharka, of Na. From here we will spend two days exploring the Yalung La region with its spectacular glacier fields and the Tsho-Rolpa glacier lake. The lake is held back behind its terminal moraine and there are real fears that when the climate changes sufficiently and the ice melts it will break through the barrier causing untold damage in the valleys below. Attempts are being made to shore it up safely.