Friday, February 4, 2011

Hiking Champa Devi

A few days ago I emailed the ktmktm Google group seeking advice on hiking groups that organize casual treks around the Kathmandu Valley. My email generated a flood of responses -- some from people already organized in groups and other replies from people searching for information too. Within a couple hours I had gathered a short list of other women who were game to go hiking together on an upcoming weekend, as well as invitations to join existing groups, both big and small.

Before I take on the responsibility of organizing my own hiking group, I thought it would be wise to join some experienced hikers at least a few times. Luckily, I had an opportunity to do so yesterday. Knowing that I would be meeting my co-worker Sanjeev to do Kiva work in the evening, I decided to take advantage of a free day and signed on to hike Champa Devi with two other people.

Douglass served as our organizer and leader. With a fascinating personal history that includes 25+ years of motorcycle collecting and riding, 15 years of working as a public defender in Seattle, and five years working for the UN in Kabul training criminal defense attorneys, Douglass provided good stories, great knowledge of the trail, and ginger cookies at the summit.

Max, our companion from Ireland/L.A., was equally friendly and fun. At 23, he also seemed rather invincible, as he was able to smoke and hike at the same time.

Each of the guys has a motorcycle, so we drove ourselves to the trailhead on a winding road from Patan. Champa Devi, at 2,278 meters, is the highest peak on the Chandragiri Ridge. Our round-trip hike was about 6-7 miles, and it started innocently enough at first, with wide switchbacks at a fairly easy grade. Then the route got steeper, as you can see from the photo below:

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The peak in the foreground is just a teaser summit; the real summit of Champa Devi lies behind it. Fortunately, some kind souls made the end of the climb a bit easier by building a stone staircase up the steep bits:

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Even so, it was a rigorous hike. I had forgotten what it was like to hike, as the last one I did was about two and a half years ago when Brian and I climbed a hill to pay homage to the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara (the "World" part may be a bit generous). Hiking seems to work many more muscles than running, and the thinner air at an altitude of 7,000+ feet also makes a difference.

Throughout the hike, though, we were rewarded with views of the Himalayas, even through the hazy air which has hung over the Valley since I arrived in Nepal.

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See those white shapes in the distance? Those are not clouds -- they are the highest mountains in the world!

This hike made me excited to do more day treks around the Kathmandu Valley and even more excited for some lengthier treks that Brian and I are hoping to do over the next many months. 

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