Monday, September 12, 2011

Shivapuri - The Nagi Gompa Route

Last Saturday we had a rematch with Shivapuri. This mountain lies due north of us and is perfectly framed by our kitchen window; but whenever I look at it, I only remember the stairway to hell that took us up and down the mountain during one of our hardest treks yet (including the Annapurna Circuit).

That is, until Saturday. Along with a new friend, we decided to tackle Shivapuri again, but this time we took the far more pleasant route that winds around the right side of the mountain. Known as the Nagi Gompa route, this trail ascends the mountain at a more gentle incline than the stone stairs that lead up the mountain to the left, and it also rewards you with more than a summit, as it takes you through a nunnery complex on your way up.

After paying your entrance fee to the park (250 rupees for foreigners), start walking on the main road that leads north. You might share this trail with the occasional motorbike until you reach Nagi Gompa, but it is a very pleasant walk with good tree cover and panoramic views of the (hazy) Kathmandu Valley.

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If you're hiking in the hot and humid summer, you can cool off in two small waterfalls along the way.

And maybe you will run into a monkey or two.

Eventually you will reach a fork in the road with a poorly marked sign for Nagi Gompa posted to a tree. Take the left trail that switches back and climbs up more steeply. 

After continuing on this road for a bit, you will reach a staircase that climbs up to Nagi Gompa, which is a great place to perch for views of the Valley while you sip some water and listen to the nuns' puja in the main prayer hall.

When you are ready to continue to the peak, veer right at the prayer hall to find a footpath, through a metal gate, that leads you up to the summit. From this point the hike becomes more intense, as the trail is very steep at times. It is also more woodsy, so beware of pesky gnats -- insect repellant and a wide-brimmed hat may help.

Eventually you will reach the summit, which is an unremarkable open field with somewhat disappointing views -- in fact, the views along the road up to Nagi Gompa were far better. The bugs were bugging us, so we high-fived, caught our breath, and then headed straight back down again after about two minutes at the top. We stopped for a water and snack break at Nagi Gompa and then continued down to the base of the mountain. Microbuses were waiting on the main road just beyond the park entrance gate, so for 20 rupees per person we got a quick, if crowded ride, into the city.

We kept a very brisk pace and good conversation along the way, so we admittedly did not pay close attention to the amount of time it took us to hike the different segments of the trail (what a nice change from the staircase route, which had us looking at our watches every five minutes!). But I can tell you that our total time on the trail was about 4 hours and 45 minutes, including a generous 30-minute stop at the nunnery.

It was a great way to spend the better part of a Saturday and a great little training hike in preparation for our upcoming trek in October. And, Shivapuri, I think I can now enjoy my kitchen view of you.

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