January 14, 2012
Climate change’s impact on the Himalaya is visible everywhere one travels in Nepal. Erratic monsoons and changes in rain and snowfall patterns are leading to unpredictable and intense flash floods and landslides. Increasing intensity and frequency of forest fires are threatening bio-diversity. These and other negative impacts created by climate change are threatening the welfare of the Nepali people and the nation’s economy, including its tourism industry, a leading source of income.
Recently, one solution for turning Nepal into a climate-resilient nation has been launched in which the people of Nepal are being offered positive forms of climate adaptation through responsible tourism-led economic development. The Great Himalaya Trail Development Programme (GHTDP) has joined hands with the Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) to introduce and establish eco-friendly tourism, while bringing sustainable development opportunities to remote and poor communities in the Himalayan region.
WHAT IS THE GREAT HIMALAYA TRAIL?
The Himalaya is a maze of valleys, passes and mountain peaks, which are constantly changing because of the weather and global warming. To choose a specific route and expect it to remain unchanged is impossible, so the GHT is as much a concept, or ideal, as it is a formal track.
For many, the Great Himalaya Trail is the “highest feasible route” along the length of the various himal, which combine to form the full range that divides India and China. The Himalaya are so immense that route options are commonplace and all can be considered part of the overall Trail.
So the GHT is a personal challenge; a trail system that allows you to develop your own route priorities and set your own level of difficulty. There are some sections that are a gentle hike at relatively low elevations (approximately 2,000m or 6,500ft). There are other sections that involve extreme trekking and light mountaineering at heights over 6,000m (20,000ft). Such variety means that you can gain experience over a number of treks that could ultimately lead you to some of the highest points on earth.
The Great Himalaya Trail is the world’s first “climate smart” long distance trekking trail. And over the longer term, the GHT has the potential to traverse the length of the Himalayan Range stretching through impoverished mountain areas of Pakistan, India and Bhutan.
WHAT IS THE HIMALAYAN CLIMATE INITIATIVE?
Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) is a Nepali civil society initiative set up by fifteen prominent Nepali citizens to build climate resilience in Nepali economy and society. “HCI intends to build a Peaceful, Prosperous and Climate Resilient Nepal, and establish environmental, social and economic significance of the Himalayas across the globe.”
THIS WEEK’S TRAIL INAUGURATION
This historic trek, beginning January 15 – launched on Thursday by Nepal’s president, Dr. Ram BaranYadav – is being led by Nepal’s most famous mountaineer, Apa Sherpa (21-time summiteer of Everest) and fellow mountaineer Dawa Steven Sherpa. They will be accompanied by two other young Nepalis: Saurabh Dhakal, a British Council International Climate Champion, and Samir Jung Thapa, the official photographer of the four-month trek.
In addition to the Government of Nepal, the trek is backed by the Nepal Tourism Board, as well as many of Nepal’s development partners, notably, DFIC, SNV and the British Council.
An accompanying research and media team will bring out the issues around the development needs of the mountains (as well as the climate vulnerabilities of its residents) to the forefront.
Kanchanjunga (15 Jan – 28 Jan) Home to the world’s third highest mountain, offering some of the finest views in the world.
Makalu Barun (29 Jan – 5 Feb) This unique landscape shelters some of the last pristine mountain ecosystems on earth. I harbors over 3,000 species of flowering plants, 440 species of birds, and 75 species of mammals, including many that are endangered.
Everest and Rolwaling (6 Feb – 23 Feb) Suspension bridges, plunging waterfalls, Sherpa villages, the sacred Rolwaling Valley and the tallest mountain in the world.
Langtang and Helambu (24-Feb – 1Mar) The secluded Langtang Valley and Buddhist monasteries, populated with forests of pine, bamboo and rhododendron.
Lower Ganesh Himal (2 Mar – 9 Mar) The Ganesh Himal provides breathtaking views as well as a true view of rural life and cultural heritage in Nepal.
Annapurna-Mustang (10 Mar – 24 Mar) Magnificent views of the Annapurna range, the mountain-ringed amphitheater of the Sanctuary Mustang and the spectacular Modhi Khola gorge.
Lower Dolpo (2 Apr – 8 Apr) Extremely remote and high altitude desert; strongly reminiscent of Tibet and famous for the turquoise Phoksundo Lake.
Rara, Jumla And Mugu (9 Apr – 16 Apr) Nepal’s largest lake, home to 236 species of nesting birds and surrounded by rugged forested hills.
The Far West (17 Apr – 3 May) Challenging trekking though Khaptad National Park with spectacular views of Nampa, Api and Saipal peaks.