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Well-equipped and fully self-sufficient parties can do the circuit of the Dhaulagiri massif. The minimum time that should be allowed for this itinerary is 18 days, Pokhara to Pokhara, but a few extra days should be added to allow for side trips or delays caused by bad weather. The route crosses two high passes which lie in remote country far removed from any outside assistance. Particular care must be taken with regards to proper acclimatization and staff equipment. Since much of the first half of the trek is on rarely trekked trails, the services of an experienced local guide are highly recommended. No special permits are required for the Dhaulagiri Circuit but for the last part, down the Kali Gandaki, you will need an ACAP entry permit.
The trek is best started from Beni, the Headquarters of Myagdi district. Myagdi is one of the most easterly of the districts where the Magar people predominate. This group of hill dwellers are similar in many ways to their Gurung neighbors, but are thought to have settled in Nepal some time earlier. Like their Gurung cousins, the Magars have traditionally served in the Gurkha regiments for centuries. Regular bus services operate from Pokhara as far as Baglung and from there less frequent services to Beni.
The Dhaulagiri trail follows the Myagdi Khola, the river that drains the southern side of the Dhaulagiri massif. Passing through the settlements of Darbang and Muri, the country is still quite heavily populated with scattered villages and farming land. Beyond Muri, the Myagdi Khola swings north and the landscape becomes much more rugged and sparsely populated. The tree line is reached just below the Italian base camp, located at the snout of the Chhonbaraan Glacier. This is an ideal place to spend a day acclimatizing, and walk about exploring the hills in the area.
The next two days are spent on the glacier; the second night is spent at Dhaulagiri Base Camp, a rugged spot with some spectacular views of the western face of Dhaulagiri. From here the trail crosses the French pass which at 5,360 meters is the highest point of the trek. Descending from the French Pass you enter the lonely, but fascinating area known as Hidden Valley. This place is one of the few true wilderness areas accessible to trekkers in Nepal. The valley stretches away to the north eventually narrowing to a rugged gorge that connects the Upper Dolpa. There are reports of many endangered species residing in this area including the elusive snow leopard.
From the Hidden valley, the trail now crosses Dhampus pass (sometimes known as Thapa pass). While not as high as the French Pass, it is roughly 100 m lower, Dhampus Pass has a reputation for bad weather which can make the crossing and subsequent descent something of a problem. Trekkers must be aware of the health of their group members and staff, especially on the section between the French Pass and Dhampus Pass. Any person suffering from symptoms of AMS must not be taken on over the French Pass but must immediately be taken back down the Myagdi Khola to a lower altitude. Having a group member suffer from AMS between the passes poses a serious problem as the only way to get the patient some assistance is to ascend first before descending, which would make the problem worse.
Having crossed Dhampus pass, the trail descends into the valley of the Kali Gandaki meeting the main trail at either Marpha or Tukuche. On the way down to the valley, there are some spectacular views across to the Annapurnas and up into the arid steppes of Mustang.