Recommended Side Trips around Manaslu Trek
Kal Tal, meaning ‘Death Lake’ (3600m, 11808ft.)
Base point: Prok
This is a suggested day excursion to a mountain lake situated at an altitude of 3600 meters. It takes about 3-4 hours to get to the lake from the village of Prok. The mountain panorama from the lake is superb, but the effort is worth only in clear weather. Note that in early autumn and late spring clouds start to cover the mountains even early in the morning, so plan accordingly.
Hinang Gompa and Himalchuli Base Camp (4020m, 13186ft.)
Base point: Lihi
It is an hour walk from Lihi up to Hinang Khola takes you to the large Hinang Gompa. The monks there are welcoming and it is possible to sleep in the Gompa. Further on, the trail continues up towards the Himal Chuli range. The mountain views are spectacular, and you can visit the highly recommended Hinang glacier.
Phungen Gompa (Around 4050m, 11316ft.)
Base point: Shyala or Samagaun
It is a day trip that starts in a branch of the trail between Shyala and Samagaon. From the branch it takes about an hour to reach a Yak pasture area and additional one and a half hours to reach the Gompa, which is located at the end of a vast grassy plateau surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery. This is one of the best places to get a view of Mount Manaslu and its surroundings, but again – the effort is worth only on a clear day. The Gompa includes a small prayer hall and some monk dormitories built into the mountain. There are no accommodation facilities here but it looks like a tempting place for camping. Morning views from here will probably be awesome.
Birenda Tal (3450m, 11316ft.)
Base point: Samagaun
Birendra Tal is named after name of late King Birendra of Nepal, is a turquoise lake at the foot of the Manaslu glacier. It can be reached by 45 minutes walk from Samagaon. Those of you who like to wash bath in distant waters will find it pleasant to dip in its chilly ice water. The lake can be visited on the way from Samagaon to Samdo, as it is a relatively short diversion from the main trail.
Manaslu Base Camp (4900m, 16072ft.)
Base point: Samagaun
Hiking to MBC at the altitude of 4900 meters from Sama Gaon takes full day for round. During the climbing seasons, the place is packed with tents, equipment, guides, porters and expedition members either anxious before the climb or exhausted after a climb. The steep climb from Sama Gaon takes about 4-5 hours. The trail has a short start in the forest then becomes exposed on the steep slope above Samagaon north of the impressive Manaslu glacier. As you gain altitude the scenery becomes more and more spectacular – the glacier just nearby, the turquoise lake beneath, and mountains as far as the eye can see. The last part of the climb is the steepest on a slippery trail on a narrow moraine. Beside the experience of seeing the camp activity and meeting climbers, the surrounding mountain scenery is breath taking. Although there are some glacier based water sources on the way, carry enough water with you. Then descend to Samagaon takes about 3 hours.
Rui La, Nepal –Tibet border (4998m, 16593ft.)
Base point: Samdo
From Samdo there are basically two options to get to the Tibetan border. Option one is seeing the view from Lajyung Bhanjyang, a pass at 5098 meters east of Samdo. The locals don’t suggest this option since it is not usually used and the trail is not clear (Yaks rule these hills and mark numerous trails there). Option two is the "main way to Tibet”, leading to trade route to Tibet that goes through Rui La pass at 4998 meters north of Samdo. The nearest Tibetan village is only a day walk through this route, and a motorable road in the Tibetan side is two days walk… It can be done on a long tourists walking day.
The hike starts by going north from Samdo as if you are going to Dharamshala: crossing the Athahra Saya Khola and climbing from the other side. But instead of going west towards Dharamshala you continue north along the western side of the Athahra Saya Khola. The trail climbs gradually along the Athahra Saya Khola and then descends gently towards the river bed crossing a side river on a wooden bridge. It then climbs again and goes beside the river on its western side. After 3 hours walk from Samdo the Athahra Saya Khola turns west. On this point there is a small wooden bridge and on the other side of it a clear slope that leads to a distant mountain passes. Cross the bridge and begin to climb on the slope. At its bottom, the trail may seem unclear as there are several Yak trails going up, but as you climb it is clear that your way is… up… The climb to the top of the Rui La pass, at 4998, takes another 2 hours. Along the way there are beautiful sights of Manaslu in the distance, as well as the Hindu and Fukang glaciers just behind you as you climb. The Rui La pass is a "classic” "U” shaped mountain pass. Prayer flags mark the pass and a border stone marks the border between Nepal and "Dzong Who” – China. Numerous mountain ranges can be seen on the Tibetan side, and if you are patient enough, wait to see a Yak caravan crossing the pass to bring goods into Nepal. The way back to Samdo takes about 4 hours, so if you plan to do this trip be prepared for a long day, start early and take pack lunch and enough drinking water with you.