Tallest Trail in the World: The High Route of the Great Himalayan Trail
The Great Himalayan Trail spans the entire northern side of the country of Nepal, from Kanchenjunga Base Camp in eastern Nepal to Hillsa on the Nepal/Tibet border. 1,700 kilometers of raw trekking adventure. There are two major routes that are considered the Great Himalayan Trail, one is called the Cultural Route while the other is simply the High Route. The Cultural Route follows a lower path through Nepal and avoids the extreme mountain passes. The High Route lives up to its name by staying in high altitude mountain terrain for the majority of the hike.
Only a handful of Nepalis and westerners have been known to finish the trail in its entirety. In fact, the exact number is unknown, which is mostly attributed to the obscurity of the trail. Most foreigners are so drawn to landmark treks such as Everest Base Camp, the Annapurna Circuit or mountaineering objectives such as Everest or Island Peak, that this 1,700km stretch of trail seems to fall through the cracks.
The High Route of the Great Himalayan Trail is really just a title for the thru-hike of northern Nepal. It seems to be unspoken that there is no “official” trail, but rather a collection of trails that all link to create the Great Himalayan Trail. The High Route is characterized in some areas by extreme route finding, 6,000-meter passes, and difficult glacier crossings.
It is common among trekkers aiming to complete the Great Himalayan Trail to do a combination of the Cultural Route and the High Route as a way to complete the whole trail and avoid some of the difficult terrain that requires mountaineering experience.
In March 2018, two ultra trail runners, Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel, completed the fastest known time on a section of both the High Route and the Cultural Route of the Great Himalaya Trail. They spent a total of 25 days 4 hours and 24 minutes running from Simikot to the Eastern Nepal/ Indian border at Pashupatinagar, beating the previous record set by Andrew Porter at 28 days, 13 hours and 56 minutes.
Trekking a 1,700km trail anywhere is tough, but adding in the unpredictability of the Himalayas, high mountain passes, and difficult route finding make this trail one of the most challenging in the world.
Written by: Benjamin Loecken