The Tsum Valley and Manaslu Trek is one of the best off-the-beaten-path treks in Nepal. The most prominent of the peaks are Baudha Himal, Gorkha Himal and Himal Chuli. the area is bordered by two major river systems. To the east Budhi Gandaki and to the west Marshandi Khola. The biggest attraction of this trek is the views of the Manaslu range and the Annapuna ranges, combined with the forest and animal life along the ridge. The route starts from Gorkha. The route follows the rugged gorge of the Budhi Gandaki river through native Gurung country. A number of large Buddhist monasteries are to be seen in the upper reaches of the Budhi Gandaki.
The range of geographical and climatic regions has led to a diverse variety of flora and fauna with in this region. These parts of area are heavily cultivated and the landscape, therefore, largely consists of terraced paddy fields and rolling hills. The area is also famous for its winter crops of oranges, which can be purchased fresh from the trees along the trails in the foothills. As you progress higher up into the hills the natural vegetation changes from the tropical species to more temperate stands of forest trees including oak, beech and rhododendron. These finally give way to coniferous forests of pine and, ultimately, juniper just below the tree line. In the rain shadow, to the north of the mountains, the landscape is quite barren being an extension south of the Tibetan plateau. The higher up in the hills the natural vegetation changes from the tropical species to more temperate stands of forest trees including oak, beech and rhododendron. There is a variety of animals that can be spotted, including the barking deer and Himalayan marmots above the tree line. Pheasants may be seen in the jungles just below the tree line as well as all of the usual alpine birds including ravens, coughs and various birds of prey.
This is a challenging trek that is not without some risks. The crossing of Thorong La can be dangerous at times, especially during unexpected snowfall so potential trekkers must make sure that they are well prepared and equipped for all events. The trek can be completed in a minimum of fifteen days, starting in Kathmandu and finishing in Pokhara. If a few extra days are allowed for it is then possible to enjoy several of the possible side trips and add immeasurably to the experience.
The first few days of the trek follow the Marshyangdi through scattered farming communities by a mixer predominantly composed of Gurungs but with a sizeable numbers of Brahmin communities. A feature of this section of the trek is the number of high waterfalls that cascade down into the main river. The valley rises slowly slow altitude sickness is rarely a problem at this stage. After a four days on the trail the river, which has been flowing from the north changes its course and flows from the west. At this point the landscape changes with steep rocky gorges on its side and large stands of pine making up the forest cover. Look for a number of ancient temples, some of which represent the pre-Buddhist, Bon religion.
The Tsum Valley has long history of Buddhism. The Buddhist saint Milarewa is believed to be meditated in the caves of these mountains. Traditionally, the valley was a culturally distinct geographical called “Tsum Tso Chuksum”, which means thirteen provinces ruled as a single territory. The ancient remains of the Tsum Kingdom are still visible today. Due to its remoteness and inaccessibility, this sacred valley and its people have been bypassed by mainstream development for centuries. As a result, the unique culture of this valley has remained intact.
The valley is drained by the Shear Khola, which originates from the western glacier of Ganesh Himal and east and southern glaciers of Sringi Himal and meets the Budhi Gandaki at Nyak.
The valley is uniquely rich in wildlife, especially the Himalayan Thar and Blue Sheep which congregates in herds of 50 to 200. Hunting and fishing are not permitted in the Tsum Valley. The valley also boasts some unique and historic monasteries, including Rachen Gumba and Mu Gumba, which lie on a pretty plateau nestled in the lap of the valley, and Gumba Lungdang which is situated at the base of a conical hill.