Lake Waikaremoana Track. A very atmospheric walk around a remote lake.The Milford Track. Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound.
The Milford Track.Unique animal and vegetation as well as wonderful waterfalls on the way to Milford Sound. It is located close to the Routeburn Track, which I would walk instead of the Milford if not possible to secure a space.
Top day hikes:
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I walked this as part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. This is a spectacular walk through volcanic craters and lakes next to Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) with steam coming up from underneath.
The Great Walks are all relatively easy walks, with no scrambling required, thus appealing to people of average fitness and average hiking experience. They have also been chosen to represent the variations in scenery and ecosystems offered. The drawback to these walks are that all camping and hut spaces must be booked in advance via the DOC (online or in person), meaning that some of the most popular tracks sell out months in advance, most notably the Milford Track. I succeeded in getting tickets to all of the below walks a couple of days before departure, except the Milford Track (I finally booked with a commercial agency) and the Routeburn Track (I walked it in one long day).
There are plenty other hikes just as beautiful as the well-marketed Great Walks, some of them significantly more difficult. Unfortunately, I have, as of now, only walked a few of them.
Below a brief characteristic of each walk linking to an in-depth post:
Contrary to what many websites suggest, the Everest Base Camp trek is a very straight-forward trek and, as such, even for a moderately experienced solo hiker, neither guide nor porter is necessary.
What documents/permits need to be arranged in advance:TIMS (get it on the spot in Kathmandu), National Park Fee (in Kathmandu or on the trail).
Getting there: The trek starts in Lukla (plane from Kathmandu). It is also possible to walk in from Jiri (12 hours bus-ride from Kathmandu and an additional 5-6 days hike).
The trail: Is like a highway. Up and down valleys bordered by 6000+ meters high mountains. On the standard route to Everest Base Camp I would say it is impossible to get lost. If crossing the three high passes more care may be needed.
The backpack: Pack light, though remember temperatures may drop to minus 10 degrees or more and snow may be encountered at any times: Down jacket, shell jacket and pants, sturdy hiking boots. Consider a four-season down sleeping bag. Consider hiking poles. A backpack with all this equipment need not weigh more than 7 kg.
The teahouses: Are widely distributed. They all serve food and beverages and sell snacks. The accommodation is basic, blankets will be provided, however heating is only available in the dining room. The last teahouses before Everest Base Camp, mainly in Gorak Shep may be full, in which case accommodation will be in the dining room.
Electricity: Sporadically available after Namche Bazaar. I brought solar panels. Note that when temperatures are below zero, the iPhone looses battery power rapidly.
The altitude: Altitude sickness is the major danger. The recommendations from the Himalayan Rescue Association is a maximal daily ascent of 3-400 meters after 3000 meters. As it takes only 1,5 hours to ascend 300 meter and many people are impatient, I saw many guided tours ascend too rapidly with their parties. I saw helicopter evacuations every day. Some recommend intake of Diamox for prevention, however this is, in my opinion, not an alternative to ascending slowly.
The weather: May shift at any time. Above 4500 meter it gets very cold, especially when the sun is not out. Pack accordingly.
The Most Memorable Moment:
Hiking up the Kongma La Pass at 5535 meter I was surprised by a heavy snowstorm, a genuine whiteout, at about 5400 meter, just below the summit. As I could see nothing I had to turn back down the valley, the track being obliterated I had to find my way down scrambling off-track for 6 hours until I reached Dingboche:
Generally, the really spectacular scenery opens up above the tree-limit around Pheriche and the most spectacular scenery was around Chhukung and Kongma La pass.
Watching the porters carry impossible loads on their backs and still walking past me.
Crossing the Hardangervidda from North to South, 10 days, full camping gear, August 2016:
Finse-Rembesdalseter-Fossli Hotel (Liseth)-Camping after Hedlo-Torehytten-Tyssevassbu-Trolltunga-Tyssevassbu-Litlos-Hellevassbu-Haukeliseter
The Norwegian “allemandsretten” means that wild camping is allowed anywhere.
Most of the huts on Hardangervidda are self-service huts, meaning there is a food supply storage, thus there is no need to bring food for more than 1-2 days.
Starting from Finse I walked around the glacier Hardangerjøkulen on the until Rembesdalseter.
At Rembedalsseter the trail has been re-routed as the burst of a sub-glacial water lake led to a new river pattern flooding the previous trail and no new bridge is in place
The re-routing is tough: After passing a dam an incredibly muddy and steep ascent goes on for several km.
In addition I was hit by a massive rainfall and thunderstorm lasting 8 hours on this stage from Rembesdalseter to Liseth: The trail had become a river and my boots ended up completely soaked. I capitulated and turned up completely soaked at Fossli Hotelin Liseth after 9+ hours in this weather.
The location of Fossli Hotel is great, right next to Vøringsfossen, the most famous waterfall in Norway. The atmosphere at Fossli hotel atmosphere is of last century and the staff are incredibly friendly with the receptionist offering me a ride in the morning (I refused though). On the other hand it does not look like the hotel rooms have been renovated since the 1950s
Getting back on Hardangervidda from Liseth I had to jump over a highway fence, which I missed at first for obvious reasons.
When a second thunderstom arrived two days later I stayed 24 hours inside my tent at a small inlet after Hedlo. During this thunderstorm more than 300 reindeer were killed when lightning struck about 15 km away
Briefly met the hut warden at Hadlaskard, a lovely 80+ year woman assisted by her daughter.
At Torehytten two foreigners clearly cheated and left without paying. The self-service hut system is an honor-based system where visitors write their name and address in the log and the DNT then later sends the bills. I was told that this kind of cheating unfortunately is on the increase.
Walking to Tyssevassbu I encountered the most difficult snow bridge I had ever seen. Had to give up passing it but luckily scrambled over a nearby cliff:
It was late afternoon before I left walking west towards Skogadalsbøen. To my surprise I passed a huge dam a couple of hours into this hike, as I did not think dams were allowed. Turns out they are not anymore.
I passedStorebjørn with the distinctive flat summit and vertical walls.
Fannaråken, the highest-lying mountain hut in Norway at 2068 meters only sees clear weather less than 50 days a year. This day was one of them.
Nepalese workers hired by the National Park Authorities had helped carve the stone steps leading down from Fannaråken Nepalese style towards Turtagrø.
At Fannaråken I spotted a glacier calving directly into a small lake at the other side of the valley, in the Hurrangane plateau. It is called Styggedalsbreen and I walked there to camp.
At Fannaråken a guy took off paragliding and intended to glide over the top of Storen (Stora Skagstølstind, the 3rd highest montain in Norway).
Skogadalsbøen is apparently the favorite mountain lodge of Queen Sonia of Norway. Understandable as the location is great and the hut charming.
Descending Utladalen is a wonderful way to exit Jotunheimen, though the descent is long.
Vettisfossen, the highest waterfall in Northern Europe with 273 meter is passed on the way down.
Vetti Gard is an old farm, now open as a Café only. When I arrived at 5 pm looking forward to waffles, it had just closed for the day.
Ascending 350 meters from the Valley leads to the wonderful old farm Avdalen Gard, now a tourist lodge. It is now run by Romanians and when I was there, only one girl worked there, managing everything connected with up to 10 (or more) sleeping guests, dinner, breakfast and café..
From Øvre Årdal I caught the bus to Flåm and then further on to Hardangervidda.