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Hop, skip out of Kathmandu… every once in a while.

Everest seen from Pikey

This time to Pikey Peak

A couple years ago, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Come to think of it, this was bound to happen some time in my life given my over-thinking and over-stressing personality. The big earthquake of 2015 just provided the impetus. Anxiety or stress is a downward spiral. If you don’t combat it or do something to stem it, the disorder will slowly eat you from the inside. The stressful, sometimes polluted environment of Kathmandu doesn’t help. But I seem to have found the remedy that works for me: PLAYING IN THE OUTDOORS.

Jhyapre, the starting point of the Pikey Trek
Jhyapre, the starting point of the Pikey Trek

My god-parents and their friends are planning to come for a trek to Nepal this Autumn. They plan to trek to Pikey Peak – a trekking route that is slowly gaining in popularity. While one group will do the longer, more cultural route through Yolung and Bamthi (two villages which are home to my guides Pema and Kandu respectively), the other group will do a shorter and more direct trek through Jhyapre. Before this trip, I had been to Pikey Peak three times and this would be my fourth trip to the area. My first trip here was on my cycle where on the descent I had lost my way ending up nowhere close to where I was supposed to. And just this past January I had trekked in this region with my friend from graduate school, Chris, the highlight being wading in hip-deep snow for about an hour. But I had decided to do this trek again so I could document the direct route through Jhyapre – the only route I hadn’t done in this region – to measure distance, elevation gain/loss, elevations etc and report the findings to my god-parents. What I didn’t realize was that it was a much-needed elixir for my mental health.

Everest seen from Pikey
Everest seen from Pikey

Pikey Peak is one the best vantage points to view Himalayan peaks. Even Edmund Hillary thought so and I believe he’s seen quite a few of them. From Pikey peak, I’ve seen Everest, Makalu, Gauri Shankar, Rolwaling, Numbur and as far east as Kanchenjunga (not to mention countless peaks whose names I do not know). Pikey Peak actually consists of two peaks – Pikey I and Pikey II – of almost identical height. Those who wish to climb both peaks would climb Pikey I, descend the ridge, climb over a small hump, continue on the saddle and ascend Pikey II (or vice versa if they were coming in the other direction). The high pastures around the Pikey Peak area belong to Sherpa shepherds who rear Dzopkyos (hybrid of a yak and a cow). There are stories about how leopards (not snow leopards) and other small cats attack calves. But while trekking in this area, you need to be more careful of the ferocious shepherd dogs than of wild animals. The dogs are chained during the day and released at night. Do NOT pet them.

Rhododendrons on the trail
Rhododendrons on the trail
More rhododendrons
And more rhodendrons
Rhododendron forest around Boudha on Pikey
Rhododendron forest around Boudha on Pikey

Besides the awesome mountain views, what surprised me most was the rhododendrons in bloom. And there were plenty of them. And of a different sub-species than those found in the Ghorepani region (the Pikey Peak area is slightly higher in elevation). If you wish to come to Nepal for the mountains AND the rhododendrons, go to Ghorepani in February and March and to Pikey Peak in April and May.

Prayers at Thuktencholing monastery
Prayers at Thuptencholing monastery

The trek ended in Junbesi from where we hiked a short distance to the Thuptencholing Monastery. This monastery was founded by Thrulsik Rimpoche after escaping from Tibet. He recently passed on to the next realm. When I visited, his body was embalmed and placed at the altar. Thrulsik rimpoche was the head of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism and a teacher of the 14th Dalai Lama. A reincarnate has been identified and will soon head the monastery. Almost 95% of the monks and nuns at this monastery were Tibetans but that will soon change as very few Tibetans flee to come to Nepal.

It’s been more than two weeks since I have returned. I just feel better: My blood pressure is below the recommended limit; I sleep well and on time; and I don’t feel stressed. My martial arts teacher who is also well versed in yoga/meditation/wellness recently mentioned how relaxed I was during our meditation session. I guess my remedy is to go on a short trek once every two months. And there are plenty places to explore in my back yard with easy access. You should give it a try too. Perhaps, it will help you as it has helped me.

Jwalant Gurung, Chief Adventure officer, Crystal Mountain Treks

Post Script:

While we completed the trek in 2 days, below is a program that allows you to do it as a slower pace allowing for better acclimatization:

https://crystalmountaintreks.com/tour/pikey-peak-trek-fast-paced/

 

And below is the reading from my Suunto watch:

JHYAPRE TO BHULBHULE

Total distance: 3.46 miles/5.5 kilometers
Ascent: 1,277 feet/389 meters
Descent: 72 feet/22 meters

 

BHULBHULE TO PIKEY BASE CAMP

Total distance: 5.44 miles/8.75 kilometers
Ascent: 1,453 feet/443 meters
Descent: 217 feet/67 meters

PIKEY BASE CAMP TO PIKEY SUMMIT
Total distance: .9 miles/1.44 kilometers
Ascent: 1,006 feet/307 meters
Descent: 22 feet/6.7 meters

PIKEY SUMMIT TO JASE BHANJYANG
Total distance: 1.72 miles/2.76 kilometers
Ascent: 41 feet/12.4 meters
Descent: 1,835 feet/560 meters

JASE BHANJYANG TO JUNBESI
Total distance: 6.25 miles/10 kilometers
Ascent: 1,188 feet/363 meters
Descent: 3,820 feet/1,164 meters

JUNBESI TO THUPTENCHOLING MONASTERY
Total distance: 2.41 miles/3.87 kilometers
Ascent: 1,082 feet/330 meters
Descent: 74 feet/23 meters

 

1 Response
  1. Karla Piecuch

    Thanks for writing and posting this….I liked hearing about the trek, but mostly, I appreciated your honestly and willingness to share. So many of us have suffered from stress, anxiety, and depression and, like you, have found much comfort in the outdoors. Keep getting outside!

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