For my last week in the Himalayas, I trekked alone from Pattale, a small village in the Solukhumbu region of Nepal at an elevation of 2875 meters (9432′), to nearby Pikey Peak. I was curious how hiking alone in an area I’d never been would be different from my previous weeks in Nepal where I was guided by my Nepalese friends. Without a guide and unfamiliar with the terrain, I had to accept there was a possibility I might not reach the summit of Pikey Peak — elevation 4065 meters (13,336′). Nevertheless, I was confident that I’d have a rewarding experience, because I knew enough about the area to expect interactions with locals from rural farming communities, and there would be no worries of avalanches, ice-falls, extreme storms, or other dangers found elsewhere in the Himalayas. Below are three takeaways from my solo journey that I might not have discovered traveling with a group or guided by my friends.
Enjoy Cultural Interactions
I arrived in Pattale with no booked hotel, no contacts, and not a tourist in sight. I found a home stay for 10 US dollars a night with a local family and was welcomed for dinner and to stay the night. Dinner was Dal Bhaat, the lentil, rice and vegetable dish eaten daily by many locals. The dish can be served with meat, and this family prepared one of their chickens especially for me.
I felt grateful for the opportunity to have enjoyed a home-cooked meal with a Nepalese family. My decision to trek off the beaten path to Pattale, where not many guides tend to travel, gave me an intimate interaction with the local community. I made friends with the locals and gained a greater appreciation for village life in Nepal.
I’m Lost and That’s Okay!
For the most part, I was not lost, and I managed to reach the top of Pikey Peak by the end of my journey. There were several times, however, when I lost the trail, and discovered places I didn’t expect. I took one trail that appeared to be in the direction of Pikey Peak, but to my surprise it was a trail for locals to access farms on terraced hills roughly 300 meters above. I climbed up through the farms, catching curious looks from many local farmers wondering where I was going. The detour added three hours to my hike and I had to spend the night farther below Pikey Peak than I had initially expected.
Despite the wrong turn, I appreciated discovering Nepalese farmland and meeting the incredible people who work hard to maintain their crops and livestock. I had an amazing moment on the trail when I encountered two kids, not more than eight years old, walking their goats and puppy through the rough and steep trails. Moments like these reminded me that it is not the destination that’s important, but enjoying each step of the way.
Be Flexible: Each Day is an Adventure
Traveling on my own allowed me to choose where I wanted to go each day. On the day I reached the top of Pikey Peak, it was cloudy and I didn’t have the stellar view of Everest and the Himalayan range I was hoping to have so I decided I’d spend the night at the basecamp and run to the top of Pikey Peak early the next morning before the clouds settled in. The view was breathtaking (literally at that altitude), and I was glad to have had the freedom to stay the extra night.