Many people planning for the Upper Mustang Trek are equally curious about the adventures of the trek along with the trek’s challenges. They often question,
How difficult is the Upper Mustang Trek?
The Upper Mustang trek has a difficulty grade of moderate level. This is not as comfortable as the easy treks nor as difficult as the strenuous level treks.
However, you can modify the difficulty level of the Upper Mustang trek like most treks to a certain degree to suit your needs.
There are no standards set for defining the difficulty grade for a trek. The difficulty level is subjective to the abilities of the individual person.
For Upper Mustang trek, four things determine the level of difficulty :
- Walking duration per day and duration of the entire trek.
Hence, depending on what trails you use, the places you trek and the duration of time you trek, you can modify the difficulty level of your trek.
You can also make the trek easier by preparing for it in advance. You can do this by physically and mentally preparing for the trip, eating balanced meals, choosing favorable seasons to trek and so on.
Walking Hours Per Day and Duration of the Entire Trek
The average Upper Mustang trek takes around 17/18 days. You will walk an average of 6/7 hours per day during these 17 days. This duration usually includes 2-3 days of acclimatization or rest days.
For beginners and novice trekkers, this is a must. The longer duration allows you to get used to the terrain making for a safe and comfortable trek.
For professional trekkers and those seeking for a challenge can shorten the duration to 12-14 days. Anything shorter can be harmful to your health. The 12-14 days Upper Mustang trek has increased risks of high altitude sickness.
Some trekkers may want to include the crossing of high passes, climbing small peaks within the region. Some of them are Annapurna Circuit Thorong La Pass (5417m), Mesokanto La pass (5315m), Marang La (4230m). This also increases the difficulty level of the Upper Mustang trek.
The highest point of your Upper Mustang trek depends on the itinerary you choose. It can either be Marang La at 4230 meters above sea level or Chooser (3900m) or Lo Manthang(3810m).
You will be ascending to the heights above 3000 meters in the trek, so many people may feel the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Remember, there is no precise working medicine to avoid altitude sickness. The best way is to take preventive measures like:
- Staying mentally strong
- Ascend gradually
- Refrain from alcoholic beverages instead drink water
- Set a limit for elevation gained by 500 m per day
- Have an acclimatization day after every 1000 m elevation gained
- Use Diamox during rapid ascent- in cases where you can’t avoid such rapid ascends.
- Spend two or more nights at an elevation of 2500+ m, a month before the trip
Hence, choose an itinerary with proper acclimatization days along with gradual ascents daily.
This way you can reduce the chances of situations caused by the change of altitude and in turn the difficulty level of your Upper Mustang trek.
In comparison to most trekking terrains of Nepal, the Upper Mustang terrain is moderate.
The walking trails are well marked. You should expect daily ascents and descents. The Upper Mustang trail follows the trans-Himalayas salt trading route used in the old days.
You will avoid the motor road and cross several small passes on your trek.
You come across different settlements of whitewashed houses, mani walls, fields of barley and stupas with prayer flags. You will also come across pasture lands and herds of animals with their herders.
Although a moderate level terrain, it is not the same as walking on smooth roads in the cities. Having some trek specific training along with other physical activities can make the trails easy for you.
If you are looking for an extra challenge, you can ask your guide to take you through off the beaten tracks. Make sure you have a professional, licensed guide with you for this to ensure you don’t get lost and stay safe.
Due to the increasing popularity of Upper Mustang trek, the place is not as remote as it once was.
Opened to foreign trekkers only in 1992, it still retains its authentic tradition and lifestyle. Yet, the number of facilities available to the trekkers and travelers have improved significantly.
A tea house trek is now possible for Upper Mustang trek. This means you will be staying in comfortable rooms in tea houses on a daily basis of your trek.
Most of the tea houses provide clean and hygienic rooms on a sharing basis. But with an extra payment, you can opt for a single room as well. You will also find places to eat and drink at along the way in different villages.
For communication, mobile phones work perfectly. Some places also offer wifi connection.
Yet, do not expect sophisticated lodges and hotels. Most of the tea houses provide basic services- hot meals, clean beds, toilets, hot bucket showers.
For those seeking a more challenging trek can opt for camping instead of teahouse treks.
How to Overcome the Upper Mustang Trek Difficulty?
Choose the favorable season
Upper Mustang enjoys four seasons like the rest of Nepal. Each season has different weather conditions and temperature .
This plays a huge role in determining the difficulty of any trek including one to Upper Mustang.
With the right preparation, clothing, and equipment, treks to Upper Mustang is possible throughout the year.
Yet for most people, treks to Nepal is preferably done during the spring and autumn season.
These seasons have stable weather conditions, amazing visibility, and mild temperatures. These conditions ensure the best conditions of the trails and ideal temperatures.
The chances of getting your desired accommodation, meals and drinks are also high during these seasons. All these make these seasons the ideal seasons to do treks in Upper Mustang and Nepal.
Upper Mustang treks are also quite popular during the summer season of Nepal.
Unlike most parts of Nepal, Upper Mustang doesn’t receive rainfall during this season. Upper Mustang lies in the rain shadow area of the Annapurna region. You can enjoy your trek in dry conditions and bright, long days.
Winter treks to Upper Mustang are possible yet not suitable for everyone.
The entire region of Upper Mustang goes into hibernation mode. Most of the villagers migrate to the lower regions during the winter. Hence, most of the teahouses, lodges, cafes, and restaurants close for the season.
The region sees heavy snowfalls along with negative degree temperatures.
But winter treks are ideal for those seeking a bit of a challenge or for those who enjoy a more wild and rustic trekking adventure.
You may also have to make camps in some places during your winter Upper Mustang trek. From Kagbeni, no to few tea houses are available during the winter.
So, if you are up for camping, negative temperatures, zero to few other trekkers then winter Upper Mustang trek is for you.
Apart from these, you can enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets. You can enjoy the clear blue skies, crisp air, and snow-covered mountain views during this season.
Some of the high passes and small peaks may close for the season due to the weather conditions.
Maintain Physical Fitness
You don’t need to have an extraordinary physical fitness level to do this trek. If you can walk for long hours, you can do the Upper Mustang trek comfortably.
Having prior trekking experience in hilly and mountain regions anywhere in the world or in Nepal can be beneficial as well.
Your body will find it easier to adapt to the changing altitude and regular walks during the Upper Mustang trek.
Extraordinary fitness levels and prior trekking experience is not mandatory. Yet preparing for the trek with routines like walks and jogs a few months before the trek is beneficial.
It helps to increase your stamina which can help reduce shortness of breath and fatigue on the trek. This helps in making your trek less difficult.
But make sure to consult your doctor before undertaking any trek. This way you can inform beforehand of any medical conditions you have to your local guide and trekking agency.
Consume Balanced Meals
Upper Mustang trek is a multi-day trek. Your body experiences a lot of physical exertion during such treks which can quickly deplete your energy.
When going on treks, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet before, during and after a trek.
During the actual trek, make sure you start your day with a healthy and filling breakfast.
Make sure to include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. You should also hydrate your body by drinking water. Take frequent, small sips of water as you hike during the trek. Make sure you drink 125ml of water every half an hour.
Having snacks every two hours during your trek is also beneficial. Carry lights, compact food or snacks in your daypack. These can include raisins, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, fresh food. You can also take crackers, granola bars for instant energy.
All these will help to keep you physically and mentally fit and alert. This, in turn, ensures a safe and comfortable trek.
Lack of healthy meals can lead to fatigue, dizziness, nausea, prone to injuries.
Extra Things to Consider During Upper Mustang Trek
Hiring a Guide or Porter
Upper Mustang trek falls in the restricted region trek of Nepal. Hence, having a registered licensed local trekking staff is mandatory.
This can be your local guide, porter or porter-guide. You can also choose to have more than one local trekking staff with you.
Each of them has its own advantages. They can help make your trekking experience in Upper Mustang a safe and wonderful one.
A guide can provide you in-depth information about the local culture, flora, and fauna. A guide can also recommend you the most comfortable tea houses to stay at, eat at.
A guide can also inform you of the amount of distance, the time you need to walk per day, the trails to take, the rest stops in between.
They have updated information on weather and trail conditions. This way, you can have a better idea of what to expect during each day of your trek.
The weather in the higher regions like Upper Mustang is often unpredictable. Hence having a guide with previous experience can come in handy.
A professional and licensed guide also has knowledge of handling any emergency situation that may or may not arise.
A porter will carry up to 25kg of luggage. So, you can pack each essential item you need for the trek. It also helps you to focus on your walk and the beautiful trails without worry of the extra load.
Hence, having a guide and porter can help ease your trekking journey in Upper Mustang trek.
Choose more Convenient Routes
There are many routes to choose from for your Upper Mustang trek.
The most convenient way to get to Upper Mustang is to fly from Pokhara to Jomsom. You can start your trek there or take a bus or jeep to Kagbeni. You can start and end your actual trek in Kagbeni.
From Kagbeni, you trek northwards which will lead you to Lo Manthang in 4 to 5 days. You will cross several small passes between 3200-3900m. From Lo-Manthang you can return the same way back or choose a different way.
The different way takes you through Dhakmar crossing 2 passes. These passes are slightly higher around 4100m. This convenient and popular route is moderate level in difficulty.
If you are looking for a challenge, you can choose a different route with a strenuous level of difficulty.
Some of the options to do this is Upper Mustang trek via Nar Phu valley or Upper Mustang via Upper Dolpo or Upper Mustang with Damodar Kunda trek.
As you can conclude from the above paragraphs, the difficulty level of your Upper Mustang trek depends on you along with the several factors during the trek.
You can modify the different factors involved in the determination of the difficulty level of a trek to suit your needs.
For further queries related to Upper Mustang treks or any treks in Nepal, feel free to contact us.