I wanted to run the Champadevi Ridge last weekend. And it looked really simple on the map. Run out the front door, head west through Patan, then over the bridge to Panga. From there I’d pick up a road to the miniature villages of Yacho and Khatrichhap whilst bearing all the time straight ahead to the looming Champadevi Ridge on the Kathmandu valley rim.
That bit was simple enough.
All I had to do was stop every two hundred metres or so and accost the nearest local. “Namaste”, I’d say, then point avidly in the direction I think I should go in. “Champadevi Ridge???” I’d ask, waiting for an affirmative reply.
But once I got to the bottom of Champadevi, finding my way around was a different matter. There was all manner of trails marked on the map, none of which I could conveniently find.
“Oh all those Kathmandu maps are wrong”, I’d only been told the day before by a fellow mountain runner. “There’s loads of companies that make them, but all they ever do is copy the same mistakes”. But the reality was that all I had to go on were these fault ridden maps.
Fortunately, the contours weren’t actually too bad. White Hill was an obvious mark, and all I had to do was reach the col. A faint trail tramped by farmer villages wound its way through the terraced rice fields. And trails don’t normally wander anywhere in Nepal without them reaching somewhere.
At the col, I ran through the village of Khari Banjyang conveniently perched below the ridge. There was a taxi there unloading crates of beer to very happy villagers. I was so tempted to stay for a cold one but sucked hungrily on my water bottle instead.
My map suggested there were several paths that would lead me to the ridge. So as soon as I found one, I followed it, and conveniently found a stone stepped purpose built way for weekend day-trippers just like me.
After a long, hot climb to the top, I got the view I was looking for: Pine forests, hidden villages and rolling hills stretching to the south, with busy memories of Kathmandu seeming so far away to the north.
The ridge was thoughtfully built with big stones set in concrete. So with such a yellow brick road in place, I decided to head north and summit the 2249 metre peak that was etched into my map. On top there were colourful Nepali prayer flags and a Hindu shrine to Ganesh. There was even a mountain of trash from the picnickers who seem to always want to leave behind their waste (check out Everest – its apparently one big high altitude rubbish tip).
On the return journey to the south, I met a group of Italian hikers. They looked puffed from the climb and reddened from the sun that was slowly but surely heating up towards the high 30s. “We work for the UN”, they told me. That quickly explained their fitness levels.
I left them to their day hike to run off the ridge to the road that leads from Dakshinkali. Through thick, pristine pine forests I followed the trail, slipping only slightly on the mounds of floor bound pine needles. Buildings came into sight and then a stone paved road that switchbacked its way down off the moutnain. But after that, the map refused to divulge the details on how to get me home. I stopped at a shop to ask exactly where I was.
“Dhobi?” I asked. They pointed to the right. “Bansbari?” Their fingers went to the left. I was somewhere between the two villages. So I drank my lukewarm coke and left.
There were trails galore marked on the map that were meant to lead me down into the valley and across the Bagmati river. But try as I might, I couldn’t find them so just kept dejectedly running along the tarmac road.
Eventually I found a track and then a suspension bridge. I was 21k into the run. The sun was beating down. It was 11am and still Sunday morning. Theoretically I should have still been in bed. So I wandered up to the nearest village, Khokana being the lucky place being marked (fortuitously for the cartographer) correctly on the map. I found the nearest bus stop, plonked myself in the back seat, and got my butt hauled back home for the bargain price of 12 Rupees.
Good run out, nice trail, superb weather. Next time I just need to find myself a better map.