Avoiding Leeches and Mines between Champadevi and Pulchoki

For a while, Richard’s been wondering about what a race taking in the 4 highest peaks in the Kathmandu Valley would look like: Shivapuri, Jamacho, Champadevi and Pulchoki. I’ve been up each one of these individually. However how you get between these peaks is not as obvious as it may seem. Separating the mountains are valleys, rivers, major highways, and indistinct trekking paths. So last Sunday, the plan was try to traverse between two of these mountains, from Pulchoki in the south, across the Bagmati river to Champadevi ridge further west.

Heading up Pulchoki - Roger, Narayan and Upendra

Roger, Narayan, Upendra and I met in Godawari town to begin the run up the first mountain, Phulchoki.

A 14 kilometre jeep track slalomed its way up to the 2,765 metre peak, taking us just under 2 hours to reach the top. As we ran, we checked out paths marked on the map that suggested a route towards Lele in the west that would ultimately lead towards Champadevi. But all these paths looked overgrown and were inevitably infested with monsoon-mad killer leeches.

Phulchoki summit houses a military barracks full of Nepali soldiers who know the surrounding area well. So when we got to the top, we asked about routes towards Champadevi. Not one of them knew a way. Then Narayan reminded us that, during the civil war, the Maoists planted lots of mines in the Lele area, hence making a good clear path to run on imperative. So, not wanting to be sucked dry by leeches for a third time this month and not wanting my legs to be blown off by a mine, I reluctantly abandoned the plan.

Trying to get the Nepali Army to show us the route to Lele on our map.

Instead we decided to run on paths that we knew would be leech and mine free. We studied the map over bags of crisps and Red Bull supplied by the Nepali army canteen. Eventually we found a route that headed north off the Pulchoki jeep track towards Lakuri Bhanjang village, then another dirt road that would lead us down to the road that goes to Panauti. From there, a 500 metre climb up to Rankit Bhanjang, then circling back to Lakuri Bahajang itself before descending to our starting place in Godawari.

The view over the valley leading to Panauti.

It turned out to be a cracking route, far more fun that my original peak to peak proposal. There were beautiful valley views over stunningly green paddy fields, fresh from the monsoon rains. There were ample tea-houses to stop for water and biscuits and a quick catch-up with my fellow runners. The only downer was the fresh slippery slide-y slopes that the thinner trails had dissolved into from the compacted mud and fresh mossy sheen on top. All of us had a tumble at one stage or another.

Roger trying not to fall over on the green stuff.

In the 7 hours we were out, we covered a leisurely 40 kilometres with 2200 metres of climb (the route we took can be seen here). And after a quick glass of tea and a bowl of chick peas, we took a speedy micro bus back to Kathmandu and a saunter through Durbar square to get us back home.

The run between Phulchoki and Champadevi will have to wait for another day. For me to do it, it would have to be either dry season with no leeches or after I get over my phobia of these blood-sucking vermin on my legs, and once we figure out where all those Maoist mines are.

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