Dangers & Annoyances

Safety on the Thorung La

The 5416m Thorung La is one of Nepal's highest passes and crossing it is potentially dangerous. In terms of altitude acclimatisation it is safest to cross it from east to west. The trek up to the pass from Manang is not difficult but it is a long way at high elevation, which can cause problems. Be sure to read up on acute mountain sickness (AMS) before you go, so that you can be aware of the symptoms. Be prepared to return all the way to Besi Sahar if it is impossible or dangerous to cross the Thorung La. Trekkers have died on the Thorung La because of altitude sickness, exposure, cold and avalanches. All trekkers, including porters, must be adequately equipped for severe cold and snow.

It is impossible to give exact dates, but the Thorung La is usually snowbound and closed from mid-December to March. The trail to the pass can be extremely hard to find in fresh snow and you should be prepared to turn back or stay put in a lodge in bad weather. At any time local storms or cyclones generated in the Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal can close it with sudden and massive snowfalls. In such conditions and at these altitudes, simply sitting out bad weather in a lodge can be life saving.

Tragically this was made all too clear in October 2014 when almost 1.8m of snow fell in 12 hours. In the ensuing days over 500 people were rescued in the vicinity of Thorung La and Muktinath, and 43 lives were lost. Those who lost their lives were caught outdoors by avalanches, extreme cold and white-out conditions.