Langtang Valley Status Update by REIS Nepal
Nepal Now, latest facts
What Actually happened in Langtang after the earthquake?
The 25th April earthquake triggered a large break-off from the Langtang Glacier above Kyangin Gumba, and while the ice and rocks did not reach the Gumba and Kyangin settlement itself, it created an immense air pressure wave that blew apart lodges, homes, and the combat. Estimated wind speed was upwards of 350 km/h.
Two days later, while those who survived the earthquake were struggling to reach the road head at Syabrubesi, an enormous ice and rock avalanche came down from the top of the Langtang Lirung above Langtang Village and obliterated the village. Only one house was left standing, in the lee of the mountain wall. 175 Langtangpas and 100-120 tourists and Nepalese workers were killed, most of them buried underneath the debris. Due to the height of the fall, causing speed and friction that melts snow and ice, the mix of rock, snow and ice debris turned nearly liquid, and the resulting mud almost solidified as it settled. The avalanche went right across the valley floor, and the air pressure wave flattened the forest on the opposite side of the valley.
Further down the valley, along the trekking route as well as in the village clusters and the Syabrubesi and neighboring settlements, there was also massive destruction due to quakes and landslides. The status of other areas of Rasuwa district and the Helambu connection will be described separately.
Upon the immediate emergency relief work, a decision to evacuate Langtang Valley entirely was taken. Unharmed survivors in a daze and injuries from Langtang were moved down to temporary camps made near Syabrubesi, Dunche and in Kathmandu. After 5 months of treatment of injuries, and trauma and the families generally trying to put their lives back together again, Langtang Management & Reconstruction Committee (LMRC) launched into long-term planning and initiated rebuilding, all led and by the LMRC, run by the inhabitants of Langtang Valley and supporters such as Rasuwa Relief.
Despite the destruction in Langtang the relief work organization and situation appears good compared to other affected places in Nepal; however, the destruction was so massive, so there is always room for more assistance. Their relative success is based on a unique collaboration between local inhabitants, secular and religious institutions and local business and tourism interests on one hand, and the district authorities, the national park, the police and the army on the other. People in Langtang, like those of Khumbu, have excellent international connections. They have had sufficient internal coordination, support networks and resources to start implementing the rehabilitation of Langtang and rebuilding of their lives, without having to wait for national authorities to assist them.
The long-term plan for the reconstruction of settlements and recovery of tourism in Langtang Valley
The long-term goal is to have rebuilt homes and infrastructure to an improved standard over what there used to be within three years while doing it sustainably. Inside Langtang, all materials, goods and other valuables and personal property that were recovered after the disaster has been collected at storage points and covered over the winter. Transport of new construction materials and equipment on the newly repaired trail for rebuilding is being brought in by mules now after the end of the winter. 30-40 persons have stayed in Kyangin this winter to supervise storages, prepare to rebuild and watch the yak herds. Proper rebuilding started in February. During the winter solar energy systems have arrived at Kyangin, and space for new buildings have been cleared.
Kyangin Gomba has been destroyed to the extent it has been used for storage space till now, and will be used as a workshop space for the reconstruction. Later it will be rebuilt into a handicraft center. Japanese donors have committed to the construction of a new gomba to be made according to local drawings. The current main storage building in East Langtang will be converted into a memorial place to the victims of the Langtang Village avalanche. The rebuilding of new, permanent buildings and repairs of existing buildings including guesthouses, take place according to safety assessments. The areas closest to Kyangin Gomba, Thangsyap and further east that are considered the safest in Upper Langtang.
Langtang Village will not be rebuilt, but a midway point for overnight stays will be established in a safe location a bit higher up the valley, enabling maintenance of the past Langtang trekking itineraries. Between March and May, the reconstruction period will take place on a full swing. On 25 April 2016, the memorial center in Upper Langtang will be inaugurated and a solidarity- and opening-trek will be organized by MRC.
Trekking opportunities in Langtang right now
It is possible to trek into Langtang now, and some reconstructed lodges and tea houses are available, but the infrastructure remains limited. While probably fairly safe outside the monsoon time, proper safety assessments have not been conducted. The capacity is still limited, so for larger groups camping treks might be the best choice, however, ask for local advice, first and try to use the existing lodges as much as possible for the income of the locals. For commercial group trekking the best advice is probably to come back in the autumn season this year, and/or until an official safety assessment has declared the Langtang trails safe.
From Duncha and Thulo Syabru, the trails and several lodges up to Gosainkunda have been repaired and rebuilt, however not to former capacity. Tents are not needed. Between Gosainkunda and across Laurebina La and below into Helambu the situation is much worse, and a major ongoing landslide has to be crossed. The conditions might change fast, so stay in touch with news on NepalNow.org, ReisNepal and trekking operators in Kathmandu. The first organized trek in collaboration with LMRC takes place at the end of April as mentioned, and this will run as a camping trek in lieu of insufficient capacity in the lodge system. Enquire with LMRC if you are interested in this trek.
When can normalcy be expected?
By the coming autumn trekking season, 2016 local informants claim it will be easy to go trekking in Langtang again. Restoration appears to proceed faster than expected. By 2017, there will surely be new and restored functional lodges and tea houses with improved energy and sanitation technology over what there used to be. The service and hygienic conditions are set to improve, as there are training programs ongoing, and the signs are that LMRC is putting effort into recreating Langtang’s unique atmosphere. By 2018, we can expect Langtang to back on its feet and improved. The Langtangpa start up again with empty hands, but they think and act together. 116 families have committed to moving back into Langtang, gradually, as their homes and livelihoods are gradually being restored.
A direct involvement with LMRC within Langtang will be received with thanks – donations are welcome, and there is a lot of work that can be done by self-supported volunteers. If tour operators, interested small groups, and individuals committed to involving themselves based on the premises of LMRC’s plan, (NepalNow.org?) and ReisNepal is/are happy to provide contact.