I certainly did not conceive this ‘iconic and globally significant new tourism product’ for Nepal, but I was the first to weave it into government plans — the National Ecotourism Strategy and Marketing Plan first featured the Great Himalaya Trail in 2001, a long time ago.
Two people had stumbled upon the GHT concept concurrently from their different perspectives – marketing and rural development. Jamie McGuinness, a Kiwi climber and trek organiser, one evening in 2000 on my pink sofaed sitting room, explained his inspired idea to film a multi-country trek along the length of the entire Hindu Kush Himalaya. Shortly afterwards, Malcolm ‘Mac’ Odell of The Mountain Institute, over lunch in his Baluwatar home, shared his brainwave to harness tourism to bring benefits and business opportunities for remote communities between and beyond the three established trek areas.
We were following in the footsteps of early pioneers. Mountaineer Peter Hillary led the first high altitude traverse in 1980, Americans Arlene Blum and Hugh Swift first walked the full length from East Bhutan through Nepal and India in 1982, and the British Crane brothers first ran the Nepal Himalaya in 1983. Many adventurers have ensued including commercial trips, boosted by Robin Boustead’s 2011 book, several websites and a series of published maps.