The Dhaulagiri Himalaya in western-central Nepal extends for nearly 120 km and rises to no less than thirteen separate summits over 7,000 metres. It is bounded on the east by the Kali Gandaki Valley, to the north and southwest by tributaries of the Bheri River, and on the southeast by the Myagdi Khola. Dhaulagiri 1 is the seventh highest mountain in the world at 8,167 metres (26,795 ft) above sea level, and the highest mountain standing entirely within the borders of Nepal. It was first climbed in 1960 by a joint Swiss/Austrian/Nepali expedition.
The mountain's Nepali name comes from the Sanskrit where "dhawala" means dazzling white and "giri" means mountain. This description is particularly justified when the mountain is viewed from the Annapurna range to the south-east across the great defile of the Kali Gandaki gorge, from which it rises a full 7,000 metres in a gradient unequalled elsewhere in the country. The south and west faces rise also rise precipitously, over 4000 metres from the Myagdi Khola Valley. The south face of Gurja Himal in the same massif is also notably immense. Being located entirely within the borders of Nepal makes it possible to make a complete circumnavigation of the entire Dhaulagiri massif starting and finishing in the town of Pokhara.
The circuit of Dhaulagiri is one of the most challenging trekking routes in all of Nepal. Carried out in a clockwise direction it entails the steady ascent of the Myagdi Khola river to its source on the Chonbardan Glacier, overlooked on one side by the great north-west face of Dhaulagiri 1 and on the other by a wall of 7,500 metre summits including Dhaulagiris 2,3 and 5. There then follows a committing crossing of two passes - French Pass, 5,360 metres, and Damphus, or Thapa Pass, 5,250 metres. Between these two passes is a vast, uninhabited and remote area bounded by Sita Chuchura, 6,611 metres, to the west and the Mukut Himal, 6,556 metres, to the north, known as 'Hidden Valley'. The summit of Damphus Pass offers superb views across the Kali Gandaki towards the Annapurna and Nilgiri Peaks and it is from here that one descends a full 2,500 metres to the village of Marpha in the Kali Gandaki valley before the final homeward crossing over the Poon Hill ridge at Ghorapani.