We flew to Kathmandu in November and spent a whole month in Nepal. The first few days were spent in Thamel (touristic district in Kathmandu), recovering from a cold and making an encounter with bed bugs. After our dear friend Juliet arrived, only three days late due to a missed flight connection in Istanbul, we got ready for our trek – the Annapurna Circuit. We hiked in total 200 km in 17 days (Annapurna Circuit: 133km & Annapurna Base Camp 66km) and mastered Thorung La Pass at an altitude of 5,426m/17,802ft which is slightly higher than Everest Base Camp (5380m). The view from Thorung La Pass over Gangapurna, the Annapurnas, Chulu West, Thourungste, the Kali Gandaki and upper Mustang region were absolutely stunning. We started from Besisahar with a fun bus ride up to Bhulbhule (840m). The dirt road was narrow and the bus was swaying dangerously close to steep drops. We started our hike with a side trek to Siurung (1854) to experience a home-stay. The hike was quite challenging and pretty steep so we only managed to arrive after nightfall. However, we got rewarded with a great home-stay experience. Sitting on the kitchen floor next to the fire to see how our host prepared a delicious Dal Bhat. Dal Bhat is a traditional Nepalese dish which consists of lentils- Dal, and rice- Bhat with some veggie side dishes that changes according to the region.
We continued our hike the first few days through lush green landscapes with beautiful warm weather. However, the higher we got the more alpine the landscape became until we started seeing the snow peaks coming closer and closer. On day five we hiked up to Upper Pisang and from there continued to Ghyaru view point which was a very steep climb up to 3700m altitude.
The higher we got the colder and thinner the air became. Once you reach a sleeping altitude of 3,000m, it is advised not to increase your elevation by more than 500m a day. It is also advised to take a rest day at 3,400m for acclimatization purposes. Day six was supposed to be our rest day in Braka. We decided to hike up to an ice lake at 4,635m which turned out to be tougher than we anticipated.
Getting closer to Thorung La Pass, moving uphill only became possible in slow motion. The headache got more intense but the excitement of crossing the path was overwhelming. In the tea-houses everybody talked about the next morning and expressed the fear of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
On day nine we were supposed to hike up to Thorung La Pass but it turned out that Mathias was suffering from a strong headache and so we postponed the crossing for the next day. Instead we made our way up to high camp in order to shorten the next days crossing. It was only one kilometer to high camp from Thorung Phedi but it felt like the longest kilometer with many switch backs. At such high altitude every step uphill becomes a struggle. We reached high camp just before noon and only a few 8 bed dormitories were left as high camp books out quickly but can accommodate up to 200 people.
On day ten we woke up at 4am and saw hundreds of headlights. The excitement was incredible. The day had finally come to master the pass. We had a hot soup for breakfast before we disappeared into the freezing dark. As soon as we stepped out our water bottles froze. We eventually reached the pass after 2.5h and everyone was very cheerful. We made it! We reached the pass at 5416m. The walk up was tough but not as bad as we expected. We luckily didn’t experience high winds or snow fall. We spent some time at the pass taking pictures, enjoying the view and celebrating with other hikers. We then started a steep descent but we took it easy on the way down with several breaks and visited temples in Muktinath. We celebrated our success with Yak steak and local beer in the evening.
As we completed the Annapurna Circuit way faster than expected we decided to do the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek as well. We were able to meet up with our friend Juliet in Nayapul to do some trekking together. We expected the trek to be easy after having hiked for 11 days and being acclimatized. However, the ABC trek turned out to be quite tough as the trail consists of many steep steps and you constantly ascend and descent which can be daunting at times. We completed the trek within 5 days and had absolutely stunning views of Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Machapuchre and Hiunchuli.
Both treks have equally nice views and are well sign posted. The treks have many tea-houses along the way for refreshments and overnight stays. We managed both hikes independently however, you can hire porters and guides in Kathmandu and all along the way. Even horse services are offered along Annapurna Circuit. We were suprised to have phone reception all the way up and most tea-houses offer WiFi. We were able to have hot showers almost all along the way with a few exceptions.
Annapurna Circuit Itinerary
- Day 1: By car to Besisahar (760) and by bus to Bhulbhule (840m). From there we hiked to Siurung (1854m) 10km.
- Day 2: Siurung (1854m) to Jagat (1300m) 15km.
- Day 3: Jagat (1300m) to Danagyu (2300m) 19km.
- Day 4: Danagyu (2300m) to Dhikur Pokhari (3060m) 21km.
- Day 5: Dhikur Pokhari (3060m) to Braka (3438m) 21km.
- Day 6: Braka (3438m) to the Ice Lake (4635m) and back, 12km.
- Day 7: Braka (3438m) to Yak Kharka (4050m) 11km.
- Day 8: Yak Kharka (4050m) to Thorung Phedi (4500m) 7km.
- Day 9: Thorung Phedi (4500m) to High Camp (4800m) 1km.
- Day 10: High Camp (4800m) over Thorung Pass (5416m/17769) to Muktinath (3710m) 13km.
- Day 11: Muktinath (3710m) to Kagbeni and Tiri (2804) 9.6km and continued by jeep to Jomson.
Annapurna Base Camp Itinerary
- Day 1: Bus from Nayapul (1070m) by bus to Kimche (1550m) and continued walking to Komrung Danda (2100m) 6.5km.
- Day 2: Komrung Danda (2100m) to Bamboo (2534m) 14km.
- Day 3: Bamboo (2534m) to Machapuchre Base Camp (MBC) (3700m) 11km.
- Day 4: MBC (3700m) to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) (4130m/13549ft) and back down to Bamboo (2534m) 17km.
- Day 5: Bamboo (2534m) to Siwai (1530m) 17km and continued from there by jeep and taxi to Pokhara.