Friday, 9 November 2007

Around Annapurna in 10 Days

28th October to 6th November 2007

Photos: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10

Pick of the best photos

Annapurna Circuit Map Annapurna Circuit Profile Annapurna III and Gangapurna from near Ice Lake Summit of the Thorung La Bridge south of Larjung

Hanging around in Kathmandu at the moment after hiking round Annapurna in 10 days.

Day 1 - Kathmandu to Bhulbhule via Besisahar (Oct 28th)
Left Kathmandu just before 11am and hammered up to Besisahar in about 4½ hours in a private taxi. Exciting overtaking the whole way. Began hiking/jogging out of Besisahar with my 35L KIMM sack just before 4pm. The Annapurna Circuit starts with an ugly great dirt track, but I switched off this as soon as possible by crossing the river onto smaller trails that took me direct into Bhulbhule directly - just as it was getting dark, around 5.30pm.

Day 2 - Bhulbhule to Danakyu (Oct 29th)
Fairly tired and jet-lagged, but I was up at 6am and away by 6.30. Worried that I hadn't brought enough cash for potentially 12 days on the trail, I decided to eat nothing but biscuits and water. Compounding my feeling of unease I smashed to the ground on greasy rocks without warning, very nearly destroying my camera and scraping my knee and ankle. Later just before Tal, I came across the inevitable Maoists requesting their "donation". Despite several attempts at walking straight past and being dragged back - I eventually grudgingly handed over some money - after wasting about 20 minutes arguing and having a stand off with them. Duly charged up, I made good ground passing the checkpoints at Dharapani and thinking I might make Chame, but the light was going so at around 5pm I stopped at Danakyu - the only the trekker at the lodge. Fairly tired after around 11 hours on my feet. The woman at the lodge seemed fairly suprised that I'd covered 3 days hike in a single day.

Day 3 - Danakyu to Humde (Oct 30th)
Up and away early again. My original intention was to reach Manang this day, and made good time past Chame, and the big ugly new 4WD track they are blasting up the valley. But when I arrived at Lower Pisang 3200m, I suddenly started feeling pretty ropy from the mix of sun, altitude, fatigue and jet-lag, so decided to sit down for half an hour, and then just proceeded more slowly as far as Humde, where I checked into a pretty quiet lodge. In fact there were only 4 other trekkers - 2 Israelis intent on getting totally stoned the entire evening, and 2 Canadians - brother and sister, who I ended up hiking with the next day.

Day 4 - Humde to Manang via Ice Lake (Oct 31st)
A slower start, given I though I was only going 2 hours max. from Humde to Manang. However on the walk out of Humde I caught the 2 Canadians, and at Braga their guide suggested hiking up to Ice Lake. He indicated it was just a little bit up the hillside and just out of view, so I tagged along. In fact there was an 1100m climb to 4600m which took 5 hours up and back in full sunshine - so a little more than I expected when I hadn't really taken any food or drink. Fantastic views of Annapurna III and Gangapurna. Ran all the way back down to Braga, then walked slowly up to Manang where most of the lodges were full. Eventually found really grotty Yak Hotel, and waited ages for any dinner - feeling pretty rough with sunstroke/AMS.

Day 5 - Manang to Letdar (Nov 1st)
After feeling so dreadful at Manang, I decided to take things easy heading up towards the Thorung La. So instead of making straight for Thorung Phedi 4500m, I decided to break the journey at Letdar 4200m, for better acclimatisation. I met a Spanish couple who stormed past me, heading straight for Thorung Phedi. I matched their pace for a while before backing off and resorting to my own slow plod to Letdar. Had a night of blinding headache, and took my first paracetamols.

Day 6 - Letdar to Thorung Phedi (Nov 2nd)
A very short day. Only 1½ hours hike to the lodge 300 metres higher at 4540m. Then back in my sleeping bag by 10.30am. Slobbed around all day, eventually my headache getting better, but returning with a veangance during the night.

Day 7 - Thorung Phedi to Larjung via Thorung La (Nov 3rd)
Glad to get up at 5.30am. Feeling not too bad, and set off 6.10am just as it was fully light. Dodgy guts meant I needed to stopped briefly at the high camp, before pressing on steadily and overtaking everyone in sight up to the high Thorung La pass at around 5400m. Fairly cold and windy, so just a few photos then straight across and down the other side for the long decent to Muktinath - around 1600m descent down a fairly steep scree trail. I was in Muktinath at around 11am, and after reviving myself on chocolate and Coke I headed on down the big trail into the weird new desert-type landscape. I ran most of the section from Jharkot to Jomosom into a strengthening dusty wind. Another chocolate and Coke stop at Jomosom, then more dusty trail running straight into strong headwind as far as Larjung, just as the light was failing. I found a deserted lodge and collapsed on the bed, after 10½ hours on my feet. There was nobody at the lodge but me, but when I returned to the dining area, who was sitting there but the Spanish couple who had stormed past me on the climb out of Manang! They had crossed the Thorung La the day before, but I made up the extra ground on them after Muktinath. We exchanged a few stories, and I had my first beer of the trek.

Day 8 - Larjung to Ghorepani (Nov 4th)
Another early start - around 6am. Long long sections of blasted 4WD track with endless mule trains coming the other way. Dusty and dirty and none too scenic. Ran whichever sections I could. Eventually reached Tatopani around 1.30 ~ 2pm, where the trail kicks sharply uphill towards Ghorepani. The climb to Ghorepani was wonderfully varied and scenic, but dragged on a bit towards the end. And I finally reached the crest of the hill after 5pm, in the cold and dark, feeling a bit done in. I checked straight into the Dhaulagiri View guest house, and parked myself by the fire in the dining room where I met English couple Dee and Benji.

Day 9 - Gorepani to Kyumi via Poon Hill and Chomrung (Nov 5th)
Much banging around at 5am onwards as folk were preparing for their pilgrimage up Poon Hill for the big sunrise view. Looking outside it was dark and misty, but I got some clothes on and headed up the hill anyhow. At the summit were well over 100 people aimlessly kicking around trying to keep warm, and staring at the surrounding grey hill fog, wondering where the mountains might be. Eventually the sun must have risen, since we saw an orange streak across the bands of grey cloud. When it was quite clear we weren't going to see anythig better than this, we all piled back down the hill and had a relaxed leisurely breakfast.

My initial plan had been to finish of the Annapurna Circuit direct from Ghorepani by heading straight down to Birethanti and Naya Pul, but then I thought maybe I should I should trail up towards to Annapurna Base Camp for a day. Slightly undecided, I made a late start from Ghorepani just before 9am - heading towards Tadapani into the Annapurna Sanctuary. In fat the trails in the Sanctuary are much tougher and more up-and-downy than on the Circuit, so the same distances take far longer. Some interesting section of ancient forest with monkeys hurtling around screeching from tree to tree. Then I crossed a deep valley to climb up to Chomrung, where the trail to Annapurna Base Camp really begins. The weather was grey murky and misty, so after a quick snack stop I decided to call it a day, and head straight back the main trail to Jhinu down very steep stone steps, then along by the massive Modi Khola river. I suddenly felt a bit washed out, so decided to stop at the first available lodge - which turned out to be Bee Hive View at Kyumi. I was the only person at the lodge, so had a quiet early night.

Day 10 - Kyumi to Pokhara via Naya Pul (Nov 6th)
Final day of the trek. Torrential rain during the night had left the stony trail greasy and slippy. This final section wasn't too long, so I just pootled along soaking in the atmosphere. The trail was narrow, following around terraced hillsides with no trekkers - just a few women working in the fields and kids getting ready for school. Eventually after Syaudi Bazar, the trail became more and more busy and generally dirty-looking, until reaching Birethanti and the final checkpost. At the bridge I spotted Dee and Benji waving - so met up for lunch. And then all that remained was a 20 minute walk up through the filthy mainstreet of Naya Pul to catch a bus down to Pokhara and get cleaned off and relax.


John Kynaston said...

Enjoyed reading about your trip so far. I look forward to the photos. Glad you didn't destroy your camera!

Chris said...

John - Thanks for your comment. I must try to get some photos added soon to the report. I really thought I'd smashed my camera when I slipped and slapped the camera into the ground. The lens was full of grit, so some of the photos aren't as clear as they might have been, but at least the camera was still functional.

Unknown said...

hi Chris, you must have been hammering round at some pace, that explains why you've been holding back in hill races recently!!
I'm going over to do the Annapurna circuit in a couple of weeks, any tips? how much money do you reckon I'll need to get by on a daily basis?
Richie Cunningham

Chris said...

Hi Richie,
I'm sure you'll have a good time on the Annapurna Circuit. Just don't carry too much stuff. I was getting by on around 1,000 rupees per day, but 1500 would have been far more comfortable. Allow 2000 rupees for getting robbed by the Maoists!

Unknown said...

Hey Chris,

Can you provide some info on what gear you brought along on your very impressive trip? I'm particularly interested in your shoes, but would love to hear about what clothes you brought, as well.


Chris said...

Hi Paul,
The shoes I wore were Salomon Goretex XA Pro 3D XCR. The Goretex helped to keep my feet and socks fairly clean on the dusty trails. I've posted a kitlist here. I managed to carry all my kit in a 35L KIMM sack, probably weighing around 8 or 9kg I'd guess. And for budget, I was spending around 1,000~1,200 rupees per day.

Unknown said...

Awesome. Thanks, Chris.


Eddie said...

Worth the wait. I reckon you have a talent with a camera Chris.

Chris said...

Thanks Eddie. I'm glad I didn't smash the camera altogether on Day 2 when I slipped off the path.

Unknown said...

Hi there,
You got some balls (in 10 days with a 35L sack? Not bad), respect! My question is that which direction is more common, like you did or the opposite (clockwise)?

Great photos too, thanks!


Chris said...

Hi Dániel,
Thanks for your comments.
Actually you don't need to carry that much for a hike like this. I just made sure I carried a decent sleeping bag, and luckily didn't get sick.
I'd say by the far the most common direction for the Annapurna Circuit is anti-clockwise (like I did), since you can reach the Thorung La in more gradual stages this way.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the fast response. I thought I'd go from Pokhara to Pokhara but I think I will follow more or less your plan then. I hope the weather will be fine, I'm going from around 29th of October and don't have waterproof shorts nor shoes. But it makes the challange greater, doesn't it? :)