I will be leading my first Annapurna base camp expedition in 2017. So this blog is going to be a bit of marketing (sorry!) As most of you probably know I have been sneaking off the Himalaya every other year for the last 20 years. My goal is to visit every region between Kabul and Kanchenjunga and to be honest I’m getting there, I only have Leh, Ladak, Dolpo, Panjshir and the Wakhun corridor left! So why am I going back to Annapurna you ask, well simply put it’s because I love it!
Annapurna was where all my adventures started back in 1996. I spent a month just chilling by the lake in Pokhara and then another month wandering up and down the Kahli Gandaki river which separates Annapurna from Dhaulagiri. It was a very special time for me, I had almost nothing, but needed less than I could afford. Nepal was, as it still is, a super chilled paradise for the more hippy minded and when I got bored of loafing around I could stretch my legs in some of the most beautiful hills in the world.
So for the first expedition I’m leading I thought I’d go back to Pokhara! The lake is fantastic, the views even better. As far as atmosphere goes this is what most tourists dream about when then think of Nepal, a small third world city nestling in a beautiful valley, beside a blue lake. Vast snow capped mountains tower over head turning pink in the sunset, I spent a month here just watching the sun move across the sky, doing yoga and waiting for a couple of pineapples to ripen in my garden. It’s a heavenly place.
The Plan for this October is to visit Annapurna base camp. My Annapurna base camp expedition 2017 will start from Sofia, flying out on the 15th of October via Doha with Qatar air ( about 800 euros at the mo) to Kathmandu. Normally most normal people spend their first couple of nights in Kathmandu in the mad house that is Thamel, the hippies go to freak street! Thamel is as close as I can get to hell, 4 long smokey, dusty, wriggly streets packed with traffic, hostels, bars and restaurants, tat shops, trekking shops and a thousand varieties of souvenirs. I prefer to stay in the lanes around Boudnath. This is the largest Buddhist temple in Kathmandu, a haven of peace. there are plenty of shops and restaurants and if anyone needs kit Thamel is close by but most importantly it is chilled. The chanting of monks dominates the distant traffic and the clouds of incense are more pronounced than the fumes of Thamel.
It takes a day to sort all our documents for the national parks and trekking permits so we get two nights in Kathmandu to settle into Nepali mode. I’ll take the group around all the good bits, temples and shrines markets and gardens while Nabin sorts all the paper work for us. On the 18th we’ll go by bus to Pokhara, the road is good and Nabin’s busses are lovely. It’s a pretty road once you get out of the city, lunch along the way will be properly local and arrival in Pokhara a balm after the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.
On the 19th we’ll set off by bus from Pokhara to Phedi ( a short trip) where the trekking starts, its a tough first day with a 1000m of up and 370m of down but you’ll be rewarded with some great views. This is village Himalaya with lots of people still thriving in the forests, cutting fields out of the hillsides and generally doing what Nepalis do best, which is to live like kings in some pretty sketchy vertical country! It will be a long hard day but well worth the of 6 or 7 hours of gentle trekking. Tolka is up at 1790m which is still hill country in Nepal.
From Tolka it is another longish day with only 500m of true climbing but because we’ll drop all the way down to the river it is 870m of climbing. Trying to understand the way Nepalis judge mountains can be confusing. Most westerners account for all the Ups and Downs in a day. e.g. Three climbs of 300m each with two descents of 300m each to a Brit means they have done 900m of up and 600m of down. To a Nepali this is just strange they see the same day as just 300m of up. The ups and downs cancel each other out so it is only the Net up that matters. This can lead to some pretty grumpy foreigners and some very confused guides! Anyway From Tolka(1790m) to Chhomrong(2210m) is another 6 or 7 hour day. In total we’ll only be doing 3 big days like this. On all the big days we’ll stop for lunch on the trail and have a proper rest.
Chhomrong is the end of civilisation, from here on it will be herders villages and trekking lodges, the winters can be hard in Nepal and most people head south to lower villages once the summer grass has been munched back. Chhomrong to Bamboo lodge is a more typical trekking day. We’ll set off after an early breakfast, trek for 3 or 4 hours and then have a late lunch in the same place that we will stay for the night. With 600m of up and 500m of down it’s a fairly easy day through forests of bamboo, oak and rhododendron. There is a good chance we’ll see orchids in the Rhodi’s .
From Bamboo to Himalayan Hotel is another easy day, just 500m of up, maybe 3 hours. It’s a steep climb through dense bamboo forest and a little hairy if there has been fresh snow (unlikely)! We’ll spend the day traversing avalanche chutes and the remains of old landslides, it is a salutary reminder of how fragile the Himalaya are and how gnarly they can be when angry.
From the Himalayan hotel we’ll be setting off into proper high country and by the end of the day ( 860m of up 4 hours) we will have got to Machhapuchhare base camp. the mountain views here are awesome, you are right in the circus of Annapurna, surrounded by 7000m peaks. We’ll over night here and the next day do the little yomp up to Annapurna base camp. It is only 450m of ascent so we should be able to get up there in a couple of hours. The views of the south face of Annapurna are amazing from here !
We retrace our steps from here and should be back in Pokhara within 4 days and Kathmandu in 5days . All in it is a pretty short trip but one of the easiest ways to get properly up close and personal with the High Himalaya, god willing the crowds that flock to Everest and around Annapurna will not be cluttering up the trail and we will get a taste of old school Nepali trekking!
If you are interested in joining me here is some of the more boring logistical data:-
Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
ANNAPURNA SANCTUARY TREK
Duration 15 Days
Grade Moderate to fairly challenging
Max. Altitude 4130m
Permits ACAP & TIMS Card
Trek Type Teahouse
Cost Group Size:-
6 people $ 1595 each
8 people $ 1525 each
10 people $ 1395 each
Day 01 Arrive Kathmandu; transfer to hotel
Day 02 Leisure day/preparation
Day 03 Bus Pokhara; transfer to hotel
Day 04 Drive Phedi; trek Tolka 1790m
Day 05 Tolka to Chhomrong 2210m
Day 06 Chhomrong to Bamboo 2310m
Day 07 Bamboo to Himalayan Hotel 2840m
Day 08 Himalayan Hotel to Machhapuchhare Base Camp 3700m
Day 09 Machhapuchhare Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp 4130m
Day 10 Annapurna Base Camp to Himalayan Hotel
Day 11 Himalayan Hotel to Chhomrong
Day 12 Chhomrong to Ghandruk
Day 13 Ghandruk to Birenthanti; drive Pokhara
Day 14 Bus Kathmandu
Day 15 Depart Kathmandu
Included in the Cost
In Kathmandu (3* hotel); twin sharing on B & B basis
In Pokhara (3* Hotel/Resort); twin sharing on B & B basis
In tea houses during trek (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)
Excluded in the Cost