Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Annapurna Circuit, Up

After 13 days of trekking covering130 miles and a couple of rest days, I've finished the Annapurna circuit. It was a very different experience from the trek to Everest Base Camp and definitely worth it. One defining difference was my circuit trek started a full 2000 meters lower which completely altered the feel of the first few days. It was also nearly twice as long and I hiked it at a much faster pace.

The trip started with a taxi to the wrong bus station and a couple of rides on busses that seemed to be going the right direction. Eventually I made it to Besisahar where I checked in with the trekking permit office and was told to just follow the road out of town. 

This looks like a trail, I think I'll go this way... It was that kind of first day. 

I started the trek during the Dashain festival with apparently includes building giant bamboo swings. 

I spent the first couple of days hiking past terraced rice patties in a lush tropical valley. I had lunch on top that hill in the center of the valley on my first full day of hiking. 

Monkeys? For some reason I was not expecting to see monkeys in Nepal. 
A micro hydro station I asked to take a look at on the third morning. Problems with electrical shortages in Nepal baffle me a bit with as much hydro potential as there is. Most the locals I talked to blamed government bureaucracy or apathy. 

The line at the top of that cliff is where they cut the road in last year. You can now cut several days off the trek with a Jeep. I think it would take away from the trek as a whole to do so though. 
This isn't normally what is mean by "safety factor".  Obviously the bridge held fine... 

Yes, the road goes all but through that water fall. The foot crossing on the rocks was a bit intimidating since there is another shear drop on this side and they were all wet from the spray.

Yeah, this looks like a good place for a house...

Day 4: first actual view of one of the Annapurna mountains. 

The kitchen in Chame, smokey, but warm. It was cold in the dining hall, but Chame turned out to be a good place to meet people. I met Tony and David from England and their guide Dawa. We passed each other and shared lodges on and off for the rest of the trek. One of the nice things about the Annapurna circuit is that almost everyone goes the same direction and there is more time to make new friends. 

Big water falls became scarce as I climbed higher and the terrain became arid. 
This part of the road isn't quite finished yet, there was blasting equipment just around the corner. 

Annapurna II (i think) above Pisang.

Another shot of Annapurna II from higher up the valley. 

Some fall colors on the way to Manang.

No, I didn't fly back to NM to take this... One of the really neat things about the trek was mix of landscapes. I'd feel like i was hiking through the northern Rockies one morning and that afternoon I'd think I was in the dessert southwest.
Annapurna III and Gangapurna.
Annapurna III and Gangapurna on the way up Thorung Pass at dawn.
High on Thorung Pass is one of the most barren pieces of ground I've ever hiked across. Buzz Aldrin's lunar description of "magnificent desolation" came to mind several times. 
But, the top of the pass looks like a ski lodge without the skis... 

I found climbing the pass much easier than advertised. I had already acclimated on the everest trek and I passed a lot of people who were struggling in the thin air. 

I'll post pictures from the second half of the trek in a couple days. Pokhara is not as bad as Kathmandu, but it's still a bit of system shock to be back in the city. I've been asked repeatedly if I would like my shoes shined... I'm considering taking someone up on the offer just to see exactly what they would do to trail shoes with hundreds of miles worth of dust from three continents worked into them... 


  1. I've enjoyed looking at some of your beautiful photos. What an amazing trip. So are you alone now on this latest trek or is Lee still there with you?

  2. Did you fix the hydropower plant?

  3. I did not ride the swing. The man who built it told me he builds a new one every year and the kids use it "until it breaks". I've lost weight, but I'm still twice as heavy as a Nepali kid...

    That hydro plant was working fine. Fixing the overall system is more a political problem than an engineering one...

  4. I was going to say, you look slimmer.

  5. Matt, I'm down about 30 pounds since I decided to leave...