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Annapurna Circuit: a 17-day trek in Nepal

Annapurna Circuit: a 17-day trek in Nepal

The Annapurna Circuit was my real long trek: before that I had at most walked four days consecutively.

Before embarking on this path I was quite doubtful, as I had no idea how my body would react to so much effort. Fortunately, a few months earlier I hosted via Couchsurfing Viktoria (and her sister Sara) who made this trek. Viktoria was really instrumental in knowing how to organize a trek in Nepal. It made me realize that it really is possible to set out alone, since it is very easy to meet many people along the way. Still remaining somewhat doubtful, I nevertheless decided to undertake this trek with two other companions and a guide, found on trekkingpartners.com : thanks to this site I thus found a guide, shared with Jeff and David.

We all met in Kathmandu and then left for Besi Sahar by bus: after about 9 hours by bus we started the trek.

(All the tracks of the trekking days can be found starting here, on the Garmin Connect website)

Day 1 – 4 Annapurna Circuit trek: from Besi Sahar to Chame

The first four days of the trek, leading from Besi Sahar to Chame, are characterized by long, but easy, days of walking. Initially we walk on a wide road, built by the Chinese to facilitate hydroelectric activities. Next we pass on trails leading to wonderful rice fields, with waterfalls at times truly rushing down and the first 8000, Makalu. The villages are also very nice to see; Tal and Chame are the ones I liked the most. This aspect of village life is a big difference from the Everest area: there is much more life here and the villages are much more interesting.

Day 5 – 7 Annapurna Circuit trek: from Chame to Manang

From day 5, the road begins to climb.

On the fifth day, just before entering Pisang, I asked Raj (the guide) for enlightenment about an animal grazing quietly: I had just seen a yak, which would always make an appearance on local menus from there on.

Once I reached Pisang, I decided to take a detour on my own via Upper Pisang, where I met two other trekkers (James and Alex). From Ghyaru (3700 meters) there is a fantastic view of the Annapurnas: from there on it is a long and wonderful descent to the valley leading to Manang.

The sixth day is devoted to acclimatization: in fact, it is recommended to stay two nights in Manang (3600 meters) to get used to the altitude. I and Alex decided to visit Ice Lake (located at 4600meters) and spoke in Italian since his grandparents have Italian ancestry. This outing was definitely worthwhile, physically and also mentally since we did not struggle through these thousand meters of elevation gain.

The group, initially consisting of four people, soon became huge as we met Jonny and Ben, Agnes, Virginia, Sergi, Sam, Ashtyn and many others on the way. Viktoria’s suggestion that a guide was not necessary was absolutely true.

From Manang there is the possible to do a detour to Tilicho Lake: I went back in the area to do this trek, in 2022, and it had been fabulous!

Day 8-9 Annapurna Circuit trek: from Manang to Thorong Pedi

Day 8 and 9 are the days leading to the base of Thorong La Pass, and here the feeling of being in the high mountains started to be really distinct. We slept at Thorong Pedi at an altitude of 4500 meters, where I met the first Italians (the crazy but great Paolo and Cristiano were biking the Annapurna Circuit!).

Day 10 Annapurna Circuit trek: Thorong La Pass

Day 10 was dedicated to the pass. The first 45 minutes lead from the 4500 meters of Thorong Pedi to the 4850 meters of the last Base Camp. From here on, the climb becomes softer: I felt very good all the time, except for the last 200 meters where I slightly suffered from the altitude.

Thorong La Pass was therefore reached! The view from 5416 meters was wonderful, and the satisfaction too: I had reached the highest point of the Annapurna Circuit!

Now, however, it was time to descend to the 3700 meters of Muktinath. To this day, I still remember that I suffered greatly on this long, sometimes steep, descent: the first beers after 10 days of walking at Bob Marley’s Hostel were a fitting reward!

In 2022 I did Thorong La Pass in the clock-wise direction, because I had the goal to reach Tilicho Lake after trekking in Mustang. From Phedi, it is a steep 1300 metres gain up to the Thorong La Pass: it had been hard! I even lost my phone on the way up: luckily it was found from a sherpa! So, it is totally recommended to follow the anticlock – wise!

Day 11-15 Annapurna Circuit trek: from Muktinath to Tatopani

Days 11-15 lead from 3700 meters at Muktinath to 1500 meters at Tatopani.

From Muktinath one reaches, through a desert landscape, Kagbeni. This is a medieval town, as well as the gateway to the mythical Mustang: definitely worth a visit!

The Montessori schools are also worth a visit: it is definitely interesting to see life and teachings at these altitudes. The part leading from Kagbeni to Marpha was personally a pain, due to a few lines of fever: in particular, the area around Jomsom is a very long stony slope at times uncomfortable. Once we arrived in Marpha, Jeff and I realized that the typical Annapurna apples are useful not only for pies but especially for brandy.

After Marpha we returned to a more alpine landscape, finally arriving at Tatopani. Here I celebrated my 31st birthday with most of my fellow adventurers, and I must admit that the brandy definitely knocked me out!

Day 16-17 Annapurna Circuit trek: from Tatopani to Nayapul via Poon Hill

Despite the big hangover, Poon Hill was calling me. The last climb (of about 2000 meters, as Poon Hill is at 3200m) was amply rewarded with a fantastic view of the Annapurnas in one of my best sunrises ever. From there on it was a long, victorious descent to Naya Pul: from there you take a bus to Pokhara.

After saying goodbye to the guide, who was quite helpful at times anyway (memorable The video with the names of the mountains at Poon Hill.), in Pokhara we met again with the other trekkers, celebrating with many well-deserved beers the end of the Annapurna Circuit!

 

IN ADDITION TO THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN ….

Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes!

Annapurna Base Camp!

Trekking in Mustang!

Mardi Himal Base Camp!

Margherita Hut, the highest refuge in Europe!

Laugavegur, a wonderful trek in Iceland!

 

USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT: DIFFICULTY AND ORGANIZATION

  • How difficult is the Annapurna Circuit? This circuit is not difficult at all (it does not present any technical difficulties); on the other hand, one should by no means underestimate its length (17 days more or less) and the fact that one reaches the 5416 meters of the Thorong La Pass.

 

  • How is the Annapurna Circuit organized? This is, surprisingly, the easiest question. I say ‘surprisingly’ because even I didn’t know what to expect: the help of my friend Viktoria, who told me several times ‘go easy and don’t make trouble’ is the right summation. Basically, you don’t need guides or porters for this circuit: you just need to get organized with your backpack. You don’t have to book anything: there are many guesthouses, and compared to the Everest area there are many small villages. Once you arrive in Kathmandu you only need to book a bus to Besi Sahar: this bus takes about 8 hours (you can sleep in Besi Sahar or walk about two hours).

 

  • Which trek to choose between Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp? If I had to choose between this and Everest Base Camp, I would probably choose this trek since the EBC is a round trip and not a full tour. Instead, the choice becomes decidedly difficult if I had to choose between Annapurna Circuit and Everest Three Passes: in fact, even Everest Three Passes is a complete tour (the high mountain vistas are perhaps best in the Everest area, while Annapurna offers a nice glimpse of Nepalese life).

USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT: BACKPACKING, ELECTRICITY AND BEST SPOTS

  • What should one bring to the Annapurna Circuit? The backpack should be as light as possible. Generally, for such a trek, even a 40-liter backpack of about 10 to 12 pounds may suffice. I brought 4 underpants, 4 merino socks, 4 technical T-shirts (‘marathon’ style), 4 long-sleeved shirts (preferably merino wool, it keeps the heat better), high mountain boots, a short, high mountain pants, a sweatshirt, a fleece, a windbreaker, a windbreaker jacket, gloves, sunglasses, hat and neck warmer.

 

  • No need to bring food, as you will find many countries as you walk. Water is another chapter: ecologically it would be better to bring tablets that purify water, which is never potable. No need for a tent: there are always guesthouses and dinner is served inside them (it can get quite cold at night, and for that I recommend bringing at least a sweatshirt and fleece).

 

  • Regarding altitude, a diamox might be useful: I never brought it with me and always relied on the high mountain laws of ‘sleep at most 400 meters higher than the night before,’ ‘drink a lot,’ and rest day in Manang (seventh day: went up to Ice Lake, 4600 meters, and came down to sleep in Manang).

 

  • Is electricity found in the Annapurna Circuit? Yes, but at higher altitudes there is a charge: I recommend a solar powerbank and a regular powerbank. The wifi works almost all the time (only on the two days before Thorong La I had no connection).

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOTS ON THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

What are the most beautiful spots on the Annapurna Circuit? This trek has wonderful viewpoints, Upper Pisang and Poon Hill above all, Thorong La immediately behind. Tilicho Lake is a great detour!

THE NUMBERS.

17 days
281 km traveled
13700 meters of elevation gain
4 days without a shower
1 day off (Ice Lake)
5416 meters of Thorong La Pass, the highest point
3 possible 8000m to see (Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu)
9 days without drinking alcohol
1 day at the spa
1 hangover (the same day as the spa day, my birthday, on the 15th day of trekking, when the altitude was low of course)
Infinite, my love for Marpha Brandy Apple
1 day I felt sick

 

….how much do I recommend it? So much!

 

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Andrea, un viaggiatore da lungo tempo con una grande passione per trekking, bici e diving! Su travelsbeer.com potrete trovare tutte le informazioni e gli itinerari di viaggio scritti da Andrea: cinque continenti e tante vette conquistate intorno al mondo!

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