This posts covers my 14-day trek on the classic Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal. Check out my previous post for more on this spectacular trek into the heart of the Nepali Himalaya.
Pre-Hike – Kathmandu to Syange
My trekking group for this hike consisted of Amy, from Victoria, B.C., Canada; Graham, from London; and Marta, originally from Poland but now living in Bonn, Germany.
We’d met via a pair of websites (http://www.trekkingpartners.com/ and www.TrekInfo.com) that connect hikers for various treks. It was my first experience with this type of site and thought that the experience was definitely a good one. Check them out if you’re heading out for some trekking, especially to Nepal as there are fewer trips posted for treks in other parts of the world.
Following several rounds of emails, we met up at a Thamel guest house for a brief get-to-know you session where we finalized our plans to head out the next day to the trailhead. We wouldn’t be on the trail long before Amy dubbed us the “Posse,” a name that would stick on our way around the Circuit.
We left Thamel at 7 the next morning for the half hour taxi ride to the bus station. We piled into a local bus (400 Rs each) for the bumpy and harrowing 8 hour ride to Besisahar (760m). We stopped briefly for Amy to get her ACAP permit and TIMS card at the checkpoint before catching a jeep (750 Rs each) for the final three hours to Syange (1,080m).
Day 1 – Syange to Dharapani
Syange marks the transition from the Middle Hills area to the upper mountain region. We were all excited to get going and, following a quick breakfast, launched ourselves onto the trail.
The trail out of Syange follows the Marsyangdi Nadi (river) north through a lush, steeply sloped canyon. We moved quickly up a small climb to Jagat (1,300m), then a few kilometers later crossed to the east side of the river at Chyamche (1,430m).
Heavy clouds rolled in and dropped soon some light rain in the mid-afternoon. Fortunately, the rain didn’t hold and we cruised into Dharaphani (1,860m) under only light cloud cover. Before stopping for the night, we checked in at the ACAP checkpoint where we had our permits and TIMS cards checked by a pair of Nepali Army officers.
We whiled away the night drinking tea and, in what would become a nightly routine, playing a card game that I’d learned from a pair of Israelis and a Swede on the Three Passes trek. We christened the game “Annapurna” because I couldn’t remember what it was actually called.
Funny enough, I subsequently ran into in the same pair of Israelis, once in Pokhara and again in Kathmandu, and was reminded that the Israeli name for the game is Cavil (don’t trust me on that spelling, though).
Day 2 – Dharapani to Chame
We left early the next morning on our first full day of hiking. From Dharapani, trail turns to the northwest, a direction it would generally hold as it climbs toward Thorung La, the highest point on the circuit, and then completes its long descent to its most northerly point at Muktinath.
We passed through Timang (2,750m), before stopping for lunch in Thanchowk (2,400m) in front of a spellbinding view of Manaslu.
We stopped for the night just outside of Chame (2,670m). We were reunited at the teahouse with Doug and Laurène, a couple from Australia and France, respectively, currently from London that we had met at lunch on the first day. We spent the night playing cards and huddling around the cast iron stove in the center of the room.
Day 3 – Chame to Upper Pisang
Leaving Chame, the trail generally follows along the Pangdi Danda until it reaches Bhratang (2,850m). There, the trail beings a long counter-clockwise turn as it passes below the Swargadwari Danda, one of the most striking formations along the trail. A massive, smooth, snow-capped escarpment rising 1,5oom from the valley floor, it is entirely different from the other formations in the area and anything else we would see along the way.
Near the end of the day the trail forked. The left path lead on to Lower Pisang (3,200m), while the right for climbed steadily to Upper Pisang (3,300m). We chose Upper Pisang and pushed on through the extra climbing.
Upper Pisang, which offers the first big view of the Annapurnas, was one of the highlights of the trip. Annapurna IV (7,525m), Annapurna II (7,937m), and Lamjung Himal (6,983m) all lay to the south, facing us from across the valley and the Marsyangdi Nadi. Arriving at mid-afternoon, we were treated to a spectacular show as the sun worked its way across the sky and gradually gave way to a nearly full moon and star-studded sky.
For those who have the time, we heard great things about a side trip from Upper Pisang up to the Pisang Base Camp. The Base Camp is at around 4,200m and for the price a few hours climbing delivers even more spectacular views.
That’s end of Part 2. Check back soon for the next post on the Annapurna Circuit.