Annapurna Circuit (Nepal)
Day 4 – Upper Pisang to Manang
Amy, Graham and I got up before sunrise the next morning and made the short climb to the monastery perched above the town to see the monks do their daily pujas. We somehow arrived early and, after watching the first rays of sunlight hit the peaks across the valley and warming ourselves with some lemon tea, we spent a wonderful half hour with the 7 monks from Tibet as they chanted and played an array of traditional instruments.
The stretch of trail immediately out Upper Pisang is spectacular. The trail clings for much of the way to the mountainside well above the valley floor as it passes Ghyaru (3,570m) and, another hour further on, Humde (3,280m), a small townon the valley floor with a tiny landing strip. The resulting views leave hikers in awe as the massive peaks seem to go on for ever. Ever twist and turn leaves you feeling as if you’ve just reached the most beautiful spot on the trail.
After rising until it reaches Nawal (3,660m), the trail descends to Braga (3,439m) and then continues on to Manang, a larger town that is a common place for Circuit trekkers to take stay and take short acclimatization hikes before heading on to tackle the higher altitudes near Thorung La. We arrived in the early evening and found the town nearly booked solid. On our third try, we found a place with a pair rooms for the Posse.
One of Manang’s claims to fame is series of tiny movie theaters that show the same handful of mountaineering-related movies everyday. We threw our things inside the guest house and then hustled a few buildings over just in time to catch a showing of “7 Years In Tibet.”
Day 5 – Manang Zero Day
The Posse split up the next day. Graham and Marta headed back down the trail toward Braga to take a side trip to Kicho Tal, an ice lake tucked away several hours off the main trail at 4,600m. Amy headed up the hillside above Manang to seek the blessing of a 93-year monk known for giving blessings for safe passage to Circuit hikers. I was already acclimatized and hung around town.
Once everyone returned for the day, we headed back to the movie theater for a screening of “Touching the Void,” a legendary survival story about a pair of English climbers on Suila Grande in the Peruvian Andes.
Then things got interesting. Graham and I arrived back in our room at the guest house to discover that someone had entered our locked room and gone through our backpacks. Some of my stuff was in Graham’s bag and nearly all of the cash that I’d carried to get me through the trek was gone. One of the windows in the room (which in a bizarre design choice led to another room) that had been locked earlier in the day was now swinging open.
I went down stairs to tell the hotel manager about the situation. His immediate concern, for some reason, was why I waited so long to tell him about the theft. He couldn’t quite get his head around the fact that I told him immediately after discovering the cash was gone. He ultimately said that he couldn’t do anything about it, but suggested that we could involve the police if I wanted to.
I decided that was exactly what I wanted, more out of curiosity about how the police in Nepal functioned than any real expectation that it would achieve any results related to my missing cash.
Day 6 – Manang to Yak Kharka
Amy, Graham and Marta continued on the next morning, while I waited at the guest house for the police officers to make the two hour motorbike ride from Humde. The pair of cops got arrived around 10 and launched into their “investigation,” which consisted entirely of telling me that my trekking companions probably did it and that they were unable to proceed any further with their investigation because my friends had left and could not be interviewed. All the while, we were surrounded by the guest house manager and 5-6 other people who would have had easy access to the spare key to enter the room while Graham and I were at the movie.
I eventually gave up on pushing the officers to expand their pool of potential suspects and decided to hit the trail. The whole exercise had been obviously futile from the start, but at least it turned into a very interesting social experiment. It wasn’t quite worth the $300+ that I lost out of the whole deal, but what are you going to do.
I threw on my pack and marched out of town through Khangsar (3,734m) toward the next stop at Yak Kharka (4,050m). Along the way, I passed the side trail to then Tilicho Lake Southern Base Camp (4,990m). We didn’t have the chance to make this trip due to time constraints, but everyone says that it is an incredibly beautiful lake surrounded by a bowl of peaks, including Tilicho Peak and the Nilgiri Himal. I’d recommend it if you can fit it in. Doug and Laurène, our friends from earlier on the trail, went and had rave reviews.
Day 7 – Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi
From Yak Kharha, the trail soon passes through Ledar (4,200m) and then, after crossing to the other side of the river, quikcly arrives at Thorung Phedi (4,450m). Thorung Phedi is a set of four guest houses nestled in between the Purkung Himal to the north (Purbung, 6,500m), the Muktinath Himal to the west (Khatungkang, 6,484m) and the Gungang Himal to the east (Chulu-Central, 6,584m). It marks the second to last stop before the pass at Thorung La.
We reached Thorung Phedi by noon, had a quick rest, and then headed out for some day hikes. The rest of the Posse, like most people, opted for a trip up to the Thorung High Camp (4,925m). A viewpoint just 100 meters above the camp offers a fantastic view of the Thorung Khola Valley and the surrounding peaks, including excellent views of Gangapurna (7,454m) and Annapurna III (7,555m).
I decided against Thorung High Camp because we would be covering the same stretch of trail tomorrow on our way to Thorung La and I could just add in the viewpoint then. I’m generally averse to covering the same stretch of trail twice if there are other options available. In this case there was. I climbed just above Thorung Phedi and then ascended a massive rock fall that led to a huge outcropping of rock at the head of the valley.
Ever since getting broken in on my Alpamayo trek in Peru, I’ve been enjoying going off trail more and more. It’s always much more interesting than sticking to a manicured trail. Here, the challenging climb up the rock fall lead to a large plateau atop the outcropping that had incredible views down the length of valley toward Ganagapurna on one oneside and steep snow-covered valley on the other.
The Posse met back at the guest house after our respective day hikes. We spent the night playing cards with a trio of Dutch hikers that we’d gotten to know over the last few days and filling ourselves with as many calories as possible in preparation for the big climb to Thorung La the next morning.