Travel article: Annapurna Circuit Trek

Travel blogger: Christelle & Cedric

Trip story: (Almost) 3 months to discover India, Nepal, Sri Lanka!

Image for blog article: Annapurna Circuit Trek

Manang, Nepal

Nepal 9 days - November 2018

Camping


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€83/person/day


 

 

 

We decided going on a big adventure: a 9 days trek in the Himalayas!

No we are not climbing Everest as many people thought but just walking the Annapurna circuit: +4,350m difference in height, 115 kms.

Unfortunately due to the dog bite and the anti-rabies injection I need we had to shorten the trek so instead of going up to Thorung Pass at 5,400m, we will take an alternative route and go to Tilicho Lake at 5,000 metres. Annapurna circuit here we come!



Day 1: Kathmandou Besi Sahar by Bus. Besi Sahar -Dharapani by Jeep.

 

Early wake up at 5am to go on our adventure!

Cedric spent the last 4 days telling me every 30 minutes  : “we are going on a trek soon!” Well it’s this morning, let’s get ready!

Equipped with our fleece jacket, our 2 winter jackets each, our hiking pants, boots and poles, we are ready to reach 5,000 metres ! I never thought I would be the type of girl wearing activewear for 10 days from head to toes, looks like things have changed ...

We met our Guide (Pasang) and Porter (Mingmai- nicknamed Mr Smile) at the bus station and started a long bus drive along the rice fields. Roads are still ok and I got to sleep a bit until Cedric woke me up as soon as he saw the first mountains  with eternal snow! Welcome to the Himalayas!

 

After 6 hours of ok roads we took a Jeep to reach Dharapani at 1,800 metres.

The roads were awful...! Rocks on it, ravine, rocks collapsing on the track, a car breakdown on the way up blocking all traffic, it took us 6 hours to do 50 kilometres...

We discovered a nice little cabana with toilets and cold shower (we skipped it, too cold !). After a good veg curry time to roll into our sleeping bags and enjoy a good night sleep.



Day 2: Dharapani-Chame. +850 metres, 17 kilometres. 6.30 hours walk (with many breaks for pictures !)

 

A good porridge at 7 am and here we go!

We started walking on a track surrounded by the forest. For the next 6 hours we saw forests, high summits, eternal snow, blue river, not many hikers, little villages and coloured cabanas. We can’t stop looking at the big summits! We have been quite surprised to see vegetation above 4,000 metres. The surroundings are really green as we are just above 2,000 metres.

The track was good and it was not that hard.

We stopped to have Mo:Mo on a rooftop (Nepalese dumplings filled with whatever we want- we stick to vegetables for 3 months!)

A goat followed us for around 1km and Pasang and Cedric started a goat scream contest ;)

The rain arrived and we finished the last part of the trek in the clouds /rain.

3.30pm, we stopped in Chame for the day and negotiated a room with “western style toilets” with our guide and ended up in a small wood cabana. Quite cosy but no heating with 3 degrees outside: it’s cold!!!

A good night spent with some fellow hikers playing cards and time to head to bed at 8pm ;)

 

Day 3: Chame to Upper Pisang - +590 metres, 16.5 kilometres. 6 hours walk with breaks .

We woke up at 6am with a fantastic view on the Annapurna 2! Amazing !

 

One pancake down and we are ready for the day!

We spent the first 4 hours contemplating the Manaslu (altitude: 8,156m) and Annapurna 2 (7,937m) covered with snow. Beautiful views.

Cedric asked the name of a big mountain and the guide replied “this one is just a small hill, 5,000 m high” . Knowing that we are going to reach 5,000 m and this “hill” is more like a mountain for us (especially in Australian standards) we start to worry a bit for the next few days !

We loved the autumn colours of the leaves contrasting with the eternal white snow, the blue of the river and the many Buddhist flags on all the suspension bridges we cross.

We met our first eagles and yaks! The landscapes start getting more desertic, more mountains-like.

Cédric tried to hang our bag « Nepalese style » I.e. with the string on his front but is not convinced it’s better to carry it that way....

We arrived to Upper Pisang in good shape. First shower in 3 days: a quick super hot shower but in a cabana located in the wild and with no heating (2 degrees outside ...), it still felt good.

We met a French couple having 4 blisters on each feet and starting to feel the altitude sickness... poor them. No sign of altitude sickness for us!

 

A quick card games, a chat with a young Nepalese girl, some readings, a garlic soup and we are off to bed in our little cabanas.  0 degrees tonight with no heating, it is getting colder and colder.

 


  


Day 4: Upper Pisang-Manang (via Ghyaru and Ngawal ) - +640 metres, 19.5 kilometres -8 hours walk.

 

We woke up at 6am after a 10 hours' night tight into our sleeping bags: 3 degrees outside.

Our new French friends still suffer from altitude sickness and we are a bit worried for them as the long way to Manang is a minimum of 8 hours walk.

For us still no sign of altitude sickness!

The first 30 minutes are hard as in the shade, what a relief to arrive in the sun!

Last suspension bridge and we are up for 400 metres difference in height on a steep path.

We say bye bye to the Manaslu Summit and further we go up closer we are to Annapurna 2 summit (at 7,937m altitude!)

Around 90 minutes later we arrive to Ghyaru.

On the way up, we are like onions: we peel and put back layers and try all the options of our new gears !

 

Arrived to the top: wahoo! It’s amazing! We discover a new summit- the Gangapurna (altitude 7,455 metres). As big as the others.

The sun in up, we are smiling, we even sang, we are still full of energy.

The landscapes changed and are more desertic and arid. We met yaks on the way down and they charged us! They scared us so much!

We’ve also been through many Buddhist temples with prayer wheels that we each time rolled while making a wish.

It’s crazy to see these temples in the middle of nowhere. Some monks live there during the entire year, different lifestyle for sure...

We also started seeing people living in the mountains 100% of the year and their visages are marked by the cold. They all carry big stuff on their back hanging on the forehead (Nepalese style).

In one of the basket we saw some corns and head of a yak with blood...

Quick stop for some pasta and the wind wakes up. It’s cold, we hurry up and almost 3 hours later we arrive to Manang.

It was a big 8 hours day but the most beautiful so far ! Everything we have been looking for so we are happy.

Manang is the biggest village in the valley. They even have a doctor, a small cinema and a hairdresser !

Every step and few meters in altitude gained and we hear horror stories about people being evacuated due to altitude sickness, food poisoning, suffocating, oedema, oxygen shortage etc. We saw many helicopters evacuating people as well.

We are glad we took a guide ! And fingers crossed because no symptoms at all for us yet !

We are at 3,500 metres but either we got used to the cold or it’s not as cold as the nights before.

A garlic soup (good to prevent altitude sickness), a Thukpa soup, some rice and we go to bed at 7.30pm !

We are looking for our fellow French hikers but we have to go to bed without having news from them. Hope they stopped somewhere on the way...




 

Day 5: Manang to Chogkok View point and way to Kangsar. +640 metres, 19.5 kilometres -6 hours walk.

 

I know someone who slept really well: Cedric who snored and woke up all of the lodge residents!

 

Today is acclimatation day ( above 3,500 metres its recommended to take a day off and see how our body react to altitude). Besides, from there you are not supposed to gain more than 500 metres up in height per day.

 

For many acclimatation = rest day but not for us! 6 hours walk today.

We started at 8 am and reached the Chogkok view point at 3,950 metres. We can feel our heart beating really fast and each step getting a bit harder due to lack of oxygen at this high altitude.

We stayed there for around an hour , soaking up the sun, enjoying the views on Gangapurna summit, glacier and lake. We are surprised to see Buddhist flags everywhere in the mountains (the little red, white, blue, green, yellow flags).

We also saw the Throrung Pass at 5,400 metres= the goal of many trekkers.

 

Great morning !

After lunch time to head to our next camp: Kangsar at 3,750 metres.

We discovered an amazing canyon with a fluo-blue river going down.

We are surprised to see some pines above 4,000 metres.

We didn’t see any tourists here, just locals carrying big baskets.

It was quite “hot” probably 10 degrees and we took off most of our layers.

We arrived to the village around 3pm and realised that this part is much more remote and the lodges are even more basic.

We still managed to find one with hot shower  (in a cabana where the window was not closing and it was 0 degrees outside...)but no western toilets ;)

2nd gas shower in 5 days and probably the last one as we are super high already and it’s getting way colder.

I have a massive blister!

Cédric met some Nepalese tonight and they all congratulate him on his hair ;)

6pm is dinner time, our usual order is Hot lemon, garlic soup and vegetarian fried rice , still with the goal to prevent altitude sickness . We reached the acclimatation altitude and didn’t have any symptoms so fingers crossed we'll be fine !



 




Day 6: Kangsar to Tilicho Base Camp- +400 metres, 8 kilometres- 5h30 walk

Worst night ever! Not because of the cold but because of the animals running around everywhere (roof, corridor, walls...) all night long (a mouse, a rat, a dog, a cat? We don’t know...)

It froze last night and the lodge was running out of water as all frozen in the tubes.

From there we saw many people giving up due to tiredness or altitude sickness. We saw many helicopters evacuating people as well. Scary...

In Tilicho Base Camp it’s quite hard to have a private room as there are only 2 lodges.

However we’ve been lucky as our guide confirmed with locals on the way that we were the first of the day heading there.

(On our way down we discovered that there were much more people the day after so we’ve been really lucky!)

The sky is super blue ! We start the hike going up up and up again. +450 metres in height quite quickly. We are above 4,000 metres high !

Every step is hard as I clearly lack some oxygen and a light headache comes and goes every 30 minutes. Even lacing your shoes is a challenge at this altitude!

Cedric on his side is still strolling around ! Good shape !

The autumn colours are amazing! We see an eagle going around and some blue sheep scared of him.

On the second part of the walk, the landscapes changed. The rocks now have many shades of black/orange, they have weird shapes, the track has a lot of rocks on it due to many landslides. We are getting closer and closer to our final destination: Lake Tilicho 4,980 metres high!

 

On the way we met two French researchers taking some rocks. They told us that less than 10,000 years ago, there has been a massive landslide that covered up all the valley. Then with wind and water from the glaciers and rain , the erosion created the current valley and this episode explained all the many rock shapes and the rock colours. There are here to determine when it happened exactly. Fascinating.

At our last turn before arriving to the base camp we saw the track we are taking tomorrow morning to reach Tilicho Lake.

I said “oh oh it seems super hard” while Cedric said “it’s not too steep, we will be fine”. A French guy (one more !) came back from there, stopped when hearing us and said it was super hard... we started chatting and realised that last week the guy did the Everest trek and this week he is doing in 2 days what we do in 8... more than 45 kilometres a day in mountains going up and down. And he suffered food poisoning the night before ! Karim, our champion!

We arrived at the base camp and stopped at the little shop/house of the owner. There was something hanging on: yak sausage. It confirmed we are right not to eat meat here and in India ;)

That’s it for today! 5.30 hours of amazing landscapes with both of us being amazed. We think we walked 90 kms since we left !

We spent the night with our fellow trekkers German, Israeli, American and Canadian who  we follow pretty much since we started.

It’s hard getting to bed tonight: it’s cold, we are scared about tomorrow big day , we miss our Western comfort...





Day 7: Tilicho Base Camp to Tilicho Lake to Shee Karka- +1,250 metres, 20 kilometres- 9h30 walk

 

Today is the day ! The goal of our trek: Tilicho Lake based at 4,980 metres !

Early wake up at 4.45am for some porridge and ginger lemon honey tea.

We are ready to go!

We leave at 6am and from there it’s pure torture ...! We gain 800 metres in 3 hours, the landscapes are amazing but it’s hard ! Every little step is a victory, we are above 4,500 metres and we breathe loudly as we miss oxygen. We have a runny nose but we don’t have energy to clean it (it’s freezing and we save our energy to walk up up up...It’s hard !)

3 hours of breathtaking landscapes later (and 22 horrible zigzags...)Cédric said « this lake better be amazing, it’s too hard ! » (polite version there were a lot of French slang in his sentence!)

 

We had different strategies: Cédric looked at the top to motivate him while I didn’t want to as it seemed too far away.

 

5 minutes later we reach the highest for today and from there everyone told us that the track was flat and easy. Yes it was easy but it was without counting the wind which rose up: -15 degrees, each step blocked by the wind... we went  from distress to euphoria to sadness in 10 minutes. It’s HARD!

We walked on snow for around 5 minutes, the colour contrasting with the dark/orange rocks.

20 minutes later - 9.23 am - we saw some people cheering and screaming « we’ve made it », we speeded up (at least we tried...) and here we are: 4,980 metres high!

The landscapes and lake are out of this world ! Beautiful! Everyone congratulates each other on the performance.

I kept walking a bit higher to officially reach 5,000 metres: we made it !

A quick hot lemon in a cabana to protect us from from the wind and cold (-15 degrees!) and we are out to take pictures and cheer ourselves up!

We saw a big guy (2 metres), around 45 years old being super cold, having his gums and nose bleeding and being hugged by his friend to comfort him. Just super hard...

And time to go down (which is often as hard as going up!). It took us 2 hours with many pictures break (showing we still have energy ;) ) to reach base camp.

The base camp seems closer than it is in reality and it is demotivating not to know how long it will take us to go down!

A lunch at base camp and we are up for an extra 3 hours - up down up down up down up up up again, so demotivating- to reach our final village for the night: Shee Karka (we didn’t reach our final destination of Kangsar being too tired).

An amazing day ! Clearly the hardest but so worth it!



 


Day 8&9: Shee Karka to Manang -10.5 kilometres- 3 hours walk.

Then Jeep from Manang to Besi Sahar (8 awful hours on dirt tracks), Besi Sahar -Katmandu: 6 hours by bus.

 

This is our final walking day ! We already saw the landscapes on our way up but still can’t stop looking, it’s so beautiful. We saw our last yaks, last eternal snow, last summits.

We loved our trek but it’s time for us to take a long shower (we don’t smell fresh that the least we can say...) and rest our legs .

The Jeep ride was a nightmare between the dirty track, the rocks on the track, the ravine, the holes, the construction works. Awful. And our driver laid it on thick , smashing his window by anger... all of this with Nepalese pop music. Nice ...

Arrived in Besi Sahar, everybody was celebrating Diwali (the Hindu new year) with songs, dances, lights. Nice atmosphere !

Time to get a shower but no... no hot water anymore and water flow cut after 10pm... the disappointment when you think you can finally be clean and it doesn’t work !

A shock to come back to Kathmandu and its pollution. We can’t stop coughing...




 

We loved our trek! We are really proud of our performance, we saw breathtaking landscapes, we got to meet nepalese and understand their culture a bit , we were a maximum of 15 people on the trail every day, we totally disconnected (first time we don’t work at all in a year!) and we met many other trekkers on our way, sharing the same goals and pleasures!

 

Some recommandations:

- we loved this part of the Annapurna circuit. Tilicho Lake is amazing!

- take a guide and a porter. The trails are well indicated but it’s easy to get altitude sickness or medical issues and he will be the one taking care of your evacuation if any issues. Besides you don’t have to negotiate any rooms price during the trek and after a lonnnggg day that the last thing you want.

A porter definitely helps, it’s hard enough without your 10 kilos backpack...

- in terms of price:

- double room is around 1000 roupies per night

- mains are between 400-600 roupies

- mineral water is 50 roupies up to Manang and 120 at Tilicho Base Camp.

- we took each : (total active year look!)

- 1 3 in 1 jacket

-1 fleece jacket

-1 long sleeve technical shirt

-1 tee shirt

-1 hiking pair of shoes

- and most importantly some poles !!! (To look like a 60yo person ;) )

- 1 hat

- some sunglasses

- a -20 degrees sleeping bag (we saw some people without, forget about it it’s super cold and the “blankets” provided are not enough)

Leave a comment


Ruth
Nov 18, 2018 - 07:54 PM

Wow. Fantastic review of Annapurna circuit & Tilicho Lake, definitely on the bucket list. I feel like I've escaped to Nepal for a half hour, and all before the Monday morning alarm goes off for work! Stunning photos. Thank you!

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Christelle & Cedric
Nov 26, 2018 - 04:19 PM

Thanks a lot Ruth! I'm sure you would smash it ! Nothing compare to your many Ironman and 3 peaks in Victoria !

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Bonneau
Nov 19, 2018 - 04:12 PM

Super génial et bravo !!!!!!

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Christelle & Cedric
Nov 26, 2018 - 04:20 PM

Merci Angie! Je vous raconterai ca en vrai en December peut-etre?

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Laurene
Nov 26, 2018 - 07:51 AM

Ouah! Bravo pour cet exploit sportif, et ce super article (j’avais l’impression d’etre avec vous sur le chemin!) Les photos sont superbes, ça fait rêver! Vous deviez être tellement content arrivés au lac. Vous pouvez être fiers. Et j’ai hâte d’entendre Cédric imiter la chèvre!

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Christelle & Cedric
Nov 26, 2018 - 04:21 PM

Merci :) on se fait le concours de cris de chevres en Janvier ;) J'ai verse une petite larme en arrivant au top pour tout te dire ! Et Cedric etait frigorifie!

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