Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

A couple of days ago I completed a 16-day trek around the Annapurna mountain range of the Himalayas, in what will surely be one of the highlights of my trip.  This trek is over 300km (190 miles for my imperial friends) and forms a large circuit around the mountains.  It starts at an elevation of 760m (2500 feet) and climbs over Thorung La Pass at 5416m (17,900 feet).  What a great adventure.  I could write for days about the experiences of this trip, but I’m lazy and who really wants to read that much anyway? :)  So, I will write a few comments and then leave you with a some of my unworthy pictures:

– The views were incredible.  I saw a couple 8,000m peaks (Annapurna I and Dhauligiri), terraced rice fields, small mountain villages, etc, etc.  Awesome.

– The weather was amazing — it rained the first day and was followed by 15 straight days of bluebird skies.

– The trek actually follows centuries-old trade routes between Nepal and Tibet.  Thus, there are old villages along the way where you can find guesthouses to stay in and places to buy food.  So, you can do this killer trek without having to carry a tent, food, stove, etc!  Of course, the food and accommodations are not the kind of place you would find in a city, but they work just fine.  Picture small structures built of stone and locals going outside to kill a chicken if you want a chicken dish (I did this one time and went vegetarian after that).  However, in some of the bigger villages the guesthouses can be quite posh (considering where they are located) and the menus extensive.

– Porters are also used to carry goods to all the villages.  They do so by looping a rope or strap over their foreheads!  They don’t even use shoulder straps.  I saw a couple of porters who had lost hair on their head where the strap went across their forehead.  I met one guy who proudly claimed he was carrying 80 kilograms (176 pounds).  Crazy.  To make matters worse, they don’t have proper footwear (ie, hiking boots).  They wear flip-flop sandals.  I shit you not.

– A note for my backcountry skiing buddies:  As my eyes unconsciously do when I’m in the mountains, I looked for ski lines.  But, I saw almost no decent lines in these Himalayas.  The terrain was downright nasty.  All the glaciers were full to the brim with crevasses and holes.  All the faces cliffed out and were super exposed.  Yucky.  Five out of five on the gnar-scale.  I should mention that I was there during the dry season, so the lower (and more reasonable-looking) slopes did not have any snow.  Maybe in December they get some coverage and could provide some decent skiing, but I wouldn’t count on it.  Anyway, I’m going to recommend against any heli drops in this region :)

Terraced rice fields early in the trek

The village of Ngrawal with its magnificent surroundings

Prayer wheels and prayer flags near Ngrawal

A lone porter with a heavy load treks towards the village of Jomson

The view near the village of Marpha

Anyway, I am now spending a few days here in Pokhara, Nepal just taking it easy.  I am putting on a clinic on how to do ‘sweet all’.

Check you kids later.

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6 Responses to Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

  1. Nana says:

    You are so lucky!!  This is awesome.

  2. Shawn says:

    >> You are so lucky!! 
    Definitely :)

  3. Ryan Moynes says:

    I noticed that you decided againts the porters this trip.  Which begs the question… were you able to show off your muscles to any of the females treking? :)
    You rock!

  4. Ryan Moynes says:

    Shawn, Sorry I am new to this posting thing.  I should have left my name.

  5. Mira Lane says:

    Looks like you\’re having a blast :)  Where are you off to next?

  6. Shawn says:

    Mira — I’m back in India (as of last night).  I didn’t get a chance to see the Taj or Rajasthan last time, so I’m going to check that out.  Then, I’m going to rip over to SE Asia for a few months.  Should be a good time.

    Ryan — Ha!  Unfortunately, no muscles to show off… I wish :)  I think when I’m done traveling I’m going to take up working out :)  Besides, one’s pack is not too heavy on this trek — no need to carry shelter, food, stove, fuel, etc.  Incidentally, I did come across one girl trekking sans guide, sans porter – she was Canadian.  It was me who was impressed.

    For the record, I have used porters several times in the past :) Mira and I (and a couple guys) had a support team of 13 (!!) to climb Kilimanjaro.  Also, I have trekked in the Andes with two donkeys carrying all my crap.  Haha, very embarrassing :)

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