I’m writing this post on April 28 as we have just crossed Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters (17,769 feet) and made it to Muktinath, a village that sits at 3,800 meters. The following photo of Lisa was taken during our 1,600 meter descent that felt not-so-great on the knees:
Throughout our Annapurna Circuit hike, single photographs have had a hard time capturing the enormity of the landscapes. So my typical hiking day involves taking out my iPhone way too many times, pointing it towards a mountain and awkwardly rotating my body as I capture panorama after panorama.
Our trek was supposed to start on April 18, but the bus we were riding had a disc brake lock-up so we spent a couple hours on the side of the road waiting for a repair. So instead, we spent the night in Besisahar.
Starting our trek from Besisahar, we passed through unexpected rice terraces and green fields. Most trekkers bypass this part of the journey. A road has been built on the old trekking route, but we followed some new natural trekking trails that have been built in the region.
We reached our guesthouse in the small village of Ghermu just before it started pouring rain.
We ended the afternoon in Temang after a 350 meter ascent (at this point, the hardest of the journey, but it would soon be surpassed). Our guesthouse had a rooftop picnic table and overlooked a green pasture with the himalayas as the backdrop.
We chose the high route for this day’s hike which took us on a 650 meter ascent to Ghyaru before dropping us back down to Braka for the evening. The payoff came with the gorgeous views and very tasty samosas that awaited us at the top.
Our destination of Manang was less than an hour away, so we took a side-trip to Ice Lake. This was a 1,100 meter ascent and it still felt pretty difficult even though we had left most of our gear at the guesthouse in Braka. My quads would hurt for days from the jogging we did on the way down. Some of the best views of the trip came from this detour.
If you look hard enough, you can see Lisa standing in front of the mountains!
We spent the day resting in Manang. This is the last point at which you can take a vehicle on the trek so all of the trekkers congregate here and services are readily available. At 3,500 meters, it is a good spot to let your body adjust to the rapid gains in altitude. We had our laundry done, watched “Seven Years in Tibet” in a projection hall with popcorn and tea ($2.50) and ate endless slices of Apple Crumble from the Tilicho bakery ($1.20). Sadly, no panoramas were taken on this day.
I woke up unexpectedly early and was met with a very pretty sunrise in Churi Ledar. Today we would hike to high camp and sleep at 4,900 meters. A viewpoint about 20 minutes from our room at high camp would provide some of the best views of the trip. After an intense snowstorm, the clouds parted and surged in and out of the valley.
Our final ascent to Thorong La Pass — we were greeted with much more snow than we expected. Fortunately, the fake North Face and other “brand-name” gear we picked up in Kathmandu kept us warm enough and by 9:30am we were shedding layers on the descent.
April 29 and beyond
We still have up to ten days on the trail before we need to start heading back towards Kathmandu and our ten-day monastery stay there (which we postponed from April to May). No set route, but I am sure it will involve a lot more panorama photos!