Hiking to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

ABC

Arrival at Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Our 12-day adventure began at 7:30 am when we took a minivan from the tourist city of Pohkara along twisty and very bumpy mountain roads to a village of Nayapul.

Nayapul to Tikhedhunga: On the first day of hiking, we walked about five hours along a dirt road up the mountainside. The road was like a snake because it twisted around the mountains. It was very hot because there was no shade.

Mule Train

Mule Train

Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani: The second day we climbed up about eight thousand Gurung steps. The stone steps were not the same height as the one before it so it was really hard. There were many mules along the trail carrying goods or building materials. These groups of mules are called mule trains. The mule trains were sometimes scary because a mule would come barreling down the stairs towards you. Fortunately, we were not hit by a mule train because the mules have bells on their necks to warn you when they are coming. When the mules get close to you, you have to step to the inside of the trail so that you do not get pushed over the edge of the trail. There have been people killed by the mules because they were pushed off the side of the mountain.

Mountain Range

Mountain Range

On day three my parents and my sister got up at 4:30 am to head to Poon Hill to see the views of the mountains. I was too tired to go so I decided to remain in bed. That day we decided to take a break day to acclimatize. When hiking up a mountain, you need to take time to acclimatize to the altitude so that you do not get altitude sickness. When you get up higher, there is less oxygen in the air and it is harder to breathe. Taking a break day means that your body can make more red blood cells. More red blood cells means that your body can take in more oxygen and you can breathe better. Check out this article on All About Blood and Adapting to High Altitude to learn more.

Ghorepani to Chhomrong: On day four the views were great and you could see many mountains off in the distance – the Dhaulagiri range, the Annapurna range, Himalchuli, and Machhapuchhare. The rhododendron trees were blooming with red and pink flowers and were beautiful. We saw four Langur monkeys in the magnolia trees. They were eating the magnolia flowers. It was interesting to see them jump from branch to branch, reach up and pick a flower and stuff it in their mouths.

Ascending the Gurung Stairs

Ascending the Gurung Stairs

View of the Valley Below

View of the Valley Below

Me Descending into Valley

Me Descending into Valley

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chhomrong to Bamboo: On day five, we spent the day going up and down a lot of Gurung stairs because the terrain isn’t flat. It was really difficult because we had to go down one side of the valley, then up the other side and then back down. At the bottom of the valley, we had to cross a long suspension bridge and it swung when we walked on it. When we got to Bamboo, I spent time feeding the bunnies and smashing cans. This was kind of fun.

Bamboo Bunnies

Bamboo Bunnies

Bamboo - Smashing Cans

Bamboo – Smashing Cans

Bamboo to Deurali: On the sixth day we walked from Bamboo to Deurali. Bamboo is at 2145 meters and Deurali is at 3200 meters. So we walked about 1055 meters up but in total we probably walked 20 kilometers. It is very hard to measure distance in the mountains because of the large up and downs.

 

Crossing Rivers

Crossing Rivers

Deurali to Machhapuchhare Base Camp: On the seventh day we walked from Deurali to Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC). MBC is at 3900 meters. We got there just ten minutes before the really thick clouds rolled in. We played cards while sitting inside the lodge in the clouds.

Machhapuchhare Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp: The next day we walked up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). It was a really hot and hard walk up because of the snow and altitude. ABC is at 4130 meters and even though it sounds as if this is not far from MBC, it is actually a very long distance and took over 2.5 hours to hike up. When we got there, it wasn’t what I had expected. Annapurna seemed a lot smaller than I thought it would be because we were now so close to the mountain. A cool thing about ABC was that when you go up and look over the moraine there is a cliff and you are literally standing on a glacier that has dirt on top of it.

Snowfield on way to ABC

Snowfield on way to ABC

The walk out: Then we walked down to Himalaya, which is a small village before Bamboo. On day ten we walked back to Chhomrong. Then we walked 8 hours to Pothana the next day. On our last day, we walked to Pheti and took a taxi to Pohkara where the next day we took a bus back to Kathmandu. This trekking experience was great because at the beginning I didn’t think that I would be able walk that far. At the end, I was happy that I had made it (with only one sore knee). :)

Journey to Annapurna Base Camp – Part 2 – Our Trek Continues

Calamity will befall us!

Calamity will befall us!

The itinerary for the next three days had us continuing to descend into the valley, getting as low as 2100 meters (7000 ft). We stayed in three villages, Chhomrong, Bamboo and Deurali. As Chhomrong was one of the last places on the route where meat is available, we gorged ourselves on delicious Nepali chilly chicken and scrumptious chicken dhal bhat. Just before Bamboo, we saw a sign that stated if you were to eat chicken, pork or buffalo, then personal calamity or harm may befall you. The Annapurna sanctuary is considered a holy place, and no slaughter of animals or eating of animal flesh are allowed. This meant that we were going to become vegetarians for the next four days. Thankfully, the vegetarian food at both Bamboo and Deurali was tasty!

Avalanche Zone

Avalanche Zone

We left Deurali very early in the morning because the trail to our intended highest sleeping point, Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC), was littered with avalanche zones. When the sun hits and melts the snow, there is a higher chance of an avalanche happening. To get through these zones we had to walk uphill quickly which was a little difficult at high altitude and I was promptly tired. Fortunately, we didn’t run into any avalanches. We heard that an hour after we had passed through one zone, an avalanche occurred, closing this part of the trail.

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Looking over the edge

Two exhausting hours later, we finally arrived at the lodge where we were planning to stay. After eating a delicious lunch of momos, a traditional Nepali recipe similar to a Chinese dumpling, we decided to go for a short hike on the lateral moraine next to our lodge. I had expected there to be a plateau at the top, but after walking up to it, I found a 150 meter drop off. I scrambled back from the edge as our guide shouted at me. The edge of the moraine was eroding, leaving open space under the dirt and my unexpecting feet.

 

Snowball fight on a moraine

Snowball fight on a moraine

Soon after, I got the idea to have a snowball fight. I picked up some snow and threw it at Matthew, hitting him in the middle of his back. Right away, he attempted to throw one back at me, and just missed. We continued our fight until we had reached the bottom of the hill, where Matthew threw a snowball that hit my cheek. I repaid him by lobbing one directly at his bottom. He shrieked, and I couldn’t help but buckle over in laughter at his dramatic reaction. Soon everybody had joined in, but we were abruptly stopped by the approaching clouds. We quickly made our way back to the lodge as it is very easy to get lost in the thick fog. We had an early dinner, and went to bed at 7 pm because we planned to wake up very early the next morning.

 

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Hiking to ABC from MBC

Nooooo! I mentally groaned, as my annoying alarm blared. It was 4:00 a.m., and I did not want to get out of my toasty warm sleeping bag. I eventually dragged myself out of bed and was instantly met with –10 degrees Celsius air. After putting on 5 layers of clothes, while doing jumping jacks (I must have been a sight to see), I was much warmer and ready to start the hike to ABC.

 

 

Arriving at ABC

Arriving at ABC

The next two hours would prove to be grueling as the air is thinner at altitude and walking is much more difficult. This time was made even more difficult once the sun had risen as is much more powerful the higher up you go. Add that to it reflecting off the snow, and you’ve got a UV of more than 15. It seemed weird that morning to have to slather 50 SPF sunblock on when it was so cold, but I understood the reason once we reached the long snow field we intended to cross.

 

 

Arriving at ABC

Matt and I at ABC

As we got higher, I began to notice that the altitude was taking an even greater toll on me. Each step was exhausting! There is less oxygen at higher elevations. Therefore, your brain gets less oxygen making you feel sluggish and tired and some people experience altitude sickness. More severe signs of altitude sickness include dizziness, vomiting, and insomnia. Fortunately, no one in my family exhibited such symptoms.

 

 

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Annapurna I and the viewing hill

Though I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and oxygen and from what I’ve been told I was very irritable, I was extremely happy to finally reach the sign for Annapurna Base Camp. We made it!!! Then, I learned that we had to walk further to get to the viewing hill. There were so many Buddhist prayer flags strung, that we almost had to crawl to get past them! The panorama was indescribably amazing. Straight ahead was the magnificent Annapurna I, to the left and right were some snowcapped foothills, while behind was the sunrise over Machhapuchhre. It was incredible to be so close to some of the highest mountains in the world!

 

 

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Himalaya to Chhomrong

Our next challenge would be descending these mountains…Down, down and more down. My knees were dead by the time we had reached Himalaya, the tiny village in between Deurali and Bamboo. The last three days of our trek were the most difficult. We were walking 7-8 hour days, and my legs were seriously sore from hiking for so long. It also didn’t help that Matthew wanted us to move at the pace of Kumar and Mila, our porters, who were moving double the speed of Mom, Dad, Jaget and Khol. The last day of our trek though was the hardest. It took us 8-9 hours of fast paced hiking to reach our final lodge in Pothana. I was just about ready to drop. I was so happy that we had an attached bathroom rather than a public one that I actually jumped for joy! Let me tell you, jumping when your legs are about to crumble is a feat. After washing my hair for the first time in 6 days, I settled down for a nice cup of hot chocolate, and a plate of delicious Nepali chilly chicken. Khol, one of our guides, who used to be a cook, made what was some of the best food I’d eaten in Nepal.

Snowball fight on a snowfield

Snowball fight on a snowfield

Amazingly, the next day I got to sleep in until 7 a.m. instead of the usual 6. Pheti, the town that we were going to hire a taxi in, was only a 2-hour walk away. We gladly walked at a much slower pace. My legs were way too sore to go any faster then the turtle speed at which we were moving.

Once we reached Pheti our trek was over and it was hard saying goodbye to Jaget, Khol, Kumar and Mila. The four of them were going to the local bus station, where they were going to immediately take a bus back to Kathmandu, while we were planning to stay in Pokhara for the night. I felt sad that the guys were leaving. This meant that the trek had come to an end and this was one of my favourite parts of our world trip so far!

 

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Kol, Mom, Matt, Me, Jaget & Dad at ABC – Annapurna I in the background

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Crossing a river in the middle of a cloud

 

 

 

MBC in the Background

MBC in the Background