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Mountains near Thorung La - Annapurna CircuitMountains near Thorung La - Annapurna Circuit

Annapurna Round
Fifteen Days

In autumn of 2010 I ventured out into the Nepali Himalayas, accompanied by my trusty porter-cum-guide Dhan, to attempt one of the classic treks in Nepal - the Annapurna Circuit AKA Annapurna Round.

I opted for a package with Alliance Trek & Expedition costing $650, which included my aforementioned porter-cum-guide; all accommodation and three meals a day whilst trekking; three nights bed and breakfast at Pokhara on completing the trek; permits; plus transport along the way. I'd been advised to just pay for the porter/guide, and pay for everything else as I go . . . but I know what I'm like. I'd be constantly worrying about money along the way and skipping meals to save a few rupees. I did a few sums and didn't think I'd save much that way either, and at least I wouldn't have the stress of worrying I'll run out of cash.

You can read how I got on by clicking the links below.

Getting There, 25th September - Kathmandu to Bhulbhule
Day One, 26th September - Bhulbhule to Jagat
Day Two, 27th September - Jagat to Dharapani
Day Three, 28th September - Dharapani to Chame
Day Four, 29th September - Chame to Pisang
Day Five, 30th September - Pisang to Manang
Day Six, 1st October - Free Day Manang

Day Seven, 2nd October - Manang to Yak Kharka

2/10/10 Yak Kharka, overnight stop - 4018 metres

So much for the plan! Dhan was up and ready, so we left together at seven after a quick breakfast . . . but it was bloody cloudy, so the light wasn't great anyway. Typical. Oh well, hopefully I still got some nice shots anyway. The scenery was great - just the stark, rugged landscape I enjoy. At this height there are no trees to speak of, just shrubs and low vegetation. We stopped for morning tea at a cute little teahouse in Gunsang, where a French woman with a Scottish accent was staying for three months, cooking muffins! Great views from there. We saw two Brits coming the other way - one with the biggest backpack I've ever seen, almost twice the size of mine. The boys, originally from Manchester, had been trekking in remote Mustang. They had crossed Thorung La the previous day, going the hard way - 1,600 metres ascent followed by 1,000 metres descent. They were planning to reach Pokhara the night after next (a journey that had taken us seven days - admittedly we were going up and they down, but even so). They hoped to cover 50 kilometres today. Fair play to them. I think they must have been ex-army or something.

Cloud covered mountain en route to Yak KharkaStone strewn field en route to Yak KharkaTrekking path en route to Yak Kharka

Not long after we'd continued our journey we passed a man sat on a rock looking rather forlorn. I asked if he was okay; he wasn't - another victim of high sickness, he was descending with a defeated air about him. I guess I'd be the same, but he'd done well to spot the signs and act accordingly. It must be terribly disappointing though, having got so far. That said, after a day or two acclimatising at a lower level, and he'd be in a position to try again. When we arrived at Yak Karka I chatted to two more English lads, who I'd seen at Pisang - one of who was complaining of headaches and increased pulse-rate back then. The said they were planning to continue on to Thorung Phedi, a whole 1,000 metres about Manang where they'd started out from. They were hiking without a guide or porter, and neither had any diamox with them (which aids acclimatisation, and can be taken as a preventative measure or in an emergency to lessen symptoms - although you should then either stay put or descend). I tried to persuade them not to, but they took little heed. As they wandered off, no doubt annoyed by my interfering, I heard the one who'd been having problems since Pisang say, "let's have lunch here, and I'll see if I can clear this headache."

I was struggling with the thin air today, really puffing uphill. I'd hoped to go out and take some photos this afternoon, make the most of getting in early enough to do something, but it clouded over big time, so I slept and read in turns. I'm staying at the Thorung Peak Hotel, as are the loud French group, whom I was just chatting to. Just four of them are walking to whole way to Pokhara, as the rest are flying from Jomsom. They were amazed I'd been in the country so long; I forget that I am an anomaly here - mostly it's short-term visitors, and not so many backpackers.

Apart from a slightly sore finger from my hiking sticks, and a shortness of breath going uphill (fine at rest or going down) I doing well. I've not even got the cold that everyone seems to have, judging from all the coughing and sneezing. Jessie's guide (the solo American) seems like a nice guy, but the noises he makes sucking back his snot and swallowing it turn my stomach. I'd hate to be in Nepal during a flu epidemic!

Click here for more pictures from Day Seven

Day Eight, 3rd October - Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi
Day Nine, 4th October - Thorung Phedi to Mukinath - Crossing Thorung La
Day Ten, 5th October - Mukinath to Marpha
Day Eleven, 6th October - Marpha to Ghasa
Day Twelve, 7th October - Ghasa to Tatopani
Day Thirteen, 8th October - Tatopani to Ghorepani
Day Fourteen, 9th October - Poon Hill Sunrise then Ghorepani to Hile
Day Fifteen, 10th October - Hile to Nayapul then Pokhara by Bus
Annapurna . . . Finiss! 11th October - Reflecting on the Trip from Pokhara

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