Elev. 7181 feet
Today we mixed things up a little. Sara and I have been thinking about what we were going to do after the Manaslu Circuit. A couple days ago we decided to just link it to the Annapurna Circuit and try to do them back to back. The start of the Annapurna circuit overlaps the end of the Manaslu circuit anyway. We don’t need a guide and we already have the permits, and since Mac can lend us a map of the Annapurna region and loan us some extra rupees there’s no reason to leave the mountains yet. We took Mac up on his offer since we wouldn’t see an ATM for awhile and cash is king in the mountains. Our original plan was to walk another 2 days to the end of the Manaslu circuit, Besi Sahar, and then catch a ride down to Pokhara, the nearest city, but we figure this plan is better.
Today we walked from Bimthang to Dharapani. It was almost all downhill and it was pretty cool, we had awesome views of the big mountains early on then we got into a pine forest with plenty of pink and red rhododendrons in full bloom. We arrived in Dharapani around 3 PM which is where the 2 circuits join. Our friends would walk the rest of the way to Besi Sahar so we said goodbye to them in Dharapani; Mac was headed back to Kathmandu for a while then on to thruhike the Japanese Alps, Moist was trying to decide between going to the Everest region or going to Kyrgyzstan, and Gopal AKA Mountain Tiger was headed home to Kathmandu until his next guiding mission.
QB and I walked along a road, the first road we’ve seen since day 1, for another hour until we got to the town of Danakyu. We found a place to stay for the night, pretty much just picking at random. This should be interesting going without a guide and figuring it out on our own. We’ve done absolutely zero research on the Annapurna Circuit but how hard could it be? We have a map.
Elev. 10,820 feet
I think everybody gets sick eventually in Nepal. Today it was QB’s turn. Yesterday she started feeling lousy walking down from Bimthang and it progressed throughout the day and overnight. She’s tough though and once she got on the Imodium train this morning she started feeling better. Maybe not 100% yet but she’s getting there.
The weather wasn’t great today plus with QB’s bellyache it didn’t look like we’d have much of a day. Still crushed though. There was a decent climb from Danakyu to Timthang then walked a couple more hours to Chame. A German guy Alan walked with us for a while and that was a breath of fresh air, someone new. He stopped in Chame where he was meeting a friend and we carried on. For lunch we got to this lodge in Brathang that looked totally out of place. It looked more like a farmhouse you’d see in the Montana mountains than a tea house in Nepal, and it was actually called ‘The Farmhouse.’ All of a sudden there were lots of other trekkers around. I think a lot of them were actually starting here at The Farmhouse. The Annapurna Circuit is much different than Manaslu for a bunch of reasons but for starters there’s a Jeep road on Annapurna that goes almost all the way around. This gives people the option to start in all different towns.
We walked a couple more hours after lunch, sometimes on the Jeep road and sometimes on trail, until we got to Upper Pisang where we’ll spend the night. There’s a big group of Russians here and another group from Israel. Including us and the locals there’s four different languages being spoken in the dining room but I can only understand one.
Elev. 12,952 feet
Well, today was awesome. Yesterday we had a choice; take either the low route or the high route. The high route was longer and had more elevation gain but left the road and had incredible views. The low route stuck down on the road and would have been easier walking, albeit less scenic. Naturally we went high.
Shortly after we left Upper Pisang this morning we were admiring the beefy Annapurna II from across the valley. I was alternating between looking straight ahead where I was going and turning to get another look at this gigantic mountain when suddenly I saw a massive amount of snow break off from near the top of the peak and pick up steam and more snow as it tumbled down towards the valley. AVALANCHE! The natural phenomenon that until this point I had only heard about. It was incredible. Thankfully it didn’t reach the valley containing Lower Pisang and I don’t think people climb that side of the mountain. I hope not anyway. Check out below for a video or see it on my instagram @endlesspsummer.
The rest of the day was cool but nothing happened as exciting as a Himalayan avalanche. From Upper Pisang we had a steep climb up to Ghyaru, an ancient village looking over the valley. We contoured along the side of a mountain for awhile and got to Ngawal. The villages for the most part seem much bigger in the Annapurna region than over by Manaslu, probably because most can be accessed by a road or at least close to a road.
Eventually we rejoined a road and had to stop at a police checkpoint, and for whatever reason QB’s permit has her listed as Algerian but the Nepal police didn’t question it. I wasn’t about to say anything, that would just slow us down. We got lunch at a really good spot in a tiny village called Manchi then made our way to the big city in the area; Manang.
Manang is literally the end of the road, it will be all trail from here until we get over the pass. Because of this we figured we better stock up on coconut cookies and other goodies before the prices jump when we get higher in the mountains. Lots of trekkers usually stop in Manang for a night or 2 but we strategically wanted to get a little higher for acclimating purposes. We walked another hour uphill to this place Gunsang that is pretty much just one active hotel.
After taking a few minutes to get set up we came out to eat and the kid here was like, “My parents just left and will be back in an hour or two.” It’s 5:30 and we’re both wicked hungry and it’s not like they just ran to the store or something, the nearest anything is an hours walk in each direction. Whatever, at least the kid here made us some tea and I guess we just eat late. It’s weird though, I would have thought they would have told us they won’t be around to cook for awhile. Anyway our room tonight is incredible, I mean there’s nothing to it but we have a view of some of the most gigantic mountains I’ve ever seen and it will probably only cost something like 3-5 dollars.
Well I just learned that the reason the parents ran out is because they went to check on one of their yaks that was bitten by either a snow leopard or a wolf(I didn’t know there were wolves here but who knows). I guess I can wait for my food, sure hope their yak is ok.Sweet $3 view!
Elev. 14,837 feet
Today was a short day for miles hiked or for hours hiked but we did put ourselves another couple thousand feet higher and should be good to go to get up and over Thorung Pass tomorrow. Ideally we would just walk all day and be on the other side of the pass tonight but that’s not the way things go out here. Clouds usually roll in every afternoon and the chances for lousy weather go way up later in the day. Thorung La(or pass) sits at something like 17,500 feet and I’ve never been up that high, I’ve also never slept as high as I am tonight. I think getting acclimated the last couple weeks has got me and QB in good condition and we’ll spend most of the day resting, eating, and drinking mint tea. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be nice and clear and we’ll be able to get it done. Even though we only walked about 4 hours today the hiking was pretty rad. We walked higher and higher through a valley all morning and had views of some incredible mountains ahead of us and behind us. At one point along the side of the trail there was a dead goat or a blue sheep carcass and we watched as about a dozen Himalayan Vultures(not sure what the real name is for these birds but they’re massive) fought and picked over the dead meat. It was quite a sight. 3rd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2 days: avalanche, a dog sliding off a roof that a girl caught that we saw in Manang, and these vulture fights.
We got to Thorung Phedi around 11 and our only other option for today was to go another hour and another thousand feet to sleep at High Camp. I’m comfortable here. Excited about tomorrow and a little nervous.
Elev. 14,837 feet
Well today didn’t go as planned. We woke up at 4:30 am and were ready to crush it up the pass. Overnight the weather turned to shit and it was already snowing down here below 15,000 feet. We decided to wait until 6 and if it didn’t improve we’d wait it out a day for safety’s sake and try the pass tomorrow. It didn’t improve. Not the end of the world though, it was nice just laying around, resting, reading, and beating Sara in Chess.
Then around noontime my stomach started doing somersaults. Over the next few hours my condition deteriorated. I’ll spare you the details but if you look back to my entry for day 3 of this adventure you’ll get a good idea of what I went through again. Things aren’t looking good for getting over Thorung Pass. If by some miracle I’m 100% by morning and the skies are clear we might go for it. Otherwise I think our best option will be turning around and hiking down to Besi Sahar(our original ending point for the Manaslu Circuit). It will probably be about 4 days of walking either way, hopefully between the 2 of us we’re carrying enough Imodium. Thorung Pass and the Annapurna Circuit were never part of the original plan so I won’t be too upset if I don’t get up and over it. Sure would be cool though.
Elev. 2500 feet
The skies were clear and the weather looked just about perfect to go up and over the pass this morning. The problem was I was completely drained. I wasn’t so much feeling sick and nauseous anymore but I didn’t have any energy at all, I was dehydrated and I’d barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours. Neither of us slept well the last 2 nights. Going over the pass would be a poor decision. QB and I decided to head back down the way we came and in a few days end up in Besi Sahar, which was the town we were originally aiming for before detouring over to the Annapurna Circuit. In just a few hours of walking quickly downhill we were back in Manang, the town where the trail meets the road and vice versa. We walked another couple hours and were just getting through the town of Humde when a Jeep pulled over with a deal for us: 8,000 rupees for the 8 hour ride to Besi Sahar. Deal! I’m only in Nepal for so long and I don’t need to see the same things twice.
There were already seven other Nepalis jammed into this thing so Sara and I jumped into the back and it was an enjoyable first couple hours. At one point a couple got out and they told us to come sit in front. I just do what I’m told. The road got wicked bumpy after that and the ride was slow going and treacherous. It’s beyond me why people go 4 wheeling for fun. After a long day of traveling we got Besi Sahar and will stay here for the night. Tomorrow we’ll either get another Jeep or a bus to take us into Polkara where we’ll regroup, do laundry, take showers, have internet and come up with a plan for the rest of our trip.
It’s been a great couple weeks in the Himalayas. A very different style of hiking than I’m used to and also for the most part very enjoyable. I’ve switched from coffee to tea and gave up eating meat for my time in the mountains. I also had 2 separate and very extreme cases of getting sick. I got sick more times in the last 2 weeks of hiking in Nepal than in almost 10,000 miles of long distance hiking in the States. Maybe I’m just unlucky. I broke my no shower record(not sure if my hygiene contributed to me getting sick but I diligently used hand sanitizer before I ate and I treated all the water I drank). I climbed to the highest point in my life multiple times on this trip and also slept higher than I’ve ever slept before. Most importantly I got to see a part of the world that is simply incredible; people living with a backdrop of arguably the most spectacular landscape on the planet.