Like 30 percent of all visitors to Nepal, I headed to the villages, mountains, and glaciers of the Annapurna Circuit. It’s quite famous amongst French and Germans, but there are few Americans, Ozzies, or Kiwis here. Most trekkers do this route counter-clockwise, because it’s just too difficult to cross the pass going the other way. And what a pass it is!
Thorung La is really really high. Just about the highest place you can get without mountaineering equipment. (Though I believe Kilimanjaro is even higher.) The rythym of the climb to Thorung La goes, for most people, something like this: step, step gasp step, step, gasp, step, step, gasp. One person I met in on the hike had to spend 3 days acclimatizing at High Camp before going over the pass. The day before I crossed it, a woman collapsed and had to wait 7 hours and pay 3500 dollars for a helicopter rescue.
At a height of 5,300 meters (17,388 feet), Thorung La is the equivalent of four Ben Nevis. It’s the size of New Zealand’s Mt Cook and half as big again. Okay, it’s bigger than anything in the UK or New Zealand. What about really big mountains? What about the Alps? This pass is 900 meters/3000 feet higher than the Matterhorn and 600 meters/2000 feet higher than Mt Blanc. It’s taller than Mt. Hood (3429 m/11249 feet), Mt. Rainer (4300 m/14100 feet) Mt. Fuji (3776 meters/12388 ft), and even Everest Base Camp, 5200 meters
It can purportedly get madly busy on the trek in October and April, but the beginning of March was a perfect time to start trekking. Many already-dirt cheap lodges gave away rooms for free, so long as you ate there.
and sadly many trekkers catch a bus, jeep, or plane home after crossing the pass. This is a mistake, as some of the nicest towns are on the more developed side.
There are far too many pictures and stories to capture in one post, so I will summarize the first couple days. They were hot, dusty, and crowded–but beautiful too. Long green-blue rivers wound through valleys. Rhododendrons bloomed, and troops of monkeys cavorted through the trees at dusk. Thatch huts and small villages appeared every couple of hours. The walking was uphill but never steep. And there were companions to be found everywhere.