The Annapurna Circuit

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

The highest I had ever been was at Crater lake, a measly 2487 meters/8156 feet.

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.

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5 responses to “The Annapurna Circuit

  1. Damn, 17K feet is high! And I can’t believe you never hiked anything above 10K ft before. I guess you made up for it on this one. Well done. Pics are awesome.

  2. I was surprised too. I sort of want to go climb Kili now, but mostly don’t want to go that high again for a long time.

    There are more pics coming, and they keep getting better!

  3. This is on my Nepal hitlist (as well as EBC). I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2008 and you can not read about it on my old blog http://kili08.blogspot.com because I never did finish it đŸ˜¦

    When you go, climb Mt Meru first!

  4. I can’t speak for EBC, but I can highly recommend the AC. And do the other side of Thorong La–it can be covered in 5-6 days but most people jeep or fly home, really missing out on a lot.

    What happened on Kili? Altitude sickness?

  5. The night before, and summit morning on Meru I had some altitude sickness, headache, loss of appetite (which was a BIG deal for little me), and a bit of nausea. (This bit is on my site)

    By climbing Mt Meru first, I was able to acclimatize for Kili and it was smooth sailing the whole way, while many others in our group became ill to varying degrees, some forced down. This was even on a route on Kili which gave extra time for acclimatization (Machame iirc)

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