Yeti Hikes: Annapurna vs Everest Base Camp (3 Passes)

Hiking in Nepal is a rather exceptional experience.  During the day you walk through pine forests, granite rivers, soaring mountains, and yak trains.  And at night you end up in a lodge for a dollar or two with menus offering items like pizza, spaghetti, and of course dal bhat.  I first hiked the Annapurna Circuit in 2010 and when I came back in 2013 I had to go back and hike it again.  Now, as of April 2014, I have just returned from Everest Base Camp.  It was an early season hike, and two of the three passes were snowed over, but I got to cross Cho La and spent time in the great towns of Gokyo and Chukkung.

How do the two hikes compare?

I’m glad you asked.

EVEREST BASE CAMP / 3 PASSES

Gokyo Ri - 5357 meters

Gokyo Ri – 5357 meters

Though most people fly into Lukla (for 160 dollars each way) I jeeped into Salleri–a crushing 16 hour ride over pretty rough roads.  The Japanese have funded the building of a proper road, however, and it is completed I think Salleri will become a very popular trailhead–perhaps even surpassing Jiri.

  • The mountains come sooner, there are more of them, and they are quite frankly astounding.
  • You are walking through sherpa land, and meet people who have summited Everest (and other peaks) dozens of times.  The host in one guest house I stayed was the guide for Bear Grylls when he climbed in 1998.
  • More Yaks!  Bigger, hairier and hornier–true alpine beasts.
  • Fewer Tims checkpoints.  Small point, but it’s annoying to have to stop and dig through your pack.
  • Monastery at Tengboche.  The chanting and singing here is a profoundly beautiful experience.
  • Sherpa Stew.  Veggies and noodles and flour balls all in savory broth–a true treat of a meal (I never saw it on the AC.)
  • Easier to get change.  Because it’s more touristy, there’s less problem making change for 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
  • Longer at high altitudes.  This is both good and bad, but you get higher on the 3 passes track and stay higher for much longer.

THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

AC - Mustang Valley

AC – Mustang Valley

Though some people jeep in, the full circuit starts at Besi Sahar and ends at Naya Pul.  This is a 14ish day hike and both ends are a fairly short bus ride from Pokhara.

  • The ride from Pokhara to the trail head is much shorter!
  • It’s not an out-and-back, which is always nice.
  • The people you meet along the way are much friendlier.
  • There are water stations to refill–no chlorine pills or filters needed.
  • It’s easier to wash and dry your clothes along the way.
  • Manang > Namche Bazaar.
  • There is more seabuckthorn juice!
  • The food in the guesthouses is cheaper.
  • Free showers along the way.
  • The villages are much, much better.
  • The general rhythm of the trail; climbing for half and descending for half, is much nicer than the constant up-and-downs of the 3 Passes.

Part of it might be first love, as I hiked the AC first, but for me it’s still the better hike.  But both hikes are great and well worth doing–maybe multiple times.  I liken them to Nirvana and Pearl Jam–which ever you heard first is probably still your favorite, but you can’t go wrong either way!

 

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4 responses to “Yeti Hikes: Annapurna vs Everest Base Camp (3 Passes)

  1. I was very ready to stand in defense for Everest here, but this seems like a fairly good comparison. I’m not sure which one I’ll do when I finally make it back that way, but water stations and free showers are pretty solid perks!

    • It was probably more “impressions” than a true comparison, but I’m glad you find it useful. I should say that some people find the jeeps on the AC to be truly offputting, but I’ve never been that bothered. And I do keep hearing really great things about the Manaslu–might be worth considering.

      • I assume you’re familiar with the Great Himalaya Trail? Given the time, why not just swing through the whole country!

  2. I met a French guy hiking it. That’s just sheer madness!

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