Annapurna Circuit Trek – Lots of energy and a positive vibe

23 February and day one of our trek. One day earlier we met our cheerful and experienced guide Nagendra and early morning a 5 hour bus ride took us to the town of Besi Sahar at 760 meters above sea level. Our goal is to cross the 5416 meter high Thorung La pass, the highest mountain pass in the world. Some people we met in the bus we would meet later on during the trek – sometimes at totally unexpected moments. The first short stage is easy and although the accommodations are quite basic we found a cosy lodge in Ngadi.

The next day the real deal starts. We walk alternately through rice fields, small villages and jungle-like forests and climb about 500 meters per day on average. We soon find out that walking in the Himalayas is something different than hiking in the Alps, for example. Paths run from valley to pass and meander up and down along rugged mountain walls. For every 100 meters that we climb, we drop at least 50 meters and at the end of the day we are very aware of those efforts!

Since the trekking season actually starts in March, the lodges and teahouses are almost empty and the hikers we meet are more adventurous as the average tourists. The stage from Chyamche to Dharapani on day three leads through the narrow valley of the Marsyangdi Nadi river. After being awakened earlier by lizards on our sleeping bags, we could spot langur monkeys and parrots here. Before we get into our warm sleeping bags it becomes clear that the next day would become cloudy and rainy. And rain at 2000 meters means snow at higher altitudes!

And so it happened, two days later we are in Upper Pisang all gathered around the stove to dry our shoes and socks after a long, impressive snow hike. We have climbed up to 3300 meters and meet a group of four French and Swiss people that we have already walked together with for a couple of hours. Two Chilean guys are in a hurry and try to reach the next village. The group gathered around the stove in the dining room is busy speculating about the weather. A number of people decide to turn around the next day and descend to Besi Sahar, we want to continue. Meanwhile, the statement “We will see …” is regularly spoken and slowly but surely begins to become the motto of our journey.

An acclimatization trek is planned on day 7. We intend to spend two nights in Braga at 3500 meters to make a trip to an ice lake at 4600 meters during the day. Soon our plan is being disrupted by two Russians who attempted to reach the ice lake a day earlier. There is more than a meter of fresh snow and the path is snowed shut, no going through. And as expected, more snow falls, more than 1 meter in two days! We are stuck in Braga for two more days and decide to use a path in the snow that was excavated earlier that afternoon by the Sherpas of a large group. In this way we reach Manang but the forecast remains poor and again many trekkers decide to descend. We will see …

That evening Nagendra and Ruben decide to organise a group to try to reach the next village. Departures are scheduled at 8:30 am and the plans spread through the teahouse. Ruben is bombed to ‘The 8:30 Guy’. To our regret a Spaniard, an American and Italian with whom we spent two days in Braga decide to descend. The next morning a group of twelve depart from Manang: a Frenchman, three Swiss, two Austrians, two Russians, two Nepalese and the two of us. It took us three hours to reach Tenki, the next village on the route, under normal circumstances a walk of less than half an hour. We regularly sink chest deep into the snow and especially being the first in the row is exhausting, so after three hours we decide to stay in Tenki. The rest of the group returns to Manang, the two Russians decide to continue.

Our thoughts: Crazy Russians, the rest of the packs thoughts: Crazy Dutchies.

In Tenki there is actually no accommodation available, so we are dependent on a kind of homestay. Sitting cosy on the mud floor around the fire in the kitchen, the lady of the house helps Nadieh to sew her trousers and we regularly climb up the roof to enjoy the enchanting peaks of the Annapurna Himal that reach out 8091 meters above us. That night there is almost no snowfall for the first time since 4 nights and we keep up our hope to continue. We are waiting for a large expedition that clears a track or locals who walk back and forth between the villages with the help of yaks and donkeys. When we are waiting for new developments enjoying the sun, a number of helicopters appear in the distance. Later we found out that a large number of trekkers from the previous village are being evacuated and at almost the same moment the Russians appear in the distance. At first we feel great relief that they are unharmed, but it also becomes clear that there is no other possibility left: We have to go back. The locals apparently have – according to the story of the Russians – left their villages above us for fear of avalanches that have already killed some yaks.

We could not wish for a bigger adventure for this trek and ended up having little trouble going back to Besi Sahar. To be continued…