Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

The Annapurna Sanctuary is high glacial basin lying forty kilometers directly north of Pokhara, Nepal’s second city. The Sanctuary is a huge amphitheatre ringed by glistening peaks and is said to be the home of the ‘Gods’.

The entire sanctuary was held as sacred to the Gurung people, the only people to inhabit it before the 20th century. They believed it was the repository of gold and various treasures left by the Nagas, the serpent-gods known in India. The sanctuary was believed to be the home of several deities, from Hinduism and Buddhism as well the older animistic gods. The peak of Machapuchare at the entrance was believed to be the home of the god Shiva, and the daily plumes of snow were thought the smoke of his divine incense.

This oval-shaped plateau sits at an altitude of over 4000 meters, and is surrounded by a ring of mountains, the Annapurna range, most of which are over 7000 meters.

To reach the Sanctuary we trekked along two river valleys, going through remote villages and passing farms with tiny terraced fields, followed by walking up through forested hillsides. Finally we passed a narrowing of the valley and reached the world of rock, ice and snow that is the Annapurna Sanctuary. Here giant peaks such as Annapurna 1, Annapurna South, Gangapurna and Machhapuchhre encircle the natural amphitheatre. Descent was by a more direct route along the river valleys.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

The links below take you directly to the post for each day.

Days 1 & 2 Kathmandu to Birethanti

Day 3 Birethanti to Ulleri

Day 4 Ulleri to Ghorepani

Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Day 8 Dovan to Machhapuchhre Base Camp

Day 9 Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp

Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

For our last day on the trek we had another early start as this was a long day. We didn’t mind getting up just after sunrise as again we had another wonderful view of the big mountains, in this case, Hiunchuli, from our tea house.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

We had lots of descent today as we dropped down to the Modi Khola valley which we followed all the way back to New Bridge, about 400m lower than Jhinu Danda.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Like yesterday, again we passed many farms with newly-harvested crops drying outside.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Gradually, as we descended, the valley widened out and the fields became larger. Much wider than the 1-2 metre narrow terraces we had seen for the previous week.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

After several hours walk, and the usual morning tea house break, we left the Modi Khola and climbed up the valley side, and contoured along towards Ghandruk.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

At Ghandruk we met ‘civilisation’ again in the form of a dirt road. Some of our group choose to take a jeep ride from here back to Birethanti.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

The dirt road is a new development here and will, I imagine, one day become so busy that it will not be safe to walk out from here. It is used by some of the locals too.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

We were happy to continue walking along this original trekking route and were only bothered by the occasional jeep or bus. Most of the traffic was still on foot.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Soon we arrived back at Birethanti – where we has set off trekking from 10 days ago. I high-fived my new friend, Saurab, one of our porters and had a very welcome long cold drink with my lunch in the restaurant.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

After lunch it was a short 20 minutes walk back over the bridge and through the chaotic, congested new town of Naya Pul where we were picked up by our bus which transported us back to Pokhara.

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara
Our transport back to Pokhara
Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

Pokhara
Annapurna Trek: Day 12 Jhinu Danda to Pokhara

At the hotel we said a final goodbye to our porters, and had a relaxing afternoon beside the lake.

Fewa Lake, Pokhara

The following day we had more time for sight-seeing in Pokhara beside the Fewa Lake, before our transfer flight back to the bustling city of Kathmandu.

Kathmandu

More photos on Flickr here

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

We retraced the trail we had taken five days earlier coming from Chomrong. This part of the trek involved numerous sections with steps, which are equally relentless in either direction as there isn’t much difference in elevation between Chomrong and Bamboo. However it was a lovely day and was an interesting walk, passing through both rain forest, then agricultural land with farms, and people at work.

Our porters about to set off ahead of us
Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

With being autumn we saw crops which had been newly harvested and they were being sorted, dried and getting ready for storage – even if we didn’t always know what the crops were!

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

From Sunuwa where we stopped for morning tea, we could see Chromrong straight across the valley, but we had to descend to the suspension bridge over the Chromrong Khola then climb back up several hundred metres.

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

We stopped at the tea house at Chomrong which we had stayed in overnight several days ago. Here we picked up the spare clothing and laundry which many of us had left behind to lighten the load for our porters. The porters had waited for us here and we repacked out kit bags.

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

From Chomrong it was a steep descent down to the Mhodi Khola valley and to our tea house at Jhinu Danda.

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

My first impression of the Jhinu Danda was it was bright, brash and busy. So different to the bleak, but majestic, isolation of two days before at ABC.

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Jhnu Danda, for all its business, had one very big positive – the local natural hot springs! As soon as we’d sorted our rooms, six of our group grabbed our bathing suits, towels and soap, etc and headed down to the springs. The springs were about 20 minutes walk down from the village and were wonderful. The ‘changing rooms’ were a very basic metal hut, while the spring water was diverted into three small pools built from stone slabs and concrete. Basic, but wonderful! The water was hot and we were delighted at being able to bathe in an unending supply of hot water. Our guides and porters also made use of the facilities.

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

After our meal, our leader Keshar invited the porters to join us and we thanked then all (and gave them tips) for their hard work for the past two weeks. Also our three assistants, who had done a brilliant job at keeping the group together, while making sure we all were able to walk at a pace that felt comfortable to each of us.

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

This was followed by general merriment as Keshar produced one of the local drums. One of the porters played while several of us trekkers and porters gave it a whirl on the dance floor!

Annapurna Trek: Day 11 Bamboo to Jhinu Danda

More photos here on Flickr

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

We rose early to see the early light illuminate the big mountains in the sanctuary. I spent some time before breakfast gazing at these thinking about the mountaineers who had attempted to climb them over the years. Annapurna 1 at 8091m (26,545 ft) is the 10th-tallest mountain in the world, but its summit success rate is much lower than that of Everest, and sadly the death rate is higher.

Annapurna I was first summitted by a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal on 3 June 1950. In 1970 the south face of Annapurna I was conquered by Don Whillans and Dougal Haston, members of a British expedition led by Chris Bonington which included the alpinist Ian Clough who was killed by a falling sérac (ice-pillar) on the mountain’s lower slopes.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Another fine view of Machhapuchre (Fish Tail)

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Again we were so fortunate the sky was clear, even if this meant it was a cold start again. As we stepped outside we discovered one of the mountain dogs, which seem to wander from village to village or tea houses, had been sleeping outside.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

We had a long walk today to get down to Bamboo, passing through MBC and other lodges we’d stopped at for tea, lunch or overnight on our ascent.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Of course, being the Himalayas, it was not simply downhill, but there was some ascent throughout the course of the day. We passed many trekkers heading up, including some we recognised from other places on the trail. By the time we reached our morning tea stop the sun had come over the ridge and was warming us down in the ravine.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

After a couple of hours walking, we left the rocky landscape behind as we entered the cloud forest again. Here there were many small stream crossings and often a precipitous drop to the side of the path. I didn’t enjoy the walk today as, unfortunately, I was light-headed and feeling like I was going to faint! Not good when walking on a narrow path with a drop down to the ravine! This was caused by dehydration and it was my own fault. I realise the mistake I made was not drinking sufficient water the previous day. When I should have drunk extra water to combat the effects of altitude, I had in fact drunk less. With spending the afternoon sitting around at ABC, I had not been continually sipping water, like I had the previous days when walking. Then when I tried to take several good slugs of water in the morning, the water in my Camelbak was so cold it gave me a headache. The light-headedness came on very suddenly and although I took some rehydration powder and lots of water, it took more than 24 hours to recover from this.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

I was very relieved when we eventually reached our tea house at Bamboo that afternoon. The temperature soon dropped when the cloud rolled in. We were delighted to find this tea house had a gas shower, and despite the unheated (ie freezing cold) shower room, it was brilliant to shower after going several days without a shower!

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

As the tea house at Bamboo is still within the conservation area, they cannot burn firewood, so they did not have an oil-drum stove as we had experienced as some other tea houses. To keep warm in the cold evening, we paid for the owner to light the ‘under-table’ stove as we had at MBC and ABC. This is simply a gas burner that is placed under the table (which I presume is covered underneath by metal) and the table has a thick blanket ‘skirt’. You sit with the blanket on your lap and get warm knees and cool toes and a cold back.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 10 ABC to Bamboo

More photos here on Flickr

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Machhapuchhre Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp

Today was a big day; only about 2 hours walk, but it was “summit day”. For us trekkers we would be reaching the highest point on our walk, although we were merely going to what is the starting point for mountaineering expeditions. But we were aware we would need to cope with the exertion of a steady plod uphill and altitude as we walked from MBC at 3600m to Annapurna Base Camp at 4130m.

Thankfully Neil and I were not suffering with altitude sickness. Although, strangely, several of us spoke about having VERY wierd dreams throughout the trek! What was that about? We woke at sunrise to a lovely crisp morning and heard it had reached -6°C overnight (thank goodness for our ultra-warm sleeping bags) and were delighted to see we had a wonderful views of the mountains around us.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9  MBC to ABC

We set off bundled up in jackets, hats, and for me, my thickest gloves. There was ice on the puddles on the path, and some of the rocks had an icy smear so care was needed. Much as I wished to keep my eyes on the mountains, I had to watch my step. I didn’t want to slip at this stage! However, it was a nice, easy steady plod and as we got higher the views opened out before us.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Once we reached the large sign board for Annapurna Base Camp we paused for the obligitary photos – individual and a group photo. We all handed our cameras to Keshar who then proceeded to shoot 16 group photos in rapid succession with all our cameras.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

From here it was a short hop to the tea houses at ABC. It was far too lovely to sit inside, so we enjoyed our welcome cup of tea outside. Just as soon as we arrived we heard a loud rumbling from the mountains and looked up to see an avalanche powering down the mountain slope. We were told there were currently no mountaineering expeditions on Annapurna, so the avalanche didn’t pose a danger to anyone.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

We made use of the warm sunshine to give our sleeping bags an airing outside on the line, before walking a little further into the sanctuary to look at the memorials.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Meanwhile the porters tied up a net on the posts to have a game of volleyball.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

The panorama and proximity of these big 8000+m mountains was awe-inspiring. The peaks of Hiunchuli, Annapurna South, Annapurna Fang, Annapurna 1 and 3, Gangapurna and Machhapuchhare all encircled us with unbroken soaring ramparts but for the route by which we entered.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

The feeling of majesty and grandeur was reinforced by the prayer flags and memorials to the missing climbers dotting the place.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

We reluctantly left the views of the mountains and glaciers and returned to the tea house. Once full of dahl bhat and tea the sun was still shining, so I walked out from base camp to the ridge overlooking the glacier and from which Chris Bonington led the ascent of Annapurna’s South Face.

I sat a while, completely alone, mesmerised by the mountains and by the rawness of the place. The silence of the base camp was disturbed occasionally by the crackling sound coming from the movement of the glaciers and glacial moraine falling into the ravine below me. At eon point I realised the rock I was perched on was an overhang and this face is what I’d heard falling! I shuffled back and found a safer observation spot where I sat until forced to retreat by the cold once the sun started slipping behind the peaks.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABCM

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Having been lucky enough to see the sunrise this morning, we were doubly lucky to see the sunset.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABCM

It was only after the sun had gone completely and the temperature plummeted to near freezing that I went inside. That evening our porters joined us in the dining room in the tea house and after we’d eaten, they entertained us singing Nepail folk songs.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

One of the young guys, Saurab was very patient as he tried to teach me the words to the famous Nepali song, Resham Firiri. I’m not a singer at the best of times, so really struggled!

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 9 MBC to ABC

Video of the porters and leaders singing

More photos of the day can be seen on Flickr

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 8 Dovan to Machhapuchhre Base Camp

Dovan to Machhapuchhre Base Camp (MBC)

We had an early start as today we had a long walk, ascending all the way to MBC, going from Dovan at 2580m to MBC at 3700m. The early start was no hardship when we looked out and saw a glorious view of Machhapuchhre, showing its very distintive fish-tail shape from this angle.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

At Dovan the trail is high above the river with thick stands of bamboo blocking the view of the rushing Modi Khola and waterfalls on the other side of the river. The path crossed several small streams that flowed into the ravine.

We were reminded of the holy significance of the Annapurna Sanctuary by signs such as this one we passed.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

The path here is rocky and altogether more rugged than it has been previously. However, we were reminded that it is still the main route for everything being carried to the higher tea houes, when this guy passed us carrying three 5 metre long pipes!

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

The views were gorgeous and the steady climb didn’t feel too hard with such wonderful scenery all around. We continued up through the forest, stopping at the lodges at Himalaya Hotel for our morning tea and then further on past Hinko Cave, where the first expeditions to the Base Camp used to camp.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

From the cave we could see the lodges at Deurali, but they were still a fair way off, with more hiking through this landscape that is riven with landslides and avalanche tracks.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Unusually we met our porters at Deurali when we arrived for lunch. Most days they left as we were eating breakfast and we didn’t see them until we arrived at that evening’s accommodation. Neil snapped a photo of the young, chatty Saurab just before he left to continue his walk to MBC.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

After lunch at Deurali we climbed more steeply, the path weaving amongst boulders. As we left the forest behind the landscape became more rugged and the usual afternoon low cloud swept in creating a wild atmosphere. The cloud was not constant and we caught brief glimpses of Machhapuchhre and the neighbouring peak of Hiunchuli.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

We came upon MBC quite suddenly. One minute we were looking at a cloud-filled ravine, then we saw the buildings appear just in front of us. We got settled in for a cold and cloudy afternoon/evening, but were delighted when the clouds opened up later to reveal the Fishtail peak. Having seen this peak a few times the past week, it looked even more majestic close up and was particularly grand when illuminated by the setting sun.

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Annapurna Trek: Day 8 Dovan to MBC

Although the tea house had electricity, there was no heating in the lodge, except for the under-table gas burner and the temperature soon dropped when the sun went down.

More photos here on Flickr