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

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

The next morning we woke to intermittent views of the mountains from the terrace of the tea house. The cloud was swirling around the cloud forest on the slopes, alternatively revealing and hiding the snow-capped high tops.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

From our tea house at the upper end of Chomrong Village, the trail descended the long stone staircase through the village, passing the German Bread Bakery, with its impressed window display of cakes and on to the wholesale shop which sells virtually everything. This is one of these ‘last-chance-to-buy’ places, so it is THE place to stock up before going any further up the valley towards the sanctuary. I resisted buying any chocolate biscuits since I was still carrying my ’emergency’ power gels, muesli bars, and Kendal Mint Cake, packed in case I got a stomach upset and was off my food. So far, so good.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

After the long descent we crossed the suspension bridge over the Chomrong Khola. Like many other suspension bridges in the area this bridge was funded by the British Gurkhas.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Of course, with dropping down to the river, we than had more ascent up through more small farms.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

The path passed through jungle of oak, hemlock and rhododendron trees.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

After lunch we climbed out of the side valley to re-enter the main Modi Khola Valley, where we followed a rocky path through the bamboo forests to Bamboo Lodge. This bamboo is cut extensively to make
‘dokos’ – the carrying baskets as used by some porters – and woven mats for floors and roofing.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Although we were getting near the upper reaches of the river with fewer villages, the path was still busy with trekkers and porters. The porters were carrying bags for the trekkers, but they were also busy carrying supplies to the tea houses. Everything from food to gas cylinders had to be carried in on someone’s back.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

At 2505m we reached Dovan,a clearing in the forest where there are several teahouses. Our tea house was perched on the edge of the steep-sided valley with the constant background music of a waterfall crashing hundreds of metres down to the Modi Khola.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

The usual afternoon cloud descended over the big mountains, but we again got intermittent glimpses of Machhapuchchhre.

Annapurna Trek: Day 7 Chomrong to Dovan

We took the opportunity for one last hot shower for a few days as the facilities lessen the further up you go. Also it was getting to the point where we didn’t want to remove clothes to shower anyway as it was cold. A quick change of clothes and Wet wipes were sufficent at this stage!

More photos here on Flickr

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

After our very early start the previous day, this morning we had a bit of a lie in. However I was awake before the guides arrived with my tea and as soon as I’d finished that I went out on to the grassy terrace to do a short yoga session. It was warm enough for my bare feet today and it was a most wonderful setting for this. I performed Sun Salutations facing the early morning sun and the 8000m mountains. Wonderful!

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Our daily routine involved packing our kit bags before breakfast, so the porters could sort the bags and get them ready for carrying as soon as they had eaten. We had been asked to keep our luggage to 10kg or less and the porters carried two bags each, plus what else they carried for themselves. The porters usually walked straight through the morning to an early lucnh break, then arrived at the overnight stop several hours before us.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

The walk today involved a long descent through the forests and farmland to the Kyumnu Khola, a tributary of the Modi Khola. We could see the river from very early in the walk as we looked down the steep-sided valley.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

We passed scattered farms with the narrowest of terraces where crops had recently been harvested. The corn was strung up to dry outside the houses. By hanging the corm in a place visible from the paths, they was also as a show of wealth.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

When we we still a hundred metres or more above the river we could see shepherds rounding up a large number of sheep and leading them down the opposite hillside. They were guided towards the suspension bridge and driven across.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

We too eventually reached the bridge over the Kyumnu Khola and from here we had a steep ascent up to Chomrong, at 2,170m, another Gurung village and the last permanent settlement in the valley.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

On the way we paid a visit to a local school, Shree Ghurjung Primary School. This school has been supported by trekkers from Exodus for a few years and Keshar, our leader, is well known to the staff. This is a government funded school. but the funding doesn’t cover all the teachers’ salaries. The donations are used to fund two extra teachers. Also, all other costs are expected to be covered by the village families; meaning libraries and books are extremely scarce.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

The school consisted of 4 very basic classrooms for the 4 classes of children from nursery to about age 12. I was surprised to see the condition of the classrooms; they were just bare stone walls, open windows with no glass, and cold and dark, but the children appeared to be working hard.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

The nursery teacher told me she had her own baby with her

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Continuing our ascent from the valley we passed more farms with various crops spread out to dry.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Memorial decorated with prayer flags and dried flowers

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Keshar had also arranged for us to visit a house in one of the villages we passed through. He gave us a brief explanation of some of the daily rituals, and we were invited inside for a brief look. He explained that many of the families in the rural villages live in extended family units. One of the duties of the daughters-in-law is to re-grout the stone terrace, every morning, with yak dung mixed with water.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

According to our trip notes: “From Chomrong we have good views again of Annapurna South”. When we arrived the views were obscured by the cloud, but we had brief tantalizing glimpses of the mountains over the next hour or so when the clouds blew about.

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

Annapurna Trek: Day 6 Chuili to Chomrong

See more photos from this day in my Flickr album.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

An early morning wake up call at 5am by Ratner, Nima and Pemba meant one thing: that the sky was clear and our ascent of Poon Hill was on! We just had time for a very quick cup of tea and we were out walking, by torchlight, at 5.30am. The sky was clear and vast numbers of stars were visible. It was beautiful and if not for the fact I had to look down to see where I was walking, I would have gazed at the sky the whole time. It was pretty chilly, but we soon started to warm up as we began the ascent. Poon Hill (3210m) is one of the most famous view points in Nepal and we were far from the only people out on the path up the hill. As we climbed higher the hill got busier. It took us just under an hour to reach the summit and we got there just as the first hint of light was coming to the mountains.

The first light on the summits of Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Hiunchuli and Machhapuchhar
Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

The sun started to inch up over the mountains and gradually touched the snow-capped peaks to show a spectacular panorama.

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili
First rays of sun touch the top of Dhaulagiri (8167m)Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

All too soon if was time to leave the panorama behind and head back down to to our tea house for a very welcome breakfast. Then we started a long day’s walk from Ghorepani to Chuili, with more ascent and descent throughout the day. Initially we headed east, following a ridge to cross a pass at 3,193m.

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

We passed through open country then descended through jungle where we heard monkeys chattering and screeching in the tree tops.

After a stop for morning tea at a tea house we climbed back to reach another small pass at Tadapani where we had superb view of Annapurna South and the peak of Machhapuchhare.

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

Following lunch we had further descent through the rain forest and were delighted to see monkeys this time.

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

As had been the case for the previous couple of days, the cloud rolled in by early afternoon and hid the distant views of the big mountains. But it was still a very pleasant walk for the final few kilometres down to the brightly-coloured tea house at Chuili.

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

Annapurna Trek: Day 5 Ghorepani to Chuili

More photos here on my Flickr page

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Day 4 Ulleri to Ghorepani

Ulleri-Ghorepani (2885m) We woke to another clear morning and enjoyed breakfast outside on the terrace of our tea house. Porridge, egg and toast and tea. Sustenance for today’s long, uphill walk to Ghorepani. Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani The first section from Ulleri was very pleasant, with stretches of flat ground in between the steps, giving a welcome break and making it an easy walk. We passed by many homes and tea houses. Part way up, the first view of Annapurna South appeared and it was beautiful to see this 8000+m peak. Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Still higher up we entered a wooded area of rhododendron trees and large bamboo plants. Having crossed a stream, we arrived at the village of Banthanti (2,300m). At our tea break stop, our guide, Keshar find several wild herb plants, including cannabis and other herbs used in cooking growing at the edge 0f the forest. Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Beyond the village is a jungle of lush vegetation and mossy trees, with small streams and small waterfalls. After following a stream up a narrow valley with more stairs to climb, we emerged from the forest at Nangathanti where we visited a tea house for lunch. Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani We arrive in Ghorepani in the early afternoon and the ancient village is busy with activity, with trekkers coming from other directions and convening here. Ghorepani is the gathering place for those who want to see the sun rise from Poon Hill, just above the village. That is the plan for tomorrow. After our fairly easy day’s walk we spend the afternoon chatting, quietly reading books and looking out at the thick fog blanket that had completely engulfed the area. We caught a tantalising glimpse of the big mountains very briefly in a wee break in the clouds. Hoping for an evening wind to clear the view for morning, we were in our beds early that night. Annapurna TreK: Day 4 Ulleri to Gorepani

More photos on my Flickr page here.