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

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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 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 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