The Annapurna Circuit
Okay so you’ve made it all the way to Kathmandu, Nepal, and you’re ready to get some serious bragging material under your belt. Is there anything cooler than starting a conversation with “This one time when I was trekking the Himalayas”?
Rhetorical question, the answer is obviously ‘No’. So if you’re ready to add this line to your vocabulary then take the road (or mountains) less traveled and trek the Annapurna circuit in the HIMALAYAS!
Lets not kid ourselves; there is a reason that line is the coolest opening in the English dictionary. This isn’t going to be a stroll in the park (excuse the pun). This is an intense trek and should not be underestimated. Some serious thought should go into the preparation of this quest, as you will be sure to face some harsh climates, real low oxygen levels and some extremely steep terrain! Additionally this won’t be a trip you can pump out in a week or even two, this trail has an estimate time frame of three weeks even with a steady eight hours of trekking each day.
It is possible to shave off a few days, however there is only so much altitude you can climb each day before you get seriously sick, so just because your body can climb it, doesn’t mean your brain can.
If you’re continuing to read this, then I haven’t scared you away. Continue to hang in there because the best is yet to come. This trip is truly a once in a lifetime experience; you will continue to tell the story of the Himalayas for many years to come. In 50 years when we’re all driving flying cars, walking around with micro-chips in our brains and fighting the war against computers you will still be throwing that amazing line into your stories.
But lets not get ahead of ourselves; you actually need to do the trek first. There is a number ways to do this circuit depending on your fitness level and the experience you want to get out of it.
Guides and Porters
Three weeks of clothing, toiletries, emergency medical equipment, and the extremely necessary Gopro, Selfie stick and the cliché travel guide can get rather heavy, even with out considering the unpredictable terrain, altitude and exhaustion, so to literally take some weight off your shoulders there are porters. Porters will carry your pack for around $20 a day.
Additionally a guide is highly recommended, they will also cost around $20 a day, however you can get a guide that will also be porter and carry your pack for you.
The guides are very experienced and understand the mountains better than most. Altitude sickness is a real and serious threat, and a guide will know and make sure you stay safely within the correct levels. I would recommend meeting your guide/porter first as I met people whose porter was very young and could not a carry the pack.
Don’t Do What I Did!
Take it from someone how tried going it with no porter or guide and just a map, GET A GUIDE!
I was under the impression that I was a tough, independent woman who needed no help and was well and truly proven wrong within the first few hours.
You maybe able to carry your own pack, but the directions along the trail are next to non-existent, and using a map is basically impossible.
I was lucky enough to met some awesome Canadians, that basically shared their guide with me, and if it weren’t for them, I would have either died or had to turn back. As for my choice not to get a porter, I suffered the entire 3 weeks with a terribly sore back, blisters and throw away things I actually liked, as I couldn’t bare to carry it any further.
Don’t Abuse your Guides or Porters
I’d like to add, that it is important to be kind to your guide and porter. Don’t force them to carry ridicules weights or risk their own health pushing their bodies to climb vast altitudes each day. They have been told not to report any signs of attitude sickness they may be suffering with, and will continue to do the their job, despite there condition, furthermore they can get very ill, and can not afford the health care and medication we take for granted.
How to get started
PERMITS! Your guide is likely to take care of this, or accompany you in this process, but if not here’s what you’ll need to do:
You will need two permits: In order to obtain these you’ll want to visit the Nepal Tourism Board to get a Trekker’s Information Management System card (TIMS) and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP). It is a relatively easy process and shouldn’t take much more than an hour. With these permits you will be required to check-in at various checkpoints every few days along the trek, so the Nepali government can keep note of where you were last if you to go missing.
What you will need for the permits:
- 4 passport photos (2 for each permit)
- $20 or 2000 Rupees (cash)
- Document paper work (provided at the Tourism Board)
What to Pack
Before you pack your bag remember that whether it’s you or your porter, this stuff will be carried up a mountain. So lay out everything you think you will need and ditch half of it, you don’t need your hair straightener, laptop or collection of cute trekking hats.
Bring the bare minimum:
- 1 pair trail boots (can be hired/purchased from Kathmandu or Pokhara)
- 1 pair fitness pants
- 1 pair of hiking pants
- 1 winter jacket
- 1 long sleeve shirt (preferably light material)
- 2 short sleeve shirts
- 1 pair pajamas
- 6 pairs of socks
- 7 pairs of underwear
- Sun hat
- Trekking pole (hired in Kathmandu or Pokhara)
- Camera and charger
- Mobile and charger
- Powerbank (the cold drains the battery a lot faster)
- Power plug adapter
- Below 0° sleeping bag
- Silk liner (These are great!)
- Water filter/purifier or water purification tabs
- Water bottle (1 liter size)
- Passport & Permits (you’ll be asked for these at every checkpoint)
- First aid kit (the guide may be able to provide this for you)
- Cash (there aren’t ATM’s alone the way)
- Book/journal (e-book is best)
You can wash your clothing in the sinks along the way and hang them to dry on your backpack as you walk.
Lets get Trekking!
Talk you your hotel/hostel or guide about getting a bus to the base of the trek. There are a few options on where to start. Pick a date and time that works best for you. The bus from Kathmandu is very long and bumpy; as such don’t expect to do much walking on your first day. It is likely that you wont arrive at your starting point until 4.00pm or 5.00pm in the afternoon. Pick a guesthouse and get bargaining on the price. Accommodation is super cheep and can be as low as $2-$3 a night, however you are require to eat at the same guesthouse and will be ‘fined’ if you do not. Food is where they make their money and will cost you around $10 for a chai, dal baht, and apple pie. The price of food will climb as you do, as porters have carried this food up the mountain, (I purchased a Mars Bar for $10 at 18,000ft).
Now, meet the people you are likely to trek with over the next few weeks, get a good nights sleep, and start walking.