Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is located in a high glacial basin at 4130m and is surrounded by a ring of Himalaya peaks over 7000m with Annapurna I as the highest (8091m). The entrance to the basin is a narrow valley between the peaks of Hiunchuli (6441m) and Machhapuchhre (6993m).
The idea of standing at ABC with a 360° view of Himalaya giants led us think to hike up there. Easy to say. The thing is we are no real hikers. Our last hike on altitude was at 5150m to Everest Base Camp in Tibet. Pretty relevant you may say. However, it’s been 5 months ago and only lasted two hours. A more relevant hike was in the Andes at 3850m for eight hours. But nine years ago… and it was no success. An erratic snoring old man in our room kept me awake all night. The next day I literally stumbled up and down the mountain, motivated by Wouter and the guide who made me believe there is a mule waiting for me shortly. I never saw the mule…
All in all, we’re not trained and our trekking experience is close to nothing. We are not even sure if we like hiking… Still, the seven to ten days ABC trek sounded pretty cool and we were up for some action. So why not?
A few days later the bags are packed loaded with warm clothes and packs of muesli bars of which we hope will act like our trekkers fuel. We’ve got our trekking permits and TIMS cards, rented a sleeping bag for -10°C and bought the least look-like-fake water bottles, as well as tablets to purify the fresh mountain water. We are ready to rumble!
07:00 Alarm clock. Arghhhh. Stiff neck…. Oh no! Watching F1 out of bed was not a good idea. How on earth am I going to carry my back pack up on the Annapurna massif??? Help. Wouter looks no better. He feels miserable. His nostrils are full and absolutely not able to inhale any fresh mountain air.
07:27 Breakfast. Ahh, why are we doing this? Shouldn’t this be fun? Hmmm. The way we feel is no fun….
07:28 Not feeling any better…
07:29 We go tomorrow.
Day 1 again
Ghandruk (2050m) → Komrong Danda (2100m) |△▽ 270m | ⇒ 3.3km
07:00 Awake! Today is the day. Breakfast. A last hot shower and off we go! Yay!
07:17 No hurry…
07:58 Another coffee. It’s all about priorities, isn’t it?
08:10 Shower. Brrrrrr. Cold water… With a bit of a cold, a cold shower is a no go.
08:31 Still cold water!
09:07 Cold water.
09:23 Grmbl. Still cold. Despite another ‘wait 10 minutes’ promise from reception we give up.
09:33 Why hurry…. let’s go for cappuccino. It will be our last one for the next week or so and by now we simply deserve it!?
10:05 The road to Nayapul, or better said the left-overs of a road, brings us closer to our starting point. The road is crumbled, full of holes and damaged by landslides. We arrive, completely shaken up, at the check-in point of the Annapurna area. Given we are still not 100% fit we choose to be more shaken up and save a day of walking by taking a jeep on dirt roads to Ghandruk. From this point onwards there is no other option than by foot.
14:20 Ghandruk. Right. It’s showtime and we start to walk. The back packs feel heavy… how are we going to make it till the end? This load on our backs for seven to ten days? Really? Step, step, step. What are we doing here? Step, step, step. Hmm, it seems to work. We progress. Step, step, step. We are passed by mules. They are so cute. We forget the back packs and start to enjoy the scenery. It’s green, rural and beautiful. We pass small creeks and falls. We are alone. This is actually fun! It gets steeper and in no time, we are out of breath. We slow down and find a rhythm. The key to get higher is to imitate a slow diesel engine. It’s not something we, as Dutchies living in a flat country below sea level, learned by nature. We pass a group of Nepali trekkers who welcome us with a cheerful ‘Namaste!’. It motivates and quite easily we manage to get up to Komrong Danda: a few houses on a mountain ledge with an amazing view over the valley and the high snow peaks in the distance: our final destination in a few days. We hope.
We decide to stay. We are more than ok with an easy start of the trek and sleep on this beautiful location. Till sun set we enjoy how the clouds and rays of the sun play together.
One thing we miss: other tourists. Pokhara, a tourist enclave and the place to be to prepare for a trek at Annapurna was overloaded. It’s higher than high season. We can’t quite understand why there is no one else up here. Even the guy of the lodge was surprised when we asked for a room. Oh well, we don’t complain. It’s quite unique, sleeping on a ledge in the Himalaya with just the two of us.
Komrong Danda (2100m) → Chhomrong (2160m) | △▽580m | ⇒ 7.2km
The night was cold. Our -10°C sleeping bags are most likely fake and better suited for +10°C. The views of the sunrise on the snow peaks make us quickly forget the cold. A new day, a new hike and the good news: we feel fit. We’re ready for some action!
08:10 We start with a serious descent, ignoring that every step-down means more uphill later on. We still see no other tourists, just occasional mule trains carrying stuff up and down the mountains. The silence and the sound of the creek in the valley is wonderful.
09:21 Once we passed the creek, a decent climb is indeed waiting for us. There is no end to it. We won’t let this get to us and we rise steadily up the mountain. The diesel engine is running. All sweaty and proud we reach a tea house and are welcomed by the first tourists: a group of about twenty, yes, Dutch hikers.
We energize ourselves with sweet masala tea and continue in good spirits. The trail is twisting up and down the mountain for another hour or so and we move like a rocket. Will we become real hikers after all? We also found all the other hikers. Apparently, there is a new bridge that avoids you from doing the steep descent and climb like we did… clearly there are benefits of having a guide.
12:03 Rain drops. And now what? Upfront we agreed not to walk in rain to keep us safe. It can be quite steep, slippery and landslides are not uncommon. It’s just that when standing half way on a mountain, not having reached the next village and having a steep climb behind you, you don’t want to go back nor stay where you are. We break our own rules, put on the rain cover and we carry on.
12:13 The rain stops.
12:34 Mountain weather is unpredictable. This time for the good. The clouds are gone and we’re enjoying a sunny lunch with an amazing view over a mountain range with Annapurna in the distance. Will we ever make it? It’s a worry for later, for now we made it to Chhomrong and are sitting on this great spot.
12:47 This is so lovely.
12:55 We stay for the night. Why hurry?
Chhomrong (2160m) → Dovan (2500m) | △▽ 680m | ⇒ 8,9km
Despite another cold night in our fake sleeping bags and more or less all our clothes on, we’ve slept many hours. It was dark and quiet, the perfect recipe for a good night sleep. Today we plan a long day of hiking. We feel strong and imagine our legs know what to do by now.
08:42 Descending. Chips, do we really need to climb all of this again?!?
08:45 Stairs upwards. Oh man, here we go. Step, step, step.
08:50 Our diesel engines are letting us down today…
08:57 Grmbl. Why again are we here?
08:59 Why are we doing this? This is no fun.
09:03 Stairs, stairs, stairs. Why didn’t we take a porter to carry our bags?
09:07 We’re not hikers… Grmbl.
09:21 Houses! We made it.
09:23 Damn, we did not. The climb continues.
09:24 WHY OH WHY? It’s terrible. Maybe not the climb itself, but the fact that the stairs are uneven and often higher than it fits your step is dreadful. It is exhausting.
09:47 Sinuwa. Thank you! We’ve reached the next stop and are in desperate need of a break. Luckily there is this Russian girl who is coming down from ABC, promising us that it gets better further up. According to her, we just did the worst part of the trek. Let’s hope so!
The rest of the day goes smooth. Our legs no longer complain and we enjoy the views. Maybe hiking can be fun! And as a matter of fact, the only way to enjoy this amazing environment is by foot!
14:25 We call it a day and decide to stay in Dovan for the night. There is a hot clean shower and, trust us, this is certainly needed. Once again, we have an awesome view of the snow peaks and the best part they finally are getting closer!
Dovan (2500m) → Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3700m) | △▽ 1400m | ⇒ 8,6km
Early start today. 06:30. Yes, we are getting the hang of hiking and are – for no real reason – full of confidence today as we want to do an attempt to hike all the way up to ABC. The confidence pays off and we progress steadily upwards. What helps is the nature around us. It’s beautiful. It is getting rougher, more waterfalls, steeper mountains and we can almost touch the giant snow peaks. It’s simply magnificent.
The Annapurna trek goes from village to village (a village up here means a few lodges and teahouses close together). The distances between the villages are stated in hours. Some parts are quite difficult with many rocks and it can be quite steep as well. Hence, looking at kilometers is useless. The stated hours also means that if you’re faster it is motivating and if not, you better look for excuses to keep yourself motivated.
Our attempt to ABC was going smooth, until the way up to Machhapuchhre base camp (MBC), the last stop before ABC. From Deurali to MBC should take about 1,5 hours. Sadly, we were not even close to MBC after 2 hours! I can tell you that is depressing. It was steep with many rocks, thin air, cold and our back packs decided to feel heavy again. No single sign of MBC. Sigh… Giving up was obviously not an option.
14:25 Hello MBC at 3700m. Finally, we made it. We like to believe that the hours were swopped with the way up to Deurali as we did that part an hour faster than stated. Who knows… altitude, exhaustion and carrying your own luggage may have an effect on your mental and physical performance…
14:35 The clouds are floating into the valley and it gets uncomfortably cold. A good reason to stay at MBC for the night. Right. The true reason is that we are too tired to go any further. And not only that. Each day we need to secure our place to sleep. Without a guide your bed is not secured. It’s true that a lodge cannot leave you outside in the dark and in worst case scenario you need to sleep in the dining room, but as long as it’s not dark they will tell you to continue or go back. That’s last thing we want at the moment! We could have made a reservation up front, but if you’re not a seasoned hiker, like us, you never know where your legs will bring you that day.
14:40 We forget about the tough last hour of hiking as we’re surrounded by a giant mountain range and are very close to the towering peak of Machhapuchhre. It’s unbelievable beautiful. What a spot to be in. No words.
Like every afternoon we are trying to keep ourselves warm in the dining room with fellow hikers; chatting, drinking tea and eating pasta. The menu is the same in every lodge. Macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, momos or pizza with tomato, cheese, tuna and, or mushrooms in any combination possible and of course Dal Bhat, a traditional Nepali meal.
Machhapuchhre Base Camp (3700m) → Annapurna Base Camp (4130m) → Himalaya (2900m) | △▽ 1750m | ⇒ 11,7km
Today is the day. ABC here we come! Most hikers leave at 04:00 to see the sunrise. We need our sleep and leave at 06:45. It means we are alone on our way to ABC while the sun rises and the moon sets. It’s magical. The silence. The Himalaya. The rays of the sun. The glance of the moon.
08:23 We made it! ABC, here we are! Yay! We are surrounded by snow peaks above seven kilometers and have a spectacular view of the Annapurna massif. It’s fantastic and worth all the effort, sweat and grumbling to get here. What an unbelievable special place to be in.
Even a group of Slovaks cannot spoil our moment. They’ve just arrived by helicopter, a ten-minute-1000-dollar flight from Pokhara, and are enjoying the same view. It’s the view in combination with the achievement that makes it special for us.
We stay for a while, have our breakfast, walk around and then it’s time to descent as we suffer a little headache due to the altitude. On our way down, the surroundings are once again amazing.
14:32 The moment we reach the village Himalaya, it starts to rain. We are offered the last two beds, shared with others and in separate rooms. Oh well, a bed is a bed. Wouter is the lucky one, he shares his room with a honeymoon couple, but can leave them eventually as some people did not show up and we can take their room.
Himalaya (2900m) → Chhomrong (2160m) | △▽ 1000m | ⇒ 12km
06:11 Our last hiking day. We look forward to a hot shower, no pasta, a soft bed, vitamins, sleep without jackets, warm temperatures and a beer.
11:00 We made a lot of progress. We feel like real hikers and with our current speed we should be sitting in a jeep around 15:00. Yay. Tonight, we sleep in a hotel!
11:09 Hmmm. We forgot about something…. those terrible stairs to Chhromrong! Descending on stairs that do not fit your step rhythm is a nightmare for your feet. Somehow, we manage to get to Chhromrong but our feet can’t go any further, if we want to avoid blisters. It means another night in the mountains, eat another pizza and drink more tea. Well, there are worst places to stay. 🙂
Chhomrong (2160m) → Matkyu (1500m) | △▽ 710m | ⇒ 6km
06:45 Good choice yesterday. We are fit, our feet are recovered and off we go. It’s an easy walk and this time we found the new bridge to save ourselves another steep descent and climb.
09:34 Jeeps! We made it! We did it! We can be proud!
And do we like hiking? We still don’t know… we did make vague new plans of doing some treks elsewhere on this planet. Of course, in warmer environments and with less difference in altitude, haha! Although, we won’t be surprised if we forget about this once we are fully recovered and remember it while doing a steep climb somewhere in the snow. Because it was an amazing experience!
At times it was hard, true, especially as we were not trained and carried our own luggage to 4130m, but honestly it was all worth it. The amazing Himalaya views, the physical challenge and the experience of a multi-day trekking to a remote area is something special and something we will never forget.
Check-out the Quick Story of our Annapurna Base Camp trek!