Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Trekking Annapurna

So I've signed all the things I need to sign for my visa, my picture has been attached to an untold number of documents, and I've had my thumb prints attached to half a dozen other documents. My passport is with the Department of Industry and/or Immigration and hopefully within the next day or two I'll have my Business Visa. This means I can finally get out of Kathmandu for an extended period.

My initial hope was to go and hike a combination of the Annapurna circuit along with the Nar and Phu valleys. Nar and Phu are in a restricted are that costs $90 for a permit, but that cost seemed well worth the sights and culture up in that region. Further investigation however revealed that the permit has to be arranged by a tour operator, you have to have a guide, and it's a minimum of two people for a group to go. No thanks. I'm an independent trekker at heart and I only use guides when I absolutely have to (Kilimanjaro is it so far) and I am even more averse to using porters....I carried my own pack up Killi (though to be fair the porters carried the food and the means to cook it, and I ate it). Point is, that was a deal breaker for me. So Nar and Phu may have to wait until a later date.

So that left the Annapurna circuit, which I have not done yet. It's the most popular trail in Nepal, but I have not hiked at all in that region yet. Twice I've gone to Helumbu and Langtang, and I did the Everest Base Camp trek back in 02, but haven't made it over to Annapurna. So I figured it was time to do it, before the roads they are building in the region completely closes off what has been a historic trail. Word I've gotten is that they are pushing the road well north of Besi Sahar, as far north as Tal and south of Jomsom is a road as well now, all the way to Pokhara.

The upside of going here is that in this late part of the hiking season, with the end of my trek most likely entering the monsoon, the whole latter part of what I am doing should be in the Himalayan rain shadow, that is I will be north of some very large mountains that keep the monsoon rains from reaching the region. From Pisang on I should avoid any large amount of rain, and thus also be able to avoid the leaches that accompany them. It also means I can assess the situation on arrival at Jomsom and decide what I want to do from there. If the weather hasn't been bad and I'm feeling up to it, I'll most likely just hike down and finish out at Pokhara (About 3 days), or i may instead opt for a 4WD or quick flight out.

The route I've marked above is the one in the lonely planet book. It should take roughly two weeks, though some of the trek times and distances seem a little short, so there is a good chance I'll do it a little faster. I will however do an acclimatization day at Manang with a side trip to Tilicho Tal lake. I'm also considdering an extra day for sight seeing in lower Mustang at Kagbeni. The highest point the trail will cross is the Thorong La, a pass that sits just under 18,000 ft. It will be much tamer than the Kang La, the one I wanted to cross on the way out of the Nar Valley.

So if everything goes well I should be on a bus Friday morning. The downside is that this blog will be very quiet for at least two weeks. I'll do my best to get plenty of pictures and some experiences worth relating to make what follows worth it.

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