Trip Reports: Annapurna Base Camp, Himalaya, Nepal - November 2014

In November after our 20-day trek in the Khumbu/Everest region, we headed to the town of Pokhara to embark on yet another trek in the Himalaya — this time a short but strenuous 7-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp, also referred to as the ABC Trek or Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. At 8091m / 26545 ft., Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world. The trek to its south base camp ascends the long and jungly Modi Khola gorge, finally reaching a high basin ringed by soaring peaks including, of course, Annapurna itself.

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Phewa Tal, Pokhara.

Pokhara is the gateway city to the Annapurna Himal. Though Pokhara is only about 200 km (124 miles) from Kathmandu, the bus ride takes 7 hours! This is because there are no highways, and the bumpy potholed road winds through mountainous foothill terrain the whole way.

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Canoes on Phewa Tal near the city of Pokhara.

The city of Pokhara is situated next to Phewa Tal, a lake with awe-inspiring views of the pyramid summit of Machhapuchhre (aka Fish Tail Peak) rising in the distance. That is, on the rare occasions when you can see through the haze and smog.

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Ascending the steep stone staircase above Phedi.

After a terrifying taxi ride from Pokhara, our speed-demon driver dropped us off at the village of Phedi, where we promptly started ascending a steep stone staircase. These stone staircases would be a defining characteristic of this trek — constantly ascending or descending these never-ending staircases! 

Though this trek is much shorter than the Khumbu trek we did, we both agreed that it was much more strenuous, with all the ups and downs and longer hiking days. (With lower elevations here, altitude acclimatization is not such a concern so it’s possible to hike farther each day).

We opted to go solo on this trek and did not hire a porter or guide. Our backpacks were lighter since we didn’t have to pack as much cold weather clothing, and also from our experience from the previous trek we knew exactly what we needed to bring with us (or more importantly, what we didn’t need to bring).

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Machhapuchhre (6993m / 22,943 ft.)

Machhapuchhre (also known as Fish Tail Peak) is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Himalaya (or the world, for that matter). Like a Himalayan Matterhorn, this peak has a striking pyramidal profile. Quoting Wikipedia: “Machhapuchchhre has never been climbed to its summit. The only attempt was in 1957 by a British team led by Jimmy Roberts. Climbers Wilfrid Noyce and A. D. M. Cox climbed to within 150 m (492 ft) of the summit via the north ridge; to an approximate altitude of 22,793 ft., but did not complete the ascent; they had promised not to set foot on the actual summit. Since then, the mountain has been declared sacred, and it is now closed to climbers.”

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The village of Bhickok Deurali with a view of Annapurna South (7219m / 23,684 ft.)

The first portion of our trek involved crossing over a broad mountain ridge, from Phedi through the villages of Dhampus, Pothana, Bhickok Deurali (above), and Tolka. This route provides stunning views of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna South, before descending into the long jungly valley of the Modi Khola.

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Annapurna South (7219m / 23,684 ft.) as seen from near Tolka.

Massive vertical relief is one of the defining characteristics of the Annapurna Himal, perhaps even more dramatic than in the Khumbu region. In the photo above, the summit of Annapurna South is nearly 6,000 meters or 20,000 vertical feet higher than the valley below!

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A scientifically accurate map to the Annapurna Sanctuary. Watch out for the giant leopard!!!

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A suspension bridge over the Modi Khola.

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The village of Jhinnu Danda, overlooking the Modi Khola gorge.

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Hiking through the village of Chomrong in the morning.

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A farmer's terraces in Chomrong. Many houses in Nepal don’t use proper stove pipes, so smoke from the stoves just seeps out along the sides of the roof.

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The Modi Khola gorge is filled with lush jungle forest, complete with vines, moss, and monkeys.

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Mountain jungle forest on the way to Annapurna Base Camp.

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Don’t crap on sacred mountains.

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The upper Modi Khola river.

After days of trudging up and down endless stone staircases through the jungle, it was a relief to finally emerge above the treeline above the lodges of “Himalaya”, knowing that we were now amongst the big peaks and within reach of Annapurna Base Camp.

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Happy in the Himalaya!

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Welcome to Annapurna Base Camp.

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Nice view of Machhapuchhre out the teahouse window at Annapurna Base Camp.

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Playing volleyball under Annapurna South, at Annapurna Base Camp.

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The south face of Annapurna 1, the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8091m / 26545 ft.

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Glacier below the south face of Annapurna 1, the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8091m / 26545 ft.

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Prayer flags at Annapurna Base Camp.

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Machhapuchhre emerges from the clouds, as seen from Annapurna Base Camp.

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Brilliant sunset light shines on Machhapuchhre (aka Fish Tail Peak) - 6993m / 22,943 ft.

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Machhapuchhre towering over Annapurna Base Camp, at twilight.

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Watching the sunrise on Annapurna (8091m / 26,545 ft) at Annapurna Base Camp (4130m / 13,550 ft). That's 13,000 vertical feet of mountain right there!

Early in the morning the entire population of Annapurna Base Camp woke up and went out to watch the sunrise, like a ceremony of fellow mountain worshippers!

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Hiking away from Annapurna Base Camp, with Machhapuchhre towering above.

After spending one spectacular evening and morning at Annapurna Base Camp, we headed back down the way we came.

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Hiking down the vertical gorge of the Modi Khola.

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Traffic on the trail.

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Walking past a teahouse in Sinuwa.

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A monkey flies through the forest below Annapurna.

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Soaking in the hot springs below Jhinnu Danda village.

There’s no better way to wrap up a trek than to spend the last evening soaking in hot springs!

Posted in Backpacking & Trekking, Himalaya and tagged Nepal.

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