Annapurna Base Camp Trek Part I: To Poon Hill and Beyond

6241743680_img_2883

Here’s a fun fact: The thought of going on a trek makes me cringe.

Before we began to plan for our upcoming Annapurna Base Camp Trek (ABC), I revealed to Hamish that I am honestly not a fan of hiking, but I do it because of the rewards at the end of every hike: the sense of accomplishment and the incomparable views.

Another reason I am not a fan anymore, is because Mount Kilimanjaro scarred me from ever doing a major hike again. I literally almost died up there.

Still, I was ready do this particular hike up to ABC because of three reasons:

The summit at ABC was only 4,130m / 13,549ft, more than a thousand meters lower than my old frenemy Kilimanjaro.

I couldn’t possibly deny a trek through the stunning Himalayas.

And now I knew now more than ever how to prevent AMS (acute mountain sickness) also known as altitude sickness.

Preparation

The Annapurna Base Camp Trek takes about 7 to 12 days to complete, depending on the pace and the route. It’s also super easy to hike without a guide. There are lodges everywhere. There are signposts everywhere. And if something were to happen, say you were a little lost off track, there were people everywhere to help guide you on the correct path.

IMG_5210.JPG

Knowing this, Hamish and I were more than ready to hike with just the two of us. We already saved a few hundred dollars by not hiring a guide. The only concerning issue was that it was the middle of February, the low-season for trekking. High season is usually from September to November and March to May. We were in the thick of winter, but the winter here wasn’t nearly as cold as I was led to believe.

We each paid Rs 4500 (roughly $45) for our permit and TIMS card. Both are required to hike Annapurna. I also went ahead to rent a sleeping bag and a down jacket from a local shop in Lakeside. It would cost me Rs 200 per day to rent both (roughly $2 a day). I already had everything else I needed, including Diamox that Hamish had bought for cheap.

Advice – Most shops in Pokhara won’t let you rent anything else besides a sleeping bag and a down jacket. All of your other equipment, hiking boots, gloves, hats, thermals, etc, you must buy.

Day 1: 10am Nayapul to Ulleri

We left early on a Tuesday morning to Nayapul, our starting point for ABC. The taxi there cost us Rs 2000 from Lakeside and took about two hours to get there. They said it would take an hour but hey, it’s Nepal!

We walked a few minutes over into Nayapul to get our TIM cards stamped. During the trek, there will be certain checkpoints to let officials know where our last point of check-in was, just in case we disappeared for some reason.

annapurna base camp trek

annapurna base camp trek

Since this was one of Hamish’s first major hikes dealing with altitude, I told him that we would take it slow and go at a leisurely pace, to let our bodies acclimate to the constantly increasing elevation. He didn’t understand at first but began to realize why this method was crucial for preventing AMS. So off we went!

annapurna base camp trek

The first day was hot as heck. Also, dusty during the beginning. We began our jaunt on a dirt road that led to Birethanti, for all the “cheaters” who hitched a ride and wanted a head start to ABC or Poon Hill for that matter. Most trekkers on this leg of the climb only go to Poon Hill and back down. We planned on going to Poon Hill and then continuing to ABC.

annapurna base camp trek

We eventually arrived to Bhirethanti (1025m), where we paused for a quick rest. I bought a shitty apple lassi for Rs 150, which turned me off from buying anymore lassi’s on this trek.

 

We continued through Hille (1400m) and then to Tikhedunga (1540m). Tikhedunga was our original final stopping point for the day, but we were still full of energy and it was relatively early in the day, so we decided to continue to the next lodging area called Ulleri.

annapurna base camp trek

So far the trek has been simple, until we got to the ascent up to Ulleri. The ascent is a giant slope of large steps that seemed never-ending.

annapurna base camp trek

Our faces when we saw all those steps…

It took us almost two hours to get up! While climbing up the steps, we would occasionally look behind us to see Tikhedunga in the distance.

annapurna base camp trek

Still, we kept it slow and steady. Finally, we made it to Ulleri (1960m) at 3:50pm. It wasn’t quite the top of Ulleri but it was close enough. We stayed at Superview Lodge for Rs 300. Normally it is Rs 800 during the busy season.

Day 2: 9am Ulleri to Ghorepani

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

Our view from our lodge the next morning.

Be bold, go cold. I saw trekkers gearing up this morning like they were about to hike through Antarctica. Hamish and I were in shorts and t-shirts again. Him and I actually looked under-prepared compared to everyone else who looked ridiculously over-prepared. Don’t these people realize they are gonna sweat their asses off within ten minutes of climbing? Now their layers are gonna get wet from all the sweat.

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

Anyway, the second day proved to be much easier than the first. Our trek to Ghorepani led us through forests of oak and rhododendron, and also neat little waterfalls.

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

We barely got a view of the Himalayan peaks as we walked to Banthanti (2,250m). It was here when I began to feen for dal bhat. So we stopped for lunch and to restock on water.

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

I had two water bottles on me. Hamish had water purification tablets on him that he used but I was reluctant to do so at first. I never used anything like them before and I didn’t want to take any risks getting sick. So at many points when I ran out of water, I would pay Rs 70 rupees for a refill of purified water of up to a liter. It’s rare to find plastic water bottles here, to dissuade guests from polluting the mountain, which is a great idea.

We continued towards the last point before Ghorepani, which was Nangethanti (2,460m).

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

Along our trek I carried Buddhist prayer flags in my bag. I thought they would be neat to take photos with as the elements that the colors represent, symbolizes the elements that we will deal with on our trek to ABC. Blue represents sky and space, white represents air and wind, red represents fire, green represents water (yes, weird, I know), and yellow represents the earth (also weird). If it were me, I would swap the colors around, but hey it’s Nepal!

Anyhow, we made it to Nanghethanti but barely had a moment of rest.

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

Our slow and steady pace kept us in prime condition to walk with minimal breaks. We were never out of breath.

Our last hike through more forests finally led us to our destination for the day, Ghorepani (2,840m) at 2:35pm.

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

IMG_2795.JPG

And to our most luxurious lodge of the whole trek!

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

With a view from our room…

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

and an even better view right outside!

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

The food they served at the lodge was also mighty tasty!

annapurna base camp nepal trekking himalayas

Today was a lot easier than yesterday, but Day 3 would be a big one. So we went to bed quite early.

Day 3: 5am Poon Hill; 10:10am Ghorepani to Tadapani

Today was an optional day for most trekkers at this point. You could either hike up to Poon Hill, one of the most famous viewpoints in the Himalayan Region and then go back down to Nayapul. Or you could skip Poon Hill and continue onto Tadapani, which is the path towards ABC. Or if you’re like us, you could do both; hike up to Poon Hill, come back down, and continue onto Tadapani all in one day. We are here, so we may as well see Poon Hill too! It proved to be easier than it sounded.

We departed early at 5am in the darkness of the early morning cold. Yes, it was finally cold enough where I wore my down jacket and thermals. We left most of our belongings in our lodge and just brought up the essentials, including my now empty bag to throw my down jacket in because I knew I would eventually get hot. The sun will rise at about 6:30am and it takes about 45 minutes to hike up to Poon Hill. Knowing we were at a slow pace, we left early to give us plenty of time.

It was a smooth set of steps that led us to a gate where we paid Rs 50 each to enter the direct path up to the viewpoint. It took us about 50 minutes to reach the top and once we did, we sat in the cold and waited for Mister Sun to show himself. As we did, lines of trekkers came up to join us. It went from peacefully quiet to annoyingly chatty within minutes. There was a tower just behind us we could climb. We went up there and waited. I took out my iPhone and found a place to record a time-lapse of what we saw.

The sun came out slower than I had ever witnessed. But still, it was mesmerizing.

poon hill

poon hill nepal annapurna

Their was a crowd of people there to share the experience.

I threw my down jacket in my bag and climbed down from the tower to explore the surroundings.

poon hill annapurna base camp nepal

Me and Hamish at Poon Hill (3,210m).

While the crowd was busy taking selfies, Hamish and I took this opportunity to escape and head back down to Ghorepani to continue our trek. Poon Hill was a nice appetizer to the main course we would get later.

annapurna base camp trek

We went back to our hotel and had enough time to take a quick nap before our late breakfast. We backtracked through the Ghorepani village heading east towards Tadapani. We were led to another set of steep steps that led is to a mountain ridge where we had views of snow-capped mountains in every direction. This was one of my favorite legs of the whole trek so far!

poon hill annapurna base camp nepal

poon hill annapurna base camp nepal

We go through pine and more rhododendron forests until we reach Deurali (2,960m) and descend into Banthanti.

poon hill annapurna base camp nepal

poon hill annapurna base camp nepal

The final haul of the day into Tadapani was nothing spectacular. As a matter of fact, it was the most slippery part of the trek thus far. Being the utmost of careful, I still managed to slip and fall right on my butt.

IMG_5193.JPG

I used some of the nearby snow that began to appear in the grass to wipe off the mud and to clean my hands. We continued on, but never fell again.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Then we made it. We clocked into Tadapani (2,610m) at 2:50pm.

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

We settled into a relatively newer lodge because that’s what we were drawn to. It was only Day 3 and we still had so much left to explore until we reached Annapurna Base Camp.

Still seemed like a far way off but so far, I was enjoying the journey.


To My Fellow Eager Adventurists:

*I began this trek on 8 February 2017, during the winter and I will say that the weather was absolutely perfect most of the way. It rained a bit one day and a snowstorm hit during the evening one day, but it was no cause for delay. I’ll write more about those events for the later days of the hike. Also, you do not need a guide at all for this trek. No matter what anyone says, don’t pay for one! This trek basically holds your hand the whole way up and down. If you are solo then it is easy to meet people along the way to join. I highly advise against trekking alone but then again I met a few trekkers along the way who preferred to be by themselves. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to message or comment me. I will always reply as quick as possible.*

Happy Adventuring!

Advertisements

Author: Adventure Born

I'm Daniel. A cereal lovin', traveling machine from Michigan on a solo journey around the world, documenting and sharing my unexpected tales from abroad. My aim is to inspire people like YOU to discover your very own adventures. The world is truly too big not to explore it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s