Most people put in weeks of training before they attempt any high altitude trekking. This is more or less universally accepted to be a good idea before attempting a hike. We decided we knew better and thought we would attempt a trip hiking Annapurna base camp, base camp of the tenth highest mountain in the world, even though we both got out of breath walking up a flight of stairs!
We booked our flight on the 10th February 2017 due to depart two weeks later on the 25th February. Prior to this we hadn’t even considered going to Nepal, but we did have two weeks off work and to avoid the risk of having nothing to do, we we’re prepared to go anywhere. Skyscanner threw up some cheap flights from Manchester to Kathmandu for £306 (about $381) each, thanks Qatar! We were booked before we knew it!
The Training… (or lack of)
As soon as we had booked our flights, we went off to the pub and got a pizza to celebrate. Some would argue this isn’t the best of starts, however we thought we should do some carb loading to give our bodies suitable energy for the hike to Annapurna Base Camp. We were too busy with work the next week to do any meaningful training. I walked to work twice, but it’s not like it’s a particularly taxing journey. The next weekend we thought we had better pull our fingers out and attempt an actual mountain, so we decided to summit Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England at 978 Meters (3208 Feet). We arrived at the car park at the bottom in the very early hours, it was cold, it was dark and it was lashing it down with rain. Without going into too much detail we made it. It was hard. Very hard. It took us twice as long as everybody else, and my back seemed to have spasms when we got back to out Bed & Breakfast, but we made it! That’s all that matters!
Arriving In Nepal and Getting the Permits
We landed in Kathmandu at 7 pm, went straight to our hotel Heritage Home in Thamel, the tourist area in Kathmandu. Good breakfast and hot showers were promised, and both were delivered. 700 Rupees got us a taxi straight from the airport to our hotel, using the prepaid taxi booth in Kathmandu airport. We then spent the next day getting out permits.
Hiking Annapurna Base Camp requires a ACAP Permit and a TIMS Card. In the event of a natural disaster, the TIMS card allows the authorities to know who is on the mountain at any given time. The ACAP Permit goes towards the cost of maintaining the trails and supporting the Annapurna region. The Tourist Office in Kathmandu provides the ACAP Permit. It’s about a 40 walk from Thamel, however it was so hot and dusty that we opted for a taxi. ACAP permit was 2000 Rupees and TIMS card was also 2000 Rupees, but at least it’s going to a good cause.
This is a list of things we took with us, and also what we should have taken with us for our Annapurna Base Camp Trek. The key is packing light, whether of not you’re taking a porter with you.
- Good walking boots – Already bedded in – Essential
- I had these Ecco Boots and they were amazing – would recommend
- Sleeping bag liner – Essential if not taking sleeping bag
- You can never be too sure how clean the provided bedding is in teahouses
- Walking Poles – Highly recommended
- Can pick them up in Kathmandu for about 300 NPR each – These saved my knees!
- Water Filtration device – Highly recommended
- We used the life straw. You can buy boiled water along the route but it’s not always fully sterlisied, and is quite expensive. You can buy bottled water but discarded bottles are a massive environmental problem so it’s not recommended.
- Sleeping bags – Optional
- Some may disagree but we didn’t feel the weight was worth it. All teahouses provide bedding and as long as you’ve got a sleeping bag liner you’ll be fine
- Water Bottle – Essential
- Speaks for it self
- Map – Essential
- Buy the Blue Himlalyan Map House maps before you set off as they are the most accurate – Shouldn’t cost more than 300 NPR, or you can get them in your home country.
- Swimming Gear – Optional
- Just in case you fancy a bathe in Jinhu Hot Spirngs – although most people just wear their underwear
Starting the Hike
We flew from Kathmandu to Pokhara in the morning. Note here that it turns out it’s cheaper to book your flights in Nepal, rather than online before you travel. We then jumped in a taxi and Hotel Middle Path. Where we left our bags (most hotels let you do this for free). Next stop was hailing a Taxi. Not hard it turns out, within about 5 seconds of leaving the hotel we were surrounded by a gaggle of Taxi Drivers. The highest entry point into the Annapurna Reigion is Khande, and seeing as we were now more than a little daunted by the task in hand, we opted to use this as our starting point.
Day 1 – Khande to Deurali
Despite the fact we were already at 1700 meters, the trek starts to climb pretty much straight away. It felt relentless, every step of the 300 meters hurt. It hurt our legs, it hurt our lungs and it dawned on us why people actually do training in preparation when they know they will be hiking Annapurna Base camp. Never mind. We just thought we would take it slowly and steadily. After about 2 hours of steep ascent we hit the first milestone of Australian Camp. It’s quite a big settlement, of tea houses and as it’s name suggests some big tents, whose purpose we never really discovered. We kept on going, as the map suggested the terrain started to go down hill, and another hour later we arrived at the next village of Pothana where we got the first views of Fishtail Mountain.
With day light fading, but feeling surprisingly energetic we continued hiking towards the village of Deurali – en route to Annapurna Base Camp. An hour later we finally made the hill crest and settled into our cosy tea houses for the night.
Day 2 – Deurali to New Bridge
We awoke to a hazy morning the next morning, and to our surprise our bodies felt fine, no aches or pains from the day before! After a hearty breakfast we checked the map and decided we would easily be able to make the village of Sinuwa. We would live to regret this decision. The Map showed a gentle descent into Landruk and then down to New Bridge, before what looked like a relatively short hop up to Chomrong.
We left early and began a somewhat relentless descent down to the track on the way to Landruk. Rather dishearteningly we were now at the same altitude that we had began the trek from. Our knees were both wrecked, and a more than a little shaky. The reality that our trip hiking Annapurna Base Camp might be harder than we anticipated had just hit home!
After a little rest we began along a rather nice dirt road. This road had great views of the valley, and with the sun out, was easy going.
Two hours later we got to what we assumed was Landruk. Happy with our progress we stopped in for lunch. After a leisurely stop for a few cups of Masala tea and a Tibetan bread or two we continued. It was only about an hour later when we thought we might be close to New Bridge that we realised we hadn’t been in Landruk for lunch. We had in fact only been on the outskirts of Tolka. This meant we were massively behind our schedule. We pushed on to New Bridge, which, despite looking close on the map, seemed to take forever to get to!
It was here that the lack of training meant we could well and truly feel the ache in our legs. We decided to stay in New Bridge (not even half way to our target in Sinuwa). While the village itself was friendly enough, the accommodation was not a patch on our previous night. In hindsight we wish we had carried on in Jinhu for the night.
Day 3 – New Bridge to Jinhu
We woke this morning feeling the effects of the previous two days trekking. Our legs ached and we were apprehensive about the day ahead. Reports were that we had an unrelenting 4 hours slog up to Chomrong. We set off early, but our pace was slow now, and three painful hours later we were only at Jinhu-Dhanda. All was not doom and gloom however as Jinhu turned out to be home to a lovely natural hot spring. We decided we’d earned a rest and wondered down the 20 minute track to bathe in the natural hot waters!
We spent much longer than planned at the springs. Talking to other travellers and soaking our tired legs was a glorious way to spend an afternoon. We had planned to trek to Chomrong that day, however we spent so long relaxing in the naturally hot water that it was about 5pm by the time we had walked the 40 minutes back up to Jinhu.
Where it started to go wrong
We woke the next early and raring to go. After a Tibetan bread, a few boiled eggs and a cup of Nepal tea we set off again. This was a gruelling climb, our legs ached and we began cursing how little actual training we had done. About an hour into this brutal ascent I felt something bad. I must have kicked a tree root, or a stone, but my ankle just started to throb uncontrollably. We had just passed a little restaurant, so we returned and i got a cold bottle of water on my ankle. We sat and rested for the best part of an hour. Things started to feel a bit better so I doggedly decided to keep going. It was immediately that my ankle wasn’t going to let this happen. The journey up to Chomrong that should have taken an hour, took about 3, with me hobbling along!
At Chomrong we faced a decision. This was our last point to turn back, if we kept on going then we were committed. We umed and ered about this for a long time. It was a hard decision, however it was obvious that with our tight schedule, we would not be able to make Annapurna Base Camp with my ankle as it was (now massively swollen as well).
It was about 4:30 by the time we decided we would not be making Annapurna Base Camp, and to make us feel today had not been a complete waste we decided to