Trek report - Annapurna base camp trek - Dec 2017

#1 Oct 13th, 2018, 11:37
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#1
I have been procrastinating sharing the story of our trip to Annapurna base camp hike last December. Finally - to get away from the contentious thread that had me contemplating leaving the IM altogether, I decided to write this instead.

Note - I am writing it after a while. So, the times, distances and memories may be inaccurate in some minor way. Also, we are not very cost conscious travelers, so I will not go into prices and such.

I have had the thought of hiking in Nepal for a while. My wife is considerably more sensible is harder to convince. The only time we typically have scheduling flexibility is in late December, and she has had some doubts about the wisdom of freezing our butts in hiking in high elevation at that time of the year. We live at about 5000 ft and hike at least weekly in the cold and snowy terrain during winter but are also used to hot chocolate and warm bed.

Anyway, there was a thread on IM with very beautiful pictures of this trek - that I used to tempt my wife's interest. Although my destination was (and remains) the Everest base camp trek - I suggested the ABC trek as it is much shorter. And, with that - we were off to the races.

Day 0 - Salt Lake City - Delhi. On the 16th of Dec, we started from Salt Lake City and flew through Paris to Delhi. Got there around midnight - were really quickly done with the entry process and got to the Holiday Inn in Aerocity for a comfortable if short night.

Day 1 - Delhi - Kathmandu - Pokhara. After a decent rest and a good breakfast - we made the Delhi - Kathmandu flight and got to Kathmandu on time. Show up at the domestic airport - and are all checked in for Pokhara at about 1:30 PM. Then, we enter the 'boarding area', if one can call it that. It looked like the scene at an overfilled railway station: people sitting on the floor and barely room to walk. Turns out - there don't seem to be any flights taking off. A bit nervous - but the airline says minor delay. Even put us in a bus to take us the the aircraft - and we are thanking our luck. A bit too soon! Long story short, at 5:30 PM, they tell us that no flight today! In the meantime - prepaid hotel and trek support awaits us in Pokhara! Now - tired and frustrated, we decided to hire an airport taxi to take us to Pokhara. We get there at 1 AM - skipping dinner in the process. Not a good start!

Day 2 - Pokhara - Chomrang. The agent shows up with a jeep at 9:30 AM, and we take care of business, change money, buy a cocktail of antibiotics, etc. for the medicine chest and we are off around 11 AM to our trek. We have a porter in tow. Nice road initially gives way to one that reminded us what off-road driving is supposed to be. The jeep drops us off at Siwai, I think. We finally start trekking around 1 PM - tired, sleep deprived and jet lagged. But - once we get away from that dusty town - we start to feel better. Going doesn't seem too bad, and we get to Chomrang just after 4:30 PM. After shower and dinner, we sleep really well.


Day 3 - Chomrang - Himalaya. This was a tough day. The stairs, stairs and more stairs. Did not even mind them that much, and the elevation did not bother us much. The problem was the knee. In my irrational exuberance about the trip, I had not brought any of the knee support for my creaky knees. And, the left knee was really painful - and I was worrying whether I could do the trip. But, my stubbornness is good for something, and I persisted and nursed it along. The trek itself was very nice. Really loved the bamboo forest on the way. Was nice to get to Himalaya - and have a shower and rest the knee.

Day 4 - Himalaya - Machapuchare base camp (MBC). First thing first - I rigged up the most ridiculous of knee braces. I tied a spare lace over a handkerchief just below my knee to reduce the pressure on the ligaments. That - and the lack of downhill hiking - helped the knee a lot. Our original plan was to stay overnight in Deurali (around 3200m) as MBC is rather high (3750m). But, going with the flow and with some trepidation, we decided to go to MBC - like everyone else seemed to be doing. Anyway, now the trek really started to become beautiful - as the vistas started to open up and we started to get closer to Machapuchare (which is one of the most beautiful peaks) and other high peaks. Got to MBC by late lunch time. Very nice to sit around and see the beauty around us - mesmerizing! Cold too, but we were well equipped.

Day 5 - MBC - Annapurna base camp. Again, really beautiful trekking. No hurry - as the distance is short, and, to be honest, so was the breath! We can feel the elevation. Beautiful (cold) weather, clear and beautiful mountains, sun - what more could we ask for. Get to ABC, put our stuff in the room - eat something, and then have a magical afternoon walking around in this most beautiful spot that we had seen in our lives. Beyond description. Peaks above, clouds below! Slightly worried about AMS, etc. but nothing. No headache, etc. Sleep really well. Get up in the middle of the night - and the sky is beyond belief. The number of stars seems to have gone up by a large factor!
Day 6 - ABC to Bamboo. After watching the sunrise, and savoring our last moments there - we start the return trip with some sadness. The return journey is easier in some ways but the distances are longer; Was somewhat worried about how my knee will fare, but it held up fine - with the jerry rigged knee strap! Since we had time - decided to spend the night in beautiful Bamboo - instead of heading further.

Day 7 - Bamboo - Jhinu Danda. This was the day I was most worried about with my knee. But, it turned out to be a rather easy day. The distance wasn't that much. So, we got to Jhinu well in time. Got a decent hotel for once - and headed to the famous hot springs bath. Fabulous! Have a really good time, nice dinner. Do find that the hot spring bath had left our bodies quite itchy, but too late. Anyway, have a decent attached toilet and shower. So, life cannot be that bad.

Day 8 - Jhinu danda - Pokhara. Short 3.5 hour hike to Siwai - and then jeep back. And, we are back in Pokhara with one extra day. It is nice to have a comfortable hotel, shower, bed. Never did these rather basic things feel that great.

Day 9 - Pokhara. Nice relaxing day - with the International Mountain Museum being the highlight.

Day 10 - Pokhara - Kathmandu. After the experience of flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara, we paid 10% penalty to cancel the flight back (just did not want to spend all day at the airport), and take the most 'upscale bus'. The bus isn't that upscale and the journey is tiring, dusty and hot. Not sure if we made the right decision. Anyway, get to Kathmandu and head to Hyatt. Island of luxury. Had plans to see Kathmandu - but partly because of the bus ride and partly tired of the dust and noise - we just enjoy the luxurious steam bath, sauna etc. and good food.

I will try to add some pictures to the post to make it hopefully come alive. Have not figured out how to get them from the iPad into the post yet.

Overall - we had the time of our lives. Of course, it is a bit cold in December, but the sky is mostly clear, and the crowds are a bit thinner. We definitely love it enough to be heading back to Nepal for trekking to the Everest base camp in a couple of months. Hopefully body and weather will cooperate and we will top this experience.
Last edited by kmalik; Oct 13th, 2018 at 20:47..
#2 Oct 13th, 2018, 12:02
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#2
You did that trek at a fast pace. Luckily you did not have any altitude issues.
Domestic airport in Kathmandu is the pits. It does not have enough chairs or floor space for people to sit down. Poke weather causes many flight delays and the departure hall fills up fast. Toilets is unusable as the smell gags you. Pokhara airport is much nicer.
EBC in December this year? Thanks for sharing your experience and good to see that you are still around.
#3 Oct 13th, 2018, 12:04
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#3

Trek report - Annapurna base camp trek - Dec 2017

Hopefully the knee brace would be better this time.
Nice crisp description.
Waiting for the photos to experience the beauty that enthralled you.
Sar Pass Trek , Rohtang, Munnar, Badrinath Kedarnath, Vaishnodevi, Goa, VOF, Kedarkantha, Kuari Pass, Brahmatal Trek
#4 Oct 13th, 2018, 12:13
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#4
Govindpuri-

first of all, many thanks for the encouragement and advice for this trek. The pace was consistent with our normal hiking practice. The altitude is a different matter. There is some help from living at 5000 feet and often climbing to 10000 feet or higher. I am sure the air travel also helps a bit. But, I was still not comfortable skipping the Deurali stay, but thankfully it did not hurt us. Plan to go slower on EBC, as the altitudes are less forgiving.

Snotty -

Thanks! Will tackle that tomorrow, as it is approaching midnight here. If anyone has advice/link on how to add images from iPad, do send them along.
#5 Oct 13th, 2018, 12:24
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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#5
Lovely report, kmalik. So happy you are still here on the forum.
#6 Oct 13th, 2018, 22:02
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#6

Day 2 - Pokhara - Chomrang

Not a lot of pictures on this day - as we were concerned about the late start and were wondering if we'd make it all the way there. Also, this is also a test of my ability to load the pictures into this thread.

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As the picture shows - it is taken at New Bridge. Nice spot. And, the new bridge, once it is constructed, will shorten the way to Jhinu Danda from New Bridge. In the meantime - it is down to the bottom - cross the khola - and climb up to Jhinu.

Overall, the hiking from Siwai to Chomarang is fairly gentle.
#7 Oct 13th, 2018, 22:14
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#7

Day 3 - Chomrang to Himalaya

I and my wife appreciating the beauty we find ourselves in on the terrace of the tea house in Chomrang -
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A part of the Annapurna massif in the distance -

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A view of the interminable sequence of stairs on this trek. I will have more images later in this thread that illustrate this better. But even here - the trail you can see on the far mountain is all stairs! The hike from Chomrang to upper Siwai (if I have the name right - but definitely a different town) is deceptively steep. But, knees are not complaining yet - and we make a good time, faster than a lot of people.

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Some wildlife enjoying the beautiful bamboo forest that the trail takes you through.

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Near the Himalaya tea house -

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The Himalaya tea house at a distance.

It should be noted that this and the next set of tea houses (Deurali, MBC and ABC) just exist to serve the trekkers. There is no other population here. I think this goes a long way towards encouraging the tourists to actually visit throughout the year - helping the local economy as well.

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Last edited by kmalik; Oct 13th, 2018 at 23:17..
#8 Oct 14th, 2018, 02:57
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by kmalik View Post Govindpuri-

first of all, many thanks for the encouragement and advice for this trek. The pace was consistent with our normal hiking practice. The altitude is a different matter. There is some help from living at 5000 feet and often climbing to 10000 feet or higher. I am sure the air travel also helps a bit. But, I was still not comfortable skipping the Deurali stay, but thankfully it did not hurt us. Plan to go slower on EBC, as the altitudes are less forgiving.
Yes. Be careful with altitude on EBC. Keep some extra days in hand. You can always use them for day walks.

You have ticked of ABC but have hardly seen much of Nepal. Kathmandu is a culturally rich place and is worth atleast couple of days. Hopefully you can have a look around in your next visit.

We will be in Nepal next week for trek to Pikey Danda. Not very high but a new trek for us.
#9 Oct 14th, 2018, 06:09
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#9
Thank you, Govindpuri! You are right. We have just scratched the surface.

We have indeed planned a safe itinerary for EBC - and do have an extra day to account for delays. If things go according to plan - and we do not end up losing that extra day for trekking delays or flight cancellation - we should have an extra day in Kathmandu. As is typical - we are always trying to squeeze in the Nepal trekking alongside our time to visit the family in India. So, it's always a bit tight planning.

All the best for your trek to Pikey Danda! Hope you have an enjoyable time.
#10 Oct 14th, 2018, 06:22
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#10

Day 4 - Himalaya to MBC

The trek till Himalaya is a bit closed in. Beautiful setting but a bit narrow in terms of views. Now - we are moving into higher elevations - and things get a bit harder and more beautiful - what we came for.

I need to begin by talking about AMS, safe ascent profiles and how we, partly due to what we saw others doing, partly as I thought I might need an extra day going back due to my knee - skipped what should be a stop. The plan going in was to stay in Deurali - the right stop at about 3200m (starting from Himalaya at 2800m). But, we decided to proceed to MBC directly. We did not suffer any ill effects, but I would still advise hikers to plan night stops at Deurali-MBC-ABC.


Now we can see the high peaks.
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The picture below is Machpuchare. It is the most beautiful of peaks. There is an interesting history about the peak - and it is an unclimbed peak as it is off limits.

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The overall setting of Machpuchare with the glacier.

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#11 Oct 14th, 2018, 20:07
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#11
Great shots of Fishtail mountain!

I have read many reports of this trek, but yours is the first to make it sound easy.

#12 Oct 14th, 2018, 21:36
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Thank you! It is not a particularly difficult trek. Iíd put it at moderate, definitely not in the strenuous category. It has some up and down - so the elevation change figures are quite deceptive. Iíd ideally want a bit more time - but we are too often stuck with tight time windows. That said, we did not do it faster than others. Ideally - we should have spent a night in Deurali - either by going from Chomrang to Deurali (full day but quite doable - except if you have knee problems) or making an extra night stop there.
#13 Oct 15th, 2018, 02:30
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#13

Day 5 - MBC to Annapurna base camp

The hike from MBC to ABC is very special. While we could feel the lack of oxygen - and needed to walk slowly to keep the breathing under control - the hike itself is not very demanding. It is, however, one of the most enjoyable hikes. One realizes that it is a special place and there is beauty everywhere you look.

We, of course, have a lot of pictures to choose from - but I attach a selection below to give everyone an idea.

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Some of the pictures are of us looking back from ABC to Machpuchare. They are interesting illustration of how cloud/fog comes from below and completely overwhelm you. We spent hours outside the lodge - walking around the area. Mostly in a visible distance of the lodge. When the fog that you see in some of the pictures came in - we could not see more than 5-6 meters.

Also, I have not mentioned Maurice Herzog's book - Annapurna, First Conquest of an 8000-meter Peak. We were reading that on this trek. It is one of the most remarkable book - and I recommend it even if you might never see peak itself. Anyway, the stories from the French expedition brought a lot of color to how we looked at the peak.
#14 Oct 15th, 2018, 04:25
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#14
Nice photos!
I hope you realize EBC is nothing like ABC. December cold in EBC will be very unforgiving - make sure you carry a scarf to protect your nose (lack of this ruined part of my trip!)
If you plan to cross Cho La pass over to the Gokyo valley, use the services of a guide - the area is less frequented compared to main EBC route, more so in December.
#15 Oct 15th, 2018, 04:45
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Thank you! Will do. [We have a polar hood made of Polertec 300, the warmest grade, that covers all of the neck and head - and has an additional flap that covers the nose as well, when needed. Fleece is not wind proof, but our 900 fill down parkas have a hood - when needed. For lighter need / ascending - we also have merino neck gaiters that can cover the nose as well. So, our gear is up to it. The rest depends on our bodies holding up and any weather/serious snow events we hope not to run into.]

We had sufficient winter gear even at ABC, did not need all of it. Not doing Cho La as we dontí really have the time for it. Donít want to rush it. Given our professional commitments - will have to defer it until retirement
Last edited by kmalik; Oct 15th, 2018 at 05:54..

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