9 Rough Paths on the “outskirts” of Annapurna

Ignacio Luque
Ignacio Luque

The Chamomile of the world. A bubble bath with some Sinatra in the background. A day with no problems at all. This is Nepal. The Himalayas are not just an ordinary mountain range, they are your perfect nature fix. If you follow these orders, you will be able to hike along the Himalayas with a view of its peaks. Make sure you look up while you are walking through these mountains, as it would be a sin to look down.

Nepal es un país de pasos

Machapuchare

Nepal is a country of steps. When you’re in the San Marco Plaza, it feels nice to just sit down, have a coffee and enjoy the views, but there aren’t any mountains waiting for you in Venice. Since 1950, the Himalayas have been an irresistible destination for mountaineers who are not content with child-play routes and are looking to reach the highest of summits.

The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek is one of the most important treks in Nepal. It’s one of the less difficult ones, however it’s not recommended for those without any trekking experience.

From Pokhara it will take you 6 days to arrive at the Base Camp. Nattule suggest you a 9 day round trip in these mythical Himalayan mountains.Guide of the Paths to Annapurna

1.  Picturesque Landruk

The first step is to get the authorizations needed to enter the Annapurna Conservation Area. You also need to get the TIMS card, which is issued by the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, located in the Pokhara tourist office.

Once you have those, you can head to the starting point of the route in Phedi. In this tiny village, you can take the set of stairs heading up to the village of Dhampus, located at 1,750 m. Every once and a while, you should stop to take breaks and enjoy the astonishing views.

Vistas hacia el Himalaya desde Dhampus

Himalaya from Dhampus

The peaks of the surrounding mountains may seem quite close, but that is all an illusion. The climb takes around two hours, and a good physical condition is required because of the steep slopes. Pay attention at the way locals do it. Imitating them will help you conquer these slopes full of steps.

The trail continues towards Pothana (1,990 m), a frequented hikers area. The hike up is quite strenuous, but the views are definitely worth the effort. From Pothana, you can see the peaks of Southern Annapurna, Machapuchare, Hiunchuli and Lamjung Himal.

Pothana

Pothana

Leaving Pothana, you face a very steep descent heading to Bichok, crossing through a rhododendron forest, which is Nepal’s national flower. After that, there are hundreds of rocky steps you’ll need to take to reach Tolka.

Most hikers finish their day there, but if you make an extra effort, you can reach Landruk, a picturesque village nestled in the hillside from which you can see the valley of Modi.

These slate streets of this village, inhabited by descendants of the Mongolian ethnic group Gurung, are worth a stroll through.

2. Slowly to Jhinu Danda Thermals

In these few days you’re not going to learn Nepalese, but you better remember this one keyword: bistari. This means slowly. In order to reach your destination, while still maintaining a desire to continue, you better start walking at the pace of an old man.

From this beautiful valley, take the path going North, leading to the Chhomrong Sanctuary. The other path leads you to Ghandruk, located on the opposite side of the Modi river.

The path is surrounded by hills with rice fields. If the day is sunny, you will be able to appreciate the impact of the light on the landscape.

Arrozales en Landruk

Rice fields in the Modi Valley

You will go through small forests while ascending towards the bed of the Modi river. The paths runs parallel to the river. You will have to cross over the river a few times using the floating wooden walkways to get to Jhinu Danda.

Once you’re at Jhinu you can visit one of the Tea Houses, and enjoy the views that look among the crops, or you can go bathe in what locals call Tatopani, meaning hot water. These are thermal baths which are free and ideal after a long hike.

3. The Rhododendron Forest: Sinuwa

After relaxing in the Jhinu Danda waters, you have another wonderful day ahead to Chhomrong. The uphill path will take you about an hour and a half. Chhomrong is an important village, with many wooden lodgings, restaurants with views of Annapurna and Machapuchare, and an office where you should go to validate your authorization.

The path goes across the village. You have to climb about 3,000 steps to cross over the river where you’ll find the way up to Sinuwa. This area, surrounded by Rhododendron forests, is quite busy.

In addition to hikers, you will meet carriers, donkeys, buffaloes and even kids on their way to school.

Chhomrong

Chhomrong

4Among Bamboo Forests

From Sinuwa, keep in mind that lodging and comfort start becoming very scarce. In these remote areas, the norm is to sleep on top of mats on the floor, or improvise and make little campsites.

The route in this area is easy and pleasant. You’ll slowly go up through bamboo forests until you reach the villages of Kuldihar, Bamboo and finally the little village of Dobhan.

A half hour away from Dobhan, next to an amazing waterfall there is the little sanctuary house of Panchhi Baraha. Keep your eyes open, because it’s possible you might run into a grey langur monkey of Nepal. And if you are lucky, you may even see a red panda, an animal that lives in the Conservation Area of the Annapurna.

Panda Rojo de Nepal

Nepal Red Panda

Afterwards, you’ll have to climb a few difficult stretches before you arrive at the Himalayan Hotel. In this area, groves turn into glades, increasing the sense of immensity which creates the beautiful environment.

5. Machapuchare: The Sacred Mountain

Leaving behind the Himalayan Hotel, the upward paths begin to get drier. This indicates that you are on your way to the Machapuchare Base Camp, located at 3,100 m. On this part of the route there is a high risk of avalanches, so make sure to get information about the conditions of the path beforehand.

An hour away from the hotel, you’ll arrive at Hinku Cave, a reference point for mountain hikers, and occasionally, for langur monkeys too. From there, following the route going through Deurali, you might find little sanctuaries along the way.

Three hours later, you will be arriving at the camp. Machapuchare is a sacred mountain for the Nepalese, since it is Shiva’s dwelling. Climbing this mountain has been forbidden since the fifties. The view from that point is just overwhelming. You can see the Hiunchuli, South Annapurna, Annapurna I, Annapurna III, Gandharva Chuli and the Gangapurna mountains.

In these hidden areas, there are records that show the presence of the Snow Leopard, one of the most endangered animals of the planet, as well as its main prey, the Bharal or the Himalayan blue sheep.

Vistas del Machapuchare desde Annapurna

Machapuchare from Annapurna

Before reaching the last stretch heading up to the Annapurna Base Camp, it would be best to spend the night here to let your body acclimate to the altitude and avoid altitude sickness. If the weather is clear, I recommend that you go outside in the middle of the night and enjoy the starry night.

6. The Cliff to Annapurna’s Doors

You are just an hour and a half away from your destination. Therefore, it would be worth getting up early to enjoy the sunrise here, where the mountain peaks turn orange.

Here, the valley gets narrower forming a sheer cliff to cross the doors of the Annapurna Sanctuary, made up of Mount Hiunchuli on the left side and Machapuchare on the right. After passing the yellow “Welcome” sign to Annapurna Base Camp (4,130 meters), the spectacular view of some of the highest mountains in the world will be right in front of you.

Afterwards, we will need to begin our route back towards Dovan. If there are clear skies, a wonderful view will accompany you on your way back down.

Annapurna Base Camp

Annapurna Base Camp (4,130 m) Himalaya, Nepal

 7. A Well Deserved Dinner

After spending a couple days at more than 4,000 m, surrounded by snowy summits, glaciers and immensity, where the rough conditions and lack of oxygen are imposed, you will have a better understanding of this highly contrasted area. The open areas will turn into shady groves of hanging plants, moss and orchids, on your way back to Modi Valley. There is no room here for any other color than green.

After testing your knees out on the slopes and walking over rocks on your way up to Annapurna, you will almost miss those stone steps. The way down will seem easy. This day will take you to Chhomrong, 2,170 m, after passing the villages of Bamboo and Sinuwa again.

In Chhomrong you can stop and have a tea or beer, and observe the school boys with their British derived uniforms, going to school. Hot water showers are available here too. There are also restaurants here with a variety of food and comfortable rooms to get some rest in.

Arboledas Valle del Modi

Near Modi Valley

8. Ghurjung Terraces

From Chhomrong, instead of taking the path towards Landruk, you can take the path going right, which goes into the valley of the river Kyumun. A little further ahead, it takes you down many crossing forests until finally arriving at Ghurjung, a little village settled on terraces by the river. After an easy, ascending path you will arrive at your destination.

Terrazas de Ghurjung

Terraces Ghurjung

Ghandruk is a beautiful village hanging on the mountainside, with some monasteries, and an old gurung culture museum that you may visit during the afternoon.

Macizo del Annapurna desde Ghandruk

Annapurna from Ghandruk

9. Back to the City of the Big Lake: Pokhara

A downhill path will take you to the Modi river, however, on this last part, you will go on the opposite side of the route you completed the first few days. Here would be good time to reflect on what you have experienced these past days, while you are heading back.

Just a bridge over the river and a few steps will take you to Naya Pul. Here you can rest. From here, a vehicle takes you to Pokhara, the starting and finishing point of this adventure.

Lago Fewa, Pokhara

Fewa Lake, Pokhara

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An Oriental proverb says that when a wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger. In the Western World, we know that the finger is more important than the moon. Nepal’s mountains will not be as beautiful without your eyes, and not as hard without your legs. No summit can compare to a Sherpa.

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