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Annapurna Circle with Kuluar

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Author: Mikhail Ivanov, 35, Lviv, Ukraine
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I have had plans to visit Nepal for a long time. Initially I was going to go to Island Peak or Meru Peak (I still can't decide), but at some point I realized that I would start my acquaintance with this wonderful Nepal from the trek, but with the 5,000-mile passes. And, of course, I signed up for the Everest trek.

Why Kuluar? There wasn’t even much of a choice, I had heard about Kuluar for a long time, heard a lot about the head of Taras and his ascents. Our club’s triathlon coaches prepared the guys for Makalu this year. So I immediately found the necessary track on the Kuluar’s website and signed up. Subsequently I re-signed up for the trek around Annapurna, which I never regretted once. The dates fit more, and I decided to leave Everest for later. By the way, apparently, it was also influenced by the fact that in spring I started reading Maurice Herzog’s book “Annapurna” and I wanted to see that region of the Himalayas with my own eyes.

In general, the choice was made, the tickets were bought. It remained to deal with the physical preparation before the track and solve all the issues with equipment/clothing. With physical preparation I solved the question at once – I’m doing triathlon, have 7-8 training sessions a week, and therefore had to rest a week before trekking and interrupt training sessions.

My equipment/clothing was a lot of questions to myself, because I decided to go without porter, that is, to carry all my stuff by myself (and then it turns out not a hike, and walk). Of the few rucksacks I’ve chosen Osprey Atmos, shoved a light down sleeping bag, down jacket, down jacket and other stuff and got a backpack 11 kg + small backpack for hand luggage.

Arriving in Kathmandu

Перелет в Непал

So, the acquaintance with our small group started in Boryspil, where I met a participant from Kiev, Katya. After the flight to Sharjah, there in the business lounge we met another participant from Moscow, Alevtina. After a long stopover we finally got to Kathmandu, and after meeting at the airport and looking for a cab we finally drove through the city to our hotel. Kathmandu is roughly how I imagined it to be – noise, dust, chaos, but that’s the beauty of a major Asian city. After a short rest in Kathmandu we had time to walk around the city and get acquainted with the local cuisine.

And in the evening with our guide we went to buy some clothes and gear for everyone who needed them. By the way, there are quite decent stores in Kathmandu and you can buy quite good down jackets, storm clothes, poles and stuff like that.

Oh yes, a couple of words about the guides. Our teamleader was Maksim Gorpenyuk, an amazing man and mountain hiker who knows Nepal very well. I learned a ton of information from him about traveling in Asia, Latin America, Nepal, Indonesia, as well as about local religions, yoga and many other things. Max is just a mega professional traveler and guide. The second porter guide was a Nepali and his name was Tara.

Transfer to Besihar – Chamje

The next day we had a long transfer by jeep. First we had to go to Besisar, have lunch there and then transfer to a new jeep that would take us up the mountain road. The day is hard, because we have to jolt the car on different roads, but it is very interesting, because again we are trying different foods and see how people live in Nepal. And meanwhile, the driver introduced us to the local music and songs, which play for 30-40 minutes by themselves =)

Shortly before the end point where we were going to spend the night, we got a flat tire, but it turned out that we were 500 meters from the lodge where we were supposed to spend the night.

Переезд в Бесисахар

The trek to Dharapani.

The very first day under backpacking! I finally waited until we were already walking the track instead of driving cars. We turned off the road onto the trail to the other side and hiked. My backpack had become 10 kilos by that time, I had left extra things in Kathmandu, and it was quite comfortable to walk. The first day we walked completely in the alpine zone and though we could not see big mountains yet, the trek was very picturesque. There were rivers, waterfalls and different kinds of vegetation all the time.

trekking to Cham

Вход в округ Мананг

The next day is no less interesting. The terrain changes every day, the weather every day is nice. We are glad, that we pass on the average 15 km a day, and it, as for me, is very normal and not hard. Little by little we are gaining higher altitude, which is very good for acclimatization, because we still have to go to Tilicho lake and then to Torong La pass (5416 meters).

Also every day in different lodges we get acquainted with the local cuisine. On this day in the evening I tasted the food that all the locals eat, and especially the porters after a hard day. It’s dalbat. A dish that is hard to eat all the way through, considering? That the rice and lentils are replenished to you all the time.

Традиционное блюдо непальцев - далбат

Going to Upper Pisang

Дорога в Верхний Писанг

Today is a very, very busy day! The views on the way are breathtaking.

Ворота Рая

For example, the Gate of Paradise (Swargadwari). It is absolutely lying cliffs, about 4000 meters high and it looks very interesting.

And the best part is at the end of the day. From the upper Pisang you can see Annapurna II.

Вида на массив Аннапурны

We hiked around Pisang some more in the evening and saw the local temple.

Храм высокогорных непальцев

Manang

All day I was in anticipation of going to Manang. First of all, it is a large village with many restaurants and a coffee shop. Second, we have two days planned there! That is, a day and one day is out to acclimatize to Lake Gangapurna and nearby on the hill up to 3900 meters. Here you can still see the Annapurna massif and also the summit of Gangapurna.

At rest in Manang, we went to a local eatery where the Porters were resting at the same time and ordered a tongbu there. A local drink made from fermented grains. I can’t say that it doesn’t look like alcohol, but it had more of a sedative effect on me and I slept like a corpse afterwards.

Manang – Tilicho Base Camp

The farther we went, the more interesting. On this day we walked to Tilicho Base Camp at an altitude of 4200 meters. Most people go straight from Manag to Yakharka and then to the pass. But our program is extended and we go to Tilicho lake. The radial exit to the lake gives us an opportunity to acclimatize before the Torong La Pass.

On the way I remembered we didn’t have a single group photo and asked Tara to take a picture of our beautiful group on the background of Tilicho Peak.

Групповая фото

We go further to the base camp. On the way there are already yaks and mountain goats. We come to the camp when the sky is already getting dark and it’s getting a little colder, after all we are at the altitude of 4200.

Молитвенный барабан

Lake Tilicho

After spending the night at Tilicho base camp we go to the lake. The goal is not only to see the lake, but also to climb up to 5000 meters for acclimatization. I don’t have a backpack today and I’m happy about it.

Радиалка к озеру Тиличо

All the way we have a view of the wall of Tilicho and Kangsar. The road is not difficult, there are a lot of hills, snow to a minimum. Some clients are taken to a certain point by horses. Our narrow trail was blocked by a horse and we could not move it =)

Конь на тропе

Then the trail goes out onto a snowy plateau and it is not far to the lake, which is guarded by Buddha and Shiva.

Again at the lake our whole small group was not gathered for photos, as Murad and I run fast, and it was a little chilly to wait for everyone on top. So we had some tea and went downstairs. There was no need to go anywhere on this day, we could just go down to the camp and have a rest.

Passage Tilicho – Yakarka

After two overnight stays at Tilicho base camp and out on the lake, we had to return to the main trek and gradually walk towards Torong La. We needed to go to Yakkharka, from where we would then stomp on to High Camp and the pass.

Переход в Якхарку

The views on the road are as gorgeous as always. Now Tilicho Peak is behind us, and Annapurna is on the right. The hike is easy again, but there is a big drop in elevation to the river at one point and then back up again.

The village of Yakkharka itself is at an altitude of about 4050 meters, but, despite this, there are hot showers in the lodges (here already paid) and power outlets. By the way, on this track, outlets and showers were free everywhere up to Manang. I’ve used the Poverbank once before the pass, and the rest of the time I just charged the devices in the lodges.

You can also try yak dishes at Jakkharka: yak steak, yak burger.

ThorongLa High Camp.

From Yakkharka it is necessary to climb to the camp before Thorong La, altitude 4900 meters. We reached Thorong Phedi (4500 meters) very quickly. Our guide ran up to the top in time to occupy rooms at the upper camp. There is exactly one lodge for about 30 rooms and they can not be booked in advance, there is no communication. We had no hurry, so we stayed at the coffee house (yes, at 4500 they make excellent coffee and buns!). It was only 11:00 and we had as much fun as we could. After lunch we went up to the upper camp.

Переход в верхний лагерь Торонг Ла

TorongLa Pass.

We woke up at 4am in the morning and gathered already in the kitchen with our things to have breakfast and go out. For breakfast, you can only have boiled eggs and chapati at the lodge. After breakfast we went out to the pass. There were a lot of people. We started in the dark and walked with lanterns for now, but it soon became clearer and it was more fun to walk. The ascent itself is not difficult, it’s not steep, it’s very smooth ascent. But the effect of the altitude and to run as below, does not work, we had to watch our breath and go slowly. There was not much snow, closer to the pass there was more, but the path was well treaded and it was comfortable to walk.

Finally the long hike came to an end and we could see the flags, which meant we were there.

Перевал Торонг Ла

There is even a tea house on the pass, where we ordered tea and drank it quickly, as it was not very warm to sit there. And then we had a long and tedious descent downhill.

Muktinath descent

The descent from the pass is easy and not steep, but it was quite long. It felt like we had walked the whole day, probably because of the early ascent. But sooner or later the descent ends and we walk on a flat trail to Muktinath. An ancient sacred city to which crowds of pilgrims from India travel.

At Muktinath we had lunch, or breakfast, and sat down to wait for our female part of the group with the guide. Next we loaded into a jeep and drove to Jomson.

Муктинатх

Jomson and Pokhara

Перелет Джомсом-Покхара

From Jomson we had to fly to Pokhara by plane (either fly 20 minutes or drive 6 hours, the choice is obvious)

In Pokhara we had a free program until the evening. You can visit a spa or a barbershop after the trek. We could rent a boat and go for a ride on the lake. In Pokhara, by the way, there are a lot of souvenirs, tea, cashmere. Most of the souvenirs I bought here.

Then from Pokhara we moved back to Kathmandu.

Kathmandu and excursions on the day of departure.

On the departure day we took off for Ukraine at 20:05, which meant that we had the whole day for walks and excursions. Maxim arranged for us to tour the local temple complexes of Swayambhubunath, Pashupatinath and Bodnath. Most memorable, of course, was Swayambunath with its monkeys (be sure to take bananas with you).

Conclusions and acknowledgements:

On the trek.

I can’t say the trek is difficult. I walked with a backpack and I can say it wasn’t hard. But for those who are first time in Nepal trekking and first time going to the altitude I would recommend to take a porter. The crossings are not long (15 km on the average) and there is a lot of rest (lunch takes a lot of time, and that’s good), no rush. Everyone walked at his own pace and everyone was comfortable, sometimes they stretched and then got back together.

On equipment.

Backpack I took 65 liters, in principle, you could take 50 liters.

The down jacket could have been replaced by a down vest, but I still took a down jacket, because it’s comfort in the evening.

The down sleeping bag I took for -11, of course, is for the track too much, but for me the gain in weight plus comfort, you could find a down sleeping bag lighter and at a different temperature, but that’s what I took.

The boots, I took lightweight trekking Gar. You can go most of the track in sneakers, but in some places there are hummocks and rocks, and I would advise to take boots + sandals.

Trekking poles are a must or you can buy them in Kathmandu.

About the food.

I immediately realized that the 15-20 dollars a day (as written in the description of the track) will not be enough, so I have laid more =). In the lodges you can order both local food and European food (there is a pizza, pasta). If you can not live a minute without meat, it will be difficult)) You can take snacks with you, I took candy bars for lunch and skipped lunch itself. You can buy yacon cheese and salami in Manang. The cheese is very good, I took it with me for snacks the next few days.

Thanks to all the team who walked around these days. Murad, Alya, Katya thank you for the company, it was megacool and fun with you. Really we had a great team and I was glad to meet everyone. Special thanks to Max, with such a guide you can go to Nepal on the tracks, at least to the mountaineering, at least to any summit.

It was not the last trip to Nepal, there will be more.  See you soon!

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