A journey to the base of Annapurna, a mountain revered by climbers

5 December, 2020 | Reccy Guide

The Himalayas have drawn travelers from around the world for over two centuries, and it’s not hard to understand why. This epic mountain range boasts a collection of the tallest mountains on the planet, including Annapurna. Although it’s the 10th tallest in the world, the summit still reaches a height of 8,000 meters. This impressive mountain is also the subject of the popular Annapurna Circuit trek, which is a longer, more strenuous option preferred by some advanced trekkers. 

If you’re not ready to tackle Annapurna Circuit, don’t worry. The Annapurna Base Camp Trek offers a similar experience and many of the same dramatic mountain vistas. Both paths lead from subtropical zones to alpine landscapes, and both guarantee views of the star summit itself. 

Annapurna is located in Nepal, northwest of the capital city of Kathmandu. The gateway to this region of the Himalayas is a city by the name of Pokhara. Travelers have the option to fly into either city, although it is more common to reach Kathmandu first through the international airport, before taking another mode of transportation to reach Pokhara.

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This lake-side city is filled with cultural and historical treasures; it used to serve as a trading route between China and India. Eventually it transformed into the springboard for Himalayan excursions departing from Nepal. After you’ve had a day to explore and enjoy Pokhara, the Annapurna Base Camp trekking commences. 

View during the trek to Annapurna base camp

If you choose to hire a guide and book with a touring company, your lodging and meals will be taken care of along the way. However, this is one of the few available treks through the Himalayas that does not require a guide. Most treks are longer and involve higher altitude gains per day and thus require assistance. If you do choose to tackle this adventure solo or accompanied by friends or family, you will be guided by signs the entire way. Additionally, you’ll undoubtedly meet fellow trekkers on your same route, as this is one of the most famous walks in the world. 

Campsite on the trek route

Each day you’ll walk roughly six hours, with plenty of stops for breaks and meals within the villages you pass. One such village near the start of your trek is Ghandruk. This village of Gurung people contains a museum that many trekkers take time to visit. Each village also offers teahouses as lodging—rather than carry a backpack weighed down by camping gear, you can rest in these cozy rooms and dine on homemade meals. Tourism through the area helps support the local families who run and oversee each teahouse. 

Past Ghandruk, you’ll be treated with your first real views of Annapurna’s south face as you navigate lush forests of bamboo and rhododendrons. Other mountains in the range will reveal themselves as well, including Machapuchre and Ganggapurna. You’ll have the option to rest in natural hot springs before climbing the 2500 stone steps that lead to the village of Chomrong. 

Your ascent in altitude begins in earnest after Chomrong. If you are not traveling with a guide, it is wise to go very slowly and allow half-days to acclimatize yourself with the altitude. As you near Annapurna base camp, you’ll travel alongside an icy blue, glacial river. Forests will open up to reveal sprawling meadows. In the distance, waterfalls cascade down the cliffs of the mountains. 

Upon reaching Annapurna Base Camp, you will be heavily rewarded with unobstructed views of the summit. The base camp lies at the foot of the mountain within the Annapurna sanctuary. This protected spot, which lies at 4,100 meters in altitude, provides the perfect vantage point to drink in Annapurna’s sheer south face. Surrounding this summit will be slightly shorter, yet highly impressive, peaks, including Machapuchre, Annapurna I, and Huinchili. 

View from near the Annapurna base camp

Once you have spent all the time you have available at ABC, it will be time to turn back. The return path is the same but much simpler, as it is almost entirely a descent. Stop by the hot springs once more to relax your aching muscles. Climb down the 2,500 stone steps. Some folks choose to trek all the way back to their starting point outside of Pokhara, while others hire the nearest Jeep to whisk them back to the city. Regardless of your method of return, you’ll surely carry delightful memories of your Himalayan Trek for a lifetime.

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