Located in Himalayan range of Asia, Nepal is home to many tallest mountains of the world. Out of fourteen peaks above 8,000 meters in the world, eight of them lies in Nepal. From the tallest of all, Mount Everest at an elevation of 8,848 meters to many peaks over 5,000 meters, there is a long list of mountains in Nepal. With all these beautiful and alluring mountains, Nepal is a perfect destination for adventure. Trekking and mountaineering in Nepal attracts one of the largest numbers of international tourist.
Annapurna is a very popular mountain region for trekking in Nepal. You can also say Annapurna dominates the trekking destination of Nepal. Annapurna is a great massif in Himalayas located in north-central Nepal and includes one peak over 8,000 meters, thirteen peaks over 7,000 meters and sixteen more peaks over 6,000 meters. Because of all these glorious peaks, Annapurna Circuit trekking witnesses a large number of trekkers.
About Annapurna Circuit
Annapurna Circuit is one of the highly praised treks in the world, and it witnesses a large number of trekkers than any other trekking destination in Nepal. The trek offers high Himalayan settlement by various ethnic groups, panoramic view of snowcapped mountain and forested hills and splendid view of Himalaya mountains. You will also get pass religious site of Muktinath which is a popular pilgrimage site of Nepal.
Thorong La pass is the highest point of the whole Annapurna Circuit which is located at an elevation of 5,416 meters. The pass of Thorong La lies at even highest point than Everest Base Camp (5,364 meters). Being the highest point of trek, the path involves difficulty and challenges, so the circuit is usually walked in a counterclockwise direction. From Thorong La pass, you will see the beautiful view of Annapurna massif (I-IV), Machhapuchhre, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri, Gangapurna, Pisang, Tilicho and Paungda Danda.
Annapurna region was a restricted region to foreign trekkers till the year 1977. The area was opened after disputes between CIA backed Khampa guerrillas operating from the area into Tibet and local people, and Nepal army got settled. At first, when the trek was started, the starting point was market town of Dhumre situated in Kathmandu-Pokhara highway and ended in Pokhara, and the whole trek took about 23 days to complete. Then in early 1980s road construction began from both Dhumre to north and from Pokhara to west and then up the valley of Kali Gandaki.
Now the road has reached up to Chamje Marsyangdi river valley and Muktinath on Kali Gandaki side. However, the road has changed the face of whole area, appearance, and atmosphere of villages. Many trekkers complained about the deteriorating beauty of trek because of road, but still, Annapurna Circuit remains number one trek of Nepal. Road has facilitated an easy way of transportation and increased the popularity of mountain biking as well.
With the high popularity of Annapurna Circuit trek, there are new areas near Annapurna which has been opened to trekkers in past years, like Upper Mustang, Manaslu, Tsum Valley, and Naar-Pho Valley.
Altitude Sickness, Acclimatization and Medical Help
Altitude sickness is an important issue while trekking in high altitude region. Annapurna Circuit is obviously high altitude trek which takes you even at highest point than Everest Base Camp trek, so altitude sickness is real, and you need to be cautious.
Altitude sickness gets extreme with the height you scale each day, and it possesses a danger to you. Your fitness level, age, and health are also some of the factors which makes you more vulnerable to altitude sickness. However, over 3,000 meters every trekker are at risk. You should avoid ascending more than 300-400 meters in day once you have reached 3,000 meters.
High altitude and rapid exposure to low level of oxygen at high elevation cause altitude sickness. Some symptoms of altitude sickness area headache, dizziness, vomiting, sleeplessness, and tiredness. If you do not take any actions, then it will get extreme with nausea, shortness of breath, disorientation, and lethargy. Before it gets any serious, you should immediately descend and get medical help.
For medical help, you can get a clinic operated by Himalayan Rescue Association in Manang, and there is one small satellite medical clinic at Thorong Phedi as well.
Acclimatization is one of the best options to choose for altitude sickness. It helps your body adapt in new temperature, altitude, climate, and environment, so you are not too vulnerable in a new environment. You can acclimatize in any place if you are feeling any kind of uneasiness. However, trekkers usually acclimatize in Manang for a day. Manang lies at an elevation of 3,519 meters and is a beautiful village with Annapurna III (7,555 meters) and Ganagapurna (7,455 meters) in its background. It is also the last stop for buying items like food, medicine, and gears in case you are out of it or have forgotten.
Another place where trekkers usually acclimatize is at Thorong Phedi or Thorong High Camp; Thorong Phedi is at 4,540 meters, and Thorong High Camp is at 4,880 meters. As trekkers move to Thorong La Pass the next day, the highest point of Annapurna Circuit, they acclimatize at high camp. Staying in either of this place for acclimatizing decreases elevation gain and loss for that day’s hike as well as decreases the distance.
Best time for Annapurna Circuit
Annapurna Circuit trek is best and safe during March-April and October-November. Trekking in another season of the year possesses danger because of risk of frostbite, avalanches, and possibility of storm or whiteout. Trekkers lose their way in the condition of whiteout or storm. It is the reason why trekkers from Thorong High Camp or Thorong Pedi start their trek few hours before sunrise to avoid heavy wind that follows after sunrise.
Annapurna Circuit Trek
Annapurna Circuit trek starts from beautiful town of Besi Sahar, which is also the headquarter of Lamjung or from Syange. From either point of the trek, it takes about four to five days to reach Manang. If you want to save your energy for the challenges and difficulty ahead, then you can take a jeep to Manang. However, as the roads are rough, most of the trekkers prefer to walk while enjoying the view of mountains.
Further, from Manang, the trek becomes little rough and steeper. Walking towards Yak Kharak, you will see a beautiful view of Chulu West peak, which is the 33rd designated trekking peaks of Nepal. Moving on from Yak Kharka, you will cross Jarsang River and cross a large suspension bridge over it. Then the trek takes you up the steep-walled canyon where lies a great danger of avalanche during heavy snowfall. After all the effort you made, you will finally arrive at Thorong Phedi. Now you can set a camp and stay overnight below the starry sky.
Thorong High Camp is another place where you can stay, which is a few hours ahead of Thorong Phedi; the choice is yours to make. The next stop will be the highest point of this circuit trek so, stay for at least a day or two for acclimatization. Usually, in the day getting pass the pass, trekkers’ gets up early around 4 am because the wind gets blustery in day. Also, looking back to the way you came, you will get an excellent view of Annapurna III, and Annapurna so do not miss the chance.
Getting to Thorong La Pass requires energy as well as your patience because many times you feel like you are almost there and reaching there it turns out to be just other hill or ridge. So, be patient and keep your pace as finally reaching the pass will make every effort worthy.
After conquering the highest point of trek, you will descend towards one of the popular pilgrimage sites of Nepal, Muktinath. It is a sacred sited for Hindu as well Buddhist religion. There is a belief that the holy water of Muktinath can cure any sickness which is why it is visited by thousands of peoples in a year. Leaving behind the holy site of Muktinath, you will find several regular buses and jeep to Jomsom from where you can take a flight to Pokhara and Kathmandu.
Or, you can continue the trek from Muktinath and move towards Kali Gandaki valley. Trekking to Kali Gandaki you will get pass many traditional villages which are influenced by Tibetan culture and depicts typical Tibetan architecture. View of Mount Nilgiri and Mount Dhaulagiri are also awesome on the way. Then walking along the beautiful apple orchards, you will arrive at Marpha and to Jomsom. From Jomsom, you will head towards Pokhara and to Kathmandu.