They say: Try something new every day/week/month.
Let’s just say, “all the time”.
Dennis and I decided to trek Annapurna Basecamp (ABC) in April 2017 starting from Pokhara, a city located about 7 hours by bus west of Kathmandu.
In this article you can check out the route we took to reach Annapurna Basecamp and read all details about it.
Day 1: Nayapul – Ghandruk
We only spent 1 day in Pokhara before we started our mountain adventure. We had backpacks of about 11 – 13kg each and with a lot of motivation we started walking to stop #1: Ghandruk (2210m).
Before we started our journey we equipped ourselves with water and chocolates, which we later shared with local kids. Keep in mind that chocolates and other essentials get more expensive the higher you climb and remember that Ghandruk is the last stop where you can find sealed bottled water. The route started off flat and we wondered how we were gonna gain altitude if we kept walking straight. There was absolutely no reason to worry about that: We finally reached a long path going up – up – up the stairs!
At some point there was a sign saying we had climbed over 4000 stairs, and there were at least 2000 more to come. But the donkeys we met on that day told us to imagine that we were feather-light unicorns so we were utterly encouraged. The scenery was very beautiful and we were super motivated to reach Ghandruk soon to enjoy a hot meal.
Of course a storm had to come up before we could reach Ghandruk, anything else would have been boring anyway, right?
We were fighting the weather gods strong winds and smashing rain drops like super heros or maybe more like wet pitiful dogs until we found a lodge.
Be prepared for afternoon rains in the mountains and keep your rain covers in a reachable place in your backpacks.
Once we had made it to the lodge we enjoyed a hot shower, tasty garlic soup, dahl bath (traditional nepali lunch) and chicken fried rice. Garlic soup is famous for preventing altitude sickness, but do not exaggerate your consumption as it could play tricks on your stomach.
It gets very cold at night, but after that walk we enjoyed the views and slept like babies!
Day 2: Ghandruk – Chommrong
We had made it to Ghandruk without major complications, but the next day turned out to become a real nightmare.
When you compare the altitude of Ghandruk to Chommrong there is only a few hundred meters difference. “It’s gonna be our rest day”, I said, before we started climbing more stairs. We reached the top of a mountain after a while and were shocked how wrong we had been.
Basically we were facing a valley. On the other side of the valley behind the next mountain, at about the same altitude as were right now, was Chommrong. That meant that we had to go all the way down, cross the river and then climb all the way up on the other side!
Going down was steep but doable and in the end we had a chocolate picnic and some bananas from the locals. After I was almost run over by a herd of confused donkeys we finally crossed the hanging bridge, which was nicely decorated with Nepali style colourful prayer flags (we needed some prayers anyway).
You will be able to buy water from the lodge across the bridge, but make sure you use the Iodine tablets and Vitamin C (for the taste) from that point on as you cannot be sure about the source and cleanliness of the water.
The final climb to Chommrong was tough as hell. Imagine the most steep hill you have ever climbed and make it double. Add a heavy bag, endless stairs and an aggressive sun attack. Every 30 min we met people who told us its just another 2,5 hours to reach the top. Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. This time even the donkeys only made fun of us!
We were thinking about the times (well, the day before) when we laughing about all the “weak” people who let poor sherpas carry their bags. Now we died because we had not hired one.
Luckily we reached Chommrong just before the daily late afternoon rain. We were so exhausted that we picked the first lodge we saw and there he was: Mr. Hyperactive running around with his big smile greeting us with “Helloooooo Excuse meeeeee We have rooooom we have fooooood Come iiiiiiiin!”
We had amazing chicken curry with rice, but there was no hot water in the lodge and it was freezing in the room. We were discouraged and exhausted. Eventually we decided to give up and go back and enjoy Pokhara.
It was over.
Day 3: Chommrong – Bamboo
New day, new motivation!
The sunrise view on the mountains the next morning was simply stunning. It did not take us long to decide that we wanted to continue!
While we had breakfast enjoying the amazing view our lodge owner organized Kumar Gurung for us, a 47 year old local Sherpa who was ready to carry both our bags. Obviously we could not let him do that, so we distributed the weight amongst us. With less weight on our backs and full of energy we made it to Bamboo, our next stop. It was not even half as exhausting to go there without the heavy bags, and I believe that the mountains were not as steep as before.
Bamboo lies in a deep, shady valley full of bamboo trees next to a river, which are factors that contribute to a cold climate. We arrived, ate and spent the next 12 hours in bed, trying not to freeze to death. At least there was a hot shower available.
Day 4: Bamboo – Deurali
We equipped ourselves with authentic bamboo walking sticks from the forest and headed to the next mini town called Doban where we stopped for a cup of tea. On the way from Bamboo to Deurali we had amazing views, different kinds of landscape and a variety of paths. This was the day we first came across snow. We crossed the river by jumping over the rocks and stopped by a huge rock shelter to take beautiful pictures of the Machhapuchhre Mountain. Since Machhapuchhre is a sacred mountain area for the locals you are not allowed to bring or consume any meat products beyond Bamboo. This mountains peak remains unclimbed until today due to religious reasons.
After about 5 hours we reached Deurali, which was my favourite spot so far. We gathered with other travellers in the lodge and the locals made a fire for us under the table. This procedure escalated slightly and we ended up sitting in a smoke-filled room that smelled like burned petrol. At least we were finally able to sit in a warm common room!
It started to snow heavily and we played card games, had dinner and nice conversations with other people.
When I went outside I was overwhelmed by the view. The sky was blue and no clouds were in sight – although it was still snowing! – and the moon had come out, shining on the massive mountain in front of me. I enjoyed the moment in this unique atmosphere to max.
Day 5: Deurali – Annapurna Base Camp (ABC, 4130m)
7am: We are ready to go!
We would reach our main destination, ABC in a few hours – finally, after all these days!
Due to the heavy snow ahead of us we rented snow protective leg gaiters and some people even decided to rent spikes for the shoes to prevent slipping.
It took bit less than 2 hours to reach MBC (Machhapuchhre Base Camp, 3700m). This was the most dangerous part of the trek since avalanches are frequently coming down especially to the left of the valley. Our guide Gurung took us through a slippery but rather safe path on the right side.
Machhapuchhre Mountain is at least as impressive as Annapurna I. Its commonly known as Fishtail due to its shape.
We continued walking after a short break in MBC. Around 11am it started to snow. That was unexpected, since other travellers had told us it would usually start around 3pm.
I felt slightly dizzy on that final ascent. It must have been the altitude I was not used to. It was snowing quite heavily, but it was mostly windless so the climb was doable.
After 2 hours we saw it: Annapurna Basecamp! Finally!
We chose our lodge and gathered with adventurers who had arrived before and with us – and waited for our friends we had made in Deurali. The storm got worse and not everyone arrived.
We spent the rest of the day drinking our standard ginger tea with lemon (Dennis will probably never touch one ever again after this trip), had dinner and played card games. We went to sleep hoping to leave next day…but it turned out differently!
This is not the end of the story – You can read how we were stuck in ABC for several days and got evacuated in there end HERE!