In April 2017, I was part of the Indiahikes recce team to the revered Annapurna Base Camp trail. We spent five days exploring the trail, establishing a relationship with the local teams there, deciding which would be the best route to take.
When I came back to office, my colleagues told me that my demeanor had changed, that my face was beaming with happiness. Apparently I had a skip in my step! They were not wrong. I was enormously happy after the trek and I couldn’t hide it.
The Annapurna Base Camp trek is easily one of the best treks I have done – that’s saying a lot, because I started my trekking journey with Kashmir Great Lakes – one of the prettiest treks in India. But there were a few things about the Annapurna Base Camp trek that stood out and fascinated me! Here they are.
A trek seeped in mountaineering history
Mt Annapurna has been an important milestone in the history of mountaineering. It was the first ever 8,000 m peak to be climbed. Moreover, it is known to be the toughest climb in mountaineering history. With the highest fatality rate, it is tougher than even climbing the Everest.
After I came back from the trek, I read accounts of two climbing expeditions to Annapurna. The first one was Annapurna by Maurice Herzog, who did the maiden climb to Annapurna. The other was Annapurna South Face by Chris Bonington, who ascended from the South face, the more difficult side.
While this trek does not follow the same route as Herzog and his team, it brought me really close to Mt Annapurna. I basked in the glory of the entire mountain range. I could picture mountaineers with their bivouacs and imagine them carving their way with ice axes and ropes.
In fact, I realized later that this route retraces the one taken by Bonington and his team. Learning about this history has made me see the trek in a new light.
Tea house style trekking
Trekking in Nepal is very different from trekking in India. Nepal introduced me to tea house style of trekking. No tents, no campsites, just tea houses with comfortable homestays and good food.
This is a trek where you meet like-minded people across your dining table and share trekking stories. I had the opportunity to meet and interact with trekkers from different countries.
At Deurali, I met trekkers from Bangladesh and India who completed their bachelors in NIT, Trichy.
Like me, they had just finished two days worth of trekking in one day. We had a good time discussing why anyone would make a trail as crazy as this over dinner.
For those of you who have not trekked in Nepal before, this will be a unique experience.
Trail ideal for independent trekkers and solo women trekkers
The trail is very well-marked. There are well-defined rest points too. So there is really no need for a guide or a trekking organization to take you on the trek. Chaitan, my fellow explorer and Senior Trek Leader at Indiahikes and I did the trek with just a guide book in hand.
As a trek leader, he was much faster than I was and would be ahead of me. We trekked at our own pace, meeting at every village on the way to check on each other before we move ahead. So I was trekking by myself for most part of the route.
I crossed several trekkers and porters on the way each day. We would greet each other with a ‘namaste’ and chat occasionally. At many places, I found myself in a dense forest with no one ahead or behind me. However I did not feel unsafe at any place along the trail.
One of my best memories from the trek is walking through dense evergreen forests. These make up four days of the trek. Trekking in forests so dense where sunlight can’t enter is an experience of its own.
I was trekking right at the start of the monsoon season. The rain often gave me a sensory overload – I was trekking high, inhaling petrichor, seeing fresh vivid green and hearing roaring rivers for three days straight.
Right from day one, you trek with the Annapurna range and Machapuchare. And if you’re lucky with a clear sky, you see these peaks in full view. Coming face to face with these beautiful peaks definitely adds to the adventure.
On one of the days, I woke up to vivid and surreal colours at sunrise. The tall peaks of Annapurna towered over terraced fields on one side and dense forests on the other.
Change in terrain
The trek takes you through evergreen forests into the alpine region. For me, this distinct change in terrain added a new flavor to the trek. The last two days, I was on rocky terrain climbing up a vast open valley towered by the big peaks. While crossing avalanche prone zones in thick fog, I wondered if we would see an avalanche coming. This definitely made the last part of the trek all the more adventurous.
An actual trekking experience
When I came back from the trek, Arjun Majumdar, our founder, told me that this trek was my first ‘real’ trek and I could understand why.
All the days on the trek are long and I covered considerable distance every day.
The terrain was challenging.
When I was documenting the trek, I remember writing down in my notes ‘today is a full leg workout’. It definitely made most of the other treks I had done seem a lot easier.
All of this made Annapurna Base Camp one of the top treks I have ever done.
I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a week-long trek. If you can, do this independently. It is an amazing experience. October and November is the next big season to do this trek. The views are clear and crisp after monsoon.