I know Nepal is just across our border, yet the big mountains of Nepal make trekking there so different from trekking in India.
In India, we see big mountains on a handful of treks. In Nepal, we see big mountains on all treks! It is almost too casual. Look to your right and there is a 7,000 meter summit. Look to your left there is a eight thousander, usually one of the world’s highest.
The whole world treks in Nepal just for this — to be able to walk next to big mountains.
Which is why I am somewhat mystified by the Khopra Ridge trek being so untrodden even in Nepal trekking circles. Especially considering it is right in the heart of the Annapurna Sanctuary.
We have been running the Annapurna Base Camp trek for three years now. Our trekkers love it. Our Trek Leaders love it. Our staff members love it. Our summer batches are almost booked through right now.
Yet, in this frenzy of Annapurna Base Camp trek, I can’t help but talk about the Khopra Ridge. Especially when I am going to ask you to do this trek rather than the famous ABC (short for Annapurna Base Camp trek).
Why people love the Annapurna Base Camp Trek
For most of our trekkers, ABC is about seeing the Annapurna massif up close. When you stand at Annapurna Base Camp, the summit of Annapurna towers over you. You see the entire wall of the south face. You can literally trace the routes great mountaineers have taken up the mountain. You see the south summit, the other subsidiary summits of Annapurna. It is a heady moment. Looking back at the tail fin shaped Machapuchare is another wonder. It rises like a phoenix reaching up to the sky, its unique shape dominating the setting. Trekkers can’t get enough of this.
The entire pilgrimage of the ABC trek is just for this moment. This is precisely what bothers me. When an entire trek is so focused on one view, the rest of the trek loses attention.
What I don’t like about the ABC trek
No one mentions this, but you need to do endless stair climbing on the ABC trek. They go on for hours and days. There are days when the entire day involves either climbing or descending stairs. 5 days out of the 8 days of the trek involve these heavy duty stair climbs. For me, this is no fun at all. I’m constantly watching my step. I can neither speed up nor slow down. Even for someone like me, at the end of it my knees feel like a wreck.
Secondly, the trail is a bit too crowded. Not as much as the Everest Base Camp trek but it always feels like the world has descended on the trail. There’s never a quiet moment. I know trekkers feel all this is worth the Annapurna view, but it is not. Too many people on the trek is a gaggle of voices.
Which brings me to my third point where I’ll directly jump to why I want you to do the Khopra Ridge Trek.
On the ABC trail you do spot big mountains, but they are at a distance. Only when you reach the Himalaya camp (which is a day before the Machapuchare Base Camp) do you start feeling close to the big mountains. On the ABC trail you do not see too many other big mountains. Huinchuli, Machapuchare and the Annapurna massif dominate the scene.
Why do the Khopra Ridge Trek instead
The biggest reason to do the Khopra Ridge trek is, of course, the other mountain views. When you stand on top of the Khopra ridge, you don’t see one or two big mountains. You see 23 of them! That’s a lot for any trek, even in Nepal.
Being in the Annapurna sanctuary you also see the Annapurna massif along with the big south face of Annapurna. You see Himchuli and Machapuchare too. By the way, the angles of Machapuchare are great on this trail. All those fancy photographs of Machapuchare are usually from this trek.
And then come the other summits. There’s Mt Dhaulagiri right there (the 7th highest in the world), Mt Manaslu (8th highest). Mt Nilgiri and Gangaparbat. All of them close.
The beauty of the Khopra Ridge is the fact that it is a ridge. You walk two whole days on this ridge. So for two days there are big mountains on either side of you. I am not very sure if you understand the significance of this. There are very few treks in this world where you walk for two whole days on a ridge. Leave alone a trek with such astounding mountain views. When you combine these two, the Khopra Ridge becomes a very special trek.
Then there is the sense of adventure. On the Khopra Ridge trek, you climb to Khayer lake, which is at around 15,700 feet. Getting to an alpine lake at this altitude is thrilling and adventurous. Unfortunately, I don’t feel this on the ABC trek.
For me, the Khopra Ridge feels like a proper trek. With great forests, super views, a jaw dropping ridge walk, very little crowd, tons of adventure. I get all my ABC views plus more big mountains to see.
Did I mention the famous Kali Gandaki gorge that you see? If you thought the Grand Canyon was deep then you have to see this gorge. It’s almost bottomless.
That’s what trekking in Nepal is all about. The big mountains, the stunning variety, unique culture, lovely tea houses, and friendly people. That’s why the Khopra Ridge has captured my imagination.
I am a bit biased towards the Khopra Ridge right now. Give it a thought when you are planning for the ABC. It may surprise you with its variety, adventure and the big mountain views. To me the Khopra Ridge has everything that the ABC trek has got, plus a lot more.