Recently, I was reading Annapurna by Reinhold Messner. In the book, Messner revisits the climbing history of Mt Annapurna, the first eight thousander to be climbed in the world, even before Mt Everest was climbed. It is an adventure book every trekker must read.
The book took me straight to the magnificent mountains of Nepal.
Read this for instance. “At first sight, we saw nothing other than hazy cloud covering; yet when we looked more closely, we were able to make out real ice walls at a great distance rising up to the mighty heights above the clouds… To us, the shimmering wall seemed gigantic, immaculately compact, with no cracks or gullies. Seven-thousanders lined up alongside the eight-thousanders. We were overawed by the grandeur of this spectacle.”
If anyone wants to see the real mountains of the world, Nepal is the place to be. After all, Nepal houses 8 of the 14 eight thousanders in the world!
So I thought today, I’ll write to you about our Nepal treks, because a high altitude trekker’s life is incomplete without a trek in Nepal!
I’m writing to you particularly in August, because now is perhaps when you’re planning a trek in autumn (mid-September to mid-October). These are treks you cannot overlook in autumn.
Why autumn? Because this is when the monsoon clouds disappear and leave the skies squeaky clean. Autumn in Nepal is all about lovely blue skies, with the tallest mountains of the world etched into the horizon. They stretch as far as your eyes can see. It beats the summer trekking season any day for the mountain views!
Let’s start with the trek everyone must do but no one has heard of — The Khopra Ridge Trek
We brought out the Khopra Ridge Trek last year. It’s a terrific trek where you see the real mountains of Nepal.
You see 23 big mountains of Nepal on this trek — including the Annapurna Massif, the fish tail Machapuchare and the 7th highest summit in the world Dhaulagiri. If I had written to you earlier in the year, I couldn’t have made this claim very confidently. You need extremely clear weather to see all these mountains, which is rare in summer months. But I’m writing to you about doing this trek in October, when the skies are clearest and you see mountains upfront and looming. It’s a stupendous view!
Added to the mountain views, this is perhaps the least known trek in Nepal. It is often overshadowed by the Annapurna Base Camp Trek, which is right beside it. So while it has the lovely tea houses that Nepal treks boast of, it doesn’t have the infamous crowds of Nepal.
The cherry on top is the climb to Khayar Lake, a glacial lake that sits in a basin in the Annapurna Sanctuary. It remains hidden until you actually reach the lake. Trekkers love the adventurous climb to the lake. It is thrilling, adrenalin pumping and takes you to almost 16,000 feet. Trekkers who have done Roopkund will immediately see the similarity.
Please thank me later for suggesting this trek!
Next, where the whole world treks (and with good reason), Annapurna Base Camp!
I’ll be honest here. Annapurna Base Camp is not an unknown trek. It is crowded, it has a paved staircase throughout, it is almost too well-established.
Having said that, I’m yet to see a person who has been left unimpressed by this trek. Standing before the regal Annapurna South Face can make even the hardest mountaineer weak in the knees. And this is what happens to most trekkers.
You see almost 10,000 feet of the sheer south face of Annapurna right there at your fingertips, close enough for you to get on it and climb it yourself! It’s a jaw-dropping sight!
To top it off, our trekkers reach the base camp at the break of dawn. The golden light show on the Annapurna massif is a sight to behold! I’d be surprised if you didn’t shed a tear.
What makes it even more compelling is that this trail is home to so many historic mountaineering feats. Annapurna was, after all, the first eight thousander to be scaled as early as 1950. The foreboding mountain has taken hundreds of lives, it has allowed a few feats, and it still remains one of the toughest peaks to scale. It isn’t half as commercialised as Mt Everest. So it retains the raw grandeur that comes with the big mountains of Nepal!
I would strongly recommend reading some books on Mt Annapurna before going there. You feel like you’re trekking alongside them from camp to camp. Who knows! You may even bump into some famous mountaineers. I know our Trek Leaders have!
Lastly, the Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri
Nearly 80% of the world does the Everest Base Camp trek on the standard route — via Tengboche. Which is good. Because they have left the best route to a few others, which is via Gokyo Ri.
This trail forks at Namche Bazaar and stems away from the main trail. You bid goodbye to most of the crowd at this junction. We’ve seen that only the more serious trekkers take this route. It climbs above 17,000 ft three times in the 17 days!
I’ll admit that it is slightly more difficult, and only two days longer, but heck! You’re trekking in Nepal — you have got to see the best of it!
The views of Cho Oyu, a bigger face of Mt Everest, the views of Makalu and Lhotse, the five alpine lakes (which you don’t see on the regular route), the thrilling climb to Chola Pass, climbing to the summit of Gokyo Ri and Kalapatthar – come on, it beats the standard route hollow!
After experiencing these, you earn your biggest reward, the visit to the Everest Base Camp. (Between you and me, I feel the other rewards are much greater than the last one, but that’s a debate for another day).
And that’s why at Indiahikes we are so much in love with the Gokyo Ri route.
Why you should trek in Nepal
All these Nepal treks have a life of their own in autumn.
If you ask me why the world treks in Nepal, it’s for just one main attraction — the biggest mountains of the world! The best time to see these big mountains is in autumn, when the skies are clear but winter hasn’t set in yet.
If you have any questions about trekking in Nepal, drop in a comment below.
We have several Nepal experts on the Indiahikes team, who can answer them for you!