The Annapurna Sanctuary Trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is one of the more popular treks in Nepal. The classic ABC route typically begins in Naya Pul. It traverses a variety of terrain, from lowland villages, terraced rice fields, rugged valleys, and ends at the Annapurna amphitheatre; the base camp for climbers attempting to summit Annapurna I (8091m/ 26,545ft), the world’s 10th highest and deadliest mountain in the world.
Day 01: The Trek Begins
We set off in a taxi to Naya Pul (1070m / 3,510ft), got our permits stamped at the first check-post and crossed the bridge towards Ghandruk (1940m / 6,365ft), a Gurung village which would be our first overnight stop.
Unknown to us, the first two hours follows a rutted gravel road with 4 x 4’s zipping by, and we questioned why we didn’t start further up. At last, reaching Syauli Bazar, the trail gradually changed from trudging to a stepped footpath through typical villages, the beginning of the relentless slate stone steps that connects the rural communities.
Day 02: Ghandruk to Chhomrong
Our second day was gruelling. From Ghandruk, the stepped path gradually descends 385 meters through a forest to the Kimrong Khola valley floor. Then back up, 585 meters on the other side.After the strenuous up and down, at the end of the day, Chhomrong (2140m /7,020ft) was a meagre 200-meter higher from where we had started. “Namaste!” This sign ‘dearly welcomes’ trekkers to Chhomrong, the gateway to the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek.
Day 03: Chhomrong to Himalaya
Leaving Chhomrong, we headed down again, 1,977 steps (yes, Gordon counted them) to the river where we crossed a suspension bridge before powering 2,000 steps upward. The trail was scenic along with distractions, such as these yaks blocking our way and this little darling playing peek-a-boo. We arrived in Himalaya (2920m / 9,580ft) with stiff muscles, ready to rest and recharge in the comfort of the lodge.
Our accommodation turned out to be depressingly basic.“Damn, this is like a prison cell!” Gordon exclaimed as we settled into the dreary basement room. Two wooden cots and a dangling light bulb furnished the tiny stone wall space.
There is no heat beyond Chhomrong as a result of a complete wood burning ban in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), part of a green initiative to prevent deforestation and protect Nepal’s natural environment.
On the Langtang trek, we had carried sleeping bags but hardly used them. All the teahouses were equipped with warm bedding and small wood stoves. To lighten our load on the ABC hike, we left the sleeping bags behind — a wee misjudgement!
Shivering, we curled up in our cot, with the comforting knowledge that we were minimising our environmental impact.
Still, it was a cold and damp night.
Day 04: Himalaya to Machapuchere Base Camp
Come morning, we couldn’t wait to get moving on to Machapuchere Base Camp (MBC) (3700 m / 12,139 ft).
It was a sunny day, and it didn’t take long to warm up as it was steadily uphill hiking. Approaching MBC, the Annapurna Range came into view, and we passed dramatic rock formations.We reached MBC by late afternoon, and within an hour of our arrival, the weather turned nasty. With no source of heat, we spent the rest of the day huddled under thick blankets, sipping hot chocolate and playing card games, while a freezing rain and wintry sleet pounded the glass windows. We retired to bed soon after dark with our down jackets, long underwear, and wool hats on. You guessed it; another miserable, cold and damp night.
Day 05: MBC to ABC
The distance from MBC to ABC is a 3 km gentle uphill walk. The intent was to leave before sunrise, but we woke up to a slick skating rink. Our microspikes would have been handy. We waited for the sun to soften the ice before venturing prudently on the slippy path.
Soon, surrounded by the breathtaking scenery we were in our happy place; the marvellous mountains, and quickly forgot about the previous frigid evenings. Within a few hours, we easily reached the immense and natural backdrop of Annapurna Base Camp (4130m / 13,550ft).
“ABC, easy as
123, oh simple as
Do, re, mi, ABC, 123″
~ Jackson 5
We could have basked in the glow of our accomplishment, but we were behind schedule and needed to get going. With dark clouds rolling in, we moved at a fast pace, descending with the aim to reach the tea houses at Himalaya.
What you can’t see in this picture, is the raging water that is flowing under the melting ice and rock debris. We had visions of it collapsing, dragging us down into the river below. It held, and we continued down.But we couldn’t avoid the torrential downpour. Chilled to the bone, we took refuge at the nearest lodge in Deurali (3230m / 10,597ft), taking the last available shared room.
It was to be another cold and damp evening, and we survived the gloominess by socialising with fellow trekkers over cups of hot tea.
Day 06: The Journey Down
Due to the previous day’s weather, Deurali to Chomrong was a long haul.With warm sunshine, we retraced our steps down the valley, and other than the arduous staircase out of Bamboo, and those 1,977 steps up to Chhomrong it was a good day.
When we arrived at the guest house, we freshened up with a long overdue hot shower — what a simple pleasure!
Day 07: Chhomrong to Potana
From Chhomrong, we took a different route back bypassing Ghandruk to end in Phedi.
The trek gradually descends to the Chhomrong Khola, and you have to follow more stone steps to reach Jhinu, a small village famous for its hot spring.
Crossing the river at New Bridge, we elected to cross the old bridge (below) as it seemed more worn and weathered.Later, we stopped for a cup of tea in Landruk.
Don’t let this sign fool you, this is no shortcut. It should read ‘VERY STEEP’ Way to Deurali’. The path was a painful 400-meter climb, the last one thank goodness on tired legs to the lodge in Pothana.
Day 08: The Home Stretch
The last few hours meanders through terraced slopes, and rural farms to reach Phedi, where we celebrated with a cold beer, before returning to Pokhara for some rest and recovery time.The ABC, D (demanding and dazzling) trek is a unique opportunity to explore the Nepalese mountain region and its culture. The undulating trails and temperamental weather test one’s fitness and toughness. The icing on the cake are the views forever etched into your memory as you experience the Himalaya high.