I have always been keen to test my endurance level on the world’s popular hiking trails. Annapurna base camp trek in Nepal was something that had been on my bucket-list since the last few years. I wanted to do the Everest base camp trek back in 2020. But, this COVID thing held back my wanderlust for some time.
Recently, my friend and his girlfriend visited Nepal and did this trek. I promptly made up my mind to set out to the Himalayas, but wasn’t still certain to choose between Annapurna base camp vs Everest base camp trek. Listening to all their fairytale-like stories, I could already speculate the Annapurna base camp trek difficulty level. And, I wanted to do this trek first before attempting Everest base camp.
Before the pandemic hit the entire world, I had done the Classic Inca Trail Trek. It was totally a different experience in comparison to the various popular trails around the world. Unlike the majority of trails worldwide, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu was solely used as a pilgrimage or religious route. The classic trek provided an awesome combination of sub-tropical Andean mountain environments that included cloud forests, alpine tundra and jungles.
Browsing intensely over the internet, I landed on Himalayan Glacier’s website and sent an inquiry right away. Samten, on the other end, was so prompt in providing me with the necessary information about Annapurna base camp trek. It is one of the best treks in Nepal. She was a very highly professional trekking consultant who replied to all my email queries very quickly.
Within a span of under a week, I got all my answers and booked with Himalayan Glacier and was very much anxious to get to Nepal. The Annapurna base camp itinerary was fine with me and the company accepted my request to run a private trip for me!
Why I decided to hike to Annapurna Base Camp?
People have choices. And reasons for sure! When it comes to me, the following few things really made me decide to hike to Annapurna base camp:
- Most popular route in the world.
- It leads people like me to the lap of the 10th highest mountain peak in the world.
- Comfortable, short and easy trek that can be done together with family.
- An opportunity to explore the diverse culture, customs, costumes, food, dances, festivals, lifestyles, traditions, and languages of the local community.
- Chance to take a dip in the natural hot water springs at Jhinu Danda.
- To rejoice at the beautiful snowy amphitheater of never-ending grand mountain peaks and cerulean glaciers at the base camp.
- It is a suitable level of hike for diverse age group.
Pre-exercises before my Annapurna base camp hike
With a long break of hibernation from the hiking world due to covid crises, I was super-excited to be back on the nature trails once again. Samten from Himalayan Glacier was a great trip planner who answered all my questions (including silly ones). Done with all the formalities of booking the Annapurna base camp, I asked her about any trainings required for the hike. I was told that pre-exercises, at least a month before your trip would be very helpful.
And, no one-size-fits-all training plan options. I did my own exercises that felt comfortable, but did it regularly for about 45 days. I was also told that doing these pre-exercises would be helpful for various reasons, but importantly on how to tackle the High-Altitude-Sickness issues. These are the exercises that I did before doing my Annapurna base camp trek in Nepal:
I started with hiking 3-5 hours thrice a week:
The hike included both uphill and downhill walks.
Using the Stair Master every day for an hour:
I could even walk uphill with a weight on a Stair Master.
Cardio-vascular conditioning training was next on my plan:
I was told to prepare my body to deal with oxygen deficiency. I started with running and jogging. Then next did biking in the mornings and swimming in the afternoons at least thrice a day.
Cooling down and stretching was equally important:
This was required every day after training. It really helped to improve my muscle’s flexibility and also prevented from a muscle cramp.
Squats, Push-ups, Pull-ups, Lunges, Leg Curls, and bench presses were something that I didn’t really like, but did it twice a week for a long time:
These exercises indeed helped me building the strength in my legs!
Yoga was very useful for my mental conditioning:
Different Aasanas, Meditation, and Pranaayaamas was a great help to me. I recommend these for every trekker in Nepal. It works wonders!
Besides all the pre-exercises, it was equally important to give a thought to check out the Annapurna base camp packing list. This is one thing that really matters. Actually, it mattered to me as I had slightly over-packed. So, make sure you know what to carry when you set off to the mountains in Nepal.
Experiences of my entire journey
I hope you guys keep on reading, as now I come to the most interesting part: the real journey. Right from the beginning till the end, it was an overwhelming experience.
1. Landing at Kathmandu Airport
I was totally scared 15 minutes before the plane landed in Kathmandu Airport. Right out of nowhere, the plane entered into the skies surrounded by mountains on all sides. I began panicking and plugged my ears and closed my eyes. Thud! The screeching sound of the brakes and slight shivering of the plane indicated that I had hit ground. A sigh of relief here!
After completion of all entry formalities, I got outside on the parking aisle, which I had been repeatedly reminded by Samten. Himalayan Glacier guide Aashish was there to pick me up with a flower garland. I was so ecstatic with the way I was welcomed.
2. Early morning flight to Pokhara
Flight to Pokhara the next morning was fascinating. It wasn’t more than half an hour to reach Pokhara from Kathmandu. From Pokhara, there was a private vehicle that took me to Nayapul from where the hike began. My porter was waiting in Nayapul while Aashish was along with me right from Kathmandu. From Nayapul, it took us almost 5 to 6 hours to reach Ghandruk where we halted overnight.
3. Hiking Days
Ghandruk to Chhomrong hike gave us tantalizing views. Chhomrong to Bamboo was remarkable. Bamboo to Deurali was indeed the most scenic expanse on the trail. Deurali to Machhapuchhre base camp and then to Annapurna Base Camp certainly gave me a rewarding experience.
Being on the lap of one of the highest mountains in the world was a whole new chapter for me. On the beautiful snowy amphitheater of grand mountain peaks and cerulean glaciers all around, it was a dream to me. The darkened rocks covered with snow left me mesmerized with its brilliance and grandeur. The sunlight radiations changing the marvelous white of the Himalayas into a progression of liquid gold was a super-fantastic sight.
The breathtaking views of Annapurna South, Fishtail, Hiunchuli, and Annapurna I from the base camp are something that I can never forget. The dynamic 360-degree views from the sanctuary was equally dramatic and staggering. Overnight at the base camp, indeed was a very proud moment for me!
Back to Bamboo from the base camp was an easy downhill walk. From Bamboo, we headed to Jhinu Danda where I got to soothe my aching body in the natural hot water spring. Finally, next day I hiked back with my team to Nayapul.
From here it was the same road route back to Pokhara. In the evening I strolled around Pokhara’s famous Lakeside Area. A chilled Gorkha beer and the lake view was a real treat for me that day.
4. After the Hike
Next day in the afternoon, I flew back to Kathmandu with Aashish, leaving behind the porter in Nayapul earlier. In the evening, I was hosted a farewell dinner by Himalayan Glacier team as it was my last day in Nepal. I had a flight the next day at around 10 o’ clock. Overall, I can say, it was one hell of a time for me, and I would love to come back again and again. Next is Everest base camp for me. And, it will always be Himalayan Glacier for me!
5. Highlights That Impressed Me..
- The historic Ghandruk Village, Gurung community, their culture and practices.
- Amazing views of the mountains such as Annapurna South, Fishtail Mountain, Annapurna I & II, Gangapurna and Hiunchuli Mountains.
- The exotic flora and fauna of the popular Annapurna Conservative Area.
- Picturesque villages & waterfalls, rainforests and alpine biodiversity.
- Natural hot springs at Jhinu Danda
6. Important information and tips to consider
- Best time to do this hike is from March to May, and from September to early December.
- Pack light but sufficient enough for several days. Don’t compromise with the packing list provided to you.
- Don’t forget to do your pre-training like I did 45 days ahead.
- Accommodation in the mountains are basic teahouses, which are standard and comfortable.
- Food menu at the lodges are surprisingly good.
- For drinking water, I had carried my Steripen and a Nalgene bottle.
- When you experience difficulty in breathing, don’t forget to speak to your guide.
- Carry small denomination cash to buy your own snacks or drinks.
- Hiking equipment and gears can be purchased or hired in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
7. Difficulties to anticipate on the hike
Although considered to be a comparatively easier trail to walk on, there will obviously arise some difficulties to some people depending on their fitness levels or weather conditions. The following difficulties on the entire trip needs to be dealt with, with utmost importance:
- 9 days of hiking 5 to 6 hours up to an elevation of 4,130m/13,550ft.
- The major problem is altitude sickness. Hiking begins at 800m/2,625ft. The oxygen levels keep decreasing as you climb higher. Some beginner hikers may experience discomfort in breathing, nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite. It is always wise that you share your problem immediately with your guide.
- Weather in the mountains are very fickle and keep changing every now and then. Obviously winters are not the right time to hike to Annapurna base camp.
- Lack of training or pre-exercise could definitely add to the difficulty. If you are in a group, you might be too slow to catch up with other hikers. Or lack of stamina and endurance may lead you to quit the trip.
- For independent travelers, budget would definitely be a reason for difficulty. Although Nepal is one inexpensive hiking destination, the price of goods increases up to triple times as you ascend higher.
- Insufficient clothing during the hike might pose another difficulty issue. The temperatures in the mountains are not always constant. So, you will need different layers of clothing that is appropriate for all seasons.
If I can do it, why can’t you?
I have been hiking for the past several years, but never had an opportunity to do it in Nepal. When I wanted to do it back in 2020, the COVID crises halted the entire world. I thought hiking in the Himalayas was not for me, but everything seemed perfect. The key here is right operator, correct information, and tips on pre-trip preparations and exercises to stay in sound health and perfect fitness.
Now that I have completed my Annapurna base camp with so much ease than I had anticipated, why can’t you do it? Go ahead, meet the best trip consultants in Himalayan Glacier. They have safe hands and provide you wonderful experiences. I look forward to do all my future trips in Nepal with my guide Aashish and porter Bikash.
My next trip on the bucket list is Everest base camp hike. I was self-inspired after successfully completing the Annapurna base camp trek without any difficulties. So, I am very much excited to be back for the world-famous Everest base camp trek.