Touring Annapurna Base Camp

Date of Journey October 2014
Phil & Patti Greet Lymington

We had been considering a trek to Annapurna Base Camp for a couple of years and when we saw that a company called Gane & Marshall were now offering this trek we decided immediately to do it as we had been on some wonderful trips with them before. We knew that Gane & Marshall would use the best in-country company and for Nepal we were placed in the excellent hands of Ker & Downey. We were both in our mid-60’s and we knew that Ker & Downey, in partnership with Yeti Airlines, own some wonderful lodges across Nepal and we wanted to stay in comfortable accommodation as much as possible.

Prior to the trek we had visited our local Rohan shop and topped up our wardrobe!  During October the weather on Annapurna is very warm during the day and cool at night until you get to above 3500m when the days become cooler and the nights cold.  So we took a mix of clothing so that we could layer up.  During the day shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt were all that was really required at the lower altitudes with a light fleece if necessary.  At higher altitudes long trousers, a long sleeved t-shirt and lightweight fleece were needed during the day with a thicker fleece and, at the base camp, a down jacket in the evenings.  Nights became increasingly colder as we got higher and thermals were needed.  A good tip is to get your guide to take hot water bottles with them – we found them of great help!  Lightweight waterproofs are also essential as we found out one day when walking through monsoon conditions!  We took our own medication (antibiotics and Diamox for altitude) but in the event these were not needed.  The trek had ‘built-in’ acclimatisation and we got used to the altitude very quickly.  We also took water purification tablets but these were not needed as bottled or boiled water was always provided.  Make sure water is properly boiled at higher altitudes though.

We loved everything about Nepal including all the hotels, Kathmandu and Pokhara. But the real highlight was the trek to Annapurna Base Camp itself.  

Nepal is a stunningly beautiful country with wonderful, friendly people.

The trek was really challenging with steep uphill and downhill sections each day.  We started walking in temperatures in excess of 30c passing through heavily wooded areas, open countryside with villages perched on hillsides, tropical bamboo forest and high alpine meadows eventually walking through 1 metre of snow to reach Base Camp.  Even then we were walking in t-shirts and microfleeces although the temperature did drop to -13c that night!  The trek itself was paced just right for us.  We typically started walking about 8.30am after a hearty breakfast, stopping for tea at about 10.30am and then lunch at about 12.30 before reaching our destination for that day at about 1600hrs.  We calculated that we walked about 80 miles, averaging 7 miles a day, although that ranged from 4 to 12 miles.  There were some heart stopping moments, especially when you are halfway to your destination and see a sign that says 4300 steps still to go and then find that many of the bridges are not much more than a few tree trunks strung across a mountain gorge requiring high wire balancing skills!  But we loved every minute of it.  We stayed in Ker & Downey lodges for the first 2 nights and the last night and these were wonderful and to a very high standard.  For the remaining time we stayed at tea houses.  Although the standard varies a bit with these they all exceeded our expectations.  They were spotlessly clean and provided excellent, if basic food.  Take a torch for night time trips to the outside toilets!  Also you should take your own pillow case and sleeping bag liner just in case.  

We met lots of other trekkers at the tea houses and spent many an entertaining evening with them.

A tip here is to make sure that your guide has booked rooms in advance and that your porters set off early to get good rooms for you.  Many trekkers do not book in advance and tea rooms get very full quickly and then they have to walk to the next one, or sleep in the dining rooms, which displaces the guides as this is where they often sleep.  When we reached ABC itself it was covered in snow which made for wonderful views.  We would thoroughly recommend this particular trek to anyone going to Nepal.

Beyond the trek itself we had some short time in Pokhara and Kathmandu staying at Temple Tree and Gokarna Forest Resort hotels respectively.  Both hotels were excellent and would easily stand comparison with UK 4* hotels.  The Gorkana Forets hotel is a real find.  It is out of the city centre (about 20-30 minutes in a car) in its own forest estate with deer, monkeys and other animals and birds.  It has an 18 hole golf course, spa and indoor swimming pool.  The hotel offers transport into Kathmandu city centre (not free) and is not far from Boudantha Stupa.  We only had half a day in Pokhara and in hindsight we wished we had spent a couple of days there as it looked to be a lovely, quiet town with good, safe places to go and things to do, including trips on the lake.  We had a night in Kathmandu before the trek and an afternoon and a morning in Kathmandhu after.  We felt this was about right although we were unable to see all the sights in this time and perhaps an extra day would have been better.  Kathmandu centre is very busy and lively but we had a great time visiting Durbar Square and Thamel shopping district.  Prior to the 2015 earthquakes the temples and palaces in Durbar Square were really worth the visit.  We are not sure of the current situation with them.  The Boudanatha stupa was very close to our hotel (Gorkana Forest) and were able to visit this ourselves using hotel transport.  We found Boudanatha to be a wonderful place, very relaxing even though crowded, and would recommend that it was on everyone's list of things to see.  Note that this is currently under repair as the earthquakes knocked the top off the stupa.  We didn’t do these on this trip but we have since been to the Monkey Temple, the Royal Palace museum and the Garden of Dreams (fabulous) which are all worth a visit.

 

What was the one item of clothing or equipment you couldn’t have managed without on your trip?

As it turned out we couldn’t have managed without our lightweight Rohan Elite waterproofs

 

And what was the single thing you’d wished you brought with you – but didn’t? 

We wished we had also taken proper Rohan waterproof gloves as the ones we did take proved not to be waterproof

 

What was the one ‘not so good’ thing about your trip? 

If we had to pick one thing that was not so good it would be the outside toilets at the tea rooms !

 

What was the highlight?

The highlight of the trip was getting up early in the morning to watch the sun rise at Annapurna Base Camp itself.