I grew up biking to surf every day in Newport Beach, CA. I didn’t know much else of the natural world until I moved to Santa Barbara for college, started hiking, and majored in geology which was a completely unplanned, unexpected path. I’d switched majors 4 times from physics all the way to art until my dad suggested I take a geology class. One week in I knew hands down that the Earth was what I wanted to study in school. I learned how mountains formed and why ice ages happen and nature became so much bigger and more magical than I ever imagined. After finishing a somewhat emotionally-grueling masters I took a 3-month road trip around the SW US but was left wanting something more, something bigger. I wanted to step out of my element mentally and physically. I wanted religion and spirituality. I wanted the biggest mountains on the planet. I wanted Himalayas. I wanted Nepal.
As we began our descent to Kathmandu I watched the sunrise over the Himalayas. My jaw dropped as I gazed upon the gargantuan ridges and valleys that were only the foothills of the biggest mountain range on the planet, 45 million years in the making. After touching down and learning that I’d just missed a military coup in the Istanbul airport, where I’d had a layover hours earlier, I caught a taxi to Thamel and met my friend Pat who had been traveling around SE Asia for the past 4 months. We had 30-day visas and planned to spend most of our time trekking the Annapurna Circuit. Instead of my longwinded gushing of each and every day of this trek, I’ll give you the what, where, who, when, how, and why’s and I’ll still do a little bit of gushing along the way.
The Annapurna Circuit is a 2 to 3-week trek through the Himalayas, depending on how fast you hike and how many side trips you take along the way. It’s different than a full-on backpacking trip because you stop in villages and stay in tea houses as you go so you don’t need to carry tents, sleeping pads, food or water making it a lightweight trek through some of the most beautiful, badass Asian countryside you can imagine.
Nepal is between Tibet (now China) and India and essentially encompasses the heart of the Himalayas. The Annapurna Conservation area is in NW, central Nepal. You’ll fly into Kathmandu, catch a bus to Besi Sahar, hike up the Marsyangdi River, up and over Thorung-La pass (17,800 ft) and down the Kali Ghandaki river where you’ll finish in Birethani (or bus from Jomsom) and probably take a bus to Pokhara to catch some much needed R & R after 2+ weeks of hiking.
We did it in July which is the off-season and monsoon season which makes catching views of the high peaks less frequent but even more astounding. It rained, but not as much as I thought and because it was monsoon season the trail was practically empty which was very nice. We leap-frogged with 2 other couples and a family from Denmark. During the high-season (October/November, April/May) it can be difficult to find a good teahouse before the crowd so you might end up backtracking, hiking extra mileage or staying somewhere less comfortable.
Who: 18 days is a long time to be with someone 24/7. Go with someone you won’t get sick of or at the very least who you can let know when you need some space and alone time to hike and soak things up solo. Or go by yourself. The trail is straight forward with great maps available, signs and painted red and white rectangles to guide the way. You’ll probably meet people along the way too. You can also hire a guide (there are even all female guide services) to accompany you.