Trekking The Great Annapurna Circuit, Nepal Part III

By John Saboe | Nepal

Nov 21

There are two routes to Manang from Pisang. A lower trail that’s a little easier with less climbing and the upper route, slightly more challenging but also helpful for acclimating with bonus mountain views. We chose the route north of the Marsyangdi and headed for Upper Pisang.

Annapurna 11 is part of the Annapurna chain but is an independent peak. It was first summited by a team made up of British/Indian/and Nepalese nationals in 1960. It is the second highest peak of the range at 7937 meters. The highest, Annapurna 1, is 8091 meters making it the 10th highest mountain in the world.

Fantastic views of Lower Pisang from Upper Pisang, a much more traditional village of the region. Look for lots of opportunity to spread good kharma with the many prayer wheels at the village’s entrance.

We saw a few signs of earthquake damage. These traditional village buildings saw the worst devastation in Nepal but this area was not as affected by quake damage as other regions.

Our trekking for the day would include one stop for lunch at Ghyaru before settling into to the wonderful little traditional Tibetan style village of Gnawal.

More suspension bridge crossings with amazing views of this drier region of the Annapurna Circuit that some feel is the most scenic.

Climbing higher now at 3600 meters it’s time to slow the pace down slightly to allow for proper acclimatization. This side of the valley, although a little more challenging to trek will help you get used to the conditions of the higher altitude. Most trekkers will rest two days in Manang before attempting to cross the Thorung La Pass to help with adjusting to the higher elevation.

This is the Disyang Valley. Syang is a village in Upper Mustang, Nepal. Disyang means the people who migrated from Upper Mustang to Manang.

We arrived at the village of Ghyaru in time for a lunch break. Most all the villages resemble this style seen in the Mustang and Upper Mustang regions. The walled lanes help to shield visitors and residents from the harsh winds.

In my opinion this trail is one of the most enjoyable in Nepal, for it’s incredible views of the Annapurna range and the stunning high Tibetan plateau landscape. It’s been an important route for yak and salt traders for centuries. You’re constantly reminded of the deep Tibetan Buddhist roots with stupas and mani walls almost around every corner.

We arrived in Gnawal late in the afternoon with a shadow on the village and some cold winds to endure on the approach.

With some of the best lodges in the country it was nice to arrive in Gnawal to find some wonderful rooms available for the night.

After checking into my room I headed out to the upper part of the village where the sun was still shining to check out the gompa or temple.

Sending out good kharma with a spin of the prayer wheels I headed back to the lodge to warm up by the kitchen fire and watch one of the porters entertain us with some improvisational dance.

Later in the evening we were lucky enough to see a local performing artist group from Pokhara that specializes in traditional Tibetan and Gurung song and dance at the temple.

Back on the trail the next morning for a trek of less than 4 hours to Manang, where we had a planned extra rest day for acclimatization. Should you develop any symptoms of high altitude sickness there’s a medical center that specializes in A.M.S. in the town.

By road Manang has become more accessible in recent years allowing for more efficient transport of goods to the village and for the opportunity for some to enjoy this trekking region with a limited amount of time. There’s also a small airport that serves the whole area.

There’s cultivation on terraces nearby the village and of course yak herding is popular here.

Still with the new access it feels remote, and sublimely Tibetan.

About 45 minutes before we reached Manang we walked through the little village of Braga with one of the nicest Buddhist monasteries in the region. The monks had left for Nepal for higher learning leaving the monastery vacant through the winter.

Finally we arrived at our stop and rest before pursuing the hardest part of the trek, reaching the summit of the Thorung La Pass.

Manang’s main source of revenue is the trekking business but some still support themselves with crops and yak herding.

After lunch and a break in our lodge I started exploring the village to discover we had a surprise for our itinerary.

With one of the biggest trekking disasters in the history of the trail in the previous year we weren’t about to take any chances. We prepared ourselves for at least one extra day on top of the two we had already planned to spend in Manang.

I spent the morning on day two wandering through the village watching everyday life in the snow. While some trekkers were disappointed abandoning the rest of their trip due to time constraints everyone else in the village just seemed to be going about life like it was just another day. Except the day’s chores included clearing roofs, catching animals, and building snowmen.

In the afternoon to get some walking in and help acclimate we hiked back to the village of Braga to climb up to the monastery.

Unfortunately unable to find the caretaker who had the key to the Buddhist monastery that’s vacant in the winter we had about the same access as these guys we crossed paths with.

The next day, was brilliant. Bright sunny, a bluebird day. Time for the classic acclimatization hike in Manang overlooking Gangapurna Lake.

After spending two nights in Manang with a planned third night we decided we would head straight for Thorung Phedi the next day, leaving out another acclimatization stop in Yak Kharka. This would mean a summit of the Thorung La Pass, the toughest day of the trek after a 8-9 hour day on the trail.

Everything felt right, like this was the way the trek was meant to unfold.

Even a herd of goats couldn’t stop us on our push to summit the pass the next day, but they did delay us by a few minutes.

The snow backed up the village of Manang so there were alot of trekkers eager to move on with the change in weather. Pushing on right to Phedi would put us ahead of most who would make a stop for the night before the summit base camp.

Along the way, some of the clearest best views of the Annapurna range.

This was the longest day of the trek so a few stops en route for tea and rest were in order.

Another stop at Khenjang Khola for some tea and more spectacular views of the Annapurna range.

What originally was our stop for the night,Yak Kharka, has become our lunch break with our adjusted itinerary. We had to take a short lunch and move on so we can reach Phedi before dark.

For now it feels like we’re leaving the Annapurnas behind as we make the last few kilometers to Phedi.

I was very conscious of ensuring I was properly acclimating to this sever jump in elevation. Technically the rule of thumb is not to ascend and sleep at more than 500 meters from the previous day once you are above 3000 meters. The jump in altitude we were attempting in one day was over 1000 meters from Manang to Phedi.

One precaution I took was to hire an extra porter to take the rest of the gear I was packing all the way to the top of the Thorung La, keeping my load light with minimal stress on my system.

One last bridge over the Jargeng Khola river and we were on the same side of the valley as Phedi.

We stopped one last time for a tea break before reaching our destination for the night. I spoke with Naris, one of the porters on our team about Yarsagumba, the lucrative crop that locals harvest in these hills every year.

Next time on Far East Adventure Travel-Trekking the Great Annapurna Circuit continues with The toughest day of the trek. Summiting the Thorung La Pass.

Yarsagumba Photo Credit-By The original uploader was Rafti Institute at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Lvova using CommonsHelper., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5088245


About the Author

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.