Annapurna Base Camp To ABC and Back in Eight Days by Kamal Nayan

Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek is one of the most popular treks in the world, and fairly so. The massif contains one peak over 8,000 metres, thirteen peaks over 7,000 metres, and sixteen other peaks over 6,000 metres.

The most commonly suggested period for the trek is somewhere around April - May and October - November. The later part of the year is when skies are wide open (at least in the morning). The sun shines every day and elongates the so-called magic hour into hours.

Coming face to face with the enormous massif at Annapurna Base Camp is more than a good enough reason to hit the trails. And if not that, in words of George Leigh Mallory, do it because it’s there!

Day oneThe Adventure Begins

Kathmandu to Pokhara to Ghandruk (6,360 ft)

In November 2017, I (along with eleven other trek mates) trekked to Annapurna Base Camp, to and fro within eight long days. I had been reading about Annapurna for a few years, especially the Annapurna Circuit trek. But considering the multiple factors — time being the primary — I decided to take a relatively shorter trek to Annapurna Base Camp (also known as ABC).

It turned out to be a long walk but a good long walk. For the first time in my life, I was standing in the formidable aura of an eight-thousander and feeling insignificant to the core.

This website is an attempt to create a virtual artifact of the trek. It is supposed to serve as an extended sketch of our itinerary: A mapping of where we walked, and a log of places where we stayed.

The trek started from flying to Kathmandu (from Bangalore) and taking another short flight to Pokhara. Flights to Pokhara deserve a special mention. Mention in terms of how beautiful and scary it was!

Leaving Kathmandu. A scary 25 minutes haul.
Leaving Kathmandu for Pokhara. A scary and beautiful 25 minutes haul.

Much to my surprise, I was stunned when I reached Pokhara. A quaint little town which is full of beautiful valley views and lakes. I liked it so much that I ended up coping here with post-trek fatigue for couple days.

From Pokhara, a bus was waiting for us that would take us to Lower Ghandruk and from there, we hiked for an hour or two to reach our first tea house in Upper Ghandruk. But, first let me take a moment to share with you what Pokhara looks like:

Day TwoHello Annapurna

Ghandruk (6,360 ft) to Chomrung (7,120 ft)

First full day trek of the trek.

There's a sense of excitement in doing things for the first time. There's excitement in walking paths for the first time. There's excitement in knowing people for the first time. But slowly, reality hits in the face and the walk feels like just a walk. With added 15kg weight on the shoulders.

After 8 hours and a gazillion steps later, we made it to Chomrung (7120ft). Trekking is not as easy as we thought it would be. We realized it 12kms later though. The walk started on a beautiful sunrise note with a view of Machapuchare peak:

Throughout the trail, we saw houses. Mountain houses. Houses with views. They had a certain persona. None of the structures tried to be pompous. If the houses had a facade, it served a purpose. Only essentials. Stripped down to bare minimums.

Every once in a while, we got clear views of Annapurna massif. A temporary relief from the pain of starting the walk. We could easily see where we were headed. But it was far far away.

A few minutes before hitting the tea houses in Chomrung, we encountered trails that were more than just good enough.

Day threeHello Rains

Chomrung (7,120 ft) to Dovan (8,460 ft)

Every tea house in Chomrung has Annapurna massif views. You wake, you open the sliding door to your balcony and there it is. The Annapurna massif, covered in snow. Sometimes clouds. Sometimes clear (only if you're in luck).

I was lucky.

Today we set out for Dovan. The trail goes through make shift bridges. Iron bridges. Mules on bridges.

So many hard working mules. More than you'd reasonably expect.
When you've tea-houses at 7,000ft, you sort of start expecting views from any window. Or doors.
Apart from views, the food too kept getting better with every feet gained.

We reached Dovan, soaked in rain, at around 5pm. It was not an intense rainfall but it was a long one. We lost our rights to complain after we reached the little hamlet that had panoramic views all around.

Day fourMachapuchare

Dovan (8,460 ft) to Machapuchare Base Camp (12,135 ft)

To Machapuchare Base Camp, it started with a gradual ascent. Few minutes into the walk and we were encountering steepest ascents so far. The terrain on this stretch is marked with small snow bridges that need to be crossed which can be scary at times.

Small flowering plants adorn the trail with their colors. Mostly white and reddish brown. The mountains on either side are rocky and gigantic. Small waterfalls flow from either side into Modi Khola.

We ended our 8 hour long walk at Machapuchare Base Camp. It was the most beautiful walk that we ever did in the past five days. Perhaps longest too. Long enough to feel like you've earned the night's sleep.

Day fiveThe Final Destination

Machapuchare Base camp (12,135 ft) to Annapurna Base camp (13,550 ft)

The day of final push.

The beauty of long treks like these is that you get used to it after 4-5 days. The backpack starts feeling as an integral part of the body. Shoes take the shape of your feet. Views get breathtaking. This trek was no different.

First proper view of Annapurna South in it's entirety.
By now, it had almost become a ritual to watch sunrise over the peaks. Through Machapuchare peak, rays make a diamond ring for brief moments before emerging in the sky.
Heli services from Pokhara can take you to ABC and MBC and back in fraction of time. Costs about $400. But is it all about the destination? I don't think so!
As the sun set, clouds covered the entire Annapurna range. Sort of nature's way of telling us to get some rest, for something special coming next morning.
Or was it the night? At 14,000ft and above, you're lucky if you can get sleep through out the night. I wasn't. I went out of my camp at around 3am in the morning and was smitten by what I saw. The entire Annapurna range encompassing us glittered in moonlight. I dragged my camera and my body to take few long exposure shots in the freezing cold (easily -15C) and was not disappointed.
Annapurna I.

Day sixSo long Annapurna

ABC (13,550 ft) to Bamboo (7,675 ft)

First day of descents.

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory. — Ed Viestur

We had almost forgotten how much pain we had endured for the last five days once we saw the peaks. In a strange way it was satisfying, so much so, that every step that we took felt worth it. With a heavy heart and relatively lighter backpack we bid farewell to Annapurna.

We walked back through the same route that we came. This time making the night stop at a tea house in Bamboo.

It was a pretty long walk. Solid 16km in 8 hours.

Day sevenHot Spring Awaits

Bamboo (7,675 ft) to Jhinu (5,770 ft)

Hot spring day!

We were craving for a good bath and a natural hot spring at Jhinu was something we were looking forward to from day one. As soon as we reached Jhinu, I took a dip in the hot spring with a few other folks. It felt absurd at first but our bodies liked it a lot.

We looked back at the days that went by. Walking but mostly climbing stairs.

Trek to ABC has shocking number of stairs to climb.

Day eightThe Last Walk

Jhinu (5,770 ft) to Syauli Bazaar (3,740 ft) to Pokhara

There's a sadness to packing your rucksack for the last time on a trek like this. Especially if the trek is fun. And the people with whom you've been on the entire trek are fantastic. On the morning of our eighth day, we packed out bag for the last time, and then were off. Off to Sayauli Bazar where a bus was waiting for us for Pokhara.

One last look...