Saturday, November 30, 2013

Annapurna circuit trek, Day 7: Acclimatization in Manang

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Perfect weather greeted us in the morning!! Unlike other days sky was crystal clear without any clouds. It seemed that the bad weather had retreated, finally. We will be climbing up mighty Thorung La in the coming days and a good weather can make that task easy.

After breakfast we set out for an acclimatization walk to Chongar view point. It is said that the best way to acclimatize is to climb higher in the day and come back to the same altitude for spending night.

Annapurna III and Ganagapurna
We crossed Marsyandi River and climbed towards the view point. As we gained altitude, the Manang town and the valleys looked spectacular.

The Gurupurna Lake which is fed by Gangapurna glacier.

You can get a view of Manang town and the lake.

Thorung La is somewhere behind these peaks. It looks too high for us!!

The Gangapurna peak and its glacier. At 24,455 feet, it was first climbed in 1965 by German expedition led by G√ľnther Hauser.

A closer look at the glacier. The ice walls looks easy but each of them will be several storey’s high!!

Gangapurna in a different perspective. While I was taking this picture, an elderly gentleman was observed me for a long time. He then asked what focal length and shutter speed I used.

Trying to get the full use of wide angle lens. It is the waters coming from Gangapurna glacier to the lake and then finally joins Marsyandi River.

We need to go on this way to climb Thorung La.

Annapurna IV peak. It looks beautiful from Manang. Another huge mountain at 24,360 feet!!

Annapurna III, another huge peak at 24,786 peak.

Marsyandi River and the bridge from the view point.

 And the great Tilicho peak!!

With such great peak around, Manang was a great place to rest for a day!!

After lunch, we attended a talk by Himalayan Rescue Association. It was a very informative talk that covered topics on Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS and other hazards in Nepal Himalayas. The talk is held at 3PM each day and I strongly recommend for anyone who stops at Manang.

Everyone follows his own itinerary till Manang. Hence at any place we stayed did not look crowded. Manang is the place where all of them congregate. The lodges and restaurants were teeming with trekkers. Restaurant was the common place where people socialize themselves. Some are deeply engrossed in the books, few play cards and garrulous people talked endlessly. 

The high point in the evening was when the summit of Annapurna IV was resplendent with the final rays of falling sun. I was comfortably seated next to the heating place in cafeteria. Not a place that one feels to vacate!! I ran to the room, grabbed the camera and hastily took few snaps.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Annapurna circuit trek, Day 6: Lower Pisang to Manang

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The weather continued to play hide and seek with heavy rains lashing in the night. For the first time in the trek I had difficulty in sleeping. Not sure whether it was due to rains or altitude. But to our relief, rains subsided in the morning.

View from our hotel in Pisang
It was a surprise when we looked outside from the windows of our room. The weather was clear. The white mountains of Annapurna massif all hidden from clouds until now were clearly visible. Also the mountains which we had seen in brown on previous day were covered with snow!!

We made a brief visit to Upper Pisang to savor some great views of Annapurna peaks.

The clouds had cleared to provide a straight and clear view of Swarga Dwar, a massive rock mountain of 5000 feet.

Swarga dwar
The most prominent peak in Pisang is the mountain that bears its name, the Pisang peak. At 20,000 feet, it stands apart from the surrounding area.

Pisang peak
Our journey was slow thanks to numerous photo stops. It was simply not possible to walk faster without enjoying the views. The trail climbed to a forested ridge which provided great views of the Hongde area.

Hongde airstrip
Imagine the feel when you see an airstrip after trekking for six days!! It was Hongde airport which provides an easy way to get in and out of Manang. At present, no flights land at Hongde for reason unknown to me.

While the Hongde airstrip was visible from the ridge, it took us nearly 90 minutes to walk down to Hongde village. Considering an airport, we expected a “posh” village but Hongde was just a collection of few small houses. We had to register ourselves at the Police check post here.

The walk from Hongde was pleasant with little gain in altitude. The views were excellent throughout the journey. We were awed by the beauty of Annapurna massif. The trek was becoming interesting with each minute.

Me and Subbu
 We had our standard lunch of Dal bhaat at Mungji and then continued our walk. We walked next to Marsyandi River. The change in scenery was clearly seen. The dense forests we started six days earlier had given way to coniferous forest. Now as we neared Manang, the hills were all dry and brown. Only greenery we see was the shrubs and grasses that grew in the area.

We stayed at Marsyandi hotel in Manang. The rooms were provided for just Rs 100 which included hot shower and mobile charging with a condition that we need to dine in their restaurant!!

Dry areas near Manang

Manang valley

Manang entrance

The first phase of the trek was over as we reached Manang. Though weather was not fully in our favor, the trek so far had been good. Altitude plays an important role in the coming days. We were now at 11,600 feet which required a day of acclimatization in Manang before we proceed to higher areas. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Annapurna circuit trek, Day 5: Chame to Lower Pisang

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Two pleasant surprises awaited us in the morning. One was in the form of Vinod, an Indian. He was from Bengaluru and was the first Indian we saw in the trek. We saw only two Indians in the treks; strange considering we nearly met people from more than 25 countries.

Annapurna II in the morning
The other surprise was the improvement in weather. We could see Annapurna II from one window and Manaslu from another window of our room. For the first time, we felt that we were doing a Himalayan trek!! But weather would again turn gloomy by afternoon.

Manaslu seem from Chame
As we started with high spirits, a helicopter landed nearby and took off within few minutes. It might be an evacuation for a person suffering from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). A reminder for us though we were still at 9000 feet. We will be climbing another 9K feet in the coming days!!

Rescue helicopter near Chame
As we walked, another snow mountain made an appearance. It was Lamjhung at 22,910 feet. Annapurna IV was barely visible but provided an overview of things to expect in the coming days.

With little gain in elevation we reached the village of Bharatang. Here we purchased Apples that was grown locally. It would have been wise if we asked Suman to purchase and then give money as locals were getting at lower rate!!

Waterfalls were fewer as we climb up. Here was one of the rare waterfalls near Bharatang.

The trail we follow now has been blasted out of the side of the hill. Here we have the first view of Swarga Dwar, a monstrous curved slab of rock rising more than 5000 feet. It looked awesome even though cloudy weather spoiled the great views of it.

The climb becomes steep after we cross the river and after what looks like a long journey we reach Dhukur Pokhari village filled with restaurant. We go to the one that is not yet taken by trekkers and order our regular “Dal bhaat”!!

Swarga Dwar covered in clouds

Our porter seemed to enjoying his time in the restaurant and was not ready to move. He promises us to catch up before we reach Pisang.

Walk till Pisang was refreshing. The trail was wide enough for a bus to go. But at present, only few two wheeler ply as the bridges are still not constructed. Things will change in the coming year.

Road to Pisang!!
Pisang is divided into two parts, lower and upper Pisang. We crossed the main entrance and then for the first time in the trek, we lost out way. There was a small path we missed and took the “bypass” to the next village!! After walking for 20 minutes, we wondered why we are not seeing the village though we crossed its entrance long back!! We met a local here who asked us to go back and take that small diversion.

Marsyandi river near Pisang
Our porter had suggested us to stay at “Uste” hotel in Pisang. We had reached there and seeing that we are not yet “in”, he had already started searching us in other lodges!!

Pisang entrance

By then our eating habits had become consistent. Breakfast consisted of Tea and Tibetan bread. It was compensated by ‘heavy’ lunch of Dal bhaat. We had an evening tea and had our dinner of shared fried rice!! But at ‘Utse’ we deviated from normal menu and had Pizza which was the speciality of the lodge!!

A small pond at Pisang