15 Apr 2013

Annapurna Circuit: Part 2


Day 6: Upper Pisang - Manang

Today it was a beautiful and relatively easy walk up the valley which afforded us great views of Annapurna II, III and IV.  On our walk we met two Russians from Kransnoyarsk – they couldn’t believe we had been there and were very curious to know why! 

During our walk we saw prayer slates which are written in a language that only the Buddhist monks can understand.  Although we didn't know what they said, both the slate and the writing was beautiful.



We then passed the mountain guide school where Tsering had trained.  We should probably explain that Tsering is a lovely Nepali Sherpa who had a wife and 9 year old daughter.  He started as a porter when he was 13 and moved through the ranks: kitchen boy, chef and then, as he had an interest in people of the world, he decided to train to be a mountain trekking guide and then climbing guide, which he had now done for many years.  He had summited 3 of the 8000m peaks but now focused on trekking peaks under 6000m as he had lost too many friends on larger peaks.

On our way into Manang we saw a pack of vultures circling a dead animals body – these vultures are huge.  Their wing span can be as large as an eagles…we joked with Tsering that they were waiting for trekkers on Thorung La Pass – he liked it and also had an infectious laugh.

Entering Manang, we felt a sense of achievement as we knew that we were going to be here for another day for the “rest day”.  We were in a good hotel that had a bakery and amazingly also Lavazza Espresso and Danish Cinnamon Swirls! – we were surprised that Manang seemed to be more “developed” than the rest of the villages we had passed.


We wandered into the town and had a walk around, there were a lot of souvenir stalls and shops selling knock off branded goods for those who had forgotten anything (we were soon approaching the pass).  We were surprised to find a projector hut in town showing films at 2pm, 5pm and 7pm.  The options were Seven Years in Tibet, Into Thin Air and Into The Wild.  We chose Seven Years in Tibet which was a great film and very atmospheric as we were only 50 miles from Tibet (which remained closed to tourists at the moment).  The movie projector hut was small and cosy with just 12 people.  We were interrupted only for free cups of tea & popcorn and for the wood burner to be stoked – it was great. We resolved to see Into Thin Air the following day.

We had an excellent dinner at the hotel of special dal bhat and vegetable pizza.  It had started snowing as we went to bed and as usual there was no heating in the room, but by lighting three candles we were able to get it to a relatively balmy +3 degrees.  After Russia, Mongolia and here, sleeping in “normal” conditions again would seem novel!

Day 7: Manang “Rest Day”

It is common to take a rest day in Manang to acclimatise.  We decided to go to the Ice Lake at 4600m – a place Tsering had never been.  It was quite a tough day – as we ascended Josi started to move a little slowly and Tsering encouraged with “small Steps” and “take it slowly”.  Josi found it helpful to “follow my lines” as John put it.  And so that was the phrase used up to 4400m but then there were no more signs to the Ice Lake.  John decided to survey the situation and ran (yes, ran!) up to 4600m to see if he could find it.  Tsering was secretly impressed.

There was no Ice Lake at 4600m so we decided that the task of acclimatising had been achieved, so we would head back to the hotel.  Tsering was generally a master of short cuts, but unfortunately this was not his finest hour - we had to double back several times after reaching sheer drop offs. Tsering (a short man) nearly disappeared in deep snow, and then Josi slipped in a landslide of mud.  It was off piste and it remained so for most of the slow decent back to Manang – all in all, an 8 hour “rest day.”

When we got back Josi had a bad headache – Tsering thought this might be because we spent too long at a higher altitude.  John was fine (of course) and went for round two at the cinema to see Into Thin Air, with stoked wood burner, tea & popcorn.  Josi was better by dinner but we decided to stay in Manang an extra day – this time to rest – and to make up the time later.

Day 8: Manang

This was then to be the real rest day!  We both had sore thighs from the steep & long decent and so we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous.  We went for a short walk across the valley and over to the beautiful Gangapurna Lake which was a stunning light blue colour and we sat there on the sand for a few hours.  

It was a lazy day of eating (yak steak & homemade apple crumble) and hydrating.  It was a stroke of luck when, as we returned from our walk, clouds filled the sky and it started to snow – it was a heavy snow that made it look like winter again.  The snow settled beautifully in the trees and on the mountains.  And so to bed.

Day 9: Manang – Churi Leder

Thankfully the snow hadn’t lasted the night so we set off early.  We saw quite a few small avalanches on the way – and some from a glacier that was melting.  Tsering pointed out a dead sheep which he thought may have been killed by rockfall – but the vultures were never far away and had already started circling overhead. 

It was only a short 4 hour walk today. We had a good talk with Tsering over dinner and he said that we were now “like family” as we had been trekking together for so long.  He talked about his past, his family, his ambitions, interests and political views and his travels in Australia. 

Day 10: Churi Leder – Thorung Phedi

This was a very short day – only three hours, so we arrived early enough to eat lunch in Thorung Phedi.


Thorung Phedi was the last stop until our “summit” of the Thorung La Pass at 5416m.  Josi was a little nervous but felt ready and well acclimatised.  It was cold but all “pre-pass” climbers huddled together around the small wood burner for dinner and we felt a collective sense of nervousness!  It was a cold night and we were awoken in the night by a rat visiting our rubbish bin which was not a welcome awakening.  Josi turned on the head torch just in time to see the back end and tail slide away into the rather big hole in the wall.  Let’s just say it wasn’t small!  It was also a short night as we got up at 3.30am to start the climb…


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