Day 5: To Baghar
(O/night Altitude 2,080m/7 hrs approx.) A steep decent out of the village and a crossing of a rocky stream lead to the terraced fields by the banks of the Dhora Khola. The trail then heads up to and through the villages of Ghorban and Gugge. Upwards again, in earnest, before cutting across the ridge-top. The Myagdi Khola has carved a dramatic, V-shape valley. The way forward is steep but well constructed, with a number of zigzag stone step paths. Care must be taken not to slip into the gorge (the use of ropes may be necessary on this section). At last, the long climb ends and we descend again into forest, emerging onto a ridge snout where we find our overnight camp. (B,L,D)
Day 6: To Dobang
(O/night Altitude 2,520m/7 hrs approx.) Initially the route leads through terraced fields to a small ridge, then forest. The small village of Jyardan is the most remote permanent settlement on our trail. Afterwards the trail becomes ever increasingly challenging. A high winding path crosses a rocky area before reaching Lipshe – literally a single hut. Onwards through forest to Lapche Kharka and then the climb to the level area known as Dobang. (B,L,D)
Day 7: To Sallaghari
(O/night Altitude 3,110m/5 hrs approx.) After crossing a wooden bridge, the trail ascends through another forested area. Soon the west face of Dhaulagiri I (8,167 meters) becomes visible through clearings in the forest. After a short, relatively easy period of walking, the path reaches our camping spot surrounded by forest, near the bank of the Myagdi River. It’s here that ‘dry’ instruction in ‘above-the-snowline’ mountain techniques is given as tomorrow should bring the first of our ‘above-snowline’ conditions. (B,L,D)
Day 8: To Italian Base Camp
(O/night Altitude 3,660/4 hrs approx.) Today much of the trail dissects forest whilst it will also be necessary to skirt the terminal moraine of the Chhonbarban Glacier. At various points, small, ill-constructed bridges and jungle make the going strenuous and difficult, whilst scrambling over boulders also demands agility and care. There is an open field at Italian Base Camp and two small tea huts. As well, and more importantly, there are breathtaking views of the Dhaulagiri range, including Dhaulagiri II, and Manapathi peak. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Acclimatisation Day
(O/night Altitude 3,660m) A second night is spent at this altitude; a key to acclimatisation is the body’s night time adjustment to the same altitude. It’s also very much a rest day for the ‘big-and-challenging’ days ahead. (B,L,D)
Day 10: To Japanese/Advance Base Camp
(O/night Altitude 4,440m/5 hrs approx.) This is a particularly tough and challenging day and conditions may again dictate that ropes be used. The area is also subject to rock falls and avalanches so an early start is the norm in order to minimise risks. The trail leads into a rocky area and then climbs up the mountainside, narrowing considerably until crossing one glacier and then descending onto another, originating from the west wall of Dhaluagiri. A climb on the opposite side of the glacier leads to a wide, grassy area in the shallow valley of Pakhaban, also known as Japanese/Advance Base Camp. This campsite has impressive views of the West wall of Dhaulagiri I, and the huge stone walls of Tsaurabong Peak seem to press in. One gets a feeling of being deep in the heart of the Himalaya. (B,L,D)
Day 11: To Dhaulagiri Base Camp
(O/night Altitude 4,750m/4 hrs approx.) An exacting, difficult day of glacier hiking at altitude. Following a lateral moraine to a rocky ridge, which finally descends to the glacier again, the valley then bends to the right to Dhaulagiri Base Camp.
From here one is looking up at the impressive north face of Dhaulagiri I, whilst to the west are the peaks of Dhaulagiri II, 7,749m and Dhaulagiri III, 7,713m and Dhaulagiri V, 7,616m. Ahead is the impressive icefall that descends from the north east col. (B,L,D)
Day 12: To Hidden Valley via French Col
(O/night Altitude 5,010/7 hrs approx.) Getting off the glacier above the base camp often requires rope climbing. Once over the steep moraine walls we reach slightly easier conditions, but then there is another breathless climb to the top of French Col (5,300m) where the views of Hidden Valley open out. Conditions permitting, see Mukut Himal (6,328 meters), Tashi Kang (6,386 meters) and Sita Chuchura (6,611 meters), all of which surround the Valley. To the south is Tukche Peak (6,920 meters) and beyond is the massive peak of Dhaulagiri I. Losing a little altitude as the trail traverses the Valley to Thapa Pass (5,250 meters) between Tukche Peak and Thapa Peak (6,012 meters), there’s then a descent to camp. The broad valley is reminiscent of Tibet and Ladakh and so are the temperatures (at least -20ºC at night). (B,L,D)
Day 13: To Yak Kharka
(O/night Altitude 3,680m), crossing Thapa Pass (5,200m) (8 hrs approx.) Descend from Hidden Valley to the Dhampus Pass via avalanche-prone slopes and continue to Yak Kharka. (B,L,D)
Day 14: To Marpha
(O/night Altitude 2,667m/4 hrs approx.) More steep descents lead to Marpha. The trail is barren and exposed with next-to-no tree coverage. En route, see yak and sheep herds. Marpha is a small town mainly inhabited by a mixed community of Buddhist and Hindus. Around the monastery are prayer flags fluttering in the mountain winds and many walls. With some luck, a hot shower awaits here. We’ve joined the Annapurna Circuit and rejoined civilization. This is the end of our camping; tea-house accommodation will be the order of the day for the remainder of the trek. (B)
Day 15: To Kalopani
(O/night Altitude 2,530m/6 hrs approx.) The first part of the today’s descent passes through an area covered with pine and rhododendron forest and the area is renowned for bird watching. At this point, if skies are clear, there are views of Mount Nilgiri North (7,061m), Nilgiri Central (6,940m) and Nilgiri South (6,839m), Annapurna I (8,091m), Dhaulagiri I (8,167m) and Tukuche peak (6,920m).
Day 16: To Tatopani
(O/night Altitude 1,160m/6 hrs approx.) The trail today is mostly downhill following the Kali Gandaki river, with several bridge crossings. Lunch is normally at Rupshe Chhahara, then it’s approximately 3 and a half hours to Tatopani, where there’s a natural hot spring.
Day 17: To Shikha
(O/night Altitude 1,940m/4 hrs approx.) Again crossing the Kali Gandaki, the climb up is through numerous villages, offering a wonderful insight into the daily lives of the locals. Magar village to Sikha is a steep climb.
Day 18: To Ghorepani
(O/night Altitude 2,750m/4 hrs approx.) The trail today is again up through a splendid rhododendron forest.
Day 19: To Birethanti
(O/night Altitude 1,020m/6 hrs approx.) Woken early by guides, it’s a 2 hour hike to Poon Hill for the sunrise of a lifetime. Over 30 Himalayan peaks are visible from here, clear weather permitting. Return to Ghorepani for breakfast, then set out on the trek to Birethanti.
Day 20: To Nayapul (1.5 hrs)
then Drive to Pokhara (1.5 hrs) The final descent from the mountains to the road-head and then the drive to Pokhara, where a well-deserved ‘end-of-trek’ dinner awaits. End of Expedition. (D)
MEAL CODES: (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)