In the Presence of Giants: 11 days hiking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Snowy peaks, all the Annapurna’s, more porridge than your gut can handle and more cinnamon buns than you can keep your hands off. Not to mention the calorie burn, toned butt and sense of achievement as you battle the mental challenge of pushing on through the tough times at high altitude… hiking for 11 days on the Annapurna Circuit, and walking a whopping 155km, is a DREAM for adventurers, hikers and nature lovers. Not to mention a challenge unlike any other I’ve done before.

Being in the presence of the some of the highest mountains in the entire world is humbling… turns out it’s also pretty emotional too (yes, i cried because it was so damn overwhelmingly beautiful). If you saw my Insta stories, you’ll have a fair idea of what we got up to and my pooping escapade on day 9, but here I’ll include brand new content as well. Heaps of you have been asking about our route and all the finer details, so I’ve also included all this info in a short ‘n’ sharp style day by day account of our trip. If you have any more questions though, shoot me a message in the comments below or on Insta.

Day 1

Besi Sahar (760m) to Ngadi (930m)

Hours hiked: 4

Kilometres hiked: 14km

Elevation gained: 170m

Showers taken: 2 (1 hot in the morning… in Kathmandu)

Starting in Besi Sahar, the climb is gentle and mainly follows a jeep track which took us from 700m up to 900m. If you like bananas, stock up in Besi Sahar for the first couple of days, you won’t be seeing much fresh fruit after that apart from apples so enjoy your last few fruity luxuries while you can on day 1.

Day 2

Ngadi (930m) to Chyamche (1430m)

Hours hiked: 7

Kilometres hiked: 17km

Elevation gained: 500m

Showers taken: 1

A LONG DAY of walking (LOVE IT). The terrain was up and down gently climbing with a big 30 minute uphill at the end as we ascended into Chyamche. It was well worth the views of the waterfall across the valley when we arrived in Chyamche. Everything started becoming vividly colourful; bright flowers, turquoise rivers and green rolling hills covered in forest.

Today was also the day I Googled that you can burn in excess of 400 calories per HOUR when hiking. Meaning that eating three well balanced meals a day and staying stoked on snickers is actually pretty crucial when it comes to a successful hike.

Day 3

Chyamche (1430m) to Upper Dharapani (1860m)

Hours hiked: 6

Kilometres hiked: 15km

Elevation gained: 430m

Showers taken: 1

Not much else to report. It was still a sick day hiking but, well, not EVERY day can be mind blowing. Although this goat DID blow my mind.

It also started looking a bit like Wales in parts but I can’t start comparing the Himalayas to Wales… It was still way too warm at this elevation to wear thermals in my sleeping bag at night.

Day 4

Upper Dharapani (1860m) to Chame (2670m)

Hours hiked: 5.5

Kilometres hiked: 15km

Elevation gained: 810m

Showers taken: 1

Today was a medium hike day, it started getting cold as we gained more elevation. We walked through pine forests today and the greenery all started to change to become more alpine as big snowy mountains and rockies towered above us. The best thing in the world was waking up the next morning and seeing actual mountain peaks out of the window while still lying in bed. MAGICAL.

You can get a jeep all the way to Chame (2670m) if you want to cut out the first 3 days but these days are considered crucial in the acclimatisation process and will really benefit you once you reach higher altitudes. Plus you miss out on staying opposite a waterfall in Chyamche and coming face to face with mind-blowing goats.

Day 5

Chame (2670m) to Lower Pisang (3200m)

Hours hiked: 5

Kilometres hiked: 14km

Elevation gained: 530m

Showers taken: 1

Another medium hike day which took us over the 3000m mark and started to experience a few headaches and a few pins and needles in my hands. But that soon wore off overnight as we acclimatised. Because it wa a medium hike day we had the opportunity to explore a little bit in Lower Pisang, there was a gorgeous little stream and Stupa closeby and prayer wheels and Yaks RIGHT OUTSIDE the front door. Squat toilets are now the only option…

Day 6

Lower Pisang (3200m) to Manang (3540m)

Hours hiked: 5

Kilometres hiked: 15km

Elevation gained: 340m

Showers taken: 1

The swelling really started today and when my feet swelled up in my shoes my left foot started to hurt so bad that walking was so hard after about 2.5 hours. I knew I’d be ok as soon as I got to rest it so kept going, although pretty slow. Our group were amazing, not only did we have a Doc who recommended me to get anti-inflammatory gel (my new favourite thing!) but also a scout leader who had a dreamy first aid kit and helped me strap my foot up at lunch. When we arrived in Manang I drank masala chai, ate cinnamon buns and put my foot up. Manang is AWESOME.

Day 7

Manang (3540m)

Hours hiked: 3

Elevation gained: 400m (temporarily before returning to Manang)

Showers taken: 1

My foot got better overnight… woo! We came FACE TO FACE with a Griffin Vulture. It flew at me and left in in AWE during our acclimatisation hike in the hills surrounding Manang. The hike was cool, we got BANGIN’ views of Manang. And by Manang I mean mostly the mountains that tower over Manang like Gangapurna, Annapurna II and the Gangapurna ice fall glacier and lake which adds a nice splash of turquoise to my photos.

I also tried Sun Patti tea today – local himalayan flower tea – it’s supposed to be pretty good for you. One of those things you pay a whole month’s wage for in the health food store. So, TRY IT. Because it’s about a dollar.

The Himalayan Rescue Association do a FREE talk on altitude sickness awareness at 3pm every day. We went along to get our oxygen levels and resting heart rate tested too.

Day 8

Manang (3540m) to Yak Kharka (4050m)

Hours hiked: 4

Kilometres hiked: 9.5km

Elevation gained: 510m

Showers taken: 0

We got our first view of the pass…! The terrain was fairly gentle as we climbed and now any sign of alpine forests are gone, just low lying shrubs and juniper bushes dotted around as far as the eye can see, the landscape has become more barren. No more jeep tracks, the only vehicles we saw from here on out were horses… and rescue helicopters.

Day 9

Yak Kharka (4050m) to Thorong Phedi (4525m)

Hours hiked: 3

Kilometres hiked: 10km

Elevation gained: 475m

Showers taken: 0

The air is getting thin, it’s becoming tough to just walk on each day of the hike especially today as we passed a huge rock fall zone and just had to keep going. Here’s something I wrote on actual day 9 sat wrapped up in a blanket and ALL of my clothes.

It’s day 9 of the hike through Annapurna as we head to Thorong La Pass. One of the highest passes in the world, sitting at 5416m above sea level (that’s higher than Everest Base Camp!). I haven’t taken a shower in 2 days. I haven’t washed my hair for 8 days. My toes are blistering. I have chill blains on my fingers and chapped lips. I can’t remember the last time I used deoderant. But I’m in the mountains. At 4450m. At the last stop before Thorong La Pass. The landscape is overwhelming, it’s like living in a Nat Geo Mag.

Plus an acclimatisation hike which was about 2 hours which took us up another 200m. We saw blue sheep in the mountainous rock faces around us, there’s so many loose rocks, one of the group nearly got knocked out when a sheep kicked a small rock down from a height. The scale of nature and the insignificance of me as a human is so evident right now. It’s humbling and also a bit scary.

Day 10

Thorong Phedi (4525m) via Thorong La Pass (5416m) to Muktinath (3760m

Hours hiked: 9

Kilometres hiked: 16.4km

Elevation gained: 891m

Elevation descended: 1656m

Showers taken: 1

Guys, if you saw my insta stories, you’ll have a fair idea of what happened today. I got food poisoning, pooped 4 times on the mountain (3 in the dark, 1 in broad daylight behind a rock that was no bigger than my shin). It wasn’t my FINEST moment, although one of the guys in the group said after that performance, I’m definitely now one of the lads…

I’m not proud of this guys, but I did have to take a mule to the top… about the last 1 hour worth of walking which I did in about 30 minutes on the horse. I was starting to feel sleepy while walking and was completely sapped of any energy and couldn’t eat thanks to the poisoning. I wasn’t showing any signs of altitude sickness so Mark and our guide agreed it would be safe for me to continue to ascend – but on a horse.

We all got REALLY EXCITED when we returned to civilisation around 14:00pm in Muktinath and were reunited with hot showers. We did, however, stop to enjoy the views on the way down while we were still above the clouds… and started stuffing our faces with chocolate as our appetites came back!

Day 11

Muktinath (3760m) to Jomsom (2720m)

Hours hiked: 6

Kilometres hiked: 16km

Elevation descended: 1040m

Showers taken: 1

Hiking through Mustang Valley and in particular Rain Shadow Valley (because it doesn’t get any rain…), Jimee our guide told us to prepare for wind. But I didn’t realise it would be THIS windy. It was like walking in a scene from Mad Max. Desolate, dry and with wind sucking up the sand and dust and blowing it straight into our faces. If you are planning to do this trip, come fully equipt with a buff/snood and good protective sunglasses (goggles would be a plus…!) and a hood. Don’t bother with a hat – it WILL be gone within seconds.

Day 12

Jomsom (2720m) to Pokhara (820m)

Although it’s not a day of hiking, I’m including this day because a few of you have asked what we did after Jomsom… and the truth is that this day was just as awesome as every other day hiking! The day started with a Honey Latte from Himalayan Jave Coffee (THE coffee shop of Nepal, you should go). Then, we took a tiny plane from Jomsom to Pokhara, flying through the almighty Himalaya, past snowy peaks and over terraced hills below. It was so EPIC and so overwhelming that, yep, I cried. Just a bit.

*IMPORTANT* Taking on a hike in the Himalayas

As you might know, Mark and I usually hike trails together, without any kind of organised group trip. However, unless you are an experienced hiker, particularly experienced in not only hiking but also hiking at altitude and are incredibly experienced in a variety of mountain climates and weather conditions, I highly recommend taking this trip on with a reputable company. I can’t tell you how many people we saw having to turn back once they reached high altitude, or having to wait for porters to become available in Manang because they realised they couldn’t go on with their heavy loads. We chose Intrepid Travel because of their small group mentality – max group size is 12 for this hike – great attention to safety and likeminded travellers.

Follow the journey

If you’re not already, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where you’ll get the latest updates not only as they happen in stories but hot off the press in my feed (when we’re not in the middle of nowhere obvs).

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