People of Dolpo region in Nepal are one of the last nomadic trading caravans in the world. For more than 10 decades, the locals of Dolpo have depended for their survival on a biannual journey across the Himalayas.
Once the summer harvest is over, the people of Dolpo sew flags and red pommels into the ears of their yaks, rub butter on their horns and throw barley seeds to the cold wind. Then they leave the fertile middle hills of their homeland and head north, to the plateau of Tibet, where they carry out an ancient trade with their Tibetan neighbors.
Located to the far western reaches of Nepal bordering Tibet, Dolpo resembles Tibet culturally. It is a vast landmass with wild and mountainous terrains and can only be accessed through days of trekking or mules. Once part of the ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom, it claims some of the highest inhabited villages on earth.
A restricted region, Dolpo remains a discreet place with lesser influence of the modern world. Fierce winter snowstorms ensure that these routes are impassable for up to six months of the year, when it is isolated from the rest of the country. But during the summer months, when the alpine fields are alive with yellow poppies and the lower slopes are furrowed with barley and buckwheat, the paths are navigable again.
Tilicho Lake at Manang is known to be the lake situated at the highest altitude in the world. The oligotrophic glacial lake is a popular destination for the trekking and is a part of the restricted region of Manang valley.
Tilicho Lake is located in the Manang district of Nepal, at around 55 km from Pokhara. It is situated at an altitude of 4,919 metres (16,138 ft) in the Annapurna range.
Due to its sheer altitude, it’s known as the highest lake in the world. The max length of the lake is 4 km, with the width of 1.2 km. The average depth is 85 meters.
The Lake collects the glacial melt of the entire northern slopes of Annapurna and Thorang Peak. In 2001, Hindu pilgrims in throngs flocked to the lake convinced it is a holy spot mentioned in the Ramayana– a holy book of the Hindus.
Khangsar, Tilicho, Muktinath and Nilgiri are few of the peaks surrounding the lake.
Tilicho Lake was the site of one of the highest ever altitude scuba dives. A Russian diving team, consisting of Andrei Andryushin, Denis Bakin, and Maxim Gresko, conducted a scuba dive in the lake in 2000.
The lake is a part of the popular trek trails in the mid-western Nepal. You can consider visiting the lake by going offbeat from the Annapurna circuit or consider doing a trek straight to Manang during the Manang-Tilicho Trek.
It may take 5-8 days from Besi Sahar to reach the Tilicho Lake. The trail offers enough the-houses or lodges, hence camping isn’t required. The periphery of the lake doesn’t have any lodges, hence, you must consider staying at Tilicho Base Camp and only doing a day tour of the lake.
One of the two trekkers, who were lost in the wilderness of Nepal for 49 days, was recently rescued. Unfortunately, the other trekker died just 3 days before the rescue was made. There has been few cases of trekkers missing in the Langtang region before.
Liang Shang Yuen and girlfriend Liu Chen Chun, aged 21 and 19 respectively, were heading towards Langtang through Dhading’s Tipling and Pangsang Pass on February without a guide.
On March 11, they tried to descend in the hopes of finding a settlement near the river down valley. While descending, they slipped down on the snow and were trapped. Being unable to climb out of the place, they took shelter under a waterfall.
They survived 4-5 days on the food they had been carrying. After their supply ended, they managed to survive only on water and salt until they were discovered by the search team. Unfortunately, Liu Chen died just 3 days before the rescue team found them.
A rescue was made with the joint effort of Taiwanese Embassy, Asian Trekking and Simrik Airlines.
21-year-old Liang Sheng Yueh was found Wednesday on a ledge under a waterfall and was flown by helicopter to a hospital in the capital, Kathmandu. He said the body of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Liu Chen Chun, was also taken to the capital.
The parents of the couple arrived in Kathmandu on March to find the whereabouts of their children. The rescue was assembled to locate the couple. Rescuers first scoured the area for two weeks before suspending their search, but resumed the search on April 20.
The team spotted the red tent almost after a month of search. Liang was found living inside the tent. The helicopter was immediately beckoned to evacuate the distressed trekker. Liang was transported to the hospital in Kathmandu. Another helicopter transported the body of Liu to Kathmandu.
He appears exhausted and lost some 30 kilograms of body weight. He was suffering from severe malnutrition. His foot was covered with maggots and hair full of lice. Despite having to live like that for 47 days, he appears to be mostly normal. ~Dr. Ajay Singh Thapa
Langtang is a popular trekking region in Nepal. Due to its discreet nature, most of the region remains unexplored or offbeat for trekking. There has been few cases where the trekkers went missing while trekking in Langtang.
It was notified by the Government that a trekker must be accompanied by a certified guide while entering the region, back in 2012. The notice came after the severed body of a teenager Debbie Maveau was found who went missing in Langtang.
Most of the trek regions in Nepal are located in the remote areas, hence, taking a guide along becomes necessary. Anytime between March-May and September-November is considered best for the trekking.
The Annapurna circuit is a 200 km long trekking trail located at the mid-western region of Nepal. A lengthy trek, it is mostly opted by the tourists seeking to enjoy their time traversing through the remotes of Nepal.
The Annapurna Circuit encompasses into one of the longest treks in Nepal. It may take well over 2 weeks to complete the trek and covers a great sparse of geography. You will get to cross 4 different districts during the trek, namely; Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi.
Lamjung and Myagdi at the lower elevations are both predominantly Hindu regions with lush green subtropical valleys. Manang and Mustang at the higher elevations are predominantly Tibetan Buddhist region.
Manaslu, Langtang, Annapurna I, II, III and IV, Gangapurna, Machhapuchhare and Dhaulagiri are few of the major peaks you will get to see. The trek goes anti-clockwise, starting from Besi Sahar and ending at Ghorepani, mainly because, you will gain the daily altitude much slower and will get cross the Thorong La Pass with much ease and through the safer route.
You will get to witness people of varying tribes and ethnicity. The villages, settlements and lifestyles found along the trail may differ in every 30 km. Choose anytime between March-June and September-December for trekking the circuit, mainly for the good weather and ease of access.
Thorong La or Thorung La is a mountain pass located at the elevation of 5,416 meters in the Damodar Himal and inside the Circuit trail. The pass connects two different villages, Manang and Muktinath.
It is the highest point you may reach during the Circuit trek. It is advised to start the treacherous hike early morning to avoid any worsening weather at the pass.
Muktinath is a sacred place revered by many Hindus and Buddhists. Located in Muktinath Valley of Mustang, the ancient temple of Muktinath is dedicated to the God Vishnu (Hindu-Trinity). It is considered to be the 105th among the available Divya Desams (108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhvars). Hindus call the sacred place ‘Mukti Kshetra,’ which literally means the “place of liberation or moksha.”
The courtyard of temple has 108 Bull-faced spouts and pouring out cold Himalaya water. Pilgrims, making a visit to the temple, must also consider taking a shower under every spout for the ‘soul cleansing’.
Ghorepani at the Myagdi district lies within the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP), and is one of the most popular local places to trek. It serves as an important stop for the incoming tourists and traders. Most trekkers stay at Ghorepani and trek up to the Poon Hill to enjoy the mesmerizing sunrise and sunset.
It also links to the important Ghandruk village, which is a part of the greater Annapurna base camp trail.
Kala Patthar is the most prominent landmark of the Everest region. An enormous and elevated dark land mass at above 5,000 meters is one of the most popular tourist sites in the region.
The term Kala Patthar literally translates to ‘Black Rock’ in English. It is a notable landmark on the south ride of Pumori in the Khumbu region, and is mostly visited by the trekkers during the trekking to the Everest Base Camp.
Located at 5,643 meters, it is one of the highest tourist sites in the Everest. The view of Everest is completely blocked by the towering Lhotse peak in the East, hence, your only option of seeing the Everest is from the Kala Patthar. There aren’t any lodges at the top, mainly, because, the location is too high and open for a night stay. Therefore, the access to it is facilitated by the hike lasting an hour or two.
It is the only place throughout the trail which offers the close and optimum view of the Mount Everest, hence, almost everyone makes a point to hike Kala Patthar during the trek to enjoy the rare sight of the Everest.
The ascent of Kala Patthar begins at Gorakshep, the original base camp for Mt. Everest. After a brief dip to an ancient lake bed (which now contains a small lake and a helipad), the ascent makes its way up a series of steep switchbacks before levelling off somewhat as it traverses to the eastern side of the mountain. The trail then becomes steep once again until it reaches the wind-swept summit ridge.
The top is marked with prayer flags. The full ascent usually takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, and is generally in the early morning.
Gokyo village at Khumbu region is small hamlet consisting of only few huts. You can choose to visit the village while trekking towards the Everest Base Camp.
It is one of the highest settlements on Earth, but likely not permanently inhabited throughout the year. The Sherpa inhabitants of the village migrate to lower warmer lands during harsh winter and monsoon. It remains open during Spring (March-May) and Autumn (September-November) seasons.
Gokyo or Gokyo village is located to the west of the Khumbu region. Separated from the usual Everest trek trail, Gokyo remains completely discreet from the foreign tourists. Except for few huts and handful of Sherpa inhabitants, this region has only natural riches to boast about.
The village is situated just below the local peak, Gokyo Ri 5,357 m. Ama Dablam and Cholatse are other peaks fairly visible from the village. You can even get to see the greater Ngozumpa glacier just beside the village.
It is also home to the highest fresh water lakes on Earth. Gokyo lakes consists of six major oligotrophic lakes, and all of them situated above 4,700 meters. Dudh Pokhari or Gokyo Cho is the major lake among the six, while Thonak Cho remains the largest lake with an area of 65.07 ha (160.8). The other lakes are Gyazumpa cho, Ngojumba Cho and Tanjung Cho.
The lakes hold an important religious place among the Hindus and Buddhists alike. The pilgrims visit the lake every year to take a holy dip during the auspicious month of August (Janai Purnima). In September 2007, Gokyo and associated wetlands of 7,770 ha (30.0 sq mi) were designated a Ramsar site.
Annapurna I is the 10th highest peak in the world. The sheer height of the mountain and its remote setting makes it a delight among tourists to visit its base camp for fun or adventure.
Along with the Annapurna Circuit trail, it receives over 120,000 trekkers in a year; and most of them make a visit during Spring and Autumn seasons.
En Route Kathmandu ⇒ Pokhara
You can either drive or fly to Pokhara. A 6-7 hours long drive to the west of Kathmandu will take you to Pokhara. A flight may last for an half hour. Lakeside city of Pokhara is a popular tourists getaway. A bustling city offers some of the best adventure sports and wanderlust opportunities.
Pokhara ⇒ Naya Pul Naya Pul ⇒ Ghandruk Ghandruk ⇒ MBC
A drive from Pokhara through Banglung highway will take you to Naya Pul at Lumle. Here you start trekking and ascend towards the Ghandruk village. You can also choose to cover Ghorepani-Poon Hill trail during the trek. It’s a steady ascent from Ghandruk to Chhomrong. The few other stops during the trip can be made at Jhinu Danda, Himalaya, Dovan and Machhapuchhre Base Camp.
MBC ⇔ Annapurna
An early morning hike from MBC will take you to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). Trekkers basically reach there before sunrise, so to witness the first rays of sun falling at the southern face of Annapurna. You can choose to spend some time basking in the ambiance of the surrounding and start descending the usual route.
There are very few tea-houses at ABC. Most of the time, this place is covered with thick piles of snow. Only during Spring and Autumn, it clears all the snow for a brief period of time for the ease of access.
Poon Hill, Ghorepani
Trekkers enjoying meal at Machhapuchhre Base Camp
Machhapuchhre seen from ABC
Annapurna Base Camp entry
Annapurna I seen from te base camp
Annapurna ⇒ Naya Pul
It’s a usual route from Annapurna to Nayapul. The descent is fairly easy. You can choose to take an alternative route for the descent, via Landruk or Dhampus. Naya Pul ⇒Pokhara Pokhara ⇒ Kathmandu
Annapurna is a fairly easy trail for trekking. Anyone above the age of 12 can choose to do the trek.
It is located at 4,130 meters, therefore, it is suggested to acclimatize well before approaching the base camp.
The trail is populated by the people of Gurung and Managi tribes.
Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP) is Nepal’s largest protected area covering 7,629 km2 in the Annapurna range of the Himalayas across the Manang, Mustang, Kaski, Myagdi, and Lamjung districts.
Machhapuchhre, which lies within Annapurna trail is forbidden from climbing. You will get to spend a night at the Machhapuchhre Base Camp.
Along with Annapurna II, III, IV and V; it makes a grand Annapurna Himalaya range.
Most trekkers choose to spend time at Pokhara, a popular getaway in Nepal.
Trekking peaks are the smaller peaks in Nepal which were opened for recreational climbing and training. They are called “Trekking Peaks,” because they mostly require trekking with minimal climbing to reach the summit, and are different than premier mountaineering. Small peaks can be climbed with ease and do not require lengthy Expeditions.
Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) has classified 33 such peaks as the Trekking Peaks; which are are lesser than 7,000 meters in altitude. Currently there are 326 peaks open for climbing in Nepal.
To encourage climbing, NMA has removed the royalty fee from the peaks which are lesser than 5,800 meters in height.
These peaks are divided into two groups. Most of them open for climbing during Spring (March-June) and Autumn (September-November) seasons.
Altitude Sickness is a common occurrence during the travel to the higher altitude. A human body can take only a minor exposure to low partial pressure of Oxygen at higher altitudes. It is a pathological condition popularly known as AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).
If not cured or prevented, it can advance to HAPE or HACE, which are highly fatal and hardly curable. HAPE or High Atitude Pulmonary Edema is a rare case caused by fluid accumulation in lungs, whereas, HACE or High Altitude Chronic Edema is a caused when brain is swelled with fluid.
Altitude & Oxygen
The availability of Oxygen is inversely proportional to the altitude. The higher you go, the lesser the oxygen is available.
The human body can perform best at sea level, where the atmospheric pressure is 101’325 Pa or 1013.25 millibars (or 1 atm, by definition). The concentration of oxygen (O2) in sea-level air is 20.9%, so the partial pressure of O2 (pO2) is 21.136 kPa. In healthy individuals, this saturates hemoglobin, the oxygen-binding red pigment in red blood cells (RBC).
As you ascend up, the level of Oxygen saturation in air starts decreasing, hence producing lesser Hemoglobin in RBC. To tackle such conditions, travelers usually spend more time acclimatizing to the altitude before advancing further.
It’s a common phenomenon during trekking or climbing at higher altitudes.
Most climbers are known to have died from AMS or HAPE/HACE on Mount Everest.
Most trekkers attract altitude sickness above the height of 3,000 meters, however, it is very rare and most of the time can be avoided with precautions.
Once you attract AMS, you should immediately start descending to prevent the condition from worsening. If you stay put or try ascending further, you can probably die from it.
The climbers at the higher altitudes are known to have hallucinated to their death due to lack of Oxygen. (Gunther Messner, brother of Reinhold Messner, at Nanga Parbat was hallucinating before dying).
The region above 8,000 meters is known as “Death Zone,” because, your body cannot acclimatize at the given altitude at any condition. Climbers during the summit of Eight-Thousander, such as; Everest & K2, spend as less time as possible above 8,000 meters. They basically camp below 8,000 before summiting and get back quickly below the given altitude after summit to avoid any further harm to themselves.
Remedies for Altitude Sickness
Ascend slowly at the higher altitude. Take a rest or acclimatize in between to adjust yourself. The body needs a full day rest to acclimatize for every 1,500 meters of ascend.
Do not ascend over 3,000 meters in a single day. you body is attuned to such high ascend in a single day.
Take enough fluid, water, and protein-carb rich food to help you fight fatigue and dehydration. Carbohydrate is known to fight AMS and help store energy, therefore, carb rich food en trail is recommended.
Take prophylaxis medicine after the consultation with your doctor. Acetazolamide (Diamox) is a diuretic, which increases urine production, and is known to cause an increase in respiratory ventilation that allows more oxygen exchange in our body. Take it before the trip and at the interval of 6-12 hours until you are fully acclimated.
Test your RBC! If you are found to have anemia or low red blood cells, your doctor may advise you to correct this before going on a trip. Lesser RBC in a body produces lesser hemoglobin which is essential for fighting fatigue.
Annapurna I 8,091 m (26,545 ft) is an Alpine PD+ peak and one of the 14 Eight-Thousanders on Earth. Annapurna I, II, III, IV, Gangapurna and Annapurna South combined forms the greater Annapurna Massif. The Annapurna trail receives most amount of tourists in a year. Most of these tourists arrive in Nepal for the trekking.
Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is a rudimentary campsite located at 4,130 meters and just below the Annapurna I. A popular trekking trail, around 70,000 trekkers reach ABC every year. The availability of better tea-houses (lodges), campsites, professional guides and weather permits easy trek.
The trek begins at Nayapul and it slowly ascends towards ABC. Around seven days of continuous trekking will take you to the top, however, you can choose to stay exploring the trail or switch your itinerary to visit Ghorepani region of the trek.
Ghorepani is an independent trail at Annapurna. Most tourists visit Ghorepani while trekking to ABC as well. Poon Hill is a landmark destination and you can enjoy sunrise from it.