Shoemans Trail

The quest for liberation

Tag: Snow

Annapurna Circuit – the real deal

thinking about it now, it was the best decision to return the same route. although i’ve been to the places i was thinking i’ll see them from a different angle now!
Most of the guys i met – including myself – were so focused on crossing the pass, every village on the way was just another leg of the trail, i’ll go a bit further today, still have energy left, next day i push myself up there, speeding through the nice valley, trying to tackle the circuit in under 12 days, flying out of jomson or taking a jeep up cutting the days.
doing that you loose the focus of where you actually are, in the fucking Himalaya ! surrounded by old traditional stone brick villages and mighty mountains, of course the next ones are just a pass crossing away but properly giving respect to the annapurna range will need some time.
and when i just walked out of the city i saw that the last two days of snowfall transformed the whole valley into winter wonderland, to be seen from manang annapurna 3, it’s galcier just running down the middle, forming a lake on the foot – nice!DSC08109with the sun shining and perfect mood i went back guarded by the gigantic slopes of annapurna II with annapurna IV coming into sight, i can’t stop smiling and always need to stop to take a closer look.

in muchi i keep left to go the upper route through the village of ngawal.
one of the traditional villages overlooking the valley at 3700m and again it was snowing the afternoon, powder as far as you can see.DSC08182

the trail follows the valley but still keeps it’s altitude high up, the next 2 h will be one of the highlights of the whole journey, overlooking most of the annapurna range, just walking opposite, keeping eye contact with the giants…see down in the valley the airstrip of humde and some white dots? those are bigger houses!DSC08219

from the lookout at the old gompa you can watch birds of prey gently floating in air, gaining altitude by using the currents, not wasting a single stroke of their wings.

gyaru comes into sight facing the beautiful mountain of annapurna II, almost 8.000m in height – can you see the face in the mountain? right there the next day in the morning i saw an avalanche breaking away, rumbling sounds and white powder falling down the ridge in slow motion – that’s the volcano blast of the himalaya’s!
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i was not alone enjoying the views today, some other hikers in good mood and willing to chat and some other friends made my day…
the goat was quite attracted to my camera, posing as if she’d done it before.
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the yak though, a bit grumpy in nature, just looked up when i came close and further went to feast again on the last fresh grass
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wandering through the ancient village of ghyaru with it’s beautiful stupa and gompas, old and awry stone wall houses, little alleys and mani walls, always overlooked by the magnificent annapurna II i go down the steep and serpentine trail, collect jock on the way – he’s feeling dizzy and wanting to go as far as manang today – it’s already afternoon so come with me, tomorrow is another perfect day! we have quite a social evening, meeting more trekkers in the annapurna hotel, cheers philipp & leila!

the next day i already feel my knees hurting a bit from the steep decent last afternoon, today i’ll go another 500 m down to chame, goodbye almighty annapurna range, it’s been a wild ride, up’s and down’s but i won’t forget.

going through the forest, 40 min before i reach the orchard village of bhratang one of my buddies standing pose for a last time

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i walk until chame, staying overnight and taking a jeep back, my knee is killing me and i don’t want to make it worse.

It will be the roughest jeep ride ever, taking 6 hours for 55 km on the worst dirt road i’ve seen, flanked with big boulders, crossing multiple streams going down the valley, so much fun but you got to work hard as must the jeep and it’s driver.
Of course the car is fully loaded, 4 guys in the back and 4 in the front and changing people in the cargo area, we squeeze in tight, leaving no space for our bums and every big rock on the way will make your body hit the neighboring one or the door at rib height – i enjoy it though.
back in besi sahar we take a minibus to pokhara, being a more gentle ride – mostly on asphalt but also very squeezy as of the nepali nature of buses.

I learned a lot the last days and saw another example of our planet’s brute force and beauty, as with destruction also comes creation – om namah shivaya

Annapurna Circuit – getting closer to heaven

Considered one of the best trails in the world – 40 years ago, still advertisements can be found today promoting the trek. In the 1980’s the construction of a road started which changed things a bit, now the road goes up to manang on 3500m. the road is the worst dirt road i’ve seen so far, big boulders, lots of streams, steep as shit, even with a mtb hard to tackle, of course there are 4wd jeeps going up and down and most of the time there is an alternative trail to the road.

Landscape is still amazing and the way pretty easy to find, i didn’t take any guide or porter, i can carry my stuff on my own…
so much happened during those 11 days, so many people i met and i can’t refer to all, i just talk about the things that struck me the most. google the names to get more detail!

starting in besi sahar i was reminded of costa rica, brasil or bolivia, lush green, rice fields, a couple of trees and some villages up on the hills. the trail goes up the marshyangdi valley crossing the roaring marshyangdi river multiple times on fabulous swing bridges i fancy walking on, it’s been a while – back in lovely aotearoa i started to love them DSC07922

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the big giants still hiding in clouds up in the sky and i walk for 2 days up the valley always wondering what’s next behind the next bend, facing rock walls and sweating my ass off on the steep trails, accommodation is basic as is the food, all places have the same menu approved by the annapurna conservation area project, prices go up the higher you go.

On the 3rd day i went from tal to timang gaining more than 1000 m in height, the clouds give way to some snow covered peaks and i need to smile, half way up in the sky, mighty mountains, in the evening the moon lights magically mt. manaslu, a beautiful 8.000er, 1 of 5 people going up there won’t return! DSC07962
on the trek you usually see porters carrying up to 30 kg on their back, they laugh at my small backpack with 15 kg…villagers, cows, goats, motorbikes and jeeps on the road, not that much trekkers – i’m on my own – so peaceful!
even at night time i’m the only guest in the lodge so lot’s of socializing with the locals who speak english, my nepali is still non existent 🙂

the 4th day will take me up to 3.000m passing the districts hub town of chame and the apple orchards of brathang, the road was blasted out of the rocks, drill holes still can be found in the bluff.
just like the death road in bolivia, no handrails or security, always watch your steps!DSC08007

coming round the bend, the mighty rock wall of oble dome comes into sight, another magical moment in the trek.
being a result of glacial abrasion, it just rises as little as 1.600 m up the sky – you see the bike rider on the road?…the little black dot, so you can imagine the big scale!
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getting cooler up here and blankets are being supplied at night time, that’s nice as my summer sleeping bag can’t take temperatures below 0.
the next days i take it slow to pay respect to the altitude, as i can already feel it’s effect on my body, need to walk slow uphill and breath more deep. i pass pisang, and mighty annapurna II. In most of the villages and all along the way you’ll find mani walls – prayer walls with many tiny wheels, always walk past them on the left hand side and spin the wheels clockwise, Om mani padme hum…DSC08039
next town on the lower route is humde and I’m reminded of tupiza in bolivia, the rocky slopes of the mountains are washed down revealing different minerals shining in multiple colors in the sunlight

i continue just to the next town of muchi, the area here is more dry, mostly pine trees DSC08073

i want to go up to milarepas cave, some 1000 years ago a tibetan monk called milarepa went up here to meditate
i met guillaume, also going up with his guide and we form a pack. the cave is collapsed now but prayer flags lead the way, passing the stupa and following a bit dangerous loose rock trail going up on 4.300m, here meditation is hard, as the air is so thin, i take my time though…It’s starting to snow we gotta go down, you don’t want to be up on the mountain when the weather changes!
the next two days and nights will be all white/grey skies and bloody cold nights, which changes my plans quite a bit…

we had a nice poker tournament up in manang escaping the sudden winter outbreak, honoring poker thursdays in berlin… no beer, no smokes though, cheers to ginger lemon tea – big pot, bring it on! 20151029_201745

using coffee beans, white beans, noodles, pistacio shells and grey beans for betting – good times brothers! cheers matt, ryan, tebo and harika

I come to a decision, i’m not crossing the pass, i’ll go back out of multiple reasons, not feeling going higher, my body said more than once – go down.
I’m not prepared for that much snow and the cold temperatures hard, rough at night in buildings with no insulation, heating nor double glassing – sleeping with all jumpers you have brought on, wearing your hat, covered in sleeping bag and blankets – I don’t want to buy more gear to pace up, it’s another 2000 m higher from here…
I’m quite happy with the decision and looking forward to walking down again – to the warmth.

To be continued…

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