Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp had its ups and downs. Besides the undulating trails, we experienced unpredictable post-monsoon weather and hiked amidst mountain peaks either visible in bright sunshine or shrouded in clouds. These contrasting conditions and the village life and natural scenery we observed comprised the essence of our charming trek into the world’s highest mountains.

Typical Nepali mountain road
Claire and guide Prem climbing steps on way to ABC (Annapurna Base Camp)

Claire, Esther and I bounced and jounced on the bone-shaking road, until we finally arrived at our trek trailhead. Tousled as our jeep driver’s long black hair, we stumbled out of the vehicle, disheveled but eager to begin our long hike. Instead of easing-in on a flat stretch of trail, we were unceremoniously greeted by a continuous set of 3,500 rising stone steps.

Standard teahouse bedroom
Dal bhat (Nepali national dish) and a side of fries

Skyward we climbed to the villages of Ulleri and Ghorepani, and our first experiences with Nepal’s legendary teahouse accommodations. With spartan but comfortable rooms and monotonous but tasty and nutritious hot meals, these full-service teahouses satisfied all of our sleeping and eating needs during the entire trek.

Sunrise view of Annapurna massif with Nepali guide Prem
Sacred Mount Machapuchare (Fish Tail) at sunrise from Poon Hill

Early the next morning, with our headlamps illuminating the steep and narrow trail, we completed a pre-breakfast climb of Poon Hill for a stunning sunrise view of the formidable Annapurna massif. Under inflaming clear skies, the emerging sun cast its rays on each peak in descending order, beginning with Annapurna I, the first 8,000-meter (26,250-foot) mountain even summited.

Forest of twisted rhododendron trees
Water buffalo munching on orchid plants

Coming off our mountain high, we entered dark trail sections of vast cloud forest covered in twisted rhododendron trees. During spring, these hillsides are bathed in the soft hues of red and light pink rhododendron blossoms. Although we missed rhododendron season, we were still treated to a profusion of delicate mountain orchids blooming white, blue, and yellow.

Local Gurung young woman drying beans and mushrooms outside Chomrong
Himalayan freight train above Chomrong

At the mouth of the Modi Khola Gorge is the ancient Gurung village of Chomrong. Here, hospitable Buddhists of Tibetan origin occupy the last well-stocked village accessible by motor vehicles. Beyond Chomrong, the only way to travel is up through the gorge, on foot or by pack animal.

Evidence of blood-sucking leeches
Alpine trail above Machapuchare (Fish Tail) Base Camp

Climbing through the Modi Khola Gorge, muddy subtropical jungle gives way to more rocky alpine terrain. To our dismay, where there was mud, there were leeches. Before reaching the high-altitude Annapurna Sanctuary at Machapuchare (Fish Tail) Base Camp, we sustained our share of leech bites and unwanted blood loss.

Claire making friends with baby lambs at Annapurna Base Camp
Always changeable weather explodes below Annapurna Base Camp

None the worse for wear, we pushed on to Annapurna Base Camp and the high-point of the trek. Here at 13,550 feet, we were surrounded by the snow-covered peaks of the Annapurna massif. Unfortunately, due to heavy overnight rains and a low cloud bank, they were mostly shrouded from our view.

Cascading tributaries and Buddhist temple
Geared up for a rainy afternoon

Turning around and returning through the gorge, heavy post-monsoon rains continued through the afternoon. Traipsing along in a downpour for four hours, we struggled to appreciate the roar of the raging river below or notice its vertical veil-like tributaries cascading down the chasm walls.

Getting dry and warm around teahouse wood stove
Final glimpse of sky-high Himalayas

The final day of our trek dawned dry and clear. Heading out, we caught one last glimpse of the sky-high Himalayas, and reflected on the wild nature, pastoral village life, and friendly people that we encountered along the way. Finally, we took our last steps across a long pedestrian suspension bridge to an awaiting jeep and our return to a more predictable way of life.

Thanks to our guide Prem (2nd from left), and porters Umesh (far left) and Dave (far right)
Pedestrian suspension bridge and our return to a more predictable way of life

Feature Photo: Annapurna Base Camp with our guide and porters

Blogger’s Note: After hiking all afternoon in the rain, all three of us came down with various head colds and congestion. Back in our hotel in the city of Pokhara, we have rested and recuperated for the last several days. We are on the mend, feeling better, and looking forward to our next exciting experience in Nepal.

24 thoughts on “Annapurna Base Camp Trek

    • For the most part, we were extremely lucky with the weather, Neil. Trekking so close to the end of the monsoon season was a risky endeavor, especially with climate change turning weather patterns upside-down. During our rest and recuperation period in the city of Pokhara, the rain has intensified and been relentless. Fortunately, we are warm and dry in our hotel. These past few days have been quite monotonous, but we have enjoyed the downtime to read, listen to music, and catch up on our sleep.

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  1. What a joy to read your beautiful descriptions of an awe-inspiring part of the world! Also inspiring is your gumption, toughness and tenacity. (Leaches??? 😱) Hoping you are all feeling better. Can’t wait to hear more. ❤️ Joan

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    • Hi Joannie! Can’t wait to see you and Dean’o back in Arizona! Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) was easier than we thought it would be. I almost titled this blog post, “ABC as easy as 123”. If I had, I would never have gotten that old Jackson Five song out of my head. We were warned about the leeches, and checked our boots and socks frequently. Only Claire and I fell victim to the little suckers. Esther escaped unscathed, probably due to her extreme diligence. We are all feeling better and looking forward to more fun in Nepal. Hope you are feeling better too. Take care!


  2. Joe, I loved this post. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous, I am so envious of you. Brian and I have been planning to do this trekking next year, so I am keeping a close eye on your posts. Do you think it is possible to do the trekking independently? Maybe just hiring a porter? Did you book the accommodation in advance?
    You have found ABC easy, I wonder how it will compare with EBC.
    Safe travels!

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    • Thank you, Gilda. I think you and Brian would find the ABC trek pretty easy, as I did. The trail is mostly stone steps, either up or down, with very few flat stretches. We arranged our trek ahead of time through a company that included the guide and porters. Our guide controlled our pace and arranged all the teahouse accommodations. Next time, I would go independent or maybe with just a porter. Much of the fun of trekking is the freedom to hike at your own pace and stop wherever you want. There are teahouses all along the trail, so finding rooms would not be a problem. The higher elevation teahouses may have limited availability, so making some reservations there would be advisable.We will be trekking to EBC at the end of the month, again with a guide and porters. The elevations are higher, so we are expecting it to be more difficult. Hope you guys make it next year. It is a long way from home, but it was a great adventure and the views of the Himalayas were worth the effort.


  3. Wow! What am amazing and challenging adventure! Good to hear from again and happy you made it despite the weather. Great pictures and journaling 🙂 Take care

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    • Thanks for the lovely comment, Connie. Considering the time of year, we felt pretty lucky with the weather. Over the nine days, we only had to walk in heavy rain for one afternoon. This trek was the longest one we have ever done. After a couple days, it felt natural to get out of bed and just start walking. Before we knew it, we were done for the day. It sounds monotonous, but the changing scenery was both beautiful and interesting. It was especially fun to share the experience with our daughter. Hope you and Chet are well, and look forward to seeing you back in Arizona in November.

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    • Hi Phil & Michaela! Up until now, most of our travels have been pretty tame. Making this trip to Nepal was a big step for us. We had never been so far from home, or to a Hindu country with such limited infrastructure. Like so many things in life, the anxiety of the unknown we felt beforehand was really unnecessary. Conquering the ABC trek and maneuvering around Nepal has been easier than we anticipated, and left us with a rewarding sense of accomplishment. We will never be as intrepid as you guys, but now we won’t be as afraid to step even further outside of our comfort zone in the future.

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    • Leech bites are good for you, Marty. At least that’s what the Nepali doctor told me when he diagnosed my lower respiratory tract infection. Nobody likes to have a parasite suck their blood, but their bites are totally painless. The sunrise view of the Himalayas from Poon Hill was the indisputable highlight of the trek for me. I have dreamed of seeing the world’s highest mountains, and travelled half way around the world to view them. As we watched the long bank of snow-covered monsters reveal themselves in the rising sunlight, I had to pinch myself to be sure it was real.

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  4. What an amazing trip!! Certainly not an easy one (I’m sorry about the colds and leeches especially), but worth it! The scenery was incredible, and I was especially interested in the difference in the environments, from mountainsides to jungle-like conditions. I know you travel a lot and have had many wonderful trips, but I bet you’ll never forget this one!

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    • It has required a lot of effort, but it has been worth it, Ann. This trip was a step out of our usual comfort zone. For that reason, it has been an exciting and rewarding adventure. The ABC trek is the second most popular Himalaya trek after the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek. The ABC trek is lower in elevation and includes jungle, meadow and alpine terrains, whereas the EBC trek is 100% alpine. I enjoyed the varied environments of the ABC trek. We observed a lot of interesting plant and animal life, and even saw wild monkeys in the trees. Near the end of our trip, we will attempt the EBC trek. The landscapes should be more stark, breathing more difficult, and temperatures colder at night. I expect it to be our greatest travel challenge to date.

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    • Thank you, Nikki. It is a pleasure to share some of our many photos with you. I appreciate your interest in our adventure and lovely comment. The roads in Nepal are really horrendous. Even the main highway between the capital of Kathmandu and the second largest city of Pokhara is deteriorated. The 220 km (135 mile) road trip by bus took eight hours! In the mountains, jeeps are the sole mode of motor vehicle transportation. Most roads are partially washed out, require crossings of running water, and commonly traverse recent landslides. Short mileage trips take hours. I am surprised you have similar conditions in Mid Wales. Even in your beautiful and developed part of the world, mountain roads must be very difficult to maintain.


  5. That’s quite the adventure, even if it was easy as ABC. I’m not sure I envy hiking for hours in rain, but on the flip side that sunrise mountain shot is awesome, and I’m sure you had plenty of other wows.

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    • It was more of an educational experience than a grueling hike, Dave. The nature and scenery were exceptional and the teahouse culture interesting and engaging. Hiking in the rain is never fun, but we were well equipped with rain gear. Fortunately, the rain came on the second-to-last day of the trek, so we didn’t have to live in our wet clothes for very long.

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  6. Love reading & seeing your adventures! I’m sure the pictures can’t come close to capturing the beauty of it all! How LONG was the pedestrian suspension bridge. Yikes!!!! Keep safely trekking!!

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    • Hi Sylvia! Sorry for the delay. We have been having too much fun river rafting and feeding elephants to check our messages. Also, power outages and internet interruptions are a daily fact of life in Nepal. The suspension bridges in the Himalayas are lot of fun to cross. We passed many of them on the trek. The one at the end of the trek (in the picture) was the longest and highest. It was about 1,000 feet long and 600 feet high! Fortunately, they are well engineered and constructed of steel, and don’t sway very much. They used to be made out of rope and wood planks. Yikes!!! Hope you and Jeff are loving your last few weeks in the Boundary Waters for 2022. Esther and I are really looking forward to our Chicory Champ reunion around Thanksgiving. See you in the desert!


    • I have fun planning travel itineraries, Janis. I never was a travel agent, so I do make many mistakes. Over the past few years of retirement travel, Esther and I have learned a lot about our travel preferences. We have found that two months is ideal and that moving around too much really zaps our energy. This Nepal trip has been on our radar for at least ten years. We love to hike so the Himalayas have always been our dream.


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