Our fifth annual Annapurna Circuit Fastpack was a success! Team ‘Slow Momo’ was anything but slow, rounding the circuit in just over eleven days, doing some hard ‘double days’, but also taking the right amount of time to visit the temples, smell the roses, and acclimate safely. High points included helping organize the children’s race in Manang and everyone crossing Thorung Pass (5,405m/17,728ft) in good spirits under blue bird skies.
Other points low, high, and in between: A suspected canine thief struck in the middle of the first night, absconding with one of Seth’s shoes. A crowd-sourced search of the environs the next morning came up empty handed, err footed. Seth made do for a couple days with two different shoes (one borrowed but not blue) and then eventually purchased a pair of Nepali Army shoes in Chame.
These first few days were very clear – with more views than any of the previous five years. Tal was a fantastic place to stay and once again, we were treated to some singing by the daughter of the lodge owner (video to be posted!), we passed the hat and give it to her – something unexpected but appreciated. In Manang, we took our first acclimatization day where we helped out with our third annual children’s race and then virtually everyone hiked high above Gangapurna Glacial Lake – with many finding their own corner of nature to sit down, soak in the views, and hopefully trigger some red blood cell production.
A solid night of rain in Manang had us worried and we woke to drizzle. Instead of going to Shree Kharka like last year, we bee-lined it to Yak Kharka where we hunkered down for two nights – acclimatizing and eating french fries in hopes that the potato gods would change the weather. During the ‘rest day’, we climbed high into the hillsides above the lodges – a few even went all the way to high camp above Thorung Phedi. And we came back down and ate fries and slept. The walk to Thorung Phedi was overcast but still quite beautiful – we re-grouped at a couple points and all eventually arrived at our friend’s Kate and Kumar’s lodge which is definitely one of the best ones on the circuit. More acclimatization hikes and french fries followed.
Our approach for the pass was staggered, with a few people who wanted a slower pace heading out at 5:30. The rest followed at 6:30 and under perfect skies – and with some coordination via our walkie-talkies – we all arrived together at the pass around 9:30. You couldn’t ask for better views! After a round of high fives we took pictures and soaked in the panoramic views. Eventually we started trickling over the side of the pass – walking, shuffling, jogging with over 1,600m of descent in front of us – much of it on very runnable trail, albeit at high altitude!
In Muktinath a few brave souls ran under the 108 ice cold water spouts at the temple. Damien took it all the way and also waded through the sacred water pools. Brrrr! Good times, hot showers and scrubbing laundry followed at the Bob Marley lodge. The trail out of Muktinath is one of our favorite sections as it skirts lower Mustang and then we take a solid detour over Windy Pass with a slippery descent to Jomson – all of this topped off with a couple hours of battling headwinds into Marpha which is a lovely village with everything apple you could want.
Good weather and spirits followed our last leg on the circuit – we followed great trails along the east bank of the Kali Gandaki and part of the team scouted some new trails. On Poon Hill we had great views of the Annapurna Range, ate our last breakfast on the trail and strolled down to our trailhead in Naya Pull.
We saw lots of landslide activity all around and regrettably also new jeep track in some areas. But we also saw an incredible number of beautiful sites, waterfalls, rivers, temples, flowers, people, and cute baby goats along the way. A new team record of 81 plates of french fries was set. We would like to thank the members of ‘Team Slow Momo’ for making this such a great experience.
Team Slow Momo
We are not above a little bit of cheese!
Pictures from Annapurna Fastpack 2018
Here are a few of our pictures. We were lucky to have some great photographers on the team! Please also check out this album by Damien Murphy!