Team Salmon made it around the Annapurna Circuit without the need to swim in Marsyangdi or Kali Gandaki river! This was Himalayan Adventure Labs‘ sixth time going around the circuit and first in spring. Although there was an early scare of tropical cyclone Fani thankfully the weather turned out to be great. One of the highlights of the trip was finding new side trails; Besisahar to Bulbule and Tal to Dharapani was a great addition on the circuit. Also, not to mention the children race in Manang!

A beautiful village with traditional houses on our way to Bulbule

First few days were hot and humid but we were happy to be on the trail along side Marshyangdi river, meaning a raging river in local dialect and aptly so. We tried local bananas and found it so delicious that one of the group members came up with a name for it – banango, a banana which tastes like a mango!

We tried local bananas in Bahundada and found it so delicious that we came up with a name for it – banango, a banana which tastes like a mango!

As we entered the village of Tal in Mustang district it started to rain. This would later be a norm. The next day after the exit gate at the end of the village we stayed on the east side of the river following a trail all the way to Dharapani, a meeting point of Annapurna and Manaslu circuit.

The exit gate in the village of Tal

As our group members started to know each other better they showed various skills (fencing below) both on and off the trail. 

Fencing with trekking poles

After Chame we made a quick stop at the local apple farm, Agro Manang Pvt. Ltd. Although it was not the harvest season we still got to try various apple products from the last season. The farm was established at the cost of ~ USD $2.5m with most of the money coming from private sector and small percentage from Asian Development Bank. 

Apples, apple juice, dried apple, apple doughnut, …..

While crossing Dhikur Pokhari we were in awe of Swarga Dwar (heaven’s door), a bowl shaped mountain where locals believe after people death their soul ascend to heaven through Swarga Dwar.

A stop in Upper Pisang is a must! A lunch at a scene rooftop lodge in Upper Pisang gave us energy and lift to go up the steep slope of Ghyaru following switchback of trails. Once at the top a didi at a restaurant next to the entrance gate approached us with apple pies in a steel container. What a hospitality and also a business move! We ate some pies, took in the views of Annapurna II and IV and continued towards Manang.

After a steep climb of Ghyaru, with Annapurna II (7937m) and IV (7525m) in the background.

Manang is a village with strong Tibetan influence, plenty of lodges, bakeries and side hikes to explore and acclimatize. We stay for two night in Manang as part of our acclimatization routine. On the morning of our acclimatization day, every year we organize a children race at the local school with the help of the school and local women’s group. It is such a great experience for everyone involved to see enthusiasm and excitement among kids on the race.      

Rich starting the children race at a school in Manang.

As we got higher we had shorter distances to cover each day and more time to acclimatize. So we took another extra night of acclimatization in Yak Kharka at 4020m. Kharka meaning pasture land. One factor which we were closely following and could change our plans on this trip especially going over the pass was a tropical cyclone Fani forming in the Bay of Bengal. We closely monitored the weather changes through updates from the expert meteorologist Michael Fagin at Everest Weather. As we crossed Thorung Pass the cyclone was already weakened, had little impact in the Annapurna region and luckily we had one of the bluest skies and clearest mountains over the pass. However, there was still some snow from late winter.

At top of Thorung Pass 5416m

After the pass we stayed in Muktinath, one of the holiest sites for Hindus, followed along the Kali Gandaki river, tasted apple brandy in Marpha, local peanuts and popcorn in Ghasa, interacted with locals along the way, up the Poonhill on a semi cloudy morning and down to Nayapul to finish our Annapurna Fastpack. We would like to members of Team Salmon for making this adventure such a memorable trip. 

Overlooking mountains in the west and Dolpa on our way down from Thorung Pass.

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