Annapurna Base Camp Trek Without a Guide | Fall 2017
My husband and I completed the ABC trek in late October - early November 2017, and were lucky to have incredible weather aside from a few small showers. We were aiming to do around a 10 day trek, and choose the Annapurna Base Camp Trek and added on a few nights with a loop to Poon Hill. Budget, time, and independence were the main contributing factors that lead us to choosing this trek. We were traveling on a budget and did not want the additional expense of a guide or a porter, our time was somewhat flexible, but we felt a 10-day trek was a good distance, especially since we were using rather uncomfortable rented gear and we wanted to move at our own pace. More on planning and logistics here and here.
Day One — Pokhara to Ulleri
We hired a car from our hotel in Pokhara to Nayapul where we would start the trek for about $20. We were up early and left our hotel around 8am for the drive to Nayapul which was about an hour. You can drive further than Nayapul, but we choose to start here to save a little money, as you need to hire a Jeep to take you much further than we were dropped off.
After a about 10 minutes of walking through the town we reached the entry checkpoints where we registered and showed our permits. The first hour or so was on a dirt road, where we were occasionally passed by jeeps. The weather was hot and we were soaked in sweat in no time, taking off any additional layers we had started with. We intended to stop at Hile, but arrived quite early in the day so we stopped for lunch and then continued to Ulleri for the night. The trail from Hile to Ulleri was straight up, stairs all the way - our total elevation gain for the day was 950 meters.
We stayed at the Curious Camel Guest House, a small guest house of about 6 private rooms. One other group was staying there as well, a mother and daughter and their guide. Dinner was served in the family's living room where their children played and watched TV, and an older teenage daughter chatted on the phone for hours, presumably gossiping with friends. The private room and bathroom included hot water, wifi, outlets and the cost with dinner and breakfast was around $30.
Day Two — Ulleri to Ghorepani
We were up early as we wanted to ensure we had a bed to sleep in at Ghorepani. Certain towns are busier than others due to the flow of trekkers in each direction, and we had read Ghorepani could be busy since people from both ABC and the Poon Hill trek often stop here. The hike was mostly uphill again, but not quite as constant as the previous day. We stopped a few times for water and to take our packs off, but decided to get to Ghorepani before eating lunch. We arrived around noon, and got a private room with a private bath at the Snow View Inn, just before the rain and hail started pelting down. It was the worst weather of the trek, so we were glad to be indoors.
I had heard that if you are the first person of the day to arrive at a lodge they give you a good deal, since it’s bad luck to lose their first customer, and it seemed to be true so far. The room was a little less than $5 for the night. Many places charge for showers, hot water, and the use of outlets - but getting a private room with a private bath included those costs which was worth it for us. The lodging is cheap, but it comes with the requirement to eat your meals at the guest house. We had lunch before others arrived and enjoyed reading by the fire before others started to fill the lodge around 3pm. This was one of my favorite lodges on the trek, it had a central fireplace and a nice area to socialize.
Day Three — Ghorepani to Tadapani
We were up at 3:45am to do a morning trek up to Poon Hill. When we went to bed the previous night the weather was cold and rainy, but we woke up to clear skies and incredible stars. We layered up in our warmest gear and headed down stairs to see if others were moving. We wanted to get a head start so we could be back for breakfast and pack up for the day, but also didn’t want to lead the way since we didn’t have a guide an didn’t know exactly where the trail head was in the dark. Luckily a few others were already headed out so we followed behind.
After about an hour of vertical stairs we reached the top of Poon Hill for an incredible view of stars. There is a little kiosk at the top where hot coffee and tea is sold, so be sure to bring some money. You also need a few dollars to enter the trail, so make sure to bring more than enough for a hot drink. We were among the first up, but it didn’t take long for the peak to fill up with other trekkers. Dan set up his tripod and got some great shots of the stars and the sun rising over the tremendous peaks in the horizon. It was freezing, so dress appropriately!
Once the sun was up we hurried down to beat the crowd and get breakfast before too many others got back to the guest house. The hike was incredibly beautiful today. After a short uphill, we reached Durali Pass with an amazing view. If we had known how good the view was going to be from here, we might have skipped Poon Hill and attempted to reach Durali Pass for sunrise. However, without a guide, hiking all that way in the dark would have been a little challenging and unnerving.
From Durali Pass, a lot of the trek was down hill through lush waterfalls and thick jungle. The path was rough and a little more difficult to maneuver quickly than the previous days, but it was gorgeous. It took us about 4 hours to reach Tadapani. We had some light rain on the trail, and it was starting to come down a little harder so we decided to stop there for the night. We got a room at Hotel Panorama, which was a little more bare bones, without private toilets or showers, but had a warm and cozy common space to enjoy the view and watch the rain.
Day Four — Tadapani to Chhomrong
We have learned to request breakfast a little earlier than you plan to eat, as it often isn’t ready when you request it. Most of the lodges seem to start serving breakfast around 6am, and today, like most mornings we had eaten, packed up and were on the trail around 7am. We had a pristine morning, and Hotel Panorama had an expansive, crystal clear view of the Annapurnas and Machapuchare as we headed out.
We spent most of the day descending, with patches uphill. The path was no longer well maintained steps like the first couple of days, and the terrain definitely added a layer of difficulty. Our legs were tired, and our backs were sore from the ill fitting packs. We arrived in Chhomrong around 12:30pm and splurged ($8) on a private room with a shower at Excellent View Top guesthouse. We needed to wash our clothes and the private shower and buckets provided made that easy. We quickly got that done while the sun was still warming the hotel and concrete seating areas out front, as soon as we would loose direct sunlight it got cold and things wouldn't dry by the following morning.
Day Five — Chhomrong to Deurali
Most of the villages belond Chhomrong are much smaller, for instance, Chhomrong has about 15 guesthouse and as you continue up to ABC most villages have just a handful. We were on the trail by 7am again in hopes of getting all the way to Durali and finding a bed. After at least 30 minutes of a steep descent we crossed a suspension bridge and started back up the other side of the hill. From here until we reached ABC the path was mostly straight up hill.
Today was a long day, most guidebooks recommend that you stop for the night somewhere between Chhomrong and Durali, but we felt pretty good and wanted to be able to get to ABC the following morning. The advice to move slowly, isn't just for your legs and fitness, but because it's not advised to ascend more than 500 meters or so a day — we felt good as we continued to head up in elevation so we pushed this a little and didn't have any issues with altitude sickness. We had read that it can be hard to get a room at ABC, and that many spend the night at MBC and just trek out to ABC and back in the morning for sunrise. We came all this way, and we wanted to stay at ABC, so getting all the way yo Durali would give us a good head start for the following morning.
It took us about 7.5 hours to get to Durali. We stopped to rest and have water several times, but snacked on snickers rather than stopping for lunch. We got to Durali around 2:30pm and secured a room for ourselves and a couple we had met on the trail for the night. The lodges did fill up, and we heard people being turned away who arrived much later in the day. This was our least favorite lodge, as the staff seemed to be missing most of the time, and they didn't provide any heating in the main dining and common space. It was extremely cold, so after an early dinner we all went back to the rooms to try to warm up in our layers and sleeping bags. We ordered hard boiled eggs and some bread at dinner so we wouldn’t have to wait for breakfast to start the following day. We wanted to get an early start to ABC.
Day Six — Durali to Annapurna Base Camp
We were on the trail as the sun was starting to rise around 6am, and it was cold. The distance wasn’t bad today, and after reaching MBC, the trail levels out a bit, but it was still the most difficult day for me. We were moving at a good pace, and I could feel the elevation. We stopped briefly a little past MBC to eat a snickers which was a challenge in itself. I needed the energy but I’ve never enjoyed a candy bar less. It was completely frozen and eating it required me to take my buff and gloves off and my hands out of my pockets so I was trying to get it down as quickly as possible while having trouble catching my breath. Looking back it’s a bit comical, but I hate the cold so in the moment I had very little patience or mental energy to get the rock solid snickers down.
It took us about 4 hours to get to ABC, when we arrived it was still only 9:30am and many trekkers were still getting started for their decent. We got a room, warmed up with tea, and took in the view. The sun was out for several hours, warming up the valley, before it dipped behind annapurna in the early afternoon. Since we arrived so early we read in the sun and relaxed for a few hours and then hiked further up on a small trail to take in more of the expansive view.
Day Seven — Annapurna Base Camp to Sinuwa
We decided to relax our morning routine a little on the way down, and didn’t rush to leave basecamp before others. We were up before dawn to watch the sunrise, had breakfast and slowly packed up, and headed out, stopping in Himalaya for lunch. The distance to Sinuwa was long, but since it’s a town fewer trekkers stop in we thought it would be alright to arrive a little later in the afternoon, when we arrived there were a few rooms left the Sherpa Inn.
The trek up was hard, but going down has its own challenges and we went a very moderate pace. Just because you're headed down in elevation, doesn't mean there aren't still growling up hill streaches.
Day Eight — Sinuwa to Landruk
Today was another hard day for me. Stopping in Sinuwa for the night meant we started the morning with steep stairs to Chhomrong. We stopped at one of the bakeries for a some apple pie and very mediocre cinnamon rolls, something they are known for, and then continued on to Landruk. Since we hiked out a different trail than we hiked in I didn’t know what to expect, and quickly realized that my expectations were skewed. The stairs down from Chhomrong were steep and challenging and the terrain continued to go up and down, I was hoping for longer stretches of even ground, but it wasn’t in the cards. At one point we followed a trail that was incorrectly marked as the New Bridge, and nearly crossed a very rickety wooden suspension bridge with missing planks before noticing the new bridge down the river. That was the scariest moment of the trek and one in which I realized the value of a guide!
We stayed at the New Peaceful Guesthouse in Landruk. The room had a private shower and we were able to do a small load of laundry, and enjoy the afternoon sun in the courtyard.
Day Nine — Landruk to Pokhara
The weather was warm and we wanted to get an early start to beat the heat. Plus, we were ready for a real shower and clean clothes in Pokhara. The trail was well maintained today, making the walk out much easier than the previous days, but with the amount of stairs we descended I can’t imagine going in this way. But, I think at this point our frame of reference was skewed because others who did what we did in reverse said the same about starting the trek on our path.
The plan was to hike to Phedi and find the bus or a taxi to Pokhara, but when a Jeep in Damphus offered us a ride back to Pokhara for less than $20 without the stipulation of waiting for other trekkers to fill up the car we took it.