• Chase Davidson

Annapurna Base Camp - 6 Day Trek | NPL


PROLOGUE:


It’s always interesting how a group trek comes together. There could be a number of different reasons why someone would want to sign up and join a bunch of randoms for an extended period of time. For me, it was a mix of past misses, present friendships and future opportunities. I had flights booked to come to Nepal two years ago but like many, the pandemic caused an abrupt stop to all travel plans. There was no plan set in stone to return until my friends Mark Harrison and Jorden Tually passed through Sligo, Ireland while I was studying there and tossed up the idea of me coming along on their first guided trip. I contemplated for a while but ultimately decided that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.


The Journey Before The Journey


All good adventures have to start somewhere and this one began in the small Austrian town of Leoben. I had just spent the night at my good friend Dana’s Oma and Opa’s who were so kind to have allowed me to stay over, thus making my trip to Vienna much more enjoyable.

I spent the night before having a delicious home cooked dinner with them, their son Harry and a close family friend, Karin. Oh, I should also mention the dog, Nanook, because he’s just the most adorable little pup! After a great catch up with everyone, I still had a bunch of organizing to do before bed which meant I didn’t get to sleep till about midnight.


The morning came quick but the smell of a freshly cooked breakfast from Oma was all I needed to get the ball rolling. I descended to the kitchen and greeted Oma and Opa with a Guten Morgen, and did my best German I could muster with minimal knowledge mixed with minimal sleep.


We shared a bunch of laughs and by 5:20am, Opa was giving me a lift to the train station where the long journey towards Kathmandu would officially begin.


The train from Leoben included a change over in the town of Bruck an der Mur that brought me directly to Vienna where I would then take a quick change towards the airport. I arrived with plenty of time to spare allowing me to check-in my luggage, get through security and then relax for a bit.


The flight from Vienna to Abu Dhabi took about 6 hours due to some slight delays but it made no difference since I’d be staying overnight in the Abu Dhabi airport anyway. Upon landing, I began my search for an appropriate sleeping spot and then worked on my Ireland recap video.




By midnight, I figured it was time to grab some sleep. I curled up in the corner I found earlier, used my Coalatree Camper Jacket as a pillow and grabbed a few hours of Z’s.




Arriving in Kathmandu


The light began to shine through the window of the airport around 5:30am which naturally woke me up. Using the airport to stretch my legs, I walked around for a bit before loading my final plane to Kathmandu. Touchdown in Kathmandu came without any delays. Unfortunately, there was a bit of issues with the immigration computers but with some help from the airport staff, I got it sorted and was officially in Kathmandu for the next ten days.

I walked outside after picking up my hiking bag where I saw the sign by Discovery World Trekking greeting me. The car ride to our first hotel really reminded me how different life can be, and I took it all in like it was my first ever visit to Asia.


Once I got to the International Guest House, I reorganized what I’d be needing for the trek and then headed out for a walk around the city. Our group introduction was scheduled for 6pm (18:00), so I had a limited time to exchange some money and make any last minute purchases.


Not long after the group discussions began, a storm started brewing which pushed us over to the restaurant we’d be having dinner at. This is where we got all our introductions out, had our first taste of traditional Nepalese cuisine and discussed our upcoming itinerary.


We returned back to the hotel by 8pm (20:00) for last minute packing arrangements and this is when my roomate, Jack, arrived. We chatted for a bit and then met up with a few others for a celebratory ice cream.


We eventually turned it sideways and prepared for our 5am start to kick off the trek of a life time!


Day 1 - May 21st, 2022


The alarm went off at 4:30am waking both Jack and I up but we both quickly decided another 10 minutes of sleep was a good idea. I wasted no time afterwards jumping into the shower and getting one last cool off in before we finished packing all our gear and headed down for breakfast.


As we were eating our pre-made food box, we sipped on some black coffee while the rest of the crew showed up one by one. Each of us had a different sleep with some struggling to sleep due to the noise of barking dogs, honking horns and the inevitable mosquito passing thru. I was dead tired from having slept at the Abu Dhabi airport the night before that not a single thing woke me up throughout the night.


Once our luggage that would be left behind was sorted, we began to walk towards the couch bus which we would be taking towards Pokhara…

Our first short break came at 8:30am when we pulled into a small little rest stop along the side of the windy road. A few of the crew grabbed a bite to eat and coffees while I explored a little bit. When we got back on the bus, Jorden threw a chocolate bar to the back for us to enjoy… Except this didn’t taste anything like we expected. Full blown petroleum chocolate is the best way I can describe it. Actually, let’s go deeper… Imagine taking a bar of chocolate and literally dipping it into a tank of gas, letting it sit for a few minutes then indulge.


After another couple hours of driving, we stopped for our lunch break. This is when I learned that Mark, Landon, and Riccardo had begun a 100 push ups a day challenge so naturally, I wanted to take part. John came over to see what all the hype was about and joined in, followed up not long after by Thirza. Let’s see if we can get everyone involved somehow by the end of the trip!

Interesting aspects of the long bus ride included the roofs of buildings held down by rocks and other various objects, the constant honking of horns letting vehicles and pedestrians know we’re nearby and the massive amounts of mom and pop style shops.


We eventually arrived in Pokhara where we would meet up with two more members of the group, Janet and Roberto. From there, we would take a different bus to the starting point of our trek. The road this time was much different and to be honest, a bit on the edge. No, I sincerely mean that, it was literally on the edge of the cliff as we went around huge boulders that had fell from the cliffs above.

At one point there was a man laying down across the road, so a few of the porters got out to help him. He was really drunk or under some other kind of influence and when they helped him aside, a motorbike came back and ran his head over. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever witnessed. The man was stunned but still seemed coherent as the bus drove off. Speechless, and a bit unhinged, the group gathered their thoughts as we reached the trailhead.

Nearly 12 hours of bus rides later, we were ready to do the two hour hike to the village of Ghandruk. Plenty of people said nameste to us as we walked on with plenty of donkey passings and glorious views of the valley below. We made exceptional time; Making it to the village in just one hour!


We all enjoyed the views and chatted before our scheduled dinner at 7:30pm (19:30). Riccardo and I opted for the pizza choice over the traditional meal since we had the traditional one for the last two meals. A quick briefing and then it was time for bed.


Annapurna Trek - Day 2


I awoke way earlier than my alarm with excruciating stomach pains. I had gotten a bit of food sickness from the night before which gave me a morning spent in the washroom. Constant cramps worse than I’ve experienced in a long time made it hard to even walk and talk but luckily, Landon had some Pepto Bismo tablets that eased the pain. It wasn’t enough however, as I went to eat breakfast and the very first bite of the egg sent me back to the washroom.


This proved to be the last time I needed it though as I ended up vomiting as well which left next to nothing in my stomach. Not exactly what you want knowing you’ll be hiking a solid 17km’s but that’s what I had to go with. The good side of the morning though appeared when we got our first view of Annapurna South and Fish Tail mountain.

View of Fishtail Mountain
Fishtail Mountain

We descended down through the village and onto the trail that would take us up and down with an elevation gain of 1,100m. Since I wasn’t feeling too well in the morning and a bit dizzy at times, one of our porters offered to carry my camera bag to ease my weight. That was great so I took just my camera and GoPro in order to keep up with the group.

There was a bunch of great viewpoints where we’d stop from time to time to admire the views, rest and chat. At one point, the cutest puppies came jumping up to us and in the background I watched a little kid wrestling with a goat. Just when you’ve thought you’ve seen it all!


Our first main resting stop for twenty minutes saw the guys get their push ups in but I was still feeling not too well and thought it may be better to miss a day in order to recover. I did however manage to take my first sips of water at this spot and it felt so nice and refreshing.


There was a section of long and gruelling switchbacks that began to take people out. Firstly, Kirsta went down and ripped her pants open and then shortly after, Jana’s knee decided it was time to give up. Mark did a bit of TLC on it using a lumix camera strap and Jack gave her his poles to get through.

From there we carried on but slowly Riccardo and I found our way to the back of the pack due to constantly filming everything around us. It was actually pretty cool. We were all by ourselves in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains! Nothing felt more remote at this time. Eventually we caught up to the group in Kimrong Chola where we’d be having one more major break before we made the uphill push towards our lunch spot.

The bridge crossing over to Kimrong Chola was so rad though! It was one of the sketchiest bridges that looked to be barely held together by mesh and wood but that’s what I loved about it. I opted to get a ginger tea to help deal with the stomach cramps. It cost me 80 rupees which is equivalent to about €0.61 ($0.83). It tasted so good and was the first real thing I was able to get down today.


Once everyone was a bit rested, it was time for the major ascent. This one was up, up, up and I’d be lying if I said it was a breeze. My heart was pumping so hard that I could feel it in my brain. By this point my stomach cramps were far and few in between, to the point I was even carrying my own bag again. That was a bonus because then I was able to drink water whenever I needed. The group sang songs on the way up with different words we had to get. For example, the word “Love”… So someone would have to sing a song with that word in it but the only way it counts is if others were capable of singing the lyrics as well.

Along the way to our lunch spot, we had a bit of a situation with a cow. He did NOT want us to go past so we just waited till some of the porters caught up to us and they handled it like champs. By 1pm (13:00), we made it to Chomrong for lunch and I was ready to get some food in me.


I went with the noodle soup and another ginger tea just to be on the safe side. The price of the ginger tea increased by 20 rupees but again, it was so worth it. We expected the prices to increase the further and further into the Annapurna Reserve we go. We have such an incredible group so food conversations are constant without any dull moments!


Two other members of our group, Roberto and Janet came strolling up a few minutes before we were about to head out. Janet had been having trouble breathing and difficult with the amount of elevation but I can comfortably say that even I wasn’t quite prepared for the hiking difficulty. Janet decided it would be best to rent a mule to bring her as far as Dovan (a village we would be passing the next day) in order to give her a bit of rest so she can make the push to the base camp. The mule rental costed 6000 rupees which was equivalent to €46 ($62).

Riccardo and I were once again way behind the pack as we took timelapse’s of the clouds gathering in the valley. Nevertheless, we found our way and kept on pushing. We passed a few different shops that had quite the selection. I mean, all kinds of goodies to enjoy. Riccardo got a snickers bar and I gladly ate a piece when it was offered.


Muskoka Woods Reunion

There was one more bridge crossing and this was the most scenic by far. The green trees on the side with a flowing river made the whole situation memorable. We eventually caught up with the group, fired off some shots and then made the final ascent to where we’d be sleeping. Jorden came over to Jack and I’s room for a little hang out session which felt like Muskoka Woods all over again. Muskoka Woods is an action sports camp in the Muskokas of Canada and the place where five of us are connected.


Fried rice for dinner with a little bit of pizza once again along with a seriously hot shower was the cream of the crop after a long day of constant on and off rain showers. Jessica ended up not feeling well by the evening with symptoms much similar to I had in the morning, therefore not able to eat but fingers crossed she’s better tomorrow. We discussed the itinerary for tomorrow and then headed to our rooms to turn it sideways. Lucky for us, we get to do it all again tomorrow!


Annapurna Trek - Day 3


This morning began with the best sleep of the trip. I didn’t wake up once until my alarm went off at 5am, and then I opened the door to fantastic views of Fishtail Mountain and the back part of Annapurna South. It didn’t take long before all the others were out snapping photos either.


Sunrise in Sinuwa refuge
Sinuwa Sunrise

The next positive moment of the morning was when I got to eat a solid breakfast after missing yesterdays due to the food sickness. It was great because they made special Napelese bread too, along with eggs and potatoes!


Already, the sun was shining and you could tell everyone’s spirits were much better knowing that today wouldn’t be as hard as a push compared to the day prior. Unfortunately, Jessica came down extremely sick with food poisoning as well but was way worse off than myself which forced her to have to stay back.


The rest of the crew continued onwards, along with Janet on the mule. The mule would be able to go as far as Upper Dovan before no animals are permitted due to religious beliefs.


The trail ran upwards into the valley bypassing plenty of waterfalls and even a sweet little swimming spot that Mark and Landon took a dip in. I opted to head above it to get some long exposures of the waterfall instead since I’m horrible when it comes to swimming in cold water.

Our breaks included a bunch of shenanigans such as trying to toss food into each other’s mouths, learning how to handstand and of course, the classic push up challenge. Since I was feeling better today, I managed to get some done and saved a few for later.

Lunch meal in Upper Dovan
Upper Dovan Lunchtime

The groups pace was much higher today and we reached our lunch location at Upper Dovan by 11am. Being two hours earlier than I expected, I wasn’t quite hungry but still woofed down a full plate of fried rice. While we were eating, the weather turned once again which is custom in the mountains.


The rain was coming down so hard that I decided to fill my Katadyne filtration bottle with the rain and then tossed in a purifying tablet. The water in Nepal is not safe to drink so all water must be boiled or properly treated with purification tablets. As the altitude gets higher, it takes a higher temperature to boil which becomes increasingly more inefficient than a simple tablet.


We got our rain gear on and headed out. As per usual, the rain didn’t last long and it ended with one of the biggest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. The locals call it “108 Chahara” and I can only guess that’s because there is an endless amount of waterfalls within the area.


Endless waterfall beauty
108 Chahara

The rain continued to hold off as we continued towards our destination, navigating over plenty of streams and watching our steps across the rocks. As we hiked up the endless amount of steps on the path, a helicopter flew by us but the craziest part was that it was at the same altitude as us! That was the clear mark that made me check my phone and realize that we had reached the 3,000m.

We could see Deurali at this point and knew it was only about 5 minutes away but it certainly took a lot longer. Riccardo and I once again at the back of the pack got some of the most amazing shots of the trip so far as we crossed a couple different make shift bridges and watched the clouds shape the mountains on all sides of us. Before we knew it, Jana (who had hurt her knee the previous day) had caught up to us and we all started laughing knowing that meant we were quite far behind.

Slowly but surely, we made it to Deurali and I wasted no time setting up my bed, getting a hot shower and preparing for dinner. Good thing to point out is that we have to pay for hot showers, which costed us 250 rupees here (€1.90/$2.57). As we get higher in elevation, the prices raise. I call it Elevation Inflation.


Another price we pay is for the wifi, which costs 200 rupees (€1.51/$2.05). Normally I wouldn’t give in to a wifi cost but it’s been great staying connected and uploading to my Instagram stories for all to enjoy -> @chasedavidsson


One last ginger tea after a delicious veggie roll dinner and it was time to brush the teeth and get some Z’s before we make headway towards Annapurna Base Camp the next day.


Annapurna Trek - Day 4


Beep… Beep… Beep… That’s my cue to get up out of bed. That also means it’s 5am once again. This time was a bit different from the previous couple days because I could hear the rain coming down and that meant I could hit the snooze button a couple times.


Eventually, I got up and got my clothes on before enjoying breakfast with the others. A milk coffee and the usually bread, potatoes and eggs was on the table. The skies began to clear as the morning went on and we prepared for the trek to base camp.

At the beginning, I was in the back of the group getting shots but then got this feeling that I needed to go my own pace today and separate a bit. It’s not that being within the group was bad or anything, but after many solo hikes in the past, I felt I needed to get away on my own. After catching up with the group and taking some photos, I told Dahl I was going to push on ahead and to let everyone know I’ll be alright.


The Himalayan Valley to ABC
Looking Back

The views got increasingly more beautiful and the sheer size of the mountains began to present themselves. Taking in all my surroundings, I just kept going past the stops that looked like proper rest stops. My energy level was up and the altitude wasn’t having an effect on me quite yet so why not go until I need a break.


Before I knew it, I had made it to Machapuchhare Base Camp and that was where we had planned to eat lunch. I spent about 45 minutes taking in the landscape and admiring the views of Annapurna (8,091m), Machapuchhare (6,993m), Gangapurna (7,455m) and Hiunchuli (6,441m). It really made you appreciate how big these natural giants really are.





Once the rest of the squad caught up, we had a brief pause for some biscuits and tea. The group decided that since we made such good time, that we would just do the extra distance to Annapurna Base Camp and do lunch there. A decision we would all later love more than ever.

The hike up to A.B.C. gave me my first taste of the altitude effects. Around 4,000m, I began to feel my head start to get a little dizzy so I slowed my pace and took a rest break next to the river running down. It was a chance to splash some water on my face and enjoy the sunlight. I could see that the base camp was only about 15 minutes away from that point and took my time.

Welcome Sign
Annapurna Base Camp

Arriving at the welcome sign was a warming accomplishment and we were all excited to be there. Unfortunately, our casualty count went up to 4 by the end with Roberto, Janet and Jana deciding to stay down at Deurali.


While having lunch, the clouds really began to take over the camp and before long, it became a full on blizzard. Everyone became tired one by one, and dispersed back to their rooms for a little afternoon nap.

Restless in my bed and not wanting to miss an opportunity, I picked up my camera bag and headed to the lunch room so I could take witness of any change in the sky. After a little while, there appeared to be a brief window of opportunity!


When I got out to the location, Kirsta was already there taking it all in. We chatted a bunch about life until Annapurna showed itself to us for the first time. Such an incredible experience to witness this 8,000m beast present itself to us. Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain in the world which is already unbelievable but words cannot express how impressive this was in real life.

Plenty of time went by while I shot a million photos before heading back for dinner. The choice for dinner today was a garlic pizza and it was delicious. Let’s just hope I don’t get a repeat of my first night…


We shared a small toast of Turborg beer and mango juice to celebrate the accomplishment for ourselves and for those that weren’t able to be there with us. Jack ended up showing Riccardo and I a bunch of helpful Adobe lightroom and photoshop tips to really get more out of a photo before it was bed time. 5am comes early and you bet we’ll be waiting to see that first light hit on the Annapurna Range!


Annapurna Trek - Day 5


Excited to get a proper view of Annapurna at sunrise, many of us had our alarms set for 5am with high expectations. That was not the case…

It seemed like the blizzard from the day before wasn’t finished because we woke up with a foot of snow at our doorstep with no signs of it snowing down. So, what do you do in this situation? Make a snowman naturally!


Jorden had never made a snowman before in his life so he was put in charge of the head, while Mark and Jay got the body and base rolling. Turned out to be quite entertaining watching them and the end result was perfection.


We gathered round for breakfast shortly after and then had to say goodbye. Really glad we were able to get some views the day before, even if it was only for a short while.


This day was a big one as we’d be going from Annapurna Base Camp all the way down to Sinuwa which was about 22km’s away but at least it was mostly downhill. The downside of it was that the snow would turn into rain once we hit lower elevations.

As we were coming down, I heard a voice from behind me yell “Chase!”… This was Mark pointing out that I just walked past a perfectly good spot for a polar dip at 4,000m. My last real polar dip took place back in 2017 when Mark and I were in Iceland. I’m not one for cold water but I promised him I’d do it if we found a good spot for it. I held up my end of the bargain!


The rest of the way down went by really quickly and we all made great time but the rain continued to pour down leaving us all soaking wet from head to toe. Once we got down to Deurali, we stopped to use the wifi, dry off for a bit and grab a cup of tea. I’ve been on the ginger tea since I was sick on the first day and I credit that with my turn around. We ended up having lunch at Upper Dovan and as per usual, I went with the fried rice. From there, we continued down to Sinuwa where we’d meet up with Jana, Janet and Roberto once again. This was our final stop for the day and gave us loads of time to relax and talk about the adventure.


The porters and guides were using a nearby shed as a fire stop for drying clothes so I hung out with them for a bit. Once they left, I stayed a bit longer to write my journal to the crackling of the fire. Dinner was served around 7:30pm (19:30) and then I called it a night.


Annapurna Trek - Day 6


Last nights briefing prepared us for getting up a little bit earlier than our normal routine in order to take advantage of a hot spring before the bus back to Pokhara.

Clear Morning Views
Annapurna South & Fishtail Mountain

Considering we just hiked through torrential downpour yesterday, we somehow lost a bit of our expectation of clear weather. Boy, were we shocked! Easily the clearest day of the entire trek had us seeing Annapurna South in ways we have never seen her before. The hike down was a bit challenging due to the up and down nature of this part of the trek, accompanied with our calves already tired out from the 2,000m descent previously.

We worked our way down the many steps towards a suspension bridge we had taken on day 2 knowing that we’d have a solid uphill climb immediately afterwards to Chongrong. A few of us took our time crossing the bridge in order to make up for the views we missed the last time we crossed it in a light mist of rain. Annapurna South was towering above the landscape which made for some incredible photographs!

Then came the long hike upwards toward Chongrong where we’d take a break before the final descent towards our bus outside of Jhinu. When we got to Jhinu, we made a quick lunch order and then jotted down the mountainside towards the hot springs we heard many great things about. To our surprise, a whole bunch of monkeys were jumping around but unfortunately the dog that was walking everywhere with us scared them all away so I wasn’t able to get any good shots.

After trying to take photos of them and the dog constantly following and scaring them off, I gave up and joined the others in the hot spring. Even though the day was already hot, it was a pleasant feeling to relax the muscles. We played a game of Ichi Ni - A japanese game that any number of players can play with only one loser. To my luck, I ended up being the loser and had to take a dip in the freezing cold pool next to the hot spring. More to my luck, I ended up losing my glasses in the murky water and went into panic mode trying to find them. Mission successful however!

We hiked back up for lunch and then descended down to the longest suspension bridge I have ever crossed. Something like 280m long! We got stuck on one side while the mules were crossing with goods for the villages but it made for some great photo ops. On the other side, we treated ourselves to a Red Rhino, basically the Nepalese knock off of Red Bull. Next came the bumpy three hour bus ride back to Pokhara.


What we didn’t expect when we got to Pokhara though, was the ridiculously nice hotel that we would be staying in. Prime showers, beds, electricity and wifi! Oh, did I mention it had a rooftop pool overlooking the entire town and lakeside mountains! Seriously jaw dropping.

A nice dip in the pool was in order and then it was time to meet up for a celebration dinner with the entire crew. Just before dinner, we said our goodbyes to the porters and guides who helped us along the way. Without them, the trek would have been much harder. An all you can eat buffet followed with a few drinks, along with karaoke style sing alongs was the perfect ender to our time in northern Nepal.

By 10pm (22:00), I called it quits and got some sleep so I could get up early for a little walk to the lake before our flight back to Kathmandu.


Annapurna Trek - Day 7


Even though we had the ability to sleep until 7am this morning, my body clock was still set to 5am. After all the spicy food and drinks last night, I spent a good while utilizing the washroom before heading out towards the lake.


Pokhara was quiet and peaceful at this time of day. The walk to the lake took about 15 minutes. Unfortunately, my Tamron lens wouldn’t connect to my camera and I had to go back to the hotel room, and wake Jack up so I could switch to my Sony lens. The lake was smooth as glass with the occasional jogger coming by as I walked the promenade. When I got back to the hotel, there was a small Yoga session happening but I opted for a morning shower before breakfast. Full all you can eat breakfast ensued and then we caught the bus to the Pokhara domestic airport to head back to Kathmandu.


The view from the airplane couldn’t have been better with the Annapurna range towering over the landscape. Seriously magical! We landed, everyone clapped and then we caught our shuttle back to the International Guest House.

The first thing everyone did at this point was reorganize all their luggage and prepare for upcoming flights. Some were flying out early the next day, while a few would be staying in Kathmandu a bit longer. I would be staying two extra days to do a bit of sightseeing. Once everything was organized to my liking, I took my hiking clothes to the nearby laundry facility and then bought a couple souvenirs.


At 4pm (16:00), the group got together to do one last excursion to the nearby Monkey Temple known as Swayambhu. It was pretty hectic at times but for the most part, the monkeys were really chill. One jumped up onto Rebecca causing her to toss her mango ice cream at my camera.

Back at the International Guesthouse, we were greeted by Paul, the director of Discovery World Trekking and brought to one last Nepalese meal for goodbye drinks and food. I was wrecked by this time of the day and went to sleep afterwards while others went out to continue celebrating.

Epilogue:


Slowly but surely, members of the trek began to head back to the Kathmandu airport for their departing flights over the next couple days with some choosing to stay longer in Nepal. I decided to stay a couple extra days before heading to Greece to walk around Kathmandu and use the downtime to catch up on a bit of computer work. Please enjoy my perspective of Kathmandu and various other photos from the amazing trek to Annapurna Base Camp!


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*Additional photos provided by Jorden Tually (@jordentually), Landon Prescott (@mrlandonprescott), Janet Ortiz (@simply.janet) and Riccardo Ferri (@ricferri28).