Tilicho lake trek and Annapurna circuit clockwise

Namaste all 😉
As a Christmas gift we decided with Jirka to go from Pokhara to Annapurrna area. Since we got only 6 days we wanted to do Tilicho Trek, which offers the best from Annapurna circuit. We decided to leave Pokhara on 23rd of December, so we did not spend Christmas on a local bus (would not be the best Christmas experience) and we wanted to be back in Pokhara on the 30th of December, so we could enjoy the local street festival in Pokhara, which a lot of people recommended to us.

In Pokhara we were offered a direct jeep to Jomsom for $28, which seemed to be too much, so we decide to take a local bus to Beni – 215 rupees (about $2) and then a jeep to Jomsom for 1300 rupees (about $13). The road to Beni is surprisingly good for Nepalese standards but from Beni to Jomsom it is a classic dusty Nepalese bouncy trail :). The journey lasts in total with a change of a jeep less than 10 hours. Jomsom counts with an airport so you can fly there, which is of course much more comfortable, faster but also much more expensive, the price is around $100.

Bus to Beni.

Bus to Beni.

All tired from the ride we hit the first lodge. Very energetic grandma (it looks that people here are either full of energy or reincarnated, there is nothing between). She offered us a room for 300 rupees (in Everest region we usually got room for free if we eat there). At least the dhal bat was one of the best I have tasted in Nepal. From Jomsom to Muktinanth you can take a direct bus but I recommend you to walk through Kakbeni village. All the landscape is something completely different from what you will see over the pass. The hike takes about 4-5 hours and from Kakbeni it is all uphill. The road is wide and dusty. What surprises me that far more people smoke and drink alcohol here something we did not see that much in Everest region. Almost everything is made here of apples. Dried apples tasted great here.

Muktinanth village has a lot of charisma. The influence of buddhism is all present here and even though we arrive early that day and had time to keep going we decide to stay here. It’s Christmas Eve and instead of Christmas lights on a tree we enjoy sunset lights over Dhauligiri. As a dessert we have an apple pie for unbeatable 150 rupees ($1,5) and the room is for free this time.

New horizons from Thorong La Pass

New horizons from Thorong La Pass

The next day we planned to go over Thorong la pass but since the weather is very bad and it is even snowing here we decide to hike only to the last open lodge before the pass. It is an easy 500 metres climb from Muktinanth which takes around 1,5 hours. Price for the room is 300 rupees, which we happily accept since the lodge is isolated and very simple, there is no electricity and no internet, so we finally feel like being in the mountains again. As last night we are the only people staying in the lodge.  During the whole trek we met only one person doing the Annapurna circuit clockwise. We were still acclimatized from Everest region so we did not see any reason why not going this way. Another reason why people do not go this way is that the climbing to Thorong la pass is a little bit more challenging because on the other side you can stay in the high camp which is 4850 metres over the sea level so the climbing is not that much in one day. We hope that it stops snowing soon as it is predicted. We order a breakfast for 6 am, after 10 am on the pass the wind is usually much stronger. I wake up before 6 am and impatiently look out of the window if I can see any stars. Yes, there are many of them all over the sky! It snowed a bit more than predicted, from 5 to 10 cm of fresh snow but it should not be a problem. At least after some years we have white Christmas again! With every meter the temperature is falling down until it reaches around minus 18 degrees. After 3 hours of a fast hike we finally reach the pass where we also see first people. The contrast of the dusty Mustang from one side and the big mountains all covered with snow on the other side is probably one of the most beautiful moments in my life. Right after crossing the pass we eat one snickers bar and going fast to Yak Kharka. By the high camp we climb the near by mountain which people use for acclimatizing. It is really were close, takes only 10 minutes to go up but the view is all worth it, so do not forget to go there. Around 3 pm we finally get to Yak Kharka village, which is a bit crowded by tourists but very nice. Even when it is crowded we were offered a room for free if we have dinner and breakfast.

More and more people are advising us not to go over Tilicho pass because there is a lot of fresh snow and the path would be really hard to find. They also say that there is no possibility to sleep by the lake (we did not ask for a lodge but friend of mine told me that by the lake there was an abandoned lodge where it would be possible stay overnight). The next day we plan to go to the Tilicho base camp which is a nice hike, which takes around 5 hours. After all these advises on the way we decide to change our plan and instead of going over the Tilicho pass we will go only to Tilicho lake and then continue the classic Annapurna circuit as far as we can. We have got 2,5 more days. To the Tilicho base camp we arrive around 2 pm.

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Sunrise over Tilicho peak.

We probably would have enough time to go up and down but the weather is a bit cloudy so we decide to wait until morning. In the base camp there is the only one lodge open. It seems to me that the owner takes advantage of this, so the price was a bit higher 500-600 rupees. We set the alarm for 5:15 am. We know that the longest day is waiting for us. The plan is to go up and down to Tilicho lake and then keep going, passing Manang as far as the sun lights us the way. This part of the trek is probably the most spectacular of the whole Annapurna circuit, your are surrounded by an amphitheatre of snow and ice walls. Sunrise over Tilicho peak was just a bonus. This day Jirka woke up full of energy and was pretty hard to keep pace with him 🙂 But no pain, no gain 🙂 After 2 hours of a cold and windy hike we reach Tilicho lake. To our surprise just next to the lake is the abandoned lodge where it would be definitely possible to sleep. With the snow it is not that bad either. We are coming back down little bit disappointed because we know that we would make it and even if we could not go over the pass, sleeping by the highest located lake in the world with the noise of falling avalanches would be just amazing. We learn that if you ask for an advice you have to count that the sherpas are used to going with people who are sometimes for the first time in the mountains. But the fact that nobody notices a huge abandoned lodge was surprising. (we asked approximately 10 people). It looks that if something does not have wifi, hot water, or pizza for dinner does not exist in Annapurna circuit…).

View from Tilicho base camp.

View from Tilicho base camp.

In the base camp we just stop to return the keys and keep going. On the way to Manang we stop in Shree Kharka (Blue sheep) for lunch. The staff is much nicer here than in the base camp and the views are amazing as well, so if you are not in a hurry I would recommend you to stay here. It is only 1,5 hours from Tilicho basecamp. After 4,5 hours with the lunch break we finally get to Manang, which is a beautiful village with typical Tibetan flat roofs. There are plenty of bakeries and even small cinemas, which usually play mountaineering movies. Unfortunately we do not have much time here. It is already 4 pm and we have got only one more hour of a light to get further. Manang is also a place where you say good bye to the big mountains. I mean you will still see Annapurna range but I felt more distance between us. We end up the day with 33km and with over 1300 metres elevation gained in Mungi – a small village, where is not much to see. There was no single lodge open, so we stayed homestay in a very simple house but it was actually one of the best lodging experience we had because of the insight view of the real Nepalese life.

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Manang.

Just after dinner we go to sleep because the next day we have to get to Chame, which is also more than 30 km hike, so there is no time for a rest but we all know that in Pokhara we will get the best relax ever. With all the beautiful cafés, restaurants and a lot of outdoor activities. This place is made to chill out. From Mungi you have two options going directly through Humde, which is by the road that is used by jeeps or you can go around through Ghyaru, which is little bit further but definitely worth the views you will get.  At the beginning the path is little bit up and down but not difficult. It is a wide road where jeeps can pass as well but we did not see any. The road until Upper Pisang is really beautiful. We stop every 30 minutes to take some photos. In Pisang you will get to the main road and it is all downhill to Chame. In Chame we do not have more time, so we have to take a jeep to Besisahar. Regular price for the ride is 2000 rupees but we decide to go on the back of the jeep, which seems to be much more fun and the price is reduced to 1500 rupees. At the beginning the ride is quite comfortable but with the time more and more stuff and people are loaded and the pleasure is minor and minor. In general this way is much worse than the one to Jomsom, there are a lot of cliffs on the road, so I do not feel very safe. I feel like I am on the roller coaster. After like 8 hours we finally get to Besisahar from where I do not know how but we end up in a school local bus for 500 rupees with some candies and Chinese soup included. The bus is going for a New Years Eve party to Pokhara so the kids ignore the bouncy road and most of them are dancing already on the bus. The teacher is dancing as well and in some western countries his moves would be considered as sexual harassment but here all people are happy. At the end the teacher persuaded me to join them so I am getting into New Years Eve mode.

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