HoneyTrekking the Annapurnas

Annapurna Base Camp TrekWhen we arrived in Nepal we talked about spending three or four days trekking but a 10-day trek was not part of our vocabulary. Though in a country with 1,300 peaks above 20,000 feet there is no such thing as a couple day trek so we rolled up our sleeves and decided to dig into the Himalayas.


Gearing Up

pokhara rowboats on lake below HimalayasWe went to the town of Pokhara at the foot of the Himalayas and it was as if the legendary Annapurna Mountains were whispering our name, “HoneyTrek, you know you want me.” Before you know it, we rounded up two new friends we had met back in Kathmandu, hired a guide, and were mapping our route to the Annapurna Base Camp.


Annapurna Base Camp HikersOur amazing hiking mates, Seb of the Netherlands and San Francisco Emily, our fearless local guide Dilip, and Emily’s porter Shiva (she’s a professional photographer with a whole lotta gear…more on that later) all standing in Phedi village at the foot of our 150km trail to ABC. This would be our first hike longer than three days and greater than 65km…I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous.


apurna Sanctuary Trail Map in NepalThe trail leading to the 13,546-foot high plateau of Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is fairly well marked with the occasional hand-drawn map posted so the trail is actually doable without a guide. However, to have Dilip’s knowledge of the area’s terrain, geology, history, and local language was invaluable. Plus, Dilip and Shiva were such great guys they added a ton of fun and peace of mind to a monstrous hike.


Day 1

Annapurna Sanctuary villages on hillsideTucked between two massive glacial mountains, with Modi Khola River cutting in between, the trail boasts an incredible variety of ecosystems. The north-facing shadowy slopes have a drier colder climate similar to that of the nearby Tibetan Plateau and the south-facing slopes are covered in dense tropical jungles. On our first day it was all about the lush foothills with terraced rice paddies and tiny farmhouses perched over the gorges.


Annapurna teahouseOne truly unique and lovely part about the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek is that there is no camping equipment required. Every few miles there is a guest house (or tea house as they call it), no matter the altitude or gradient of the terrain. Our first night we settled into this little cliff-hanger and celebrated our first ascent with an Everest beer.


Day 2

HoneyTrek with Annapurna hikersWe woke up to a crystal clear sky and were so stoked to get our first glimpse of the 23,684-foot Annapurna South Peak. Oddly, half the enjoyment of viewing these mountains comes from the fact that they are usually shrouded in clouds. So each time the veil peels back, it’s a whole new thrill.


Emily Polar photographing HoneyTrekAs we hiked our way out of the rice fields and deeper into the mountains, the terrain got tougher and we became more desirable outdoor clothing models. Emily Polar came to Nepal to photograph gear for her clients Patagonia, MSR and ExOfficio, and she, for some odd reason, thought HoneyTrek would make cute models for the job. Aside from occasionally have to hike over the same bridge a few times for “the shot,” it was a great opportunity to try cool new threads and mix up a 10-day hike with a few fun glam sessions.


donkeys climbing stairs to Annapurna If there were two words to describe the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek it would be awe-inspiring mountains and ass-kicking stairs. We would climb thousands each day, scaling a peak then descending it on the other side only to start up again toward the next ridge. Though this may have been the most taxing aspect of the hike, beautiful rock steps and the occasional string of decked-out donkeys helped to keep the stairs interesting.


Annapurna hot springs hikeAt the end of our second day the ultimate reward awaited us in the town of Jhinu…hot springs!!! Our weary bodies practically ran to the river to soak up these steamy, soothing, beautiful pools.


Day 3

Gurung people of the AnnapurnasThis was the point in the journey that Annapurna mountain culture started to really shine through. Days away by foot to the nearest city, the people of the Annapurnas have carved out their own way of life from the mountainside–using local materials for their homes, eating only what the earth can yield, and finding pleasure in the simpler things. The native Gurung people believe these mountains to be sacred with Annapurna as Goddess of Harvest…I think they may be on to something.


annapurna mountain portersEverything that can’t grow in the high altitudes (mostly fuel and food for tourists) gets carried on a man’s back. We would see porters racing up and down these trails at record speeds carrying absurd poundage. Seeing their relentless hustle, sometimes with over 100kg on their back, always kept our complaining at bay.


Day 4

HoneyTrek.com crosses bridges of annapurna Ascending out of the forests of bamboo and rhododendron, the quaint river streams we’d been crossing started to rage. We crossed this gusher on a series of leaf-lashed wooden planks (hand-rails not included).


fishtail mountain, nepalIn the thin, crisp air at 11,000 feet, we could feel we were getting close to the Annapurnas in our lungs and hearts. We’d never hiked harder and longer in our lives and it was about to pay off with our final ascent to Annapurna Base Camp. To see the Himalayas in all their glory and our celebratory shenanigans, don’t miss our next post.


Annapurna Base Camp Trek Photos
Annapurna Base Camp Trek Photo Gallery

  • WOW I so want to join you guys!! Your travels are truly amazing!

  • Maria Falvey

    The Porter photos certainly put the world in perspective. Wow!

    • it was amazing to see the loads these guys would carry. our guide said there are rules in Annapurna Sanctuary region now keeping porters packs under 25 kilos, however the guys who aren’t porters for climbers have more relaxed rules, we saw with packs way heavier, and even that photo of the guy with a massive water heater on his back. sh-nikes.

  • Did you eat at the “fast food center”?

    • you know we would have bro. but it was closed on the day we were there…or maybe the Nepalese food inspector had come through earlier and shut them down. lol. kidding of course.

  • I looked at your posts backwards-Part II first, but this one had breathtaking photos as well. I am inspired! As a photographer I think the stairs look amazing, but I bet I would grow to hate them. Was this the most difficult hike you guys have ever done? I hike casually but always find my friends in the area are much more in shape than I am. Those hot springs must have been a treat!

    • Anna, thank you so much for the love on the photographs. The stairs were quite beautiful, and yes we DID grow to hate them…but then after a few days you get in the zone, and the scenery is so freaking beautiful that you yearn for more so you keep climbing. before this our most difficult hike was a 5 day trek to Machu Picchu (which was a cake walk in comparison), but looking back we would do ABC all over again for sure! – http://honeytrek.com/trekking-to-machu-picchu/

    • Anna, you are spot on…the stairs were awesome and great photography subjects, and we also grew to hate them. That said after day 3 they just became part of the trek and we became friends again. And this was easily the hardest hike we have ever done in our lives…and as you might expect it will go down as one of the most rewarding things we have ever done in our combined 66 years on planet earth 🙂
      Have a great week,

  • Java

    Amazing! What gear do you have with you that would be impossible to do without?

    • As always we would say our Steripen UV water-purifier (Adventurer or Freedom models) since there is no way you can carry that much water up and buying it is a waste. Are you and the fam planning some fun hiking, I hope!?

  • This looks like an amazing hike. Can’t wait to see post #2. Keep on taking those incredible pictures. Did I see you guys get in a volleyball session along the route?

    • Indeed that was a volleyball session! Since there is barely any flat space in the Himalayas, there isn’t any soccer to be found, it’s all volleyball! These local kids let me play with them but I was so nervous I would send it 10,000 feet down a cliff, I only played for a bit. For every shank, it’s a long way down!

      • Ask Mike about how we used to lose all sorts of balls down the “cliff”.

  • Carol Laager

    Just awesome photos!! So colorful…just breathtaking

    • carol, it was so colorful, and the mountains SO big….and after 3000-4000 stairs in a day….our breath was taken away as well 🙂

  • no words…

    • tell us about it Jim….and the words we said and the photos we shared only captured half of the experience. it was so magical.

  • www.girlandtheworld.org

    These photos are just stunning! I was supposed to visit Nepal this year but unfortunately getting typhoid fever in Northern India and spending most of my money made the trip impossible. Reading through this post makes me 100% sure that I’m just going to have to go back and try again! WOW!

    • GATW, you are so right….Nepal is quite possibly my favorite country we have visited so far….it has such a perfect combination of wonderful people, historic cities with TRUE historic buildings…..and the mountains….OH so amazing they were. you MUST get there soon. not cause it will change….but because it WILL change your life!

  • oh wow! what a beautiful account of your trek! I really enjoyed the photos!

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  • Canuck66

    Doing this trek next spring – can’t wait! Your photos are wonderful and just help me get more and more excited! What time of year were you there?

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  • That said after day 3 they just became part of the trek and we became
    friends again. And this was easily the hardest hike we have ever done in
    our lives

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  • these photos are just stunning! Thanks for sharing

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