The ABCs of the Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Overview

The Annapurna Base camp trek or the ABC trek takes around 8-10 days to finish and it is advised that you do this with a local guide or a trekking group. The ABC trek is one of the most popular treks in the world and at the end of it you will find yourself standing face to face with the mighty Annapurna mountains, fun fact; the base camp is surrounded by peaks, so it is not just the one single mountain, it is a range of mountains that surround you, a sight to behold and cherish for the rest of your life. For a trek that is graded as moderately difficult, it is an absolute must do for mountain lovers.

Let's go through all the basic information about all the factors you need to make yourself aware about before you decide that you want to do this trek.

Getting There

By bus

Once you find yourself in Kathmandu, take a day to roam around and connect with the locals, figure out the bus timings and pick your slot. Regular buses leave from Kathmandu at 15 minute intervals to Pokhara starting from 7.00 AM. Tourist buses cost between 800-1200 NPR per person and a local minibus costs between 400-600 NPR per person. The duration of the drive is between 5-7 hours. The drive will be easier on the eyes than your buttocks.

By flight

A plane ride will cost you anywhere in the range of INR 5,500 – 9,000. It is totally dependent on the airline you pick and the season. It is a 40 minute flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Flights fly daily on this route between 8.00 am and 3.00 pm. Yeti Airlines, Buddha Air and Simrik Air operate on this stretch.

Be Fit

The Annapurna Base Camp is at 13,550; yeah that's high. The trek is filled with steep ascents and descents. The ABC trek is really fast and you cover a lot of ground each day, this will be taxing owing to the presence of steps to climb for a good chunk of the trek, so get those squats in before you commit.

If you are doing this with a group, they will definitely have a fitness level you will need to adhere to, to join their group

Your Gear

Here is a list of things you must have before you set out for the trek

1. Trekking Shoes | No you cannot do this in your sport shoes. Yes, I am sure.

2. First Aid Kit | This will be an extensive list of medicines to fight off any minor health issues and specially to fight of AMS (I'll come to it later)

3. Backpack & its rain cover (40-60 litres)

4. Clothes |   The idea is to not fill your bag with clothes, maintain personal hygiene and carry the right ones in sufficient amount. Collored T-shirts to protect yourself from sunburn (Full length sleeve) 3 warm layers because the temperatures at certain stops including the ABC drop below 0 degrees. A dry fit Tee for unpredictable weather and sweat. Avoid getting Jeans and cargos and opt for some reliable trekking pants.

5. Accessories | Sunglasses, suncap, hand gloves, woolen scarves, socks, torch, a trekking pole, 2 water bottles and plastic bags to separate items within your bag.

6. Mandatory items | First air kit & Toiletries (And a waste bag for your wet wipes and used sanitary napkins, DO NOT try to dispose off your litter in the mountains, NOT COOL and also not allowed )

Note: The use of plastic is banned in the region so please carry a trash bad that you can dispose off once you are in the city. Leave no trace.

Mandatory Documents

Note: You will need to register yourself with the National Trust for Nature conservation for the Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) It will cost 1,000 NPR for Indians and 4,000 NPR for International trekkers. The registration should ideally be done at the tourism office in Pokhara, you can also do it in Kathmandu itself.

1. Medical certificate from the doctor

2. 3 passport size photos and an original + copy of a government photo ID (For registering at the sanctuary & TIMS)

Safety

1. Fitness: You should be on this from the very beginning, if you decide to do this trek with a group, they will most certainly have an eligibility test that you will need to take. High altitude treks are serious business and keeping yourself fit for these is a must because you will be covering a lot of ground on most days and the ascents are steep and constant through out the trek. This has to be taken very seriously.

3. High Altitude Medical Kit & Trek equipment: Assuming that you will be part of a proper group who have done the ABC trek before, make sure they have specific medicines which cater to mountain sickness along with the basic medicines. Another important piece of equipment are micro-spikes that you can attach to your shoes (If not buy a pair) for snow terrains. It is important that your group has oxygen tanks and blood pressure monitors for emergencies

4. Tent & Sleeping bags: Getting good quality sleeping bags and tents is a must, because the temperatures linger around 0 quite a lot.

5. Food & Water: Stay hydrated (at least 4 litres of water a day) and do not skip meals, being part of a group will always work in your favor specially when it comes to getting in the nutrition.

Acute Mountain Sickness:

At high altitudes the chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness cannot be ruled out.

Machapuchare base camp and ABC are the highest campsites on the trek. Trekkers tend to develop symptoms of altitude sickness at these camps.

AMS is the negative health effect of high altitude, caused by rapid exposure to low amounts of oxygen at high elevation. Symptoms may include headaches, vomiting, tiredness, trouble sleeping, and dizziness. Acute mountain sickness can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) with associated shortness of breath or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) with associated confusion. Chronic mountain sickness may occur after long term exposure to high altitude.

HAPE and HACE are critical conditions that can be fatal within hours. And they can occur without AMS preceding them. So it’s doubly important to recognise any minor symptoms whatsoever.

What to do if you have symptoms of AMS?

If you feel any symptoms of AMS on the trek, you must report to your Trek Leader immediately if you are in a group or head down straight to the nearest campsite.

Emergencies

In case of an emergency, you would need to reach Syauli Bazaar. This is a road head and vehicles will be available for further evacuation. Please note that it could take up to a day to reach Syauli Bazaar depending on where you are on the trail.

Closest hospital: Ghandruk has the only medical centre on the trek.

Routes:

There are 3 routes that you can take to the ABC. All routes coincide at Chomrong and follow the same path to the base camp.

The trail can go straight to the Annapurna Base Camp or take a detour to Ghorepani Poon Hill; this is the longer route however it is also the most scenic. with exotic flowers and clear skies over the mountains, seasoned trekkers prefer this route just because it is worth the effort You can also take a smaller detour to Ghandruk.

Best time to do the ABC Trek

You can do the Annapurna Base Camp trek any time of the year. However, the monsoons are not recommended simply because it gets slippery, the insects come out and the peaks aren't as pretty surrounded by dark clouds all the time

Autumn is the best time to do this trek. It is a dry season that offers clear blue sky and moderate temperature. This is the best time do any trek in Nepal and is, therefore, very crowded.

You could go in December if you would like it to be quieter. The air will be dry and the skies will be clear but be prepared for harsh weather conditions, however proper preparation (Snow gear) will make things easier. At the start of January things will get more difficult and there is always a chance of an ever looming avalanche, keep interacting with the locals for real time information on a possible situation of an avalanche.

Spring is another best time to do Annapurna Base Camp trek.  During spring, the trail will bloom with red and white Rhododendrons, Orchids, Machhapuchhre massif and many other exotic flowers, it will flip your Instagram game on its head!

That's it folks, this should be sufficient information to get you started, if you have any questions drop them in the comments and I will be happy to answer them. Lot of the information was sourced from IndiaHikes, they also organise the ABC trek so feel free to look them up and plan your trek with them.

Crafted By, Eshan Joshi


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