Jul 1, 2013 at 12:47 pm #1304839
Hello. I planning to fly to Nepal around the beginning of September and would appreciate advice on treks and other activities. Based on my research, it seems like the Annapurna region is the most popular. I'm traveling with my girlfriend and we're hoping to find a low to moderate intensity inn-to-inn trek (minimal or no tent camping).
Separately, I'm also interested in an Everest base camp trek. This would likely be a solo mission. Would love to hear from anyone who has been there and has recommendations.
Thank you.Jul 1, 2013 at 1:30 pm #2001394
From Kathmandu, you basically have two choices, either the Annapurna Circuit or else the Everest Trek. Of course there are more choices, but they are uncommon or else tough. Along those two main trekking routes, you should find inns and teahouses for lodging, if that is your plan.
In either case, you want to avoid bad weather. The monsoon season runs during the middle of the summer, so you want to go either before that or after that, and not during the monsoons. September might be good.
On my first trek to Everest Base Camp, we started around the end of September, maybe the 29th. We were told that it would be at least a couple of weeks after the end of the monsoon season, so it should be good. Well, we got rained on every day for the first week. I was prepared to rig up my boots and socks with plastic bags (between sock layers), and I was used to enough rainy walking that the mud did not upset me greatly. Some trekkers were demoralized after several days of rain. Also, during that wet time, the leaches come out. Once it gets dry enough, or if you get high enough where it is cold at night, then you won't have the little suckers anymore.
There are some places that will want to do business in the local currency, rupees. Other places want to do business in greenbacks. I recommend having lots of each. Do not count on plastic.
On my first trek there, we were walking for a week just to get up around Lukla. By the second trek there, we could just fly to Lukla, so that shortened the walking a lot. The problem is that some people try to fly into Lukla, then hustle up the hill to Namche, and that sets them up nicely for high altitude problems.
Take plenty of personal medications. You can't expect to find a reliable doctor or pharmacy up there. There are some doctors, but you can't expect to find them when you need them. Specifically, take water treatment and also the meds necessary if the water treatment doesn't work (like Immodium). Take a broad spectrum GI antibiotic, and probably a prescription-strength painkiller, just in case.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm #2001471
Great tips. Thanks, Bob.
Should I plan out the trek from here (connect with a guide, etc.), or wait until I hit the ground in Kathmandu?Jul 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm #2001476
How you organize your trek is a purely personal decision.
I have heard of several people who flew to Kathmandu, then found an outfitter there, booked the trip, and left on the trail two days later. I've also heard of people who went there with that intention, had to give a cash deposit to the outfitter, then returned two days later to find the office doors boarded up. I've even been in contact with a couple of guys trying to run an outfitter company from Kathmandu, and they were trying to get support from people here in the U.S. that might send some clients their way.
I have also heard of several people who just winged it, solo. No guide. No porter. They had lightweight backpacking gear, and they paid for meals and bunks at teahouses along the way.
For each of my two treks, I booked them from home, and I dealt with a travel agency with with I've known for over thirty years. The agency, in turn, hires the outfitter and guide in Kathmandu, and the entire trip operates with a certain more reliability. Obviously this costs a bit more. One thing that you might get with a big company like this is "dust-off insurance." If you have a medical emergency, they can get you evacuated.
You can pay your money, or you can take your chances. I would suggest for your first trip that you minimize risks.
–B.G.–Jul 1, 2013 at 5:05 pm #2001480
Would you mind sharing the name of the agency you like to use? I'm certainly willing to pay a bit more to mitigate risk.Jul 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm #2001487
There is a company in San Francisco named Geographic Expeditions. Previously, it was named InnerAsia. For my first trek in Nepal, I went with InnerAsia, and that trip was good. Some years later, I was signed up to go on a private climbing trip in the Everest Region, and then the trip fell through with only a month to go before departure. I saw that InnerAsia was then named Geographic Expeditions, so I booked my substitute trek with them using the same air tickets and so forth. That worked out well. I later went on a third trip elsewhere with them.
So, if you are looking for a dependable company, that would be one way to go. Now for the bad news. They don't seem to be booking as many _scheduled_ departures in Nepal these days. They seem to be doing more custom trips, and that may suit you better. One Sherpa guide had led treks there for many years, and I think that he has retired now. Now for the other bad news. Geographic is not cheap.
For some years, the Nepalese tourism industry was going to hell when the Maoist Insurgency was going on. However, that all got settled, and I haven't heard of any big problem there since then. In fact, the tourism industry in Nepal is extremely dependent on travelers from countries with a hard currency.
–B.G.–Jul 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm #2001742
How much time will you have in the Annapurna region? If time is limited, you can also look into the shorter trek to Annapurna Base Camp instead of the full circuit. Either way, I don't think you'll need a guide or porter, but a decent map and guidebook would be helpful. The hiking is pretty straight forward out there and you'll be going through villages every couple of hours for the most part, so you won't need to carry a tent or very much food. I think one of the main advantages to having a guide or porter is that they could go ahead of you and arrange a place for you to stay before you get to the village — but September is just before the busy season, so you probably wouldn't really have to worry about tea houses filling up.
Also, I found the Thorn Tree forums to be pretty helpful when I was planning.Jul 2, 2013 at 12:35 pm #2001750
Wim DepondtBPL Member
@wim_depondtLocale: The low countries
Definitely Annapurna (northern cicruit)
In September, I would not take the risk hiking the Everest region due to monsoon season (although one might be lucky if this year’s monsoon has an early retreat – it’s a hit or miss).
The northern section of the Annapurna circuit is largely on a rain shadow. You might have cloudy days but chances of rain are far less the in the Everest region. The advantage of the Northern Annapurna circuit is the variety of climate zones one traverses (check out my profile for pictures).
Both the Annapurna and Everest region can be hiked fully independent, without a guide. Plenty of people do it. The northern Annapurna circuit implies getting a bus to the trailhead, currently Besisahar (there is normally a daily direct bus from Kathamndu) and flying out from Jomsom (only flights to Phokara, which implies taking a connecting bus or flight back to Kathmandu). One can optionally skip the first and second day by taking a shared jeep further on from the Besisahar.
If it’s your first time in Nepal, it might be useful to get assistance from a trusted local travel agency to get the bus- and plane ticket (PM me if you want a recommendation, although most hotels will also assist you – just insist you want to trek independently, without a guide as they might push you to take one as it generates more revenue).
Once on the trail, trekking is dead easy. Plenty of accommodation & restaurants in virtually every village you’ll come along – no reservations needed whatsoever, just pick the teahouse you like. English is widely spoken. Prices are more or less the same everywhere. If you don’t splash out, you’ll get by with 25 usd/day (excluding transporation, Annapurna entrance fee and tims-permit). No need for tent, stove or food (but a sleeping bag remains necessary).
Also very difficult to get lost as you follow the main valley.
A good guidebook is paramount when trekking independently. I would nowadays recommend both the LP trekking guide for Nepal and the Cicerone guidebook on the Annapurna region. Contains all necessary information. The best guidebook used to be the Trailblazer but they are not available anymore. Both LP & Cicerone guidebook can be purchased as ebooks
Also plenty of information on the LP forums, that can supplement your guidebook information.
If you have cash to spare, you could ditch the Annapurna idea and go to Mustang, completely in a rain shadow (not allowed as an independent trek though – you’ll have to take a guide, get a 500usd permit and travel in a group of at least 2). Mustang can be booked locally through a trusted travel agency and can nowadays be done as a teahouse trek. Mustang and the Northern Annapurna circuit can also be combined.
If you feel uncomfortable going independently or booking guided trips locally, check out Project Himalaya. Relatively expensive but top notch organization and plenty of options. One can’t go wrong with Jamie McGuinness as a guide – just google his name.
PS: if you haven’t booked your Nepal flight, one could consider Ladakh over Nepal for September. Ladakh completely situated in a rain shadow, offering superb hiking conditions during the summer months.Jul 4, 2013 at 3:17 am #2002362
I went in 2006 when there was a lot of Maoist activity. I came overland from Tibet to Kathmandu and hired a local guide company that was recommended to me by some westerners working at a local orphanage. It is much cheaper to hire a guide locally than booking before you go from an international company.
Honestly, it was so cheap and my time was constrained so I was fine with hiring a guide who took care of all my permits, lodging, transport, food included. I did the Annapurna base camp trek and had a great time.
I would love to go back and do the circuit.
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