Tom Langan works full time for Lost Earth Adventures, guiding in the UK and in Nepal. You’re just as likely to see him down the depths of the UK’s deepest caves as you are high on a mountain top. Recently back from Nepal, he reflects on an expedition to Annapurna Sanctuary.
At an altitude of over 4000 metres, the Annapurna Sanctuary is a hidden oval shaped plateau accessible only through a steep sided valley to the south. Surrounded by the Annapurna range, mountains over 7000 metres high, the sanctuary is believed by locals to be the home of several Hindu and Buddhist deities and a repository of Naga treasures. This remote and hidden enclave drew bold men whose ambition and determination would allow them to leave as mountaineering legends. As the sunrise rose behind Machhapucchre, this grand location became home to another historic moment – a celebratory dance off, our expedition team had made it!
Twenty six trekkers, fourteen porters, six guides and myself, ready for an adventure! We make our way through vast rhododendron forests and hillside villages, following glacial melt rivers and traversing ever-changing, breath taking mountain scenery.
One of our first locations we aim for is Poon Hill. This has become a must visit destination for those spending time near Pokhara and rightfully so. Best witnessed at sunrise as the skies are clear and the light shines a pink hue on the white mountain range, this view point provides accessible and fantastic views of Dhaulagiri, Machhapucchre and the Annapurna range. A tea shop allows our group to enjoy hot chocolates as we watch the natural light show surrounding us. Himalayan eagles gracefully catch thermals in the foreground.
Our route turns east as we traverse along ridgelines and descend into the world’s largest Rhododendron forest. Blossoming, pinks, whites and reds the Rhododendron is Nepal’s national flower. We follow streams and witness monkeys jumping through the trees. A final climb brings us to the village of Tadapani, and our home for the night. Machhapucchre, a holy mountain home to the Hindu god Shiva, and also known as the ‘fishtail’ mountain due to its distinctive shape, is prominent in the skyline.
Our final ascent to Annapurna Base Camp leads upwards over a snow field rising between a glacial moraine to the north and the slopes of Hiunchili to the south. Walking in the pre-dawn night, the Annapurna peaks surrounding our intrepid company are illuminated in great detail by the full moon in a brilliant clear sky.
Against the white backdrop there is a kaleidoscope of outdoor clothing on display, colourful enough to compete with the prayer flags marking our location, and has for this morning become the latest fashion in party wear. Apparently unaware of our current altitude and the preceding uphill climb, young and old trekkers are dancing energetically and enthusiastically together. Outside of the whoops and laughter of our unusual congregation the snow-capped amphitheatre houses a still atmosphere in the early morning air. This is not the world’s highest music venue but a silent disco on a white dance floor. This is the bringing together of people from many walks of life, now connected by the challenges overcome and their shared achievement.
Surrounded by blue sky, white mountains and surreal glacial moonscape I am content in the experiences of the past days and look forward to the adventures of the days to come. Bringing out my best dance moves, I join the gathering celebration in the snow.
Our trek is far from over, and we share adventures, jokes and stories as the bonds of our group become closer. Hot springs beckon to sooth our muscles followed by further celebrations of our shared accomplishments and increased closeness. Well done team and thank you for an amazing experience!
Want to join us? Our next departures for the Annapurna Base Camp Trek are coming up in spring and autumn 2018!