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Adventures Around the Annapurna

Posted on: November 21st, 2016 by Lost Earth Adventures

Tom Langan is a born adventurer and guides for Lost Earth Adventures in Nepal and in the UK. This is his trip report for our most recent October 2016 Annapurna Hike and Bike tour.

Annapurna-Trek
I was recently lucky enough to lead a diverse, fun and adventurous group around the Annapurna Circuit. This is often cited as one of the world’s best treks. We’ve added a twist to this classic route, by mountain biking down the western side. The route crosses several different climate zones, and takes in the Thorung La Pass at 5400 metres.

Trekkers-Guesthouse-Annapurna-Lodge
Our group adapt to the challenges, trekking at altitude and mountain biking downhill over rough and changing terrain. But the rewards and the accomplishments are high, and the outstanding views breath-taking as we journey around the Annapurna Massif and deep into the Himalaya.

Drive to Jagat

Trekkers-Valley-Annapurna-Circuit
Our Annapurna trek starts from Jagat, but the ride there from Kathmandu is incredibly scenic, following steep valleys and large, flowing rivers. As we get close, we change to a 4x4 jeep and head off-road. Our driver is skilled and calm, effortlessly taking our group along the rocky trail into the night. By the time we arrive at our destination, the feeling of being remote and away from the hustle and bustle is strong and we look forward to the trail ahead.

Waterfalls and Bridges

Our intrepid and eager group headed out the following morning, quickly exposed to stunning views of tall waterfalls running into the valley. After the first suspension bridge the trail climbs up the valley above the Marsyangdi Nadi River. The forest is subtropical and the air humid. One final climb brings us through a gate marking that we are passing into the Manang District, and to Tal, a village set on the eastern bank of the river. Tal (Nepali for lake) sits on what once used to be a lake, in a wider and flatter part of the valley, but still with high imposing walls and cascading waterfalls.


River-Canyon-Bridge-Trekkers-Annapurna-Circuit
After a lunch stop, the trail continues beside the river. Steps and passages are carved out into the rock walls as we walk through a canyon. It’s a beautiful walk, crossing back and forth over the river by way of suspension bridges. Our day concluded in Dharapani, a village by a valley junction (the valley to the east leads to the Larkya Pass and Manaslu).

Culinary Delights

Each guest house has an extensive food selection, and most share similar menus so it becomes easy to plan what you will eat at the next meal. Western foods such as pizza, chilly chips, omelettes and pasta are popular, as well as Nepali and Indian curries. One meal in particular is a staple for locals, dal bhat. This consists of steamed rice, curried vegetables, lentil soup, spicy pickled vegetables and poppadoms. It’s incredibly tasty and a well-balanced meal. The locals swear by it and will happily top up your plate if you are running low!


Trekkers-Staircase-Annapurna-Circuit
Apple is prevalent on the menu; apple pie or apple crumble for dessert, and porridge with apple for breakfast. The reason for this is the introduction of apple orchards further into the valley. It’s possible to stop for fresh picked apples and order fresh apple juice and individual apple pies prepared and cooked to order. A welcome break along our trekking trail.

There are more culinary delights. Mars or Snicker pies are similar to the UK’s deep fried Mars bar, and a popular juice drink as we get closer to Manang appears on the menu. There are orange berries that grow in the are called Seabuckthorn. Seabuckthorn juice is often served with breakfast and has a peach like flavour.

Into the Wild West

Trekkers-River-Valley-Annapurna-Circuit
The valley walls rise higher, imposing rock reaching thousands of metres above our trail. As we make our way higher into the broadening valley the scenery changes. The valley now has an almost wild west feel, and we pass ranches and goat herds.
Photographer-Annapurna-Circuit
From here there’s a constant view of the Annapurna range above the valley to the south. Behind us we can see the peak of Manaslu (8156m) and ahead of us to the northwest are the peaks of Chulu (East Peak, West Peak, Far East Peak).

We stay the night in Upper Pisang, and are awarded a chance to view the last ceremony before closing at the local Buddhist monastery. Upper Pisang and its monastery sits on the northern slope of the valley, which provides an incredible view to the Annapurnas and their glaciers reaching down towards our valley.

With the teahouse’s high balcony it makes for a great opportunity to watch the dawn rise and light up the mountains the following morning. We made our way out of the medieval village, passing walls of prayer wheels and Mani Walls. Mani Walls contain many rock tablets with beautifully carved mantras.

Manang, the last stop

Our trek has provided a gentle acclimatisation and for several days in the afternoon we have short walks to help our bodies adapt to the higher altitude. These provide great opportunities for photos and to take a peaceful moment or two to take in the majestic surroundings. One such place we visit is the glacial lake outside Manang.

Group-Trekking-Annapurna-Circuit
It’s a perfect spot to watch the sun descend behind the mountains then head back to witness the bold playfulness of large goat herds both outside and inside the town. This is the largest village before the pass and provides comforts such as bakeries with coffees and cinnamon rolls and afternoon showings of popular climbing films.

Thorung La Pass

Our trek enters the valley to the north, and we start to climb higher, increasingly surrounded by white capped mountains. As we get closer to Thorung Pedi, passing by the settlement of Yak Kharka and stopping for the night in Ledar, we have some light snow in the evening air. We awoke the next day to blue skies and are warmed as the sun rises above our valley. We stopped for a tea break in Thorung Pedi and made the final ascent to High Camp.


Prayer-Stones-Annapurna-Circuit
Our efforts are rewarded, as just above high camp is a vantagepoint that allows outstanding views of the mountains all around us. To the south is the Annapurna Range and Gangapurna rising over 7000m, to the East is the Chulu Peaks and to the west is Thorung La Pass, we can make out the route we will take in the night.

The day has arrived that has been on all our minds. We set off for the pass at 4am. The night time conditions are perfect, the night sky lit up by countless stars. It’s possible to make out familiar constellations, Orion and The Plough. There is a light band running overhead, the Milky Way, and if you pause to stop and take in the sky it does not take long to witness meteors passing overhead.


Thorung-La-Dawn-Trekkers-Annapurna-Circuit
The land is a moonscape of rocks and contours. Either side of our path are the giant imposing snow-capped mountains looking down on our party. It’s a very surreal, beautiful experience. We have a respite from the night, sipping lemon and ginger tea in a small sheltered tea house before continuing upwards. As dawn comes, prayer flags mark our arrival to the top of Thorung La Pass, over 5400 metres in altitude.
We are treated to a spectacular view of the valley to the west, to new mountains and plains that we will be crossing on bikes the very next day. We descend down to Muktinath for lunch, to rest and enjoy celebratory beers for our achievements!

The Downhill Descent

Group-Mountain-Biking-Annapurna-Circuit
Three days and nearly 3000 metres of downhill mountain biking! The Lower Mustang outside Muktinath has a dry climate of rocky hills, autumn shades in the fields and forests and outstanding views of the mountains rising above. We quickly get used to our new method of travel and speed down to our first stop, Jomsom and join the Gandaki river.
Downhill-Mountain-Biking-Annapurna-Circuit
The source of this river starts at the Tibetan border and flows south into the Kali Gandaki Gorge, the same route we will take. Outside Jomsom, the river weaves its way through a large, flat plain of rocks evoking a very wild and remote, solitary feel. Quite a contrast to our luxury coffee and apple pie stop in Jomsom. We continue south, along dirt tracks and rocky beaches by the river. It’s definitely an adventure and is quite surreal after crossing the pass the day before. We can look back to see where we travelled from many kilometres away, just a day before.

Relaxation

Farwell-Dinner-Trekking-Group-Annapurna-Circuit
The next night is spent in a candlelit lodge, with log fire and hot showers. Our kind host is a man of many talents, and has recently turned to the international competitive scene of arm wrestling, and was happy to provide training tips and techniques for our group! A good night’s rest leads to our final two days mountain biking by the river, crossing suspension bridges and winding along steep rock cliffs as the valley becomes a deep gorge. As we descend, the upper dry valley turns to fresh alpine style forest then to humid subtropical forest.
Staying in Tatopani on our second to last night, we treat our bodies to the nearby thermal hot springs and a beer. We are witness to a stunning view of the mountain Nilgri, perfectly framed by the valley walls and lit up pink in the waning sun.

Nothing can stop us now as we descend the final section to Beni. We make it, elated by our journey and travel on to Pohkara, a lakeside city, celebrating with an evening of great food and wine. Amazing effort team!


Trekking-Group-Annapurna-Circuit
Want to join us? Our next departures for the Annapurna Hike and Bike tour are departing in 2017: 8th April, 7th October, 21st October, 4th November, 18th November.

Journey to the Top of the World

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Lost Earth Adventures

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. He’s recently been sussing out the Everest region’s best teahouses. You can read about his latest adventure below.

This is an account of the Everest Base Camp and Three Peaks Trek during my recent visit to the area as I checked out guest houses and current conditions for our upcoming 2017 trips.

Everest-Trek
I recently had the opportunity to research the guesthouses along the Three Pass Trail in the Everest region of Nepal. This is a 20-day trek, climbing three passes over 5300m. Along the way reach Everest Base Camp, cross glaciers and witness the sun rise above Everest from the nearby summit of Kala Patthar. Even getting to the trail is an adventure, involving a flight in a light aircraft to reach the start of the trail.

Flying in to Lukla

Lukla-Airport
Flying from Kathmandu to Lukla, the start of the trail to Everest, is unlike any other flight I have taken. Compared to my flight two days before from London where I quickly fell asleep to the on board entertainment after complimentary glasses of wine, blissfully ignorant that I am actually high up in the earth’s atmosphere, the forty minute Lukla flight on an 18 passenger Twin Otter aircraft is more exhilarating than any theme park ride.
Taking the first morning flight out, we received a thumbs up from the pilots in the open view cockpit and a complimentary meal consisting of a boiled sweet, then took off in the small vessel. I had a front row seat and witnessed the pilots manoeuvring around and between the clouds. Out of the left side windows you can start to glimpse the snow-capped mountains in the distance and as we got closer to our destination the mountain walls tower over the plane. As the plane rises over a mountain ridge, straight ahead out of the cockpit we can see perched on the mountainside, the town of Lukla, and also one of the world’s smallest runways. Landing is a surprisingly calm and smooth experience. The passengers cheered and five minutes later we had our bags and were on the start of the Trail to Everest

Lukla to Namche Bazaar

Everest-Trek-Horse
For most trekkers on their way to the Everest region, the only way in or out is to head up to Namche Bazaar. This takes two days along well kept trails. There are no roads here, no vehicles or motorbikes. The only methods of ground transportation are by horse, yak or on foot.
Dudh-Koshi-River-Everest-Trek
Trekkers come for the grandeur of the white capped mountains, however the valley trek over suspension bridges above pristine glacial melt rivers, through forests and passing by terraced fields and Buddhist monuments is well kept and outstandingly beautiful. Initially humid, the air becomes fresh as the trail ascends to Namche Bazaar.

Namche Bazaar

This is a hub town, where you can get a haircut, go to a pub or buy any last minute trekking equipment and clothing.
Namche-Bazaar-Everest-Trek
For those concerned about being completely away from all comfort for the next three weeks there are a surprising number of bakeries serving pastries, pizzas and great coffee. It has a very atmospheric feeling, perched high on the hillside overlooking the valley trekkers have spent the last two days traversing. It’s the perfect spot to spending a day acclimatising, with museums and monuments dedicated to the Sherpas and climbers of the region.

Monasteries and Guest Houses

The terrain changes with a crisper air. The landscape is more rugged and forests turn to rhododendron occasionally blanketed in cloud.

Tengboche-Monastery-Bazaar-Everest-Trek
The trail passes by monasteries, stupas and prayer flags. The white mountaintops start to become a familiar sight. It’s important to get plenty of rest while acclimatising and the tea houses provide welcome respite from the trail. The teahouses are all unique but share similar traits. A cosy dining/common room, with a heated stove. Plenty of pots of tea and huge plates of food, with a large variety of choice.
Everest-Guest-House
Friendly and smiling Nepali locals, guides and porters. They are always accommodating and have a great sense of humour. The guides share with me their stories and adventures, living legends who have made it possible for climbers to achieve their dreams.

To the Kongma La Pass

Kongma-La-Pass
The three passes are very distinct, and the first to tackle on the circuit is Kongma La Pass. Setting off at 4am, as I ascended the ground becomes coated in a thin layer of snow and frost. There is cloud in the air but it’s possible to see the stars and the outline of the surrounding mountains. Further to the east is Island Peak, a 6189m summit accessible to novice climbers with guides. The way to the path heads north and drops in to the Khumbu valley to the west.

The passes are not without challenge but the unspoilt beauty and quiet wilderness is deeply rewarding. Following cairns up boulder slopes and past glacial lakes, then a final rock wall to the prayer flags that mark the pass.

Kumbu-Glacier
It’s a steep decent on the other side that leads to the kilometre wide Khumbu Glacier. It feels almost like a moonscape, mountains of scree and rubble that is constantly changing and deep pools of glacial melt, the way across is a maze. Crossing to the other side brings the trail to Lobuche, a small village with teahouses by the edge of the glacier.

To Everest Base Camp

Everest-Base-Camp-Prayer-Flags
From Lobuche it is not far to the last settlement before Everest, Gorak Shep. The journey to this point requires constant monitoring of my body as I was still acclimatising, taking plenty of rest and fluids.

The next morning, feeling surprisingly great and well fed from a large breakfast and plenty of tea I continued on to the final few hours to Everest Base Camp.

The climbing season is in the spring, so there are no campers in October. This gave a great opportunity to explore to the north across the glacier and really soak in the mountains of Pumori, Nuptse and Lhotse.

Mountain-Guides-Everest
To the east is the famed Khumbu Icefall, known to climbers as a treacherous changing maze of dark crevasses and shifting ice blocks larger than houses, stretching up beyond the horizon. To the north over the mountain wall is Tibet. To the south the immense glacier stretches out, carving the landscape.

Sunrise on Kala Patthar

Considering Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet it is quite elusive. For one of the best views many trekkers climb Kala Patthar, rising above the Gorak Shep Settlement. At over 5600 metres, this is an achievement in itself, and one often climbed to meet the sunrise or sunset.


Kala-Patthar-Sunrise
I set off in the dark, with a clear view of the Milky Way and passing meteors in the night sky. No longer encumbered by a weighty bag (I had been travelling solo and self-sufficient) I ascended quickly and enjoyed the summit peacefully. I was joined soon after by a Sherpa guide who shared stories with me of his work earlier in the year with an Indian Everest Expedition. Everest mountain guide - one of the most incredible jobs!

The clarity of the stars in the night sky is replaced with a glow rising behind the mountains, shining light on to the top of Everest. As the sun rose the growing crowd of onlookers shared a look of elation, this is a place unique on our planet, the scale and grandeur of the stone monoliths rising into the brilliant clear blue sky.

Cho La Pass and Gokyo

If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Everest region I would highly recommend taking in at least one of the passes. This allows you to turn the route you take into a circuit, and explore some of the quieter areas. Each pass provides its own beauty, interesting features and challenge, and each awards stunning views of the surrounding Himalayas.


Glacier-Cho-La-Pass-Everest-Trek
Cho La (La means Pass in Nepali) is the second I attempt. Nearing the top, there is a scramble up a staircase of boulders, below a towering rock wall and the ascent makes for deep breathing due to the altitude. The top crosses a pristine snow covered glacier and a final short climb on rock to the prayer flags.
Ngozumpa-Glacier-Everest-Trek
Pausing to take in the phenomenal views, I continued, descending deep into the next valley where there is a second glacier to cross, the Ngozumpa Glacier (reputed to be the largest glacier in the whole Himalaya), again a wide maze of moving scree hills, glacial pools and cairns to follow. Over the far glacial wall is the lake side town of Gokyo. There are five lakes along this stretch crystal clear and millpond calm.

There are options to rest and explore here, to climb Gokyo Ri or to visit the lakes in the valley to the north.

Renjo La Pass

Renjo-Pass-Everest-Trek
The final pass I took on, Renjo La does not go easily, even though by this stage I am well acclimatised and into the flow of trekking. But the views are worth it, and I am able to look back to see Everest one final time before descending the other side.

There is a glacial lake nestled in the ridge walls of the mountains on the other side. The sky is clear and no wind in the air so I summoned the courage and took a swim in the lake.

Gokyo-Lake-Everest-Trek

The swim is breath taking in its own way but I can bask in the sun to dry off and I feel refreshed for a long time after (much needed after ten days trekking!).


Rhododendron-Forest-Everest-Trek
The valley I descend I decide is one of my favourite spots on this trek, a very wild remote feel with riverside sandy beaches, stone farm buildings left alone and the view ahead dropping thousands of metres as the route descends. The next day the scenery changing to steep forested valley walls, deep canyons with fast flowing rapids and well-kept villages with Buddhist monuments.
Mani-Wall-Everest-Trek
I arrived back to Namche Bazaar as helicopters fly in and out, dropping off supplies and passengers. A beer to celebrate then a final day back to the airport of Lukla, stopping along the way to reunite with the friends I had made on the way up.

I know I am lucky to have trekked in many different places, but the Everest region and the three passes trek is my favourite. To me, it is awe-inspiring with countless breath taking views, and is ever changing in the variety and challenge that it provides.

-Tom Langan-

Cho-La-Everest-Trek

Filming a Canyoning Trip for Coke TV

Posted on: August 4th, 2016 by Lost Earth Adventures

Canyoning deep in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales

Canyoning-Instructor
Dive bombs, big splashes and a few bottles of Coke. What’s more refreshing than a canyon scramble in the Yorkshire Dales? Richard spent the day “working” with presenters Dodie and Rosie, filming for Coke TV.
Check it out!

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