Finally! the energy and electricity and ability to use the internet and post about the trek! I met two guys in Kathmandu who had similar ambitions and timetables to partner up with for the trek: Thomas from Finland and Michael from Australia. we spent a day in KTM getting ready- permits, sleeping bags, snacks. then we were off. my initial plan included hiring a porter, but b/c the guys weren't going to, i thought i'd do without. it's a decision that i don't necessarily regret or feel glad about. all i know is that i feel way more badass for having done it all on my own.
Here is a summary of what we did, where we went, etc. I'll add more as I remember, but I wanted to post a general schedule... we trekked during the 'extreme winter', the label of which now makes sense to me. we saw only a handful of trekkers on the circuit, which i understand is not the case at all during high season of october and november, when you just can't get away from the crowds. for us, it was nice and quiet, though many places weren't open and even the areas that were meant to be bustling hubs were more like ghost towns.
Kathmandu to Besi Sahar, about 6 hours by bus.
we met two koreans, MiHwa and Cheol (who had also met in Kathmandu) on the microbus. we decided to hike together. they had porters, which was great along the circuit as we didni't have to think or make any decisions.
Besi Sahar to Bhulbule, 2 hours. felt excited about moving and walking and doing nothing but for the next while.
Lodge: Thorong-la Guest House
hardly slept b/c i was so cold, which didn't make sense because the sleeping bag i rented for 30 rupees/ day (about 40 cents) was meant to be good for -20 degrees C and good for all seasons. naturally, there was a hole near my feet. so that was fun. luckily, when we pooled together our resources, a needle and thread did a decent enough job to stitch up the majority of the hole.
Bhulbule to Bahundanda, 2 hrs.
to Syange, 2.5 hrs.
to Jagat, 55 minutes.
most hiking was on an incline, though it was already surprisingly easier than i'd thought (though i still didn't seem to trust my feet on the steeper parts, especially going down). there were supposed to be hot springs here, but it just looked like a shady and rusty tank with cold water.
met 2 german guys, Christian and a guy whose name we forgot but nicknamed Smiley b/c he couldn't seem to stop smiling. when i asked him what their plan was the following day, he simply looked at me and said, "we walk" with an inimitable german accent.
Dal bhat was becoming the meal of choice: rice, watery lentil soup, and usually a curry and pickled veggies on the side. there are often free refills, so it was the most economical choice.
Lodge: ? don't remember name
Day 3: Jagat to Tal, 3 hrs.
to Dharapani, 3 hrs.
despite my walking all over flat wilmette and doing stairs and the incline at Lloyd in winnetka as much as possible, the inevitable blisters began today. hurting quite a bit, but no other complaints, so it's okay. it's getting COLD at night.
Lodge: Kangaroo Lodge
Day 4: Dharapani to Thanchok, 4 hours.
to Chame, 1.3 hours.
the usual idea is to start out early with tea in the morning, hike for a couple hours, then have lunch. then hike until the final destination and eat dinner. early to bed, early to rise.
met Roy, an energetic and enthusiastic Israeli who was so much fun. he was also more or less a machine and would probably had sprinted up the mountain if we hadn't held him back. he had a porter-guide who had lived in the states and had a nice smile and e talked a lot about Subway and other fast food chains with fondness.
Elevation: 2670m (900m up, 200m down)
Day 5: Chame to Dhukur Pokhari, 4 hours
to Lower Pisang, 40 minutes.
Lodge; Hotel Moonlight. so. cold. the first time we really needed a heater at night. we all sat around the fire with our feet as close as possible. i'm pretty sure there was an average of about an inch in between the wall panels of the lodge. luckily, they let me have two blankets on top of my sleeping bag. that and sleeping in my fleece-lined pants and coat and hat and three pairs of socks guaranteed that i'd have a fighting chance of sleeping through the night.
Day 6: Lower Pisang to Braga to Manang, 4.5 hours.
the altitude was making things harder, as were the blisters and my knee, which hurt as a consequence of avoiding rubbing my boots over my blisters.
Lodge; Hotel Mountain Lake. used a ton of firewood to keep us warm. also used 'cinnamon rolls' for fuel (yak dung). had my first solar hot shower in Nepal, second shower of my trip (cold water is not desirable). liberating to not care about being dirty and smelly.
Day 7: to Milerapa Caves, 5 hours
Lodge: spent a second night in Manang to acclimatize. Roy went ahead, claiming it was for pansies. but a few of us were getting headaches and nausea and wanted to play it safe. what was the rush anyway? though not having Roy in the group was a bummer.
Day 8: Manang to Yak Kharka
Lodge: Gangapurna View.
Day 9: Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi
Lodge: Hotel New Phedi. crappy service, crappy rooms, a toilet/ outhouse that had so many holes that it was just like being outside.
Day 10: Thorong Phedi to Thorong La, 4.5 hours (Elevation: 5,460m)
so. cold. we thought we were going to die. no joke. we left at 3am to avoid the intense wind that usually hits the pass around 9am. though then wahat we ended up with was intense wind at 3am, in the dark and freezing cold. it was so cold that my fellow trekkers believe it was -30 degrees C with the wind. i have never been so cold in my life, nor have i ever doubted the fact that i might live to see another day.
Thorong La to Muktinath, 3.5 hours (Elevation 3800m)
knees hurting, blisters burning, but soo sooooo happy the hardest part was over.
Lodge: Bob Marley Hotel
Day 11: Muktinath to Jomsom, 4 hours
Lodge: Xanadu Guesthouse. i stayed in the same room that Mick Jagger allegedly did over 30 years ago.
Day 12: took a bus from Jomsom to Tatopani, 6 hours.
getting onto the bus, Cheol slipped on a patch of ice and later found out he broke and fractured his ankle in 3 different spots. he ended his trip early and headed back to korea to have surgery. so crappy. though we were all glad it didn't happen over the pass...
walked from Tatopani to Shikha, 3 hours. pretttttty much straight uphill, the most dramatic and steepest incline of the whole circuit. We split up with MiHwa here, and Cheol continued on via bus to Pokhara.
Lodge: Travels Guest Home.
Day 13: Shikha to Ghorepani, 3.5 hours.
to Poon Hill (AMAZING views) and back, 1.5 hours (Elevation 3210 m)
Lodge. Fishtail. a really cool village, woke up to horses and bells and village life. didn't sleep as a result, but meh. such is life in the mountains, i guess
Day 14: Ghorepani to Tadapani, 3.25 hours (Elevation 2710m)
to Ghandruk, 1.75 hours
Lodge: Aama Lodge
Day 15: Ghandruk to Kimche, 1 hour, 10 min. limited by rain.
Lodge: Don't Pass Us By Lodge. well, we didn't pass by, but we maybe we we had. Michael kept calling it the manger. we were the three unwise men staying there.
Day 16: Kimche to Naya Pul, 2 hours
bus to Pokhara, 1.5 hours. rode with a couple goats in the isle. very local. very authentic.
POKHARA for a few days. more details, including paragliding, eating, and sailboats to come!