Hiking in the Himalayas without a guide

Nepal, what a beautiful country full of the highest mountains in the world and very friendly people.

We decided we wanted to go check out the Annapurna region and did so without a guide.

We looked into to different options of which routes to take and ended up decided in the famous Annapurna base camp (ABC).

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View on Mardi Himal trek with view of Machhapuchhre

So we started walking this trails and after a couple of hours we spoke to one of the locals on the trail who informed us what we really should be hiking the Mardi Himal trek (MBC) instead or at least start with the MBC and then head over to the ABC as we were already on the side of the valley were it would be a lot easier to start with the MBC  trek. This meant we didnt have to go up and down the valley twice.  So we changed our plans and headed for the Mardi Himal base camp instead. This did add on a few extra hours of walking but when you are about to start walking for the next week a few extra hours is a drop in the ocean.

A lot of the places its possible to stay for free if you eat dinner and breakfast at the tea houses, remember to negotiate this before you stay.

TIP – buy a $2 map in Pokhara and use MAPS.ME and you will be all set to go with no guide needed.

Cost for the hike  

Both a permit and a TIMS card is needed for hiking this area. The cost is $20 each and they can be obtained at the permit office in either Kathmandu or Pokhara. Most agencies will also do this for you for a small fee. The permit office in Pokhara will give you free passport photos (you need 4) which is a nice help.

Bring a water filter. It will save you buying the water at each tea house which can add up when you drink a lot and normally pay 100-180 rupees per litre

The higher up you go the more everything costs. Example, porridge cost 120 rupees in Pokhara, and the most expensive porridge we had cost 440 rupees. Snickers will increase to around 350 rupees (they cost 90 in Pokhara) so everything gets pretty “expensive” compared to the rest of the country. However they do have to carry everything up very high so its kind of understandable.

On average 2000 rupees per day should be enough  to cover trek.

The is a “whole sale” shop in Chomrong where things like snickers only cost 100 rupees, so a good place to stock up while on trail.

Here is our 8 day itinerary we made up as we went

  • Day 1  – Phedi 810m to Landruk  1,600m
  • Day 2 – Landruk 1,600m to Lower Camp 3,000m
  • Day 3 – Lower Camp 3,000m – High Camp 3,500m
  • Day 4 – High Camp 3,500m – to Mardi Hamal Base camp 4,500m and then to Landruk 1,600m
  • Day 5 – Landruk  1,600m – Bamboo 3,200m
  • Day 6 – Bamboo 3,200m – ABC 4,100m
  • Day 7 – ABC 4,100m – Chomrong
  • Day 8 – Chomrong to Nayapool (Pokhara)
  • Day 1  – Phedi to Landruk
    • this took around 6 hours, starting at 810m and reaching the highest point of just over 2000m before going down again to 1600m. We stayed here for free at a place called Super view guest house, which would have had an amazing view had the weather not been so bad.
  • Day 2 – Landruk to Lower Camp 
    • From Landruk to Forest camp is probably the most steep part we encountered in the 8 days we hiked. This part was horrible! We started walked not knowing what we had got ourselves into. The walk is around 3 hours up, up and up. Its stairs the whole way up but not nice stairs. Those stairs where you feel you are doing a lunge every time you take a step. (unless of course you are a two meter tall dutch person). The highlight of this part was when we looked at the ever so trusted MAPS.ME after nearly 3 hours to see how far we had come to discover that we only had 284m until we would reach the next camp. Forest camp is where we would sit down for what we thought would be a quick break. This turned into a 2 hours lunch break since the ladies at the tea house decided to grow the potatoes before making them into rosties for us. After our “short” break we headed for Low camp and got there for around 2pm. After being at the low camp for a little while, we decided that we should have continued to the next place, High Camp, but it was a bit late to continue. So we stayed here and enjoyed the fire-place in the restaurant.
  • Day 3 – Low Camp – High Camp
    • There are some pretty impressive views at Low Camp so we decided to get up at 5am to catch the sun rise and hopefully see the mountains. This paid off and we got a beautiful morning with hardly any clouds hanging around. After breakfast we left camp at 6.30am to get to High Camp, this part was only a 3 hour hike uphill from 3000m to 3500m. There is a place on the way before you get to mid camp where they are building a new place to stay and this will be a fantastic place to stay when its finished one day (no idea when). Once we arrived at the High camp it was completely clouded over so we just hung around the fireplace at for the rest of the afternoon and went to bed early, ready for a 3.30am start the next morning.
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      Cool forrests on the way up to High Camp. Watch out for Leeches!
  • Day 4 – High Camp – to Mardi Hamal Base camp and then to Landruk
    • This day was pretty crazy and we wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you are a fan of walking downhill and feeling like your legs are made of bricks. We started at 3.30am with it still dark outside and of course we got lost. The ever trusted MAPS.ME helped us back on track but we did probably lose around 30min just trying to make it back to the trail. It was a very beautiful walk up to MBC, however when we finally made it up there it was just one big cloud and nothing to see. We we didn’t really experience the base camp but we have been told the view is amazing (“better than Poon Hill” our friend advised us) so going up there should be worth it, probably. After here we started the long hike back down from 4500m to 1600m. This part we pretty hard, however 13 hours after we started we made it down to Landruk with very sore legs.
  • Day 5 – Landruk – Bamboo
    • This was a tough start to the morning as the old legs didn’t feel too good. The day took all around 9 hours and then its pretty much mostly uphill except from when you walk down the valley and then back up again, twice. This part is not really designed that well, I guess this was not the plan when the mountains were formed. We managed to get to Bamboo just before the rain started. This was the first time we had to pay for accommodation, however the $1 we had to pay each wasn’t really a problem.
  • Day 6 – Bamboo – ABC 
    • This part is pretty much uphill the whole day, however not a bad day overall just a very gentle uphill the whole day.  We arrived to Annapurna base camp 8 hours after we set off. From Himalaya camp it’s necessary to walk over sections of snow and from MBC you walk up a glacier which can feel slightly dodgy at times. We later learnt that an Australian girl we had met earlier got one leg stuck in the ice and had a hard time getting up again, On our way down the next day, we had to cross over again, but they had “built” a bridge to help this, and by bridge we mean they put a lot of logs of wood over and tied it together with grass. This was so much safer!?!?! Anyway, ABC is stunning. We were very lucky and had a lovely evening with not too many clouds so we got out first peak of both Annapurna south and Annapurna 1, with Annapurna 1 being just over 8000m high… Thats yuge (as Trump would say)
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  • Day 7 – ABC – Chomrong
    • We got up at 5am to catch the sunrise again, and again this totally paid off. No clouds and a beautiful sky, we couldn’t have asked for more. A couple of hours and plenty of photos later we started the long walk back down to Chomrong. Thats a 2000m decent. Around half way the rain started. Then the hail started. Then the swimming pools in our shoes started. Just as we started to get dry a couple of hours later it started raining cats and dogs again. Luckily this time we were only half hour from Chomrong so we turned up to the Tea house absolutely dripping. We think this made the lady at the tea house feel sorry for us as we both got free beds, wifi and free hot showers. This was the best hot shower we have had in a very long time
    • KING4402
      View of the Fish tail on our Decent
  • Day 8 – Chomrong to Nayapool (Pokhara)
    • Having a late start we started the 5 hour walk down to Naya pul. However once we got to Siwai we found out a bus was leaving at 1.30pm for Pokhara (40min later) and this was too good of an opportunity not to take. The price for this bus was 350 from Siwai to Pokhara. A jeep is also available for 5000 rupees or taxi for 4000 rupees. So after 8 days of hiking we finally sat, stinking out the bus with out hiking gear, back to Pokhara.

Recommended route in hindsight (long days)

Day 1: Pokhara – Forrest Camp
Day 2: Forrest Camp – High Camp
Day 3: High Camp – MBC – Forrest Camp
Day 4: Forrest Camp – Chomrong
Day 5: Chomrong – Deurali
Day 6: Deurali – ABC
Day 7: ABC – Chomrong
Day 8: Chomrong – Siwai (get bus from there to Pokhara) (Or walk to Naya pul)

You could also tag on Poon Hill from Chomrong which would add another 3 days

Helpful packing list:

  • Rain poncho
  • Rain cover for bag
  • Thermals for the top, it gets pretty cold
  • Small light down jacket (we use the ultra light down from Uniqlo)
  • Torch (head torch would work better for the early mornings)
  • Sleeping liner
  • Sleeping bag? We have heard that in the high season the tea houses sometimes run out. We didn’t bring any and we were fine.
  • Travel towel
  • Dry clothes to change into in the evenings
  • Hiking sticks
  • Money (enough to last for the duration, no ATMs up there)
  • Water Filter

Gallery

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