Kathmandu; Preparing for the Annapurna Circuit

Tomorrow we leave for our big trek. We’ve organized the necessary permits, we have our maps and equipment, and we’re as ready as we’ll ever be. We’ve decided to do the Annapurna Circuit, a 300km route that skirts the circumference of Mt. Annapurna, the tenth-highest mountain in the world. The trail passes through a lot of different Himalayan terrain and ascends to 5,416m altitude at Thorong-La, the world’s highest mountain pass - well above the snowline. It should take us about two and a half weeks, I think.

We’ve elected to do the trek alone and unsupported by porters or a guide - partly because it’s an immense pain to deal with hiring and caring for porters and we don’t want to be responsible for them, but mostly because we’re too cheap. The terrain will often be harsh, but there are lodges in nearly every village along the way, so while we won’t be comfortable, at least we won’t be camping. Probably our biggest dangers will be landslides, altitude sickness and the legendary Nepali monsoon leeches which crawl up your pant-legs into your crotch.

So everything’s ready to go for early next morning. But how did my pack get so heavy? I’m leaving half its usual contents behind in Kathmandu while we’re trekking, so where’s the weight coming from? My hand to God, this thing weighs twenty kilos. Did I pack too much? Not really - I’m a fairly experienced hiker and I know what I’ll need to wear at various temperatures and what equipment I’ll need. My only real extravagance is the two kilos of camera gear. One part of the problem is that I don’t have any lightweight trekking clothes - nearly everything I own is heavy cotton. The rest of the weight is from the big bag of food. We’re told that food gets very expensive at the high altitudes halfway through the trek, and so to try and save money I’m bringing a stove, cooking equipment and a certain amount of food with us. Time will tell whether this was a good decision or a bad one.

For any other camping and hiking nerds in the audience, this is what I’ve packed for the trek:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Maps and compass
  • Nepali phrasebook
  • Trekking permits
  • Notebooks and pens
  • Camera, lens-cleaning kit, polarizing filter, extra battery, charger, memory cards, battery grip with 6 AA rechargeable batteries
  • Waterproof compression bag
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Passport, credit and debit cards
  • Money (about Rs26,000 in small bills)
  • Laundry soap
  • Multi-tool
  • Spidey the mascot
  • Empty plastic bags
  • Trekking pole
  • Small towel
  • Mini-binoculars
  • Lighter and matches
  • Earplugs and eye-mask
  • Small combination lock for lodge doors
  • Head-light
  • Propane stove and gas canister
  • 2 aluminium cooking pots, plastic knife, fork, spoon
  • 2 collapsible and one hard 1L water bottles
  • Ultraviolet water-purifying device, 2 extra batteries
  • Water-purifying tablets in case the device breaks or the batteries die
  • Sunglasses
  • Ankle-brace and arch-support
  • Rain-gear and pack-cover
  • Clothes: Hiking shoes, long-sleeved thermal top, tights, sweater, jacket, 4 t-shirts, pants, shorts, 3 pairs underwear, 2 thin scarves, toque, cap, 8 pairs thin socks, 3 pairs thick socks, gloves, 2 bandannas
  • Food: Tea, sweetener tablets, dried soup, chicken stock, biscuits, peanuts, raisins, chocolate, oatmeal, drink mix, hard candy, 1/2L cheap rum
  • Medical and first aid: Sticky bandages, antibiotic tablets and cream, acetozolamide for AMS, eye drops, lip balm, painkillers, anti-nausea tablets, diarrhoea tablets, moleskin, tensor bandage, decongestants, Tiger Balm
  • Toiletries: Razor blade (no razor or shaving cream), soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, comb, cotton swabs, nail clippers
Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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