Nepal trek – morning, day 3: Poon Hill

SMUS-Views-Bob

If you are a parent, or a teacher, or a student, you know that the pace of life at the school can be unthinkingly hectic – I mean so fast that you don’t have time to think. I hope this week’s entry provides a bit of an antidote; it did for me.

I have been asked a number of times if I am planning on doing a presentation on the travels I did with my wife, Joan, during our sabbatical in the fall. Instead of that, I will post here the entry I made on my travel blog for a day that was one of the highlights of that wonderful experience: one morning in our trek in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. It includes a video at the end, that I took of the mountains at dawn.

 

Nepal trek – morning, day 3: Poon Hill

We awoke in the dark, at 5:30 a.m.. Sunrise would be at 6:30, and it was a 30 – 40 minute climb, several hundred metres. Our basin of hot water appeared outside our tent flaps. Although this was the customary morning routine, I wasn’t expecting it now, so early, and in the dark. The smiling, eager-to-please face of our porter, Kubiri, who had taken a special shine to us, was humbling: even though it was his work, the cheerfulness with which he administered his tender attention was heart-warming. It was freezing out. The tent flaps were hard with ice. In the dark I took a few pictures for Joan to show friends and grandchildren to prove how hardy we were, sleeping out in the Himalayas where a quarter inch of ice, not mere frost, coated the outside of the tent. We finished bundling up, pulled down the ear flaps on our new wool hats, strapped our flashlights to our foreheads, and stepped out briskly and intrepidly on our climb.

<I>up early, ice on the tent</I>
up early, ice on the tent

It was worth it. The sun was starting to overflow above the mountains to the east, glowing with an almost nuclear impressiveness over the sky and mountainsides. Very quickly, the Annapurna range opposite, to the north and west, was coated in the mushrooming light. The clarity and shadows of the distant snow peaks required sunglasses; further down the mountains where the snow stopped the light became hazier, bluer. Several hundred people shared the grassy hill with us, taking pictures, posing against the sublime backdrop.

Annapurna, Annapurna South, Annapurna II
Annapurna, Annapurna South, Annapurna II

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I took pictures and a short video. We had a short conversation in a mix of English and French with a young Dutch fellow who had a camera much more elaborate than mine. He was travelling on his own, and had set up his tripod to take pictures of himself with the timer. I offered to take the pictures for him. He took pictures of us in return. He was finishing the Annapurna circuit, he said. The Annapurna circuit is a gruelling trek of 18 – 21 days, the most challenging portion of which is a one full day trekking in a pass above 15,000 feet, dangerous enough that people have died on that leg, caught in bad weather, or victims of altitude sickness. Prior to that, he had trekked for two weeks across the border in Tibet. We were to greet this bright-eyed wandering spirit several times over the next couple of days. The last time I was to see him was back in Pokhara, with several Australian girls whose company he was enjoying enough that he only separated himself for a minute or two to ask after me and Joan. Anyone who completes the Annapurna circuit earns my undying respect. They also get lumped into the same grab bag of intense obsessives who complete marathons and Iron Man races.

picture taken by our Dutch friend
picture taken by our Dutch friend

We climbed the tower erected for the purpose of a better view, a structure sort of like a fire tower in the wildernesses of Canada. After recovering from the minutes of breathtaking awe, we climbed back down, declined a cup of tea from the stand, and descended. The sun was now warm, and we took off our hats and sweaters. Joan wasn’t feeling that great, from something she ate the night before, we concluded, but she persevered with dignity. Before breakfast, we had already trekked for two hours. While Joan approached the pancakes, porridge and coffee with less relish, forcing some food down so she would have energy for the day ahead, I tucked into it with gusto. Apart from being famished, I didn’t want to disappoint the chef.

sunrise from Poon Hill
sunrise from Poon Hill
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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Recently my wife and I visited Nepal for the eighteenth time and enjoyed a wonderful trek, one of the best treks ever, and this was largely due to our guide, Rabin Gurung, with whom we also trekked around Manaslu in 2010.
    If you come to Nepal with the idea of doing ‘your own trek’ with a small party, I highly recommend hiring Rabin. Not only does he have many years of experience but he is very honest and humble, so much so that one woman at a very basic lodge on our recent trek, impressed by the his honesty, told my wife that “this man is very good man, honest man, all other guide-man say lie to customers, say them that price is more high than real price, so they can get more money.”
    Rabin is always in a good humour and friendly, and gets along well with the local people and the porters too. Furthermore, his varied experience from his earlier years as a porter and cook help to make him a better guide. I can’t remember how many times during our treks, when we stopped at a new or very basic lodge, or even at a tea house for lunch, when the owner’s cooking skills were at most primitive, Rabin tactfully volunteered to move into the kitchen and some amazingly delicious food would come out, made from the most simple ingredients.

    Three years ago, in March of 2010, the Manaslu trek was not what it is now. Along the entire trek from Arughat (where we had to start walking) until we reached to Annapurna circuit route, there was at that time only a single lodge with what could be called a ‘menu’, and that was the one and only lodge in Sama village at that time. All other villages either had nothing but dal bhat and perhaps chapatis, or nothing to eat and no lodge at all. We had to camp some places, but when we could, we stayed in the simple lodges that existed and he often improved our diet by cooking foods that the proprietor did not know how to cook, sometimes even such a basic menu item as an omelet, to be rolled up inside a chapati for breakfast.

    This year, again in March, we decided to return to the same area, with the desire to explore the newly opened valley of Tsum. This is a lovely, beautiful valley populated by some 4000 Tibetan people, who have lived for nearly a thousand years in that inaccessible ‘hidden valley’, connected by easy passes to Tibet but until not so many decades ago, without any reasonable connection to Nepal through the truly stupendous canyons of the lower section of valley. Indeed, many inhabitants could not speak any Nepali, only Tibetan, which made it difficult at times. We had a double permit, which if you ever want to see Tsum Valley thoroughly, I highly recommend. Most people try to do a quick one-week detour to Tsum Valley as a kind of bonus side trip on the way around Manaslu. They never know what they have missed. Some of the most interesting villages and friendliest people, and some truly awesome scenery, can be visited in Tsum valley if you have time. One week is too little time to see more than a quick glimpse of the Valley.

    I and my wife have been trekking in Nepal for years, myself since 1981, and our trek to Manaslu was the first time we had ever used a guide (because it was required on that trek), despite having visited some very remote areas such as crossing the Trashi Labtsa Pass from Khumbu into Rolwaling with friends in 1982. I had doubts about using a guide, I had seen how so many of them control their clients and take commission from lodge owners to fill their pockets, I have seen many guides from Kathmandu who knew less about the local people and places than I did. I say this not to boast but as a word of caution: there are all too few honest, humble, helpful, and experienced guides out there, and many of those who are have moved into the higher levels of trekking management and no longer guide. But from the first days, on our 2010 Manaslu trek, we were impressed by the level of experience Rabin has, and also his sensitivity in allowing us to make our own itinerary day by day. He never was angry, never showed irritation, always explained patiently what was going on, and aways in a good mood. We were a group of five that time, and by the end of the first week we all agreed that if we returned to Nepal for another trek requiring a guide, we would try to get Rabin again.
    This is what we did in March 2013 on our visit to Tsum Valley. Using more porters in order to have tents and extra food, we planned to visit the highest area of the upper end of Tsum Valley, and ascend to one of the high passes overlooking Tibet. This year was plagued by poor weather and too much snow in March, however, and we were unable to do that, as were all the people who had set out to trek around Manaslu this March: the deep snow at higher elevations did not allow anyone in the first weeks of March to cross the Larkya La and go around Manaslu. But we had time, and because of the tents and food we

    had, we also had more options. The tents and food we used in a wonderful visit to the nunnery at Gumalungdang, up a steep side valley surrounded by the huge peaks of Ganesh Himal. We camped there for two nights, as there is no accommodation yet, and enjoyed incredible sunrise views of the nearby Ganesh Himal and also the distant great Peaks of HImalchuli, Ngadi Chuli, and Manaslu.

    Tsum Valley is developing rapidly, as is the Manaslu circuit. However, particularly if you are new to Nepal trekking, don’t believe the hype that many agencies will tell you, that the Manaslu trek is the “new Annapurna circuit”. The Annapurna trek, over a period of three decades, developed a huge infrastructure for trekkers, with scores and scores of hotels, often equipped with deluxe menus and services, hot showers, laundry service, spring mattresses, etc. I think it will be some time yet before these things appear on the Manaslu trek, and if you find them in some places, don’t expect them at the next place. Tsum Valley is one step back in development yet.

    One problem to watch out for is this: Tsum Valley’s popularity, and this can be said for Manaslu too, is growing much faster than services can be built–maybe largely because the road around Annapurna has grown so quickly and has put people off from that once glorious trek. We were there both times in March, when there are less trekkers than in April or especially the high season in October and November. In Tsum, as of March 2013, there was only one real lodge with rooms, and that was just a bit beyond Lokhpa at the foot of the valley. The other ‘lodges’ were basically beds in a side room of a local house, the largest such able to sleep ten people but others only four or five. Most villages had only one such place for trekkers to sleep in, some villages had no place. When we reached Mu Gompa, in March all but one of the 80 monks were away from the valley for the winter and furthermore, there was no food available at all. Only because we had our tents and stove and food for going higher up the valley (which we were unable to do because of snow), were we able to stay there e and eat our own food, istead of returning to Nile village the same day. The same goes for Gumbalunddang, where no food was available. if you are going o visit Tsum valley, and perhaps Manaslu too, during the busiest season, think seriously about hiring at least one EXTRA porter and having a tent, stove, and food, in case accommodation is full! It might be worth it! Also think of the porters: we saw many groups of two or three with a guide and a single porter carrying an enormous load, who was trailing far behind the others during the day. Many of them were unhappy with the arrangement.

    In conclusion, this time with four people in our group, and with several porters and with Rabin as our guide again, we once more enjoyed what all agreed was one of the best treks we’ve ever done in the Himalaya, out of a total number of over thirty now, in Nepal and India. Rabin is an excellent choice for a guide. He is honest, will help you save money instead of trying to find ways to squeeze more for himself, he is fun and funny and friendly and all along the trails he makes new friends with the people we meet along the way. He is experienced but doesn’t try to tell the customers what to do, he asks what they want to do, and then explains the options. If you are the type of trekker who is truly interested in Nepal, in the places, the culture and religion and people and villages, and like to understand what is happening around you, hire Rabin for your guide, you won’t be disappointed. Indeed, like us (except for one, the same group that went around Manaslu with Rabin three years earlier), perhaps you will want to return to Nepal and go on another trek with Rabin Gurung!
    Email:- [email protected]
    August 2013, Jeff Tucker, Hokkaido Japan
    his contact Address
    Rabin Gurung
    Mobile :- +977-9843467921
    Thamel, Kathmandu, Nepal [email protected]
    [email protected]
    http://www.adventuremountainguide.net

  2. Hi!I went to Everest Base Camp and was going to Annapurna this past April/May. I can tell you that I found good prices in Kathmandu. I went shopping with my guide though and he seemed to get good deals. I think he rents-out sleeping bags. You can get them in Pokhara too, but you will find a bigger selection in Thamel. this means you can get better deals and will be able to talk them down on the price. It is a Nepali custom (I read in a guide) to bargain. It is fun. You will have no problems wih the weight on the plane. My bag was a bit big, I have a hard time traveling light. I did hire a guide and he took care of hiring a porter. He works with trusted people. I can recommend my guide. He was knowledgeable, friendly, and most of all looked-out for my safety. He seemed to know just about everyone in Kathmandu and many, many guides and people on the mountain. Because Sanjib knows so many people he was constantly getting updates from up the mountain, or down the mountain. It was great to travel with a guide that has so many established relationships. I found him by chance through a travel forum and then got references from him. That is, I emailed past clients. In no time, I received emails from Italy, Germany and the U.S. singing this guy’s praises, so that is how I went about finding my guide. I found the price very reasonable and I liked the fact that you do not pay until you get there, so you avoid the big down payments and the advance payments as well. I was happy to travel solo. Traveling in a group is great, but for sure, you will not get personalized attention. You can meet a lot of people at the tea houses, or as you go along the trek you will become familiar with others “going your way.” You can contact Sanjib Adhikari at [email protected] http://www.hikehimalayas.com and Mobile No +9779841613822. I recommend email. I am sure he will be happy to provide you with references. Let me know if you have more questions and enjoy!!! http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2236045

  3. Title: “a perfect trip…….not to be missed ” “This year at the end of february i went in Nepal for 18 days for the second time and i did a small trekking in the Annapurna region, I went to visit Pokhara, Kathmandu, Bakthapur and Nagarkot and I saw the National Park of Chitwan and in this trip I had the pleasure to meet Sanjib Adhikari. H…e is an independent trekking guide and tour operator in Nepal and he has already obtained trekking guide license from the ministry of tourism, government of Nepal. In his work Sanjib Adhikari is a person very responsible and serious, very helpful and attentive to his customers, he knows very well the mountain because he has many years of experience and is also an excellent guide for visiting the cities, the best thing for me is that he loves his country ve
    ry much and loves his work and always manages to convey all his enthusiasm with simple ways and always with the smile. Sanjib is also a very funny person and after this experience we became a very good friend For these reasons I am very glad to report the site of Mr. Sanjib Adhikari http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/
    [email protected] Silvana”
    Nepal Guide Info, Sanjib Adhikari, Kathmandu – Thamel, NEPAL
    http://www.planetmountain.com/english/…/mountainguides/scheda.lasso?
    Sanjib Adhikari | Facebook
    http://www.facebook.com/sanjib.adhikari
    Trekking Guide in Nepal Sanjib http://www.nepalguideinfo.com – YouTube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7s6pd75S6I

  4. There is no substitute for personalized attention. I traveled to Nepal to visit Everest Base Camp. I traveled alone and had certain trepidation about traveling on my own, but I also knew I wanted to escape the pressures of trekking in a large group. Altitude and safety are paramount on mountain treks and I did not want to end-up hyperventilating trying to keep-up with faster, fitter, trekkers.
    Even though, I have altitude experience, I relied heavily on my guide’s advice regarding what to eat, pace, and hydration. I have climbed and summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro, so I was confident I could complete this trek, but nothing can prepare you for the terrain of the Hymalayas. It is truly a humbling experience.
    Mr. Adhikari came highly recommended by other trekkers, who were only too willing to write positive and detailed letters of recommendation. I found that all their recommendations were more than true. Mr. Adhikari has been to Everest Base Camp more than 50 plus times, as a woman traveling alone, I found his level of professionalism refreshing. I cannot count the times, Mr. Adhikari truly saved me from my inexperienced trekking self. He ensured I would
    not be run over by a Yak, horse, or donkey, kept me focused on the difficult terrain, and somehow ensured I stopped long enough to enjoy the scenery (in spite of my exhaustion). I shudder to think what my trek would have been like if I’d been just another trekker in a large group. I have to comment that I have never been so healthy-stomach wise at altitude.
    Mr. Adhikari explains that when organizing for larger groups, he makes provisions for trekkers like me who tend to walk at a slower pace. I thought for sure that, this time, my ambition had superseded my ability, but thanks to Mr. Adhikari, my long time dream of seeing Everest Base Camp first hand came true. I was able to spend time in the rarified air and observe camp life, took plenty of pictures, and asked Mr. Adhikari numerous questions about his experiences around the area. I so wanted to see the famous “ice fall.” it was helpful to have a guide who spoke Nepali and who is so friendly. At a time when all one’s body wants to do is rest, it was nice that my guide struck-up conversations with other climbers. He pointed out that some of the people passing me were not base camp visitors, but climbers in training-those hoping to summitt Everest. They use the road to base camp and the surroundings as a sort of conditioning track.
    I was very aware of the economic implications of traveling with a Nepali Operator vs. a foreign trekking company. I wanted my trip not to only be a self-serving adventure, but numerous travel books suggest that traveling with a Nepali Operator does ensure more of the money goes and stays into the Nepali economy. I was unsure how the whole experience would unfold, but I am staying here and going to Annapurna Base Camp with the same operator. Mr. Adhikari seems to be grounded on the mountain community ad well as in Kathmandu. It was reassuring to see he has good and long standing relationships with other guides and the mountain community.

    I need to add that you should come prepared and bring a permanent marker. There is a large boulder marking the entrance to Everest Base Camp. The boulder is covered with trekker signatures. The smaller boulders and stones are covered with messages from those lucky enough to have been there.

    http://www.hikehimalayas.com http://www.nepalguideinfo.com E mail-:[email protected]

    Visited April 2012

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