We are just back from a 40 day trek in the Annapurnas starting at Karputar on 23 January and finishing at Pokhara on 2nd March. The weather this spring is unstable with some dry days but with rain/snow on others. We walked for 11 days in snow on the circuit, i.e. from Dharapani to almost Muktinath, and for 3 days in the Annapurna Sanctuary, i.e. from Deurali to ABC and back. During those 3 days at least 24 inches (60cm) of snow fell in the Sanctuary. We saw the results of 3 avalanches, the biggest of whichwas just south of Deurali. This avalanche had gone across the trail and as far as the river. It was composed of very hard balls of ice, each about the size of a small football, and was some 50 yards wide were the trail crossed. It happened at about 8 pm and no-one was believed to be on the trail at that time. It was clearly not survivable. I am writing additional notes by headings so that you can quickly access anything of particular interest.

Noise in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

The evening noise levels in Thamel and Pokhara are dreadful. Noise will be blasting at you from 3 or 4 directions at once - music shops, dance restaurants, etc., We are finding it almost impossible to find a restaurant were we can eat a meal in peace and quiet. Last night we had to abandon Maya's restaurant on Lakeside as the boy on the cash desk was obviously a loud rock fan, the dance studio was going boom-boom, and the music shop was playing Nepali folk music flat out. A pity as the food was excellent.

Noise on trek

This time the dogs came third. We lost most sleep because of Nepalis talking loudly until very late and secondly to other trekkers talking loudly in their
bedrooms in the night. The South Koreans at MBC slept all afternoon and talked all night. However, we saw lots of puppies on the trail so next year the dogs might win! Nepalis are also investing(!) in bigger, louder amplifiers/stereo systems and it's now possible to hear someone's music 10 or 15 minutes before you get to the village and 10/15 minutes after. Trekking south from Tolka, we could hear music from a house across the valley at least 1.5 km away.

Begnas Tal to Khudi route

The road from Pokhara to Begnas Tal now extends to Karputar and there is a bus service. The road is very rough and the journey takes several hours. The lodge in the centre of Karputar is very basic but the neighbour keeps a large, noisy dog on a platform about 5 yards from the trekker's bedroom window which is unglazed. When the dog barks in the night you will be awake!. It might be better to get there after lunch and walk on to Syauli Bazaar and stay at the Himalayan Rescue Dog lodge. Between Phedi and Namla, the road is being constructed so expect problems with the trail. The road cuts through Nalma village just above the lodges and goes to Besisahar (I think) The top lodge nearest the road offers little to trekkers other than a room and to take your money. Even our guide and porters had trouble with them. The walk on to Baglung Pani uses some sections of road but the last section is on the trail. Annapurna lodge at Baglung Pani was as friendly as ever, warm welcome, good food and they even remembered us from 2000. The road here goes to Besisahar and then along the ridge to the next village. Do not take the path down through the jungle to Khudi but take the path past the high school along the ridge to the next village and then go downhill and to Khudi. It is a delightful walk through a couple of lovely villages and terraced fields. You only see jungle for the first 2 hours on the other route. Would I recommend this route any more, no! The fickle weather meant that we also had no views of Manaslu which was why we went that way!

The Road - Besisahar towards Manang.

The buses now run as far as Bhulbhule, so we didn't stop in Khudi but walked on to Bhulbhule and stayed in a lodge there. The jeeps go on as far as Syange where the trail cross back to the west bank. Syange will be demolished when the road is built through. The road is under construction from Syange onwards and the trail uses sections of road and sometimes deviates from it around construction works. Trekkers were having to negotaite the last section of the construction works before Jagat and it was extremely dangerous. Basically a notch is being cut in the hillside for the road and the rubble thrown down the mountain. We had to cross a narrow section of rubble/dust with a stumble possibly resulting in a fall to the river several hundred metres below. Before you cross any of these sections, make sure that they have stopped throwing rubbish down from above. Vertigo sufferers may have trouble here. North of Jagat the trail is sent up a new zig-zag and then down again beyond the works. Allow extra time for this walk as you will lose time due to the deviations and you may have to wait if blasting is due. More construction works are in progress on the route to Tal but the trail is on the east bank and work can be viewed from a distance. Tal by the way, was a ghost town. Many sections of road above Tal are complete but unused as 2 essential bridges - taking the road to the east bank and then back again to the west bank - have not yet been built. An ACAP guy in Manang said it would be 10 years before the road is complete. Looking at the construction it will be closed every year by landslips and washouts. He said that they are looking at a new route for the circuit, one that goes higher initially so that mountain views can be had from early on.

The Road - Muktinath to Tatopani.

We walked some sections of this but mostly used east bank side-trips to avoid. Traffic at the moment on the Jomosom section is confined to m/cycles and tractor/trailers. The section south from kalopani towards Ghasa is complete and is dreadfulThe cutting is badly done and there will be landslips and all the waste has been shoved down the mountain creating dreadful scars. There is a lot of dust on this section.You can walk on the east bank trail south of Ghasa but after crossing back to the west bank you rejoin the road and it is a 2 hour hack to Tatopanion on a dirty dusty road. Jeeps ply this section. The road currently extends south of Tatopani to where the suspension bridge takes you across the river for the Ghorepani trail. Construction is under way beyond the bridge. We met a couple in Kagbeni who had got from Beni to Jomosom in 2 days by using jeeps where they could and walking the rest.

Side trips

You can make side trips to avoid the road but you still end up on it. We used the following: Jomosom to Marpha - east bank via Thini. Beautiful route, really enjoyed it. Marpha to Tukuche - east bank via Chare (Tibetan village) and Chimang (Timang). Chimang was a beautiful Thakali village with neat fields all ready for spring and great views of Dhaulagiri, the ice fall, and Tukuche Peak. Tukuche to Kalopani - took the trail up through forest towards Dhaulagiri icefall, visited two lakes and back down to road at suspension bridge north of Kalopani. On a good day you would have great views of Nilgiri, etc., Kalopani to Ghasa - North out of village and then south-east to Titi lake before heading back to road south of Lete. A new road has been put through the forest on the first part of this walk but has the advantage of giving great views of Dhaulagiri, the icefall and Tukuche Peak. If you have time at Manang there is a Kharka you can visit, in a morning, with great views of 10 peaks. Walk to Braga and take the diagonal path through the village as if going to Ice lake. Following the easy rising path round the mountainside until you reach the finger post "Ice Lake" with the path going off on the left steeply upwards. Follow instead the trail ahead which rises steadily and easily round the mountainside and above a gompa. You are heading for the wooded ridge on the skyline which stretches out to the right. When you get there you will find a large area of grazing with several shepherd's huts. From there you can see 10 big peaks. From left to right, Pisang Peak, Ngadi Chuli, Lamjung Himal, Annapurna II, Annapurna IV, Annapurna III, Gangapurna, Glacier Dome and Tilico Peak. You can be back in Manang for lunch! When I get home I will put maps of these routes on my pBase site.