The Annapurna region lies in central Nepal. Named after the Hindu goddess Annapurna (the bestower of food), who is regarded as a manifestation of goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. The chief mountains in this region include the Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu Himal.
The Annapurna Himal, which lies between the Kali Gandaki and Marsyangdi river valley, forms a solid mountain bastion. It covers a distance of 40 miles and encompasses within its range some twelve peaks that rise to an elevation of more than 7000m and numerous other lesser peaks.
Climate, Flora & Fauna
The climate in the Annapurna region varies from subtropical to alpine. The southern slopes of the area has the highest rainfall rate in the country- 3000mm per year, whereas the northern slopes lying in the rain shadow has the lowest rate – less than 300mm per year. The difference in the climatic conditions in this region is responsible for its varied flora and fauna.
The Annapurna region possesses a variety of flora and fauna. It stretches from the subtropical lowlands and the high temperate rhododendron forest in the south, to a dry alpine steppe environment in the North. The Southern lowlands are lush with subtropical forests consisting of chirpine and alder. In the Northern highlands temperate forests of oaks, rhododendron, fir, and blue pine are found. The wet regions yield a variety of bamboo species. The higher altitude further North give rise to forests of birch, blue pine and juniper trees, which are replaced by juniper and rhododendron in the far North. In the semi-desert rain shadow region, behind the Himalayas, bushes of caragana and juniper species are evident. It has several species of wildlife. There are around four hundred and seventy-four species of birds, and around a hundred species of mammals. The Annapurna region serves as an excellent habitat for rare and endangered mammals like the snow leopard, musk deer, blue sheep, red panda and many of Nepal’s brilliantly plumaged pheasants
The Annapurna massif contains six major peaks over 7,200 m: Annapurna I(8091m), Annapurna II(7937m), Annapurna III(7555m), Annapurna IV(7525m), Gangapurna(7455m) and Annapurna South(7219m). Annapurna I, standing at a height of 8,091 m, is the tenth highest summit in the world. It is located east of a great gorge cut through the Himalaya by the Kali Gandaki River, which separates it from the Dhaulagiri massif
Annapurna was the first 8000m peak scaled by a climber. Till 1948, Nepal was closed to all foreigners. It was in the year 1949 that the kingdom opened its doors to mountaineers .In that year two foreign teams received permission to enter the country, one Swiss and another American. In 1950, a French mountaineering team led by Maurice Herzog succeeded in climbing Annapurna, an 8000m peak. They had no information about the peak they would climb. With little or no information, they decided to take on the Annapurna. On 3rd June, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenel reached the summit of Annapurna I, after climbing for eight hours. They had to suffer from severe frostbite which cost Maurice Herzog his toes and fingers. Herzog has written about the climb in his book The Conquest of Annapurna 1950.
In 1957 Wilfred Noyce and David Cox climbed Machapuchhre (6997m) to within 50m of its summit. After this attempt, the government prohibited further climbing on the mountain .So technically Machapuchre remains unclimbed.
Annapurna II, the eastern anchor of the range, was first climbed in 1960 by a British/Indian/Nepalese team led by Jimmy Roberts, via the West Ridge, approached from the north. Annapurna III was first climbed in 1961 by an Indian expedition team led by Mohan Kohli. The summit party comprised Mohan Kohli, Sonam Gyatso, and Sonam Girmi. They climbed from the Northeast Face.
Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak), shaped like a tent, at 5663m is an ideal peak for a short expedition. Lying across the Annapurna glacier, the peak offers excellent views of its neighbouring peaks from its summit. Pisang Peak (6091m) forms part of the Manang Himal. Towering above the Marshyangdi valley, this peak was first ascended by J.Wellenkamp, a German climber, in 1955.The start of the ascent to this peak starts at a village which shares its name: Pisang.
Machhapuchhare (fish tail) (3700m) Machhapuchre lies in the center of the Annapurna Himal. Machhapuchhre possesses the rare beauty that makes it one of the world’s most photographed peaks. Poon Hill(3193m)is the westernmost crest of a spur that juts into the Kali Gandaki. The hill is named after the Magars called Poon, who live in that area. To watch the sunrise over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna Himal from this hill is an experience of a lifetime.
People & Places
The Gurungs form the largest group in the Annapurna region. They come from Tibeto burman stock. Although essentially Buddhists some Gurungs have converted to Hinduism. They inhabit the higher northern slopes of the Annapurna, Lamjung,Chuli and hills around Ganesh Himal. A large number of Gurung men serve in the British and Indian armies.
The immediate vicinity of Pokhara is largely populated by Chettris and Bahuns (Brahmins).They also live around the historic site of the old Gorkha kingdom. The Magars inhabit the lower trail between Baglung and Dana. They live high on the steep ridges along the tributaries of the Kali Gandaki.
Another ethnic group of this region is the Thakalis. Known throughout the country as accomplished hoteliers and skilled traders, they are noted for their aggressive trading spirit. They make up one of the few richer groups of people in Nepal. The Jomsom trek passes through Thak Khola, the Thakali homeland.
In the valley of the Muktinath live the Baragaun Bhotiya. Their lifestyle is similar to that of the Tibetans. Another group of people who share a close affinity to the Tibetans are the Lopa people of Mustang, north of Kagbeni. Some of them practice the ancient pre-Buddhist religion of Bon which is infused with animistic and shamanic belief and ritual. The people living in the upper Marshyandi valley are generally known as Mananges. The Nyeshang area, under which fall the villages of Manang, Braga and Ngawal. The people are of Tibetan origin. But their language Nyeshang is not a Tibetan dialect. This area is popularly known by the name of its largest village Manang.
Pokhara is the main town in central Nepal. It is the starting place of most of the major treks in the Annapurna region. Situated at an altitude of 827m, it is warmer and humid than Kathmandu. This town is known for its picturesque spots like the Phewa Tal(lake), on whose clear water you can see the reflection of the Mt.Machhapuchhre and the Annapurna Himal. Pokhara is one of the major travel destinations in Nepal.
Muktinath, a sacred place both for Hindus as well as Buddhists, is located at an altitude of 3,710 m at the foot of the Thorong La pass in Mustang district. The Hindus call the place Mukti Kshetra, which means the “the place of salvation“, while the Buddhists call it Chumig Gyatsa, Tibetan for ‘Hundred Waters’. For Tibetan Buddhists Chumig Gyatsa is a place of Dakinis, goddesses known as Sky Dancers. Jwala Mai Temple, Vishnu Temple, Marme Lhakhang and Gompa Sarwa are some of the religious shrines to visit. The springs from the Gandaki River spurts out of the 108 waterspouts near the Vishnu temple, from where the Hindu pilgrims take ritual bathe. One item that is unique to this place is the Saligrams (Ammonite fossils). These are black stones that when broken open, reveal the fossilized remains of prehistoric ammonites formed about 130 million years ago. The old specks that appear on many saligram are pyrite (fool’s gold). Hindus believe that the saligrams represent the god Vishnu.
Jomsom serves as the centre for Mustang valley. It lies on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River. There is an airstrip here with scheduled service to Kathmandu. The increase in the frequency of flights has brought more tourists to this area. Jomsom has a bank, post office, telecom office, a hospital and numerous hotels and lodges.
The Manang area was only recently opened to trekkers .The dry and arid region of Manang called Nyeshang lies at an altitude of 3520m. There is an abundance of large chortens and mani walls .The people of Nyeshang were granted special trading privileges by the King of Nepal hundred years ago. The businessmen from these parts are reputed to be both keen and astute. The tall peaks of the Himalaya – Annapurna II, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV, Gangapurna [7455m] and Tilicho Peak [7134m] are visible from this place. There is also a Himalayan Rescue Association [HRA] aid post in the village which makes an interesting and educational visit.
Kagbeni is the northernmost village in this region that foreigners may visit on a normal trekking permit. The police check post at the northern end of the village fastidiously prevents tourists from proceeding towards Lo-Manthang, the walled city of Mustang without the proper documentation A green oasis at the junction of the Jhong Khola and the Kali Gandaki river, Kagbeni looks like a town out of the medieval past, with closely packed mud houses, dark tunnels and alleyways, imposing chortens and a large, ochre-colored gompa perched above the town. Many people in this place still dress in typical Tibetan clothing.
This is the highest permanent settlement in the valley. Chomrong is divided into New Chomrong and Old Chomrong. New Chomrong at 2040m is the upper part. It has resort hotels, a school and a helicopter pad. Old Chomrong at 2060m is the main part of the village with shops offices and lodges. There is a tremendous view of Annapurna South, which seems to tower above the village. There are good views of Machhapuchhare, the fish tail mountain across the valley. Beyond Chomrong, camping is restricted to certain ACAP- designated camp sites and hotel construction is strictly prohibited.
Ghandruk, a traditional Gurung village is a cluster of slate-roofed houses. It is the second largest Gurung settlement in Nepal after Siklis. Its actual Gurung name is Kond. Surrounded by neatly terraced fields, the village has electricity and an extensive water supply. There are many hotels and lodges to cater to the many trekkers and tourists that pass that way. The headquarters of he Annapurna Conservation Area Poject are here. Over here one gets to witness the unique culture, tradition and custom of the Gurung community. Ghandruk offers excellent views of Annapurna South, Gangapurna, Annapurna III and Machhapuchhare.
Annapurna Conservation Area Project(ACAP)
ACAP was established in 1986 under the guidance of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. The project encompasses more than 7600 sq km. of the Annapurna range. As an innovative approach towards environmental protection, this area was declared a “conservation area” instead of a national park. . In an effort to avoid any conflicts of interest, ACAP has sought the involvement of local people and has emphasized environmental education. ACAP projects include the training of lodge owners, with an emphasis on sanitation, deforestation and cultural pride. They have trained trekking lodge operators and encouraged hoteliers to charge a fair price for food and accommodation. ACAP encourages the use of kerosene for cooking and made its use compulsory above Chhomrong in the Annapurna Sanctuary and on the route between Ghandruk and Ghorapani. ACAP is supported by a “conservation fee” of Rs 650 that is collected from all trekkers who obtain trekking permits for the Annapurna region
The Major Treks
Royal Trek: This is a magnificent trek stretching across two different river valleys. It encircles the Annapurna massif and goes through the Thorong La [5416 m.] the highest pass on this trek. The trek begins at Besisahar in the Marsyangdi river valley and finally concludes at Kali Gandaki river valley. This is a moderate to challenging trek which sometime requires a walk up the steep mountain path. This trek can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon and winter.
Ghorepani Trek: This trek is well suited for beginners or for those who have limited time. The trek starts from Phedi. The trail passes through rhododendron forest and traditional Gurung villages. A comparatively easy trek, it takes you up to an elevation of 2775 m at Ghorepani. The trip can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon.
Pokhara -Jomsom –Muktinath: Beginning from Nayapul, the trail passes over the Ghorepani pass and descends down to Kali Gandaki valley. Watching the dawn breaking over the Dhaulagiri and Annapurna peaks from Ghorepani is one spectacular scene that you get to witness on this trek. Once you reach Jomsom you can either continue trekking to Muktinath or explore the villages around Jomsom. This is an easy trek that can be done any time of the year except during monsoon.
Annapurna Base Camp Trek: The route to the original Annapurna Base Camp was discovered by Maurice Herzog and his team in 1950. The Annapurna Base Camp trek leads to a natural amphitheater that is used as the base camp from which climbers start on their way to conquer the Annapurna peak. The peak reaches 8091 meters above sea level, and the base camp’s altitude is 4130 meters above sea level. The trek into the area below the massive south face of Annapurna, known as the Annapurna Sanctuary, is one of the most popular treks in Nepal. The trek begins in Pokhara and leads up through the breathtaking Modi Khola gorge into the vast mountain ringed amphitheatre of the Sanctuary. The trail passes through bamboo and rhododendron forests with superb views of the Annapurna range. The high glacial basin is the site of the Annapurna south face base camp. This is a classic trek, which allows access to the high mountains of the Himalaya within a reasonable time frame. This trip can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon.
Annapurna Circuit Trek: It is a picturesque valley, first discovered in 1957 by Jimmy Roberts. Ten peaks of 600-800m rises from it. Machhapuchhare looks breathtaking from this viewpoint as also the south face of Annapurna. The Sanctuary falls within the area managed by the Annapurna Conservation Area Project.
The Annapurna Circuit is the popular name for a 300 km trek in the Annapurna mountain range. The trek reaches an altitude of 5,300m on the Thorung Lapass, touching the edge of the fabled Tibetan plateau. The magnificent mountain scenery, seen at close quarters includes Annapurna, Dhauligiri, and Machhupuchhare. This is a moderate to challenging trek which sometime requires ascending and descending the steep mountain path. This trek can be done anytime of the year except during monsoon and winter when the Thorong pass gets blocked by snow.
|TREKKING IN ANNAPURNA||Annapurna circuit, Annapurna Base Camp, Royal trek, Ghorepani trek and Muktinath trek|
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