Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nepal, Annapurna Circuit....Chame To Lower Pisang

The route from Chame to Lower Pisang took us above 3000 metres. The walk on this day was an easy one, mostly on broad forest tracks and with much of the route passing through a familiar looking landscape of pine forest. The river was never very far away.

Something was wrong, though, on this day. Although we could see something of the high peaks in the early morning, the clouds that moved in as we walked were not of the kind that just cover the tops of the higher mountains. As the morning progressed it started to rain, not hard but persistently. We couldn't see very much of our surroundings. At one point, as you get nearer to Lower Pisang, the route goes past a huge, bare, rockface named Swargadwari Danda. We could see little of it through the clouds but we could hear it, with the rumble of occasional rock falls. With the route being easy we weren't too affected by the bad weather, it just meant that we didn't stop very much.

Now it makes sense that if you have a Lower Pisang there should also be an upper equivalent. We opted to stay in the village at the bottom from which you get a fine view of nearby Upper Pisang anyway.

By now we were in a region of heavy Tibetan influence – evident in the architecture and the Buddhist symbols. In Lower Pisang, located at around 3200 metres, I suddenly got my first taste of problems with the altitude. I was just climbing the staircase to my hotel, not something that seemed very difficult, when I felt out of breath and realised that at this altitude I couldn't do things in a hurry.

There is little luxury about most of the hotels on the Annapurna Circuit, but none of them were bad. The rooms are simple and obviously you need the sleeping bag as the bed normally just has a single sheet. Showers can be available but there is question mark over whether it's a good idea to use hot water in places where firewood needs to be used to heat it. An increasing number of hotels claim to have solar powered showers, and in at least one where we stayed it was powered by butane gas.

The weather improved a little bit in the afternoon and the views cleared slightly, enough to see from our hotel the giant slab of rock that had been hidden from us back down the path. Before....

and after the clouds cleared....

The clouds didn't clear high enough to be able to see the 6000 metre Pisang peak, it's possible to do the trek to that mountain from here. Upper Pisang has a monastery which can be visited in the afternoon. Both the lower and upper villages are interesting for just wandering around.

With the weather not being good it was cold in the evening, I started feeling grateful for the warm sleeping bags that we had bought with us. Further back down the trail they had seemed a bit excessive for the night time temperatures we experienced, up here they were essential.

View Nepal - The Annapurna Circuit in a larger map

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