Annapurna circuit – background and preparation

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In March 2016, I finally did get to make one of my long awaited complete disconnect from everything back home. This post is to share some background and the preparation I did for the Annapurna circuit + Annapurna base camp treks in Nepal. I wanted to write a book on the whole Nepal experience but made 0 progress in 4 months so decided to go ahead with short specific posts starting with this.

The idea of taking a month long break from the usual life hit me first in the summer of 2013 when I returned from Kashmir valley. I didn’t have anything remotely looking like a plan back then and it was more of a vague idea. Ever since, I was preparing myself mentally and physically to make this dream a success. Fast forward to summer of 2015, discussed and got an approval for taking the break from my office in December 15 which I postponed to late winter – early spring for a better weather. Convincing parents turned out to be even easier as unhappy with my recent bike trips and my increasing interest in it, Mom herself jokingly asked me to instead go wherever I want to go for a month, on condition that I don’t go bike tripping. Wasn’t long when I told them I’m actually going to follow the advice. 😉

I got a lot of assistance in the research required for this by reading Lonely Planet’s amazing books on Nepal and trekking in the Nepal Himalaya both of which are available as free in the Kindle Unlimited program. Those have covered a lot of what’s relevant in extreme detail and I would have found it difficult without those guidebooks.

The baby steps in preparation would be all my trips with friends, including Kashmir valley, Laddakh, Spiti and Barot valley, and the solo ones to Dharamshala, Rann of Kutch and Pabbar valley. I had only gone for day treks such as Triund, Chandrashila, and micro hikes lasting not more than a couple of hours in Spiti valley, Kasauli and Manali. So yes, the month long trek WAS a BIG change from anything I had done in past. The fact that Annapurna circuit is a teahouse trek (meaning you do find basic lodges and places to eat every day along the route) definitely made things easier as compared to a real wilderness trek.

AMS (acute mountain sickness) is a real risk which affects lots of people and that is something one must be aware of, and take precautions for, while visiting any high altitude region. Luckily for me, natural acclimatization worked and I did ok while crossing the 5400m high Thorungla without taking any rest day or the AMS medicines before the pass. I like to believe my past experiences with the mountains helped me though I’m not sure if the body actually works like that.

Preparation and lessons from running half marathon in Nov 15 also helped a bit in strengthening the lower body as well as lungs, which is going to be very important in any long trek. Brisk walking everyday, calf muscles strengthening exercises along with basic warm up exercises are what I did for several weeks preceding the d-day.

From physical preparation perspective, in retrospect, I definitely could have used more of it, and that would have definitely helped enjoying the walks even more. For instance, my knees did hurt real bad for several days after the long descent of Thorung la. But that’s not something I really regret. I believe the quote from the movie Ender’s game – “You’re never ready. You go when you’re ready enough” is spot on.

Looking back, being part of an early stage startup, which is kind of a roller-coaster ride bringing new challenges everyday, mentally prepared me taking this month long adventure, I think. Both are a lot similar in so many ways (more on that some other day)!

Till the next post, here is a short video i compiled from one of the most beautiful places on Earth:

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