Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Packing (and Departing) for the Annapurna Circuit Trek

At long last we find ourselves with a short break in work commitments, and we are taking the opportunity to trek the Annapurna Circuit, one of Nepal's most famous and well traversed Himalayan trekking routes. This trek has been a priority for us because the landscape is fast changing due to a road building project, but for now the road does not intrude until the end of the trekking route. We hear that the scenery is stunning and the trek exhilarating, so we are very excited.

We have also been very busy. Although we are equipped with basic gear for day hikes around the Kathmandu Valley (such as good quality and broken-in hiking boots -- a must!), we did not bring any gear from the US with us for extended treks. We saved space in our luggage knowing that we could pick up most items in Thamel, the tourist and trekker haven. But as we quickly learned from seasoned trekking vets like our friend Brian Smith, the quality of Thamel's trekking goods is questionable at best, so we started acquiring the necessary items by borrowing -- Brian Smith loaned us two backpacks, two Camelbak bladders for drinking water, two waterproof stuff bags, a sleep sack, and water purification drops. Amazing!

The rest we filled in with a stop at Shona's, an institution in Thamel. Although you might not want to trust waterproof rain gear, backpacks, and hiking boots from Thamel, you can't go too wrong with fleece products and even down jackets. We spent about one hour and $175 at Shona's and came away with this loot.

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Our haul included: one cotton sleep sack; four pairs of hiking socks; two pairs of quick-drying hiking pants; one heavy fleece for Brian; one lightweight fleece and one down jacket for me (I err on the cold side); two "Gore-Tex" rain jackets (don't have high hopes for this one); two round-brim sun hats (essential to protect against the strong sun); two pack covers; one set of hiking poles (another friend is off-loading a second set on us); and moleskin.

For a full packing list, check out Brian Smith's blog post about how to pack for teahouse trekking. We followed his guidelines closely and packed fairly lightly -- teahouse trekking means we don't have to pack our own food or tents -- so we are mainly carrying a few items of clothes, along with miscellaneous items like toiletries, first-aid kit, and our Kindles. One splurge in terms of weight and space: a small sleeping bag (also borrowed -- thanks, Brooke!). The report from Annapurna right now is that this spring has been the chilliest in ten years, with temperatures dipping to -4 Celcius at night, so I am not taking chances with my warmth and comfort.

We will depart early this morning on a bus, heading west to BhulBhule, where we will begin the trek. Depending on the route we take and side trips that we might do, we expect to be gone for at least two weeks. We may have occasional access to internet over the course of the trek, but we do not expect to be updating frequently, if at all. In the meantime, we hope to keep your attention with some pre-planned posts that we will be posting in the coming days until we return. If we have cell phone service, we may be Tweeting pictures and thoughts from the trails now that Brian has finally unlocked his iPhone for use in Nepal. This is a great opportunity to sign up and follow us on Twitter!

Wish us luck!

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