Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Nepal

Annapurna South, Annpurna Range, Asia, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking

In November after our 20-day trek in the Khumbu/Everest region, we headed to the town of Pokhara to embark on yet another trek in the Himalaya — this time a short but strenuous 7-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp, also referred to as the ABC Trek or Annapurna Sanctuary Trek. At 8091m / 26545 ft., Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world. The trek to its south base camp ascends the long and jungly Modi Khola gorge, finally reaching a high basin ringed by soaring peaks including, of course, Annapurna itself.

See lots more photos below!

Nepal,Pokhara, Phewa Tal
Phewa Tal, Pokhara.

Pokhara is the gateway city to the Annapurna Himal. Though Pokhara is only about 200 km (124 miles) from Kathmandu, the bus ride takes 7 hours! This is because there are no highways, and the bumpy potholed road winds through mountainous foothill terrain the whole way.

Nepal,Pokhara, Himalaya, Canoes, Phewa Tal
Canoes on Phewa Tal near the city of Pokhara.

The city of Pokhara is situated next to Phewa Tal, a lake with awe-inspiring views of the pyramid summit of Machhapuchhre (aka Fish Tail Peak) rising in the distance. That is, on the rare occasions when you can see through the haze and smog.

Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Nepal, Phedi
Ascending the steep stone staircase above Phedi.

After a terrifying taxi ride from Pokhara, our speed-demon driver dropped us off at the village of Phedi, where we promptly started ascending a steep stone staircase. These stone staircases would be a defining characteristic of this trek — constantly ascending or descending these never-ending staircases!

Though this trek is much shorter than the Khumbu trek we did, we both agreed that it was much more strenuous, with all the ups and downs and longer hiking days. (With lower elevations here, altitude acclimatization is not such a concern so it’s possible to hike farther each day).

We opted to go solo on this trek and did not hire a porter or guide. Our backpacks were lighter since we didn’t have to pack as much cold weather clothing, and also from our experience from the previous trek we knew exactly what we needed to bring with us (or more importantly, what we didn’t need to bring).

Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Machhapuchhre,Nepal
Machhapuchhre (6993m / 22,943 ft.)

Machhapuchhre (also known as Fish Tail Peak) is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Himalaya (or the world, for that matter). Like a Himalayan Matterhorn, this peak has a striking pyramidal profile. Quoting Wikipedia: “Machhapuchchhre has never been climbed to its summit. The only attempt was in 1957 by a British team led by Jimmy Roberts. Climbers Wilfrid Noyce and A. D. M. Cox climbed to within 150 m (492 ft) of the summit via the north ridge; to an approximate altitude of 22,793 ft., but did not complete the ascent; they had promised not to set foot on the actual summit. Since then, the mountain has been declared sacred, and it is now closed to climbers.”

Annapurna South,Annapurna Range,Bhickok Deurali,Himalaya,Nepal
Annapurna South (7219m / 23,684 ft.)

The first portion of our trek involved crossing over a broad mountain ridge, from Phedi through the villages of Dhampus, Pothana, Bhickok Deurali (above), and Tolka. This route provides stunning views of Machhapuchhre and Annapurna South, before descending into the long jungly valley of the Modi Khola.

Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Nepal,waterfall
Bheri Kharka Waterfall : Prints Available

Annapurna South, Annpurna Range, Asia, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking

Annapurna South,Annapurna Range,Tolka,Himalaya,Nepal
Annapurna South (7219m / 23,684 ft.) as seen from near Tolka.

Massive vertical relief is one of the defining characteristics of the Annapurna Himal, perhaps even more dramatic than in the Khumbu region. In the photo above, the summit of Annapurna South is nearly 6,000 meters or 20,000 vertical feet higher than the valley below!

Map in Landruk
A scientifically accurate map to the Annapurna Sanctuary. Watch out for the giant leopard!!! [Click for larger version].
Annapurna Range, Himalaya, Modi Khola, Nepal, hiking
A suspension bridge over the Modi Khola.

Annapurna Range, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking, trail

Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Jhinnu Danda,Nepal
The village of Jhinnu Danda, overlooking the Modi Khola gorge.
Annapurna Range, Chomrong, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking
Hiking through the village of Chomrong in the morning.
Annapurna Range,Chomrong,Himalaya,Nepal
A farmer’s terraces in Chomrong. Many houses in Nepal don’t use proper stove pipes, so smoke from the stoves just seeps out along the sides of the roof.

Annapurna Range, Asia, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking

The Modi Khola gorge is filled with lush jungle forest, complete with vines, moss, and monkeys.

Annapurna Range,Nepal,forest
Annapurna Forest : Prints Available

Mountain jungle forest on the way to Annapurna Base Camp.

Open Defication Free
Don’t crap on sacred mountains.
Annapurna Range,Asia,Himalaya,Nepal, Modi Khola, river
The upper Modi Khola river.

After days of trudging up and down endless stone staircases through the jungle, it was a relief to finally emerge above the treeline above the lodges of “Himalaya”, knowing that we were now amongst the big peaks and within reach of Annapurna Base Camp.

Annapurna South, Annpurna Range, Asia, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking
Happy in the Himalaya!
Annapurna,Annapurna Base Camp,Annapurna South,Himalaya,Nepal, sign
Welcome to Annapurna Base Camp.
Annapurna Base Camp,Himalaya,Machhapuchhre,Nepal
Nice view of Machhapuchhre out the teahouse window at Annapurna Base Camp.
Annapurna Base Camp,Annapurna South,volleyball,Himalaya,Nepal
Playing volleyball under Annapurna South, at Annapurna Base Camp.
Annapurna,Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Nepal
The south face of Annapurna 1, the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8091m / 26545 ft.
Annapurna,Annapurna Range,glacier,Himalaya,Nepal
Glacier below the south face of Annapurna 1, the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8091m / 26545 ft.

Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Nepal,prayer flags

Himalaya,Machhapuchhre,Nepal, Annapurna Base Camp
Machhapuchhre Revealed : Prints Available

Machhapuchhre emerges from the clouds, as seen from Annapurna Base Camp.

Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Machhapuchhre,Nepal
Machhapuchhre On Fire : Prints Available

Brilliant sunset light shines on Machhapuchhre (aka Fish Tail Peak) – 6993m / 22,943 ft.

Annapurna Base Camp,Himalaya,Machhapuchhre,Nepal
Machhapuchhre towering over Annapurna Base Camp, at twilight.
Annapurna,Himalaya,Nepal,prayer flags, Annapurna Base Camp
Annapurna Sunrise : Prints Available

Watching the sunrise on Annapurna (8091m / 26,545 ft) at Annapurna Base Camp (4130m / 13,550 ft). That’s 13,000 vertical feet of mountain right there!

Early in the morning the entire population of Annapurna Base Camp woke up and went out to watch the sunrise, like a ceremony of fellow mountain worshippers!

Annapurna Range, Asia, Himalaya, Machhapuchhre, Nepal, hiking
Hiking away from Annapurna Base Camp, with Machhapuchhre towering above.

After spending one spectacular evening and morning at Annapurna Base Camp, we headed back down the way we came.

Annapurna Range, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking
Hiking down the vertical gorge of the Modi Khola.
Dovan Ganja
What is this — Colorado??!!
Annapurna Range, Himalaya, Nepal, sheep, hiking
Traffic on the trail.
Annapurna Range, Himalaya, Nepal, hiking. teahouse
Walking past a teahouse in Sinuwa.
Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Nepal,monkey
A monkey flies through the forest below Annapurna.
Annapurna Range,Himalaya,Jhinu Danda,Nepal,hot springs
Soaking in the hot springs below Jhinnu Danda village.

There’s no better way to wrap up a trek than to spend the last evening soaking in hot springs!

22 thoughts on “Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, Nepal

  1. Jack, your images from the Annapurna region are just breathtaking! I enjoyed every image. They playing Volleyball is unforgettable especially because of the setting and you captured a live-image from there. “Hiking down the vertical gorge of the Modi Khola.” has a very surreal look to it! Almost looks like your wife is walking towards the legendary shambhala 🙂 “Traffic on the trail” image brought a smile also! Very interesting set of images Jack ..awesome job capturing the place!

  2. Beautiful photos! The relief of the peaks and valleys is simply stunning. Makes the Rockies seem like little molehills in comparison….

    1. Thanks Zach! Yes, that’s right, the scale of the Himalaya is on a whole ‘nother level. In that one photo above with Annapurna South rising 20K feet above the valley, it’s interesting to imagine that Mt. Rainier would fit entire into that valley and would not even fill up 3/4 of the height! Or the same with the highest peaks in Colorado — from sea level!

  3. I really enjoyed reading the story to match up with your awesome images – the Fish Tail’s are stunning – and so are quite a few others that give me such a sense of being there. I can almost smell the smoke in the valleys and hear monkeys swinging and chattering in the trees. We’ve been thinking of this trek for years and now have your words and images to guide us. Great stuff – thanks for sharing!

  4. I love following you guys through the Annapurrna by your words and photos. Looks like a wonderful adventure. My wife and spend 17 days trekking in the Khumbu and were to whipped out and to thin to do another trek. We also headed to Thailand afterwords for the contrast. Your Khumbu photos are the best I have ever seen!!!!! Great work.

    1. Hi Nathan, thanks for your compliment! Funny you mention that; by the time we were finished with our two treks in Nepal I was noticeably skinnier too! But, our three weeks in Germany afterwards, eating heaps of Christmas cookies and drinking lots of Hefeweizen fixed that in a hurry. 🙂

  5. Wow, just superb pictures are so well taken that once who sees this pictures definitely feels they are at Annapurna trekking by themselves. This is amazing trekking route in Nepal and should be one of the wonder in the world. Being there is the great pleasure to the adventure lovers.

    Trekking in Nepal is fund and Annapurna trekking is adventure with fun. Thank you for those amazing pictures, I wish I could also be able to take such a realistic pictures.

    Rajan Pandit

  6. Amazing pictures of Machchhapuchhare…and the whole trek.I am eager to go there in october ’15….can you please tell me the detailed budget of the whole trek from pokhra to pokhra

  7. Hello JACK BRAUER you make great travel story what a beautiful pictures that you capture, i am a trekking guide Nepal i am feeling i am trekking with guest, thank you it helps and inspire many travel to explore its nature beauty

  8. Hello Jack , A gorgeous and inspiring phototrail – thank you for sharing . I loved the way you captured the light and the grandeur. I am an amateur photographer and so , would love to have some helpful tips from you regarding your gear and camera tips. . It’s my first multiday trek and I’m wondering how best to carry my camera and lenses ( micro 4/3) for easy accessibility .

  9. Your photos are absolutely magnificent!! I am planning on doing the ABC trek this coming January! I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind passing along your itinerary or budget from your trip if possible. Please let me know!

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