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Day 7 Mandatory Manang rest day

The view from the roof of the Ghyalchan Lodge, Manang . The mountains appear so close that you imagine that you could almost reach out and touch them. From left to right can be seen Annapurna II 7,937m , Annapurna IV 7,535m, the false peak of Annapurna III 7,555m (the false peak hides the true summit which you will see from Yak Kharka) Gangapurna 7454m with the North Gangapurna Glacier below it, The Grande Barriere and Tilicho Peak 7143m.

Altitude sickness - the reason why you should rest in Manang

Many trekkers are unfamiliar with the discomfort and potential hazards which accompany high altitude travel. You are now at 3,600 metres, well above the 1,800 metre threshold where the thinning of the air begins to be felt. The Annapurna circuit ascends to over 5,400 metres. Everyone, including even Sherpas, needs to take time to acclimatise to this altitude.

So the first piece of advice is to stay an extra night in Manang.

The second piece of advice is to attend the lectures held each afternoon by the Himalayan Rescue Association. These lectures cover all you need to know to ascend safely to 5,400 metres and back down again.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is the official name for the unpleasant effects of travel to high altitudes. The symptoms are new to many trekkers and can feel rather like flu. Many first time sufferers commonly mistake mild AMS with colds, flu, food poisoning and the effects of too little sleep. Even people who read this will make this mistake. It is human nature.

My third piece of advice is that if you feel any of the following symptoms your first assumption should be that you have mild AMS, and not the low altitude illness to which you would normally attribute the symptom. This is the approach adopted by experienced mountaineers who have been to high altitude many times. The symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Actual vomiting (being sick)
  • Unsteady walking (Ataxia is the medical term)

If you recognise that you have any of these symptoms and that the cause is mild AMS, you are on the road to recovery already. You should wait, rest and drink plenty of water. Do not ascend further. If the symptoms are severe then descend. If you see someone with severe symptoms encourage them or help them to descend. One or two people die on the Annapurna Circuit of AMS each year.

Acclimatisation Activities in Manang

Eating and drinking alone will not help your acclimatisation. The principle behind acclimatisation is to 'climb high and sleep low'. Putting the principle to work means taking hikes in the surrounding hills. May I offer the following suggestions:

Praken Gompa

To the north above Manang is a cliff. Built into this is a tiny gompa. Lama Deshi is the resident Buddhist priest. Now many of the Manang Bhot say that he has become too commercialised. This is because he expects a donation from visitors. However, it is normal for the people of Nepal themselves to pay for a 'puja' ceremony. The good lama charges 100 rupees for a puja ceremony for a trekker. This is probably a lot more than the people of Nepal pay for a puja. But who is to say that Lama Deshi does not put the money to good use? The puja ceremony is an interesting experience for a trekker. I'd recommend it.

From the Thorung La Hotel and Bar walk a short distance westwards to a square with the biggest tree in the valley. Walk towards the public water tap, then towards the Himal Chuli Lodge. Walk up towards an old Tibetan house standing by itself on the near skyline. Follow the path to a water tank and water pipe, and then to a chorten and some yak herders huts (30 minutes). There is a beautiful view of Annapurna II 7,937m and Annapurna IV 7,525m from here. Zig-zag up the steep path towards Praken Gompa (50 minutes). Lama Deshi will be sure to see you coming up the path. He conducts Puja ceremonies in a tiny Buddhist shrine built into the rock. The rock roof is blackened by ancient fires predating the Buddhist gompa. Perhaps this site was occupied by other religions long before Buddhism came here. Lama Deshi collects photographs of his visitors. If you have a spare passport photograph, take it with you.

 Ngawal Lake

3 hours and 1,100 metres of ascent.

This little lake is above Braga rather than Ngawal or Manang. It provides a good acclimatisation walk. Be well equipped. Take a Schneider map, a compass (and GPS if you have one) warm clothes, goretex jacket, a torch, food and water. If the weather is clear you will be rewarded with magnificent views of Gangapurna, Annapurna III, Annapurna IV and Annapurna II. If the weather changes, as is likely in the afternoons, you will be safely equipped.

Begin by walking down the track from Manang to Braga. Walk to eastern Braga on your right, and from the back of the village gain a rising path heading east (down the valley). This path is behind a hedge on the hillside. The hedge is clearly visible although the path behind it is hidden. Be sure not to damage any crops on the way. It is possible that this path is more easily reached from western Braga.

The path leads in about 30 minutes to some yak herder's huts on a plateau at about 3,750 metres altitude. From the back of the plateau another rising path leads left to the west in the direction of some prayer flags. Another plateau, this time dotted with ancient pine trees is reached at 4,000 meters. [28°39.32'N 84°03.63'E]. Continue west along a path to a ridge [28°39.60'N 83°03.53'E] at 4,280 metres. Now walk right towards a chorten and prayer flags on the skyline at 4,362 metres [28°39.67'N 84°03.53'E].

Continue directly upwards from here and a yak herders hut may be seen in a little valley between two ridges. From the hut follow a little valley up until below the shoulder of a ridge at 4,450 meters [28°40.03'N 84°03.86'E]. From here the shoulder looks like a summit.

Cross below the shoulder in a NW direction up to 4,700 metres [28°40.21'N 84°03.70'E] from where Ngawal lake may be seen below (3 hours 30 minutes).

I recommend descending the same path. It is however possible to descend down the stream bed (at least in October when it is dry). The path alternates on either side of the stream. Initially descend on the right of the stream traversing 150 metres to the right. Rejoin the stream. Lower down traverse left before rejoining the stream. Eventually from the stream bed a little ridge is visible. Climb 10 metres onto this and the fields between Braga and Manang will be visible. (In descent 1 hour 30 minutes).

Point 4695m

4 hours and 1,100 metres of ascent.

Point 4695 is a little peaklet on the ridge which leads up to Tarke Kang and Gangapurna. It is marked on the Schneider map. This ridge is relatively safe, yet permits a close encounter with the Himalayan giant Gangapurna and its northern glacier. It also provides a good view of the path up the valley to the Thorung La.

Follow the path to Khangsar out of Manang. Cross the Marsyandi. Do not follow the path to Khangsar, but instead climb the ridge to the right of the lake. (4 hours) Descend by the same route.

Pony Riding

Ponies may be hired in Manang for 1000 rupees a day, although this does seem a little expensive. In the past, ponies have only been used by trekkers who need them to descend in an emergency, or who are determined enough but not fit enough to cross the Thorung La. Recreational pony use therefore costs the same as ponies hired under duress. Perhaps prices will go down as recreational hire increases as it surely will. The Manang area is excellent for experienced riders.

Copyright Ian P Johnson October 1998