Starting point: Shree Kharka
Ending point: Thorang phedi (4450 m)
Date: 20th Oct 2019
Distance covered: 20 km
I had never imagined that I could witness wildlife on a trail so popular.
I started my day little late at 07:00 am and I decided to walk at Kajol's pace. She was relatively slow but fast enough as she use to take very less breaks. We started hiking towards Yak Kharka (4050 m). Every point on the trail from here onward was suppose to be above 4000 meters. While crossing Yak Kharka I saw some movement on the adjacent hill. I looked to my right and I saw a Blue sheep calf running down the hill slope. He jumped across the boulder next to me and vanished. It was an amazing sight to behold. I was recording him in the camera already but it was among those few moments when you just lock your subject in the camera and then instead of keeping your eyes on the screen, you keep looking at the subject LIVE. I started scanning all the mountain slopes on my way and I could spot at least 50 Blue sheep in total by the time I ended the hike on Day 07.
I was so happy hiking in the Annapurna conservation area now. There were trails and trails ONLY. No roads, no vehicles, no construction noise. The trail section from Shree Kharka to Yak Kharka is indeed amazing and colourful. After hiking in the pale dry landslide prone slopes leading to the Tilicho lake, this section felt like a treat to the eyes.
There were red, blue and black berries. I wish I could have been an expert on the flora and fauna found in the region. Can you identify the berry? Do drop the name in the comments section if you know about it.
After hiking for around an hour and a half we reached to the point from where you could see Manang (3540 m). You could see the whole trail that you took to go all the way to the lake and we took a 2 minute break there admiring the beauty of these tiny hamlets spread all across the trail.
This segment reminded me of the trail near the Upper Pisang. It was all about hiking through the dry but colourful shrubs.
The suspension bridge that brings you back on the Annapurna circuit trail. You could also see people coming directly from Manang to Yak Kharka skipping the Tilicho lake.
The moment you enter Yak Kharka you will witness a huge inflow of people. Yak Kharka acts as a major stop before Thorang Phedi. Many trekking groups stay here an extra day if required, for acclimatization. We stopped here for lunch (Dal bhaat obviously) and it was 1:30 pm already. The clouds start to sink low and we had to decide to stay or hike.
You can find few points on the trail from where you can avail a porter of mule for yourself. You can even cross Thorang la (5400) on a Mule and it will take you all the way to Muktinath. If you feel that your backpack is too heavy due to poor planning then you can hire a porter to drop that bag in Muktinath. All the food that you order is being carried by mules and hence, the price is high.
The last section near the Thorang Phedi (4450 m) is the one with rockfalls and landslides. So be very careful and cautious on this segment of the trail. It is always better to cross this section either early morning or late evening. During daytime, the sun rays heat up the stones leading to a phenomenon called 'weathering'. This leads the stones and rocks to break and roll down the slope. We reached Thorang Phedi at 05:00 pm and I was super excited about the next day. The day when we cross the Thorang pass (5400 m).
I was glad that i was getting enough GPS signal for Strava to run and track the hike.
The distance for the next way wasn't much but still it was important to start early before the weather switch sides. We went to bed early because we were supposed to start the ascend to the pass at 05:00 am but, at mid night I knew we cannot make it up to the pass tomorrow when Kajol said that she is experiencing mild symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS).
Do read the next post. The last one for the circuit.