The Mardi Himal trek is a hidden gem in the Annapurna himalayas that is moderate in difficulty and away from the maddening crowds of the Annapurna base camp and the circuit treks. The trek opened for solo trekkers and groups only in 2014 and has limited number of tea houses and basic accommodation. It takes you very close to the Annapurna south and the Machhapuchhare peaks and offers stunning views of the range from above. The trek can easily be done by oneself in 3 days (fast track) to 5 days (leisurely). I completed the trek in 3 days in the autumn of 2018 and would like to share the detailed itinerary for the trek below.
Day 1: Kande (1770 m) to Forest camp (2550 m)
A good base point to start the Mardi himal trek is Kande which is approximately 30 kms from Pokhara and can be reached by any bus going to Baglung, Jomsom, Beni etc. I took an early morning local bus to Kande (100 NPR) and reached Kande within one hour. There are few shops at Kande where you can buy some essentials for the trek. I had some solid breakfast of roti and tarkari (vegetable peas curry) at one of the shops and started my trek to Australian camp which is about 45 mins to 1 hr of climb from Kande. The route is little uphill and through the village but with good views and some very colorful birds spotted on the way up. The Australian camp is a beautiful place with many tea houses having expansive green gardens and the view of the mountains. The Australian camp is a really good place for an overnight stay in the mountains just an hour drive plus an hour of walking from Pokhara. There are many local couples who spend the weekend up at the camp. The ACAP checkpost is at Pothana (1950 m) which is about 30 mins from Australian camp. You need to register your TIMS card and the national park permit here. The walk ahead is a gradual climb towards Pitam Deurali from where multiple route bifurcate. It’s a good place to halt for lunch as there are very few tea houses on the way to Forest camp from here.
The trek ahead of Pitam Deurali (2100 m) is a steep climb taking you to the mountain ridge with steep slopes on both sides. The weather can change drastically here with the sun disappearing in the clouds and the whole space filled with fog. There are a couple of tea houses on the way to forest camp. It will take about 3-4 hours from Deurali to reach Forest camp. The camp site of Forest camp is a beautiful site and an apt one for overnight on day 1. There are 3 tea houses with basic accommodation and food there. There are no electricity lines here. Only lights powered by solar light. Showers powered by gas and mobile charging possible through batteries. Most of these are on a chargeable basis.
Day 2: Forest camp (2550 m) to High camp (3500 m)
The second day of this trek is a relatively easy one with one having to reach the high camp with enroute the rest camp and the low camp. The total trekking time is only about 5-6 hours and one can easily reach the high camp by afternoon 2 pm. Rest camp (2600 m) is only about an hour from Forest camp and has only one tea house for accommodation. The trail then takes one to the low camp from where the view of the fishtail mountain is breathtaking so long as there are no clouds and the weather is clear. Couple of hours from the low camp and you reach Badal Danda which has couple of tea houses and a gorgeous view of the peaks of Annapurna and the fishtail. If you are relatively fast and reach Badal Danda before noon, its a good stop for lunch on this day with just a couple of hours of walk to the high camp. The tree cover is almost gone over here and the views become ever so good as you walk towards the site of the high camp. By early afternoon you can easily make your way to the high camp on this day. There are many tea houses (around 5) at the high camp. Shared accommodation is a bit difficult but definitely possible if you look around (not more than 200 NPR). Mobile charging is separately charged (200 NPR) and so are hot showers (200-250 NPR). The weather at high camp is very fluctuating between sunny to windy to very cloudy even during the day. Evenings are super cold and nights are freezing here even during the autumn season.
Day 3: High camp (3500 m) to Mardi Himal Base camp (4500 m) and back to Forest camp (2550 m)
As with most peaks in the Himalayas, watching the sunrise from the high ridges over the peaks is extremely popular with the trail of torch lights right from morning 4 am towards the upper view point and the base camp. Having a head torch and a pole is useful in the pitch darkness of the early morning when you start upwards for a climb of about 2 hours to reach the upper view point. The sunrise views from there are simply breathtaking and leaves you puzzled if you should keep clicking or leave the camera and capture the raw beauty in your eyes. There is one tea house at the view point and one at the base camp serving hot tea and some dry snacks. The base camp is not more than 20 mins from the upper view point but does not offer any special views. But for the sake of completeness of the trek, you can go till here and come back. Also not a lot of trekkers go upto this point, so it’s very peaceful to just sit there and have some snacks as you gaze at the snow clad peaks in the Annapurna range.
The walk back is relatively easier and during the morning itself but still a descent of 800-1000m till the high camp. As you come back to the high camp, its a good time for early lunch and relaxation at the high camp. If you are doing the trek in 5 days, you can stay back for a day at the high camp else you can head down and stay at the low camp or the forest camp too. The dal bhat at the fish tail restaurant fills you up with energy and readies you for the return journey down. For a good speed while descending it is not more than 3.5 hours to reach forest camp from the high camp. For those ending the trek on day 3, the route through Siddhing & Lumre will be a tiring descent but can be done on the same day. It’s a good descent of more than 2500m.
I planned to also combine the Ghorepani Poonhill trek along with this one, so I reached until the forest camp on day 3 to rest my legs on the tiring day with about 1 km ascend and 2 km descend.
Day 4: Forest camp to Kande/Lumre/Phedi
If this is the last day of your trek, it’s the easiest one. You can head down directly to Siddhing from a route from forest camp/low camp or choose to go to Kande/Phedi through Deurali from forest camp. I planned to go to the Ghorepani-Poonhill trek from here. Just after forest camp on the way to Deurali, there is way to Landruk (1565 m) which is a steep downhill trail that drop you to the base of the mountain in the beautiful village of Landruk (1565 m). You can read more on the poonhill trek in my other blog post here. One can also combine the Annapurna base camp trek along with Mardi Himal trek. The route will be to go to Landruk and then to Chhomrong and continue the ABC trek up from there.
The below maps from tea houses and the ACAP are useful to plan the trek and any detours
There is enough accommodation available in tea houses at the various camps enroute this trek.
- Forest camp (3)
- Rest camp (1)
- Low camp (3)
- Badal Danda (2)
- High camp (5)
What to carry
You need a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) card and permit to the national park. Both can be done at Kathmandu or Pokhara at the Tourist office
- TIMS card (NPR 2000 for foreign nationals; NPR 600 for SAARC nationals)
- Permit (NPR 2000 for foreign nationals; NPR 1000 for SAARC nationals)
- Head torch (very essential on day 3 morning)
- Trekking pole or any wooden stick extremely useful for big ascents or descents
- Power bank as there is no electricity on the route
- Sleeping bag (Optional)
- Tea/coffee/soup/instant noodles sachets as food gets expensive with every higher camp