Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp with Kids
While my daughter and I have done many hikes throughout Nepal in the last few years, we had never considered doing the Annapurna Base Camp Trek. The words ‘base camp’ sounded so exposed and rough that I didn’t want to add this to my to-do list while my daughter was still small. But, last year she really proved that she is an avid hiker and can do anything, braving Upper Mustang and the Langtang Trek without any troubles. So this last autumn, we decided to go ahead with the ABC Trek.
We wanted to take it slow and planned eight days for the hike to allow for acclimatization. To be honest, I still remembered all the steps from our Poon Hill Trek, so I was already expecting me to be the slow one, not my daughter. (My prediction turned out to be right).
On the first day we took a bus from Pokhara to Nayapul, from where we started walking. We followed a dirt road for the first few hours, but shortly before we reached Tikhedunga we finally left the road and started walking on one of the small paths that would continue for the next week. We called it a night early because we knew what was waiting for us the next day: the long climb to Ghorepani.
The next morning, we had a quick breakfast and tried to be on the trail as early as possible. After crossing two suspension bridges, we began the seemingly endless ascent up the infamous 4,000 stairs to Ghorepani. We finished the first part up to Ulleri early, so at least the sun did not catch us on the stairs and we really enjoyed the next bit: passing through a forest that seemed to be out of a fairytale. Moss hung from the trees and distant creeks mumbled through the trees. After a last push, we finally reached Ghorepani. That evening I felt like we really deserved the second helpings of dal bhat!
The next morning, trekkers usually climb up to Poon Hill to admire the sunrise. We decided to push on towards Tadapani and skip Poon Hill, as we knew that we would get amazing views at Base Camp. After another hour or so of climbing stairs, we enjoyed the amazing views from the Deurali Pass before we descended into another fairytale forest.
We spent a very cold night in Tadapani, but again were compensated with the views in the morning. On the way to the dining room to get my first cup of coffee I witnessed an amazing sunrise over the snow-capped mountains. My daughter was not very impressed as she was more concerned with getting her pancakes for breakfast. First things first.
After polishing off some pancakes, we continued on towards Chhomrong. While on the map it looked like it would be a nice easy walk, in reality it was a very hard descent that included crossing a high suspension bridge, and another climb to get to the village of Chhomrong. Of course, I knew that we would have to climb on this trek, as Base Camp is quite high, but I had not realized that we would have to cross so many side valleys. Almost every day we had to descend almost as far as we had ascended the day before, just to have to climb again afterwards. While this is physiologically hard, it is also hard on the mind. To be honest, my daughter threw more than one tantrum when she realized that we had to go down all these steps only to climb more again 30 minutes later on the other side. Most of the time I felt like joining her in her outburst.
Nevertheless, we reached Chhomrong and enjoyed the last rays of sun on our rooftop terrace while playing cards. This night would be the last where we got a double room; from here on we had to share a room with others. The next day was not much different from the day before: going down, crossing a river, going up again. Chhomrong extends over a long area and is very beautiful. The path leads through rice fields and along old houses, and gives a great insight into the traditional life of the people. Slowly, the valley got a bit narrower, and we got a feeling of where we were headed.
We spent the next night in Doban to take the ascent slowly and avoid altitude sickness. From there, we continued to Deurali, with a long lunch break in Himalaya, where we soaked up the sun, already knowing that it would be much colder further up. The short hiking days made up for the up and down that we had to do, and my daughter got more and more excited the closer we got to the Base Camp.
After a short night we started the final ascent towards Annapurna Base Camp. The valley got narrower and narrower and we walked along a river for a while. After a steep climb we reached Machhapuchre Base Camp for lunch. When we walked into the teahouse, the clouds were already closing in around us. After lunch the temperature dropped several degrees and the visibility was only a few meters. It wasn’t tempting us to walk the last two hours, and on top it off, it even started to rain. We put on all the clothes we could find and started the last push towards Base Camp in low spirits. My daughter was going slowly, and I had to be careful not to get too far ahead of her.
After a seeming eternity, we heard voices cheering in front of us. This motivated us to walk faster, and suddenly a sign appeared out of the clouds: ‘Warmly Welcome to all Visitors, Annapurna Basecamp’. You cannot imagine our excitement when we realized that we had finally done it. Another 15 minutes later we reached the guesthouse and warmed our frozen hands with a cup of tea. The clouds had completely closed in around us, and we could not see anything. But this no longer bothered us, and we were just happy to be warm and dry.
After a very fretful night in a dorm room with 15 people, we woke up to a huge surprise. During the night it had cleared up and we realized that we really were surrounded by mountains on all sides. The peaks of Machhapuchre, Annapurna I and Gangapurna looked so close, as if we could just reach out and touch them. Still sleepy, my daughter admired the mountains around her. We had finally done it, and she proved to me again that she is such a trooper. Up there she told me: “Mum, it was really difficult, and I do not like the stairs, but I think it’s right that we had to work so hard for something so beautiful.” I could not agree more.
Top image: Himanshu Ahire / Flickr