Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is very popular among travellers in Nepal. The ABC trek takes travellers inside the conservation area known as the Annapurna Sanctuary. While base camp is the spot from which climbers attempt their summit bids of Annapurna, the Sanctuary is the conservation and spiritually important area surrounding the mountain’s glacial basin. The sacredness of the mountains is felt by tourists and locals alike when they are trekking above 4000 meters to reach the base of one of the highest mountains in the world, Annapurna.
When making my way up to the base camp from Ghandruk I could see why this area is considered sacred. I’m from Nepal, so have long been fascinated by mountains as holy places. Being so close to the ranges gave me an insight into why the mountains are surrounded by sacred stories. From talking to locals as well as guides, I came to understand that the primary reason for the sacredness of these mountains are their associations with Lord Shiva. This major Hindu deity is believed to live in the Annapurna ranges, as well as others across South Asia. Locals claim that Shiva lives in the Annapurna Sanctuary, and that’s why no-one has ever been able to summit Machhapuchhare, the fish-tailed mountain within the sanctuary. They believe this is also why Annapurna is one of the most treacherous mountains to climb. It has the highest fatality rate of the higher peaks in the region. Some people even told me that the snow we were getting during our stay at base camp was due to Shiva watching over us; his incense was burning and turning into heavy snow. Few were able to appreciate the form Shiva’s presence took that day, but nobody wanted to descend from base camp in deep snow.
The meaning of Annapurna also reveals a lot. Comprised of two parts, “anna” and “purna”, it literally translates to “grain” and “abundance”, respectively. The Gurung people of the area have long considered the mountains to be their sole provider of food, well-being, and daily prosperity. The respect they felt for the mountains for providing for them led to worship and rituals.
When making my way to base camp I was able to appreciate the diverse ecosystem as well as the communal efforts to conserve the region. The variety of trees, bamboo, waterfalls, and dispersed wildlife made me feel at ease. The intensity of the trail means it is challenging as well as cathartic. These factors combined made me aware of my surroundings, and its impact upon myself and the inhabitants of the area. While the hike up to base camp is certainly challenging, it is worth the effort for travellers seeking a relatively short trek (4-7 days) with a variety of attractions, all surrounded by the mighty peaks of the Annapurna Himalaya.
Article by Shubham.
Top image: Matt Zimmerman/Flickr