Monday, September 5, 2011


The Nepal trip is fast approaching, and I am now in preparations mode.  I've wanted to trek the Annapurna Circuit for roughly 13 years now, ever since my last trip to Nepal, when the second half of my travel plans got waylaid due to the loss or theft of my moneybelt and passport in Lukla. There's nothing quite like being half a world away from home--without any identification, credit cards or cash--in a country where you don't know the language. My parents love telling this story about me.

I'm headed over with a couple good friends, also ultrarunning trail fools. Our plan is to go fast and light, making tracks as best we can, and basically fastpack the loop through the Himalayas in about half the standard trekking time. The Circuit is set to see some changes, as a road is being built into a remote section. When I learned this, I realized I'd always regret not pushing to get over there now.

My research on this trip is weak. There are so many details I'm not sure about, and haven't had the time or inclination to really figure out. I do know the Circuit is very well traveled, with tea houses all along the way, and so the trek will not at all be like going deep into the North Cascades. I've seen a few different numbers as to the distance, but I think 130 miles is in the ballpark. These are a different type of miles, of course, with a few days at the higher altitudes.

Nights will be spent in guesthouses, with dinner of rice and lentils, aka "dal baat", at a price of probably $5 to $15 per night. I'm probably on the high side with that cost estimate. The greatest expense is getting there, and finding the time to get away from day-to-day life here in the States.

Altitude will be one of the big challenges, with a high point approaching 18,000 feet. A different culture and language to contend with, and admire, as the case may be. I'm not sure where things are politically in Nepal right now--a Communist movement was starting the last time I was there, and I think they took power. I'm really looking forward to the trail, which will include deep gorges with waterfalls, long bridges, terraced agriculture, and the highest mountain range in the world. Also, there's this one place in K-du which makes really good tandoori. I'm hoping it is still there.

Visas are acquired, both for Nepal and India. Had to send the passports to the U.S. consulates; took some time, cost some money. We'll be lucky to get some naan in India, with only a 12 hour layover there, but who knows when I'll be back in that neighborhood again, so it's worth having that door open.

I joined the American Alpine Club, as they have an arrangement with the Mountain Fund for members to stay at the Kathmandu Club House, and support their worthy cause. AAC also offers a bit of rescue insurance if things go too wrong.  Both organizations seem really great.

I've talked to my doctor about vaccines. Fortunately, last time around I took care of Hepatitis A for life, and so the only one I needed to update was Typhoid. Water quality is pretty bad in many parts of Asia, including Nepal. The last time I was there I shaved my head so as to avoid getting sticky hair from washing in brown water. This time I have a little less hair, and so I'm a bit reluctant to get rid of what I have. I also have some altitude sickness pills, which I don't know what to think of.

Electronics. Last time, in the late '90s, this wasn't even a consideration. How the world changes. I'm not sure how cell phones work, either in the city or on the Circuit. I bought an extra battery for my camera, and an extra film card, but I don't know about charging them. I will probably buy a disposable camera, just in case. This blog may be offline for a little while. Or maybe I'll email a post or two. However it goes, so it goes.

This weekend my mind has turned towards the backpack. We want to go light, and I will, but "How light is right?" is the question of the hour.  I know people obsess about such things, but I won't have a chance to do that. I picked up two different packs at REI's Labor Day Sale, seen in the picture above, and have loaded them up. It looks like I'll be going with REI's Flash 65, described as an ultralight pack, but with twice the volume capacity of the one by Deuter, and at close to the same weight. I've also picked up a few other things, such as some Black Diamond hiking poles (an essential, I think), a puffy, and a water filter. If I had a little more confidence, I might go without certain things, but a middle ground seems right.

So much to think about, so much to do.