Linking up the local footpaths. Back to the cinema with the Borderlines Film Festival 2023. Pyrénées planning – flights booked!
Tuesday turned out to be another gorgeous sunny morning after a cold night – the bird bath / font frozen all day. I decided it was time to link up the local footpaths (and log a walk for my Lowland Leader qualification). Turned out to be an almost 6 mile walk along lanes, footpaths and fields.
En route: startled a hare between Upper Jury Farm and Hill Farm and a fox coming back over Thistly Hill; frosty in the shade, bright and sunny out; detours along field edges to avoid mud and baby crops; overgrown and rickety stiles between Upper Jury Farm and Hill Farm – I’ll take the secateurs and gloves next time…
Route: Thistly Field – Lane to Old Grange Farm – Footpaths to corner by The Birches – Footpaths behind Oxpasture Coppice to Duffryn Farm – Footpaths to Jury Brook Cottage – Lane to Upper Jury Farm driveway – Driveway then footpaths to Hill Farm – Lane to Canns Hill – Footpath to Wellfield – Lane to The Ark – Footpaths back up to Thistly Field and home.
Distance: 5.71 miles
Time (Active): 1h 40m
Elev Gain: 493 ft
Back home to work for the usual Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday, Thursday week. Lots of lovely emails about my departure, and lots of Congrats! too. Forty working days to go….
VWW and Family Zoom.
A couple of hours admin on Friday morning, then into Hereford to see Tár at The Courtyard – our first post COVID time at the cinema and our first film in this year’s Borderlines Film Festival. Our last film together had been Bait, in the Borderlines Film Festival 2020, and I can still remember the Coronavirus Risk Assessment Announcement at the start of the film…. A foretaste of the time to come.
Home for a late pot of tea and Waitrose Genoa Fruit Cake, then upstairs to Flickr some more photos – almost up to date – and finally published last week’s weeknotes.
Dinner watching The White Lotus finished off the day.
Up early on Saturday to drive to Kerne Bridge for a morning out with the walking club. A bit of a grey day but a good route for future reference, up Coppett Hill and back round along the river and through the nature reserve woods to Goodrich and Kerne Bridge. I’d not realised Coppett Hill was the same place I’d been to on my navigation training – although I’m not sure I should admit to that. Medical rehydration outside The Inn on The Wye – a fancy mug of fancy tea (I’d give anything for a large pot of builders tea) – then home for a late lunch.
Headed back out for a quick prune of the oregano and checked up on the rhubarb – doing OK – then back inside to take the new feather duster for a comprehensive tour of the cobwebs before settling down for a few hours on the computer – finished flickring photos, made a start on these weeknotes, translated Alfonso’s outline for September’s Pyrenees Trek into a Pyrenees Prep spreadsheet and had a look at flights. Late August departure pushes the prices up but we had such a great time in the Picos I’m OK with that. And the only time I’ve been to the Pyrenees was interrailling with Tom way back when.
Our pizza plans went awry, so it was spanakopita and salad for dinner, and the last couple of episodes of season two of The White Lotus. We’d been inspired by Tár to christen a couple of Cat’s Dartington crystal wine glasses with a nice bottle of red wine.
A slow start Sunday before a day of chores – dusted and polished (don’t worry – not much, and it’s only an annual event (if that)), gave the landing orchids a good soak, and then the sideboard plants and other upstairs non-ferny plants. Watered the greenhouse lemongrass (but I think the December freeze killed that all off) and strawberries, gave my Herefordshire Russet Apple Tree a good soaking.
Seeing as I had my wellies on I headed out onto the lane and lopped the wild plum shoots and saplings on our verge, hoping to give other plants room to grow. We get a lot of primroses on this bank and I’d love them to spread. Back inside The Grounds I lopped off some of the green bush’s ever vigorous new growth, pulled the dead (frozen) geraniums out of their pots, cleared the leaves from around the other pot plants by the porch and took everything to the quarry and got a small bonfire going. It’s due to rain this week.
Then realised I’d never cleared the pond weed I’d hauled out last weekend, so I carried a Big Hands armful to the bonfire ash slope. A flash of orange hinted that I’d scooped a (by now very dead) goldfish out too – uh oh. Phil went to check later and confirmed my fears, and disposed of the small body… My hero also redistributed the remaining piles of the pond weed and checked the greenhouse for any desiccated bodies of long dead small birds. None found. In some respects – ie encounters with birds and fish, particularly dead or dying ones – I am really not cut out for country living….
I did manage to return to the large pond though and cleared the grass and other old growth from around the edges. Looks much neater now.
4pm, chores done, time for tea and cake with the log stove on…. until Pyrénées planning resurfaced with a decision on flights, resulting in a Ryanair booking and the Where next: Into the Pyrénées blogpost.
Didn’t sleep well Sunday night – I blame The Last of Us – so Monday was a slow start before driving back into Hereford to see Empire of Light at The Courtyard. I loved it.
Lunch at Wagamamas. I’ve not had a Wagas for a long time and this was my first visit to the Hereford branch. The menu is very different from what I remember from CityPoint days. Yummy though.
A bit of shopping, then home. There’d been an accident or something on the A465 approaching Allensmore so I took the back roads. Lovely sunny late afternoon.
Back at base, tea and cake, computing – more work on the Pyrénées Prep spreadsheet and updating the Where Next page.
Alfonso emailed an outline itinerary etc earlier this week and I’ve just booked flights – woo hoo!
We are doing two treks, with a travel / rest day in between:
Carros de Foc (Chariots of Fire) – 4 day trek in the Aigüestortes National Park in Catalonia. We’re doing a short version of the full route.
Ruta de las Golondrinas (The Route of the Swallows) – 5 day trek in Navarra and France. We’re doing the Golondrina Clásica, Variante A. Distance: 62km; Total elevation gain: 3500m.
On the travel / rest day the plan is to visit the old and new monasteries at San Juan de la Peña, which comes with a Pyrénées viewpoint.
We’re flying in/out of Lourdes (miracle water cure optional) after Hazel tracked down good flight arrival / departure times for Lourdes and Stansted, even if it is Ryanair…. we’ve paid for a 20kg checked bag each. I’m still waiting to spot the catch….
Once Alfonso’s confirmed which order we’ll do the treks in, I’ll add details.
13 Feb Update: Steffi’s booked us a Luxury Loft in Lourdes for our first night, so we are all set! Let the spreadsheeting begin!
Val Pitkethly’s Manaslu & Nar Phu in 2022 was my first time back in Nepal after COVID closed borders and horizons in 2020. It was lovely to be back and to be trekking again with Val, and Sonia and Sara were great trekmates.
A slightly different trip this time – staying in tea houses / lodges rather than camping, Bhudi as Sirdar in place of Chhering, and a two part trek starting off with a retread of the Manaslu Circuit and then heading into the valleys of Nar and Phu, with a drive along the Annapurna Circuit Road between the two.
Each part had its own high pass – Larkya La / Larkye La / Larke La pass (5106 m), in snow this time, on the Manaslu Circuit and the Kang La / Khang La Pass (5306 m), again in snow, bringing us out of Nar Phu and onto the Annapurna Circuit Road near Humde.
26 days HFD-HFD, 24 in Nepal, 18 days trekking, 11 days on the Manaslu Circuit and 7 days in Nar Phu and out to the Annapurna Circuit Road.
Spelling variations are myriad, based on the maps, signposts on the route, Wikipedia and Google maps. As always, I’ve relied on Guenter Seyfferth’s Die Berge des Himalaya (The mountains of Himalaya) website to identify a lot of the mountains. It’s such a superb resource. The key pages for this trip have been Larkya La and Kang La.
Tuesday 25 October 2022: Hereford – London – Doha (Photos)
Overnight flight to Kathmandu via Doha on Qatar Airways QR 0004 (LHR-DOH) and QR 0648 (DOH-KTM).
Wednesday 26 October 2022: Doha – Kathmandu (Photos)
Fabulous views of the Himalayan range as we flew to KTM.
Landed mid morning and sped through the new visa / immigration process and then spent a l-o-n-g time queuing for the security scan and at luggage reclaim.
A big hug from Mingmi once I was outside and then a taxi to the Marshyangdi Hotel.
Met Sonia and Sara, did some errands with Val, introduced them all to the delights of Charles’ Falafel Wrap place, had a nap.
S, S and I got a taxi over to Boudhanath Stupa for the morning. Lovely. We had a blessing and also tracked down the Ghyoilisang Peace Park & Pond. No TikToking allowed.
Back in Thamel our afternoon quest for coffee and cake was only partially successful – Tihar holidays.
Dinner at the hotel (Tihar struck again).
Overnight: Marshyangdi Hotel, Thamel.
Friday 28 October 2022: Kathmandu – Machhakhola (930 m) (Photos)
Drive Kathmandu / काठमाडौं – Arughat / आरुघाट – Arkhet Bazar / अर्खेत बाज़ार – Sotikhola / सोती खोला (597 m) – Laupubensi / Lapubesi / लापुबेसी (880 m) – Machhakhola / Machha Khola / मछाखोला (930 m).
We left KTM early to drive to Machhakhola which is currently the end of the “road” (actually a rocky, dusty jeep track from Arughat via Arkhet Bazar, Sotikhola and Lapubesi). You can now use the same jeep (provided it’s local) all the way there, and there’s tarmac all the way to Arughat.
In Machhakhola the village Tihar party procession keep us entertained (to a point) through to the early evening.
Overnight: Chum Valley Hotel, Machhakhola
Saturday 29 October 2022: Machhakhola (930 m) – Salleri (1360 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 1
Route: Machhakhola / Machha Khola / मछाखोला (930 m) – Khorlabesi / Khorlabeshi / खोर्लाबेसी (970 m) – Tatopani / तातोपानी (990 m) – Dobhan / दोभान (1050 m) – Yaruphant / लापुबेसी (1170 m) – Jagat / जगत (1340 m) – Salleri / सल्लेरी (1360m).
First full day’s trek. We were on the proto-road all the way to the new bridge over the Budhi Gandaki River to Dobhan. Not nice walking. Once over on the east side of the river we were on the Manaslu Circuit trail – but the road is being carved out of the hillsides on the western side.
Overnight: Shringi Guesthouse, Salleri
Sunday 30 October 2022: Salleri (1360 m) – Deng (1870 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 2
Route: Salleri / सल्लेरी (1360m) – Sirdibas / सिर्दिबास (1420 m) – Philim / Phillim / फिलिम (1570 m) – Chisopani / Chisapani / चिसापानी (1620 m) – Ekle Bhatti / ऐकले भट्टी (1600m) – Gampul (1626 m) – Nyak Phedi (1625 m) – Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m).
Lots of landslides, some nasty ones between Nyak Phedi and Deng mean that the trail gets very narrow and precarious, with long, sheer drops down to the raging torrent down in the gorge below. Lots of up and down to the river too, where landslides have destroyed the trail completely.
Tashi, the lady lodge owner, had organised recipients to come her lodge for LED* solar light distributions this evening and tomorrow morning.
Overnight: Tashi’s Lodge, Deng / Dyang
Monday 31 October 2022: Deng (1870 m) – Prok (2397 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 3
Route: Deng / Dyang / डेङ (1870 m) – Rana (1970 m) – Bihi / बिहि (2130 m) – Bhijam (2020 m) – Prok / प्रोक (2397 m).
LED solar light distribution in Deng, Rana and Bihi, early lunch in Bhijam then down to the Budhi Gandaki and back up again through the forest on the other side heading for the high plateau of Prok.
The hydo-electric power station above Prok is now in service.
Exploring the old gompa in Prok Sara and I got stung on the head by hornets. The lodge family prescribed local honey and chang. Sticky!
Overnight: Norbu Lodge, Prok
Tuesday 01 November 2022: Prok (2397 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 4
Route: Prok / प्रोक (2397 m) – Ghap / घप (2660 m) – Lunga Chhyuda (2375 m) – Suksum – Namrung / नाम्रुङ (2660 m) – Banjam / Bhanjam / बन्जाम (2650 m) – Lihi / Lhi / लिही (2900 m) – Hinang Gompa (3200 m).
LED solar light distribution in Ghap. Forest trails and bridges back and forth over the Budhi Gandaki. Freshly squeezed apple juice on the climb to Namrung. Lunch at Bhanjam, and monkeys. Cute kittens in the kitchen at Hinang Gompa and a massive moon.
Overnight: Hinang Gompa
Wednesday 02 November 2022: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sama Gaon (3500 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 5
Route: Hinang Gompa (3200 m) – Sho / शो – Lho / ल्हो (3180 m) – Shyala / श्याला (3520 m) – Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउ (3500 m).
A tour of Hinang Gompa and photos of Himal Chuli from the Ani Gompa, then back to the main trail for the very picturesque stretch: busy villages leading to Lho Gompa perched high on its hill yet dwarfed by our first views of Manaslu, Manaslu North and Naike Peak.
Coffee in Lho. Lunch in Shyala. Dinner in Samagaon.
The mountain views just get better and better.
Overnight: Tashi Yangchen Hotel & Lodge, Samagaon
Thursday 03 November 2022: Sama Gaon (3500m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 6
Acclimatisation day: Punggyen Gompa (3870 m).
Morning hike to Phuyang / Pung Gyen Gompa, picnicking beside the stream on the way back. Later on, tea with Tsering’s sister and his mum, visiting from Samdo.
Fantastic views up on the Punggyen Glacier’s hanging valley, from the twin peaks of Manaslu the mountain vista continues anticlockwise to Ngadi Chuli / Peak 29 (7871 m), Simnang Himal (6251 m) and the Taninga Danda; across the Budhi Gandaki valley there’s the Pang Phuchi Himal and Kutang Himal. Magic.
Overnight: Tashi Yangchen Hotel & Lodge, Samagaon
Friday 04 November 2022: Sama Gaon (3500 m) – Samdo (3860 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 7
Route: Sama Gaon / Samagaun / सामागाउँ (3500 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).
A lovely half day stroll to Samdo. A huge new lodge has been built on the Sama side of the village – looks like a stack of portacabins and steals the views.
Strolled around the older part of the village and visited the new gompa. Icy in places underfoot. Eye clinic back at the lodge, and Sara handed out colouring books and pencils.
Overnight: Chez Karsang Lodge, Samdo
Saturday 05 November 2022: Samdo (3860 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 8
Acclimatisation day: Up the Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley to 4760 m.
Hike from Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Mayol Khola / Samdo Glacier valley – Yak Kharka above Samdo (4400 m) – Acclimatisation to 4760 m with views to the border with Tibet – Picnic back at the Yak Kharka (4400 m) – Samdo / संदो (3860 m).
More fab views – Manaslu, Naike Peak, Samdo Lo, east towards Tibet, west towards the Larkya Himal, and the Larke La Pass….
In the afternoon, we ran an LED eye clinic at the Lodge and distributed LED solar lights.
Overnight: Chez Karsang Lodge, Samdo
Sunday 06 November 2022: Samdo (3860 m) – Dharmasala (4460 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 9
Route: Samdo / संदो (3860 m) – Larkya Bazaar / लार्क्य बाज़ार – Dharmasala / Dharamshala / धर्मशाला (4460 m).
Leisurely breakfast in Karsang Dikie’s kitchen, a quick visit to Tashi to collect Val, then on towards Dharmasala, our final stop before crossing the Larke La.
Lots of other people on the trail as the weather forecast wasn’t looking too good.
Val, Mingmi and I did an extra hour or so, climbing above the main trail and into the Larke Danda in search of some good blue sheep photos (tick), and even better views across the headwaters of the Budhi Gandaki to Manaslu (tick tick).
Lunch and laze outside our stone built “room” at the Samdo Lodge (it’s “rustic” but the best of the three. More of a big bothy than a tea house), then a short section of the trail to the viewpoint above Dharmasala for a bit of acclimatisation.
We were invited into the kitchen for tea and tall tales, ate an early dinner in the main dining hall then bed. Early start tomorrow.
Overnight: Samdo Lodge, Dharamsala
Monday 07 November 2022: Dharmasala (4460 m) – Larkya La pass (5106 m) – Bhimtang (3720 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 10
Route: Dharmasala / Dharamshala / धर्मशाला (4460 m) – Larkya La / Larkye La / Larke La pass (5106 m) – Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m).
4am bed tea followed by muesli as we dressed. Off on the trail around 4.45am – we’d been hearing people getting up for an hour or so. Lots of people ahead of us, and behind. It felt a bit like the Thorong La crossing way back in 2009.
Cold and clear. Beautiful. Steady pace. First light around 5am, rosy sunrise as we passed the small lake, frozen, and the trail moved onto the snow. Very different from 2018 – in some ways much easier as snow cover meant we didn’t need to do the boulder hopping. The tea shop wasn’t open – not surprisingly. We stopped there to don spikeys and for a chocolate bar and drink. The snow blindingly bright in the sun.
We got to Larke La (16,752 ft in old money) around 7.30am. SO MANY PEOPLE there. Photos and prayer flags, then off around 8am before the sun softened the snow too much – Val wary of avalanche risk and slips on the steep descent into the Ponkar Tal valley.
The views west were just as stunning as last time: Lamjung Himal (6983 m), Annapurna II (7937 m), Kang Guru (6981 m) and Chombi (6704 m) with P6780 and P6805 in between, P6479, Kechakyu Himal (5542 m) and Gyaji Kang (7074 m), then Nemjung (7140 m), Himjung (7092 m) and Himlung (7126 m) and, closest to the pass, Panbari (6905 m).
We were down in the valley and off the snow by 10am. Tea, chapatti and cheese at the Larke Pedi / Dangboche Kharka tea houses a little before 11am, then back on the trail following the moraine walls of the Ponkar Tal all the way down to Bhimtang, arriving around 1pm.
Cloudy and colder. Once the rooms were sorted, had a bit of a wash and then hung out in the dining room with lots of other Larke La-ers. Stingy on the food at the Lilita Lodge – hungry night.
Overnight: Lilita Hotel & Restaurant, Bhimtang
Tuesday 08 November 2022: Bhimtang (3720 m) – Tilche (2300 m) (Photos)
Manaslu Circuit Trek Day 11
The final day on the Manaslu Circuit.
Route: Bhimtang / Bimthang / Bhimthang / बिम्थंग (3720 m) – Habu (3400 m) – Chauli Kharka / Yak Kharka (3030 m) – Surke Khola – Gho / Gowa / गोवा (2470 m) – Kharche / खर्चे (2700 m) – Tilje / Tilche (2300 m).
Overnight: Hotel North Face, Tilche
Down down down down down descending alongside the Dudh Khola through forests and into farmland. The final stretch – now from Gho – on the jeep road. Lots of logging, lots of porters bringing long metal electricity poles and rolls of corrugated metal up the trail. Landslides too.
Lovely elevenses sat outside in the sun at Purti Himalayan Hotel in Chauli Kharka, gazing at the mountains looming over the tree tops, and one of the best lunches of the whole trip sat at one of the sunny courtyard picnic tables at the The Seven Sister Lodge.
It was busy in Tilche – we shared the lodge with a large Exodus group and their crew. They got the en suite rooms we got the old farmhouse upstairs rooms, nice but a steep set of outside stairs to get down to go to the loo.
LED glasses clinic in the evening. Off to Nar Phu tomorrow!
Wednesday 09 November 2022: Tilche (2300 m) – Koto (2620 m) – Chhauchha (~2850 m) (Photos)
Nar Phu Day 1
Drive: Tilje / Tilche (2300 m) – Dharapani / धारापानी (1960 m) – Koto / कोटो (2620 m)
Trek: Koto / कोटो (2620 m) – Chhauchha / Cho Cho / Chhomchu (~2850 m)
Leisurely start to allow the Exodus group to breakfast and depart. Time for the last LED Eye Clinic which included training the lodge owner on how to assess which strength glasses were required. We left him with a box.
Val had organised a jeep from the end of the track just over the bridge from the village. We set off around 9am, said fond farewells to Lakpa once we joined the main road above Dharapani and were in Koto by 11am. In 2009 Tal to Timang was day 5 of our Annapurna Circuit trek, and Timang to Pisang, via Koto, was day 6. It’s now a very drivable road all the way to Manang with plans to push it all the way over the Thorong La. Don’t imagine the idyllic trek of days gone by.
In Koto we had a home cooked, early lunch in the House of Geraniums (aka Laxmi’s) while Val, Mingmi and Bhudi tried to get our permits approved. Mingmi had photos but not the official confirmation. Tihar holidays had segued into the upcoming General Election to ensure very limited opening hours for Government offices.
Persistence and politeness paid off and in the early afternoon we crossed the Marshyangdi River and headed off into Nar Phu, following the Nar Khola’s very, very narrow river valley. A lot of up, the trail climbing steadily through evergreen forest. Having left Koto at 2.45pm we made good time and arrived at the Three Sister Restaurant & Lodge 3 hours later, including tea and a look at the rooms (too small) at the new Natural Restaurant & Lodge 15 mins earlier on the trail.
We did have to leave Mingmi and Bhudi in Koto until the permits were officially confirmed though. Happily they caught us up not long after we’d arrived in Chhauchha.
An evening with a log stove, lovely cats and French Knickers!
Overnight: Three Sisters Lodge, Chhauchha
Thursday 10 November 2022: Chhauchha (~2850 m) – Upper Chyakhu (3800 m) (Photos)
Nar Phu Day 2
Route: Chhauchha / Cho Cho / Chhomchu (~2850 m) – Singenge Dharmasala (3290m) – Meta / Methang (3560 m) – Upper Chyakhu / Upper Chyakho / Upper Chyako (3800 m)
A morning of up through forest and over and behind waterfalls. Icy underfoot. A signpost at Hulaki Odar (3000m) and a tea stop at Dharmasala (3210m) then on to Meta for lunch at the Terelha Guesthouse. And two very cute puppies.
At Meta the narrow section of the Nar Khola valley that provides the main route into Nar Phu broadens out and in the afternoon we followed the contours, branching off north east into the Phu valley. Another deep ravine, this time carved out by the Phu Khola that comes in from the mountains and glaciers that form the Nepal-Tibet border. Getting higher, it’s cold once the sun goes – but we got a warm welcome at the lovely Karma Hotel in Upper Chyakhu. Stove on, darts (!), dinner.
Overnight: Karma Hotel, Upper Chyakhu
Friday 11 November 2022: Upper Chyakhu (3800 m) – Phu (4080 m) (Photos)
Nar Phu Day 3
Route: Upper Chyakhu / Upper Chyakho / Upper Chyako (3800 m) – Kyang / क्यंग (3820 m) – Phu / Phoo / Fu / फु (4080 m)
Dawn light moving over the mountain peaks, a cold walk to Kyang on the shady side of the valley, a pika, clear views of Annapurna, people coming the other way – the trail is much improved Val says.
Amazing colours in the rocks, the trail hugging the cliff face staying level-ish. Sometimes high above the Phu Khola, sometimes on the river banks.
A huge sentinel rock which the river has to flow around announces your arrival at the southern edge of Phu settlement. A steep sandy path brings you up to the entrance gateway and first mani wall. Then it’s level – a ruined fort, a ruined dzong, old bridges over narrow deep gorges, chortens and mani walls, blue sheep, then Phu itself. A long suspension bridge over the Phu Khola brings you to the village entrance chorten, stone houses in tiers make the most of a sunny curve in the rock face.
On the other side of the river, high up on the bluff above the Layju Khola – Phu Khola river junction, Tashi Lhakhang Gompa. We visited in the afternoon, receiving a guided tour from the resident monk and butter tea. A very auspicious day.
Once the sun left, Phu was SO COLD.
Phu Mountain & Lodge was the only place that charged for the log stove to be lit. Between us, a french group of four and two drunk election officials, no one made the first move.
Overnight: Phu Mountain & Lodge, Phu
Saturday 12 November 2022: Phu (4080 m) – Nar (4110 m) (Photos)
Nar Phu Day 4
Route: Phu / Phoo / Fu / फु (4080 m) – Kyang / क्यंग (3820 m) – Upper Chyakhu / Upper Chyakho / Upper Chyako (3800 m) – Nar Phedi / Naar Phedi (3490 m) – Nar / Naar / नर (4110 m)
Zom zom: down to 3450 m and then up again.
A long day and my mandatory grumpy day – every long trip has one.
A lovely (cold) trek back down the valley of the Phu Khola to the sunshine at Kyang where yaks were being herded, some unwillingly, and Annapurna II dominating the end of the river valley on the final section into Kyang. Early lunch back at the Karma Hotel in Upper Chyakhu then on between the red leaved thorn bushes, juniper trees and grasses towards Meta but turning off to take the trail to Nar Phedi.
A new bridge across the Nar Khola where it starts just below the conjunction of the Phu Khola and the Labse Khola. All the rivers deep in gorges at this point. Fab views south along the Nar Khola.
We didn’t visit Naar Phedi Gompa, but started the slow slog 600m up to Nar. This was the grumpy part of my day.
A large stupa and mani wall mark the outskirts of Nar village lands, with the village coming into view a little later. Stone built, higgledy piggedly layers, wood smoke and prayer flags, Nar village curves around its fields and all of it gets longer in the sun than Phu, bigger too. Reminded me of the villages in Dolpo.
Through the village to Hotel Diki Ling, a lovely tea house lodge, where we tucked into tea and biscuits by a roasting hot stove – a welcome contrast with Phu!
Rest day in Nar / Naar / नर (4110 m). Sunny sightseeing, avoiding electioneering.
Overnight: Hotel Diki Ling, Nar
Monday 14 November 2022: Nar (4110 m) – Kang La Pass (5306 m) – Ghyaru (3730 m) (Photos)
Nar Phu Day 6 (last day)
Route: Nar / Naar / नर (4110 m) – Khang La Phedi (4630 m) – Kang La / Khang La Pass (5306 m) – Ngawal / Nawal / ङावल (3650 m) – Ghyaru / Yaru / घ्यारु (3730 m)
Overnight: Yak Ru Hotel, Ghyaru
Early start for our second high pass, setting off at 3.15am. Not a fan of night-time walking, and was glad to see the purple glow of the dawn. Frozen trail and shattered rock gave way to snow, spikeys on. A final steep section through deep snow brought us to the Kang La Pass a little after 8am. We had the place all to ourselves.
Clouds hid the views of Manaslu to the east and loitered over the Annapurna peaks to the west, just the other side of the Marshyangdi River valley.
A long steep slog down over moraine and more shattered rock scree to the grass line. Tea and biscuits then on down, not so steep now, to the first hut for chapatti and cheese, and Haribos. Sadly no one at home to make tea. Then more down, into the juniper trees and views of Chulu East, Chulu Far East and the frozen Chulu waterfall.
Down the in valley you could see the road, Humde Airport landing strip and plenty more signs of human occupation.
A new, long set of steps brought us into Ngawal village and out of the Nar Phu Restricted Area. A plod along the jeep track to lunch at a lodge on the far side of town.
Val cajoled us into continuing on to Ghyaru. A slog along the jeep track, which is the Annapurna Circuit High Trail, the more trekker friendly option compared to the main road down in the valley below. Everything is relative. We met a lot of independent trekkers coming the other way, and jeeps and motorbikes.
Ghyaru was worth the walk though; it’s an old-style Tibetan stone village nestled in the hillside high above the valley floor. The Ya Ru Tea House is a traditional family house with spectacular views of Annapurna II (7937m) straight across the Marshyangdi valley to the south and, sweeping southwest to west, Annapurna III (7555m) and Gangapurna (7454m).
Tea and biscuits, a bit of a wash, then dinner (veg spring rolls, chilli potatoes, veg egg fried rice…. i.e. a lot!) and tips, then bed.
Tuesday 15 November 2022: Ghyaru (3730 m) – Lower Pisang (3250 m) – Pokhara (830 m) (Photos)
Trek Route: Ghyaru / Yaru / घ्यारु (3730 m) – Lower Pisang / पिसांग (3250 m)
Drive: Lower Pisang / पिसांग (3250 m) – Koto / कोटो (2620 m) – Dharapani / धारापानी (1960 m) – Tal (1700 m) – Chamje / Chyamche / चामे (1430 m) – Besi Sahar / Besishahar / वेसीशहर (760 m) – Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m)
Overnight: Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp Community Lodge, Pokhara
A beautiful start to the day, with fab views of Annapurna II from my bedroom at the Yak Ru Hotel.
More magical views from the Yak Ru’s terrace and on the 500m descent to Lower Pisang: Annapurna II and Annapurna III, the mighty Marshyangdi River and its forested valley, and Mring Tal mirror lake on the forested flat section. More trekkers here too.
Tea in Lower Pisang and then into a Manangi jeep for the long ride to Behisahar along the Annapurna Circuit Road. Depressing at times, but looking up the views are still great – especially of the smooth curved mountainside of the Swargadwari Danda. We picked up the bags we’d left in Koto and apples at Bhratang, lunched at a jeep stop with waterfall views below Chamje, arrived at Besi Sahar sometime after 3pm.
Speedy farewells to Mingmi, Bhudi, Krishna and Tashi who were off to get the bus back to KTM while Val, Sonia, Sara and I got into a nice estate car and set off on the long drive to Pokhara. The road was terrible all the way – monsoon washouts, repairs and election-inspired-but-holiday-delayed roadworks. It took 5 hours to get to Pokhara.
A lovely dinner with Val’s Tibetan family at Tashiling, and a short walk to a large room for three, with en suite, at the Community Lodge. Time for a shower….
After a leisurely breakfast at Tseten’s we spent the morning in Tashiling Tibetan Refugee Camp visiting the Shree Gaden Dhargay Ling Gompa to see the stunning Mandala of Yamantaka, the nearby Prayer Wheel garden where we coincided with the Gompa monks on their daily ceremonial procession around the Tashiling Settlement, and the Tibetan Refugee museum and souvenir shops.
Fond farewells at Tseten’s then up to the Siddhartha Garden Hotel, lovely as always.
Afternoon stroll to the Peace Stupa, down to Pewa Lake and a boat across to Pokhara Lakeside for some shopping and coffee and cake. Back to the Siddhartha for beers, snacks and dinner. And wifi.
Overnight: Siddhartha Garden Hotel, Pokhara
Thursday 17 November 2022: Pokhara – Kathmandu (Photos)
Fly: Pokhara / पोखरा (830 m) – Kathmandu / काठमाडौं (1400 m)
None of us wanted another long jeep ride on the roadwork-and-election-checkpoint-blighted Prithvi Highway, so Val and Tenzi had wangled tickets on one of the morning flights back to KTM.
There was the inevitable weather-induced delayed departure but we were back at the Marshyangdi early afternoon. Falafel wrap lunch and a cheeky beer, then souvenir shopping. Dinner with Tsering Tarke – pizza!
Overnight: Marshyangdi Hotel, Thamel
Friday 18 November 2022: Kathmandu (No Photos)
A long day, mainly spent killing time before my 2am tomorrow morning flight.
The morning’s main events were meeting up with Ang Rita Sherpa of The Partners Nepal for coffee (wearing my figurative LED Trustee hat there) and saying a fond farewell-see you again to Sonia and Sara.
Whiled away the afternoon and evening with a final stint of shopping, writing postcards, reading and listening in to returning trekking groups before Mingmi and Tenzi arrived to drive me to the airport.
Overnight: Airport / Flight
Saturday 19 November 2022: Kathmandu – Doha – London – Hereford (Photos)
The repeatedly rescheduled Qatar Airways QR 0645 finally left KTM sometime after 3am. Thankfully smooth connection in DOH onto Qatar Airways QR 0327, landing at Gatwick’s North Terminal late morning.
Thameslink to Farringdon and the Elizabeth Line to PAD. Train strikes, but I managed to get on a GWR service to Worcester Foregate Street and then a West Midlands Railway train to Hereford.
Mince pies and a cup of tea en route to celebrate.
Phil and the Panda met me at Hereford and drove me home.
We did return craving non-fancy food and our own bed after 7 days of the high life…….
Worked Tuesday morning so that we could catch the 15.18 train to Paddington. A much more civilised departure time than 06.43. We left the car at dad and Jean’s, together with pressies to be transported to Essex. Jean ran us to the station in her new electric car. Nice!
Elizabeth Line to Liverpool St, popped into work to drop off bags, nipped up to M&S for dinner contributions then caught the Northern Line down to Hazel’s where we feasted on chips ‘n’ dips followed by veggie Mexican wraps.
Up early to have enough time to commute and for a shower at work. My lovely fellow KMCAs arrived over the course of the day. Phil and I checked into the hotel late afternoon. KMCA dinner out at Som Saa with DF.
All day Thursday and Friday morning were spent on strategic stuff, planning next April’s Global KM Meeting and other Q1 & Q2 stuff. We returned to Ottolenghi Spitalfields for team dinner on Thursday evening. Had my review Friday afternoon, then caught the train out to WIV. Tom met me at the station and we had early pizza dinner then watched the Netherlands – Argentina match, which turned out to be a good one!
Leisurely start on Saturday. Crisp and cold in Wivenhoe with a dusting of snow in places, which made for a lovely morning walk along the Colne estuary, Alresford Creek to Thorrington. Bus back to WIV. Beautiful.
J & R arrived early afternoon; dad and Jean drove over from Hereford arriving at Wivenhoe House Hotel late afternoon, and the six of us gathered at T&J’s for a lovely COOK! dinner that evening.
Similarly slow start to Sunday, very frosty.
Late morning T & R, dad, Jean and I caught the train to WON. Cloudier there and a rain shower but we saw the sea, and ventured into Revved Up for teas/coffee and then headed up the High Street to the (busy!) Good Taste Cafe for comfort food lunch before getting the train back to WIV. B and Phil had arrived, so we commenced the Christmas Present exchange.
The Extended Loosemore Family gathered that evening at the Wivenhoe House Hotel for our Christmas Celebration 2022, and Phil and I stayed the night in the hotel.
We headed home on Monday, dad as driver and me as supplementary sat nav. Google Maps and the Sat Nav both agreed that we should drive back via Birmingham to avoid the snow down south. Easy drive, not too busy on the roads, snow disappeared once we left Essex. Very cloudy and cold though.
Drove back from dad and Jean’s via Asda for supplies. Back at base – thankfully no sign of any burst pipes! (We left the heating on so I should hope so) – we got the log stove going, opened Christmas cards, caught up on the local news from Bob The Post, unpacked, pottered and read. Lentil soup for dinner, watching the last two episodes of Industry – so good!
Trekking sandals: Didn’t use; all the refugios had crocs
I wore the shorts every day, even the wet and windy ones. I could have managed with only 1 spare pair of pants. We had the opportunity to wash a few smalls in Soto and they dried overnight.
For the sun
Buff: Lightweight Ladakh one, to keep the sun off the back of my neck
Sunscreen + lipscreen
I wore the hat and the buff every day.
For the rain
Lightweight showerproof, windproof jacket: my trusty Uniqlo blue one
Goretex jacket: Didn’t use
I didn’t take my waterproof trousers. I might have worn them (and my Goretex) on the first couple of very wet days, but it wasn’t that cold. Just wet.
Berghaus Flare 700 1-2 season synthetic sleeping bag: bought off eBay for £8
Long t-shirt: as PJs
Head torch + spare batteries (3xAAA)
Watch with alarm
Toothbrush & tiny toothpaste
Flannel & soap in ziplock bag
Hair brush & comb
Shower hat: For our one night in a hotel, midway through
Tissues: for any number 2 al fresco loo stops
Earplugs: Didn’t use – I’m used to sleeping with snorers
Plastic carrier bags to keep stuff dry / separate
Plastic carrier bag for dirty laundry
Personal first aid kit
Ibruprofen (aches & pains)
This is a tiny kit, which I keep in plastic zip lock bag in the lid of my rucksack for easy access. I’ve one blister pack of each of the tablets, a couple of wipes and rehydration sachets and a few plasters and compeed in a range of sizes.
Just in case
Emergency foil blanket
Money & cards in my travel purse
Passport & copy of photo page
NHS COVID pass
Travel Insurance Policy
GHIC (NHS) Health Card (aka the post-BREXIT EHIC)
2 spare camera batteries, charged
Mobile phone (and handy as a back up camera)
Things I wish I’d taken but hadn’t
Wet wipes: If there’s one thing I’d say, it’s TAKE THE WETWIPES! It’s a hot and sweaty trek and even with bathrooms in the refugios it’s easier to have a ‘wet wipe wash’ than a ‘soap and water wash’.
Penknife: would have been handy for our DIY packed lunches.
Nail file: A snagged nail is a pain and an emery board weighs next to nothing. Luckily S had her nail scissors and let me borrow them.
Another battery for my camera: I turned off the GPS, and eeked out the battery to Poncebos. So many things to photograph.
We paid to have dinner and breakfast at each refugio, and for a packed lunch most days too. The convenience alone would be worth the expense, but for the most part we were served up excellent meals, especially at Vega de Ario and Collado Jermosa.
If you get a refugio packed lunch, allow space in your daypack for it – some were pretty big!
We skipped the packed lunch option on a couple of days – lunching at the sidrería in Cangas (day 3) and the bar in Soto (day 4) – and had another couple of days where we’d not refugio‘d the night before – day 1 (out of Arenas) and day 5 after Soto. In both cases we bought a large loaf, a big cheese and fruit to share (for day 1, we bought supplies in Arenas the day before, and for day 5 we went to the small shop / bakery in Posada de Valdeón), and shared the carrying too.
We all took snacks, sweets, dried fruit, nuts. Plenty to go around.
Practicalities & Maps
The El Anillo de Picos website has everything you need to know: info & booking for the refugios, routes, recommendations and maps.
My main advice is that the time estimates are for experienced alpine walkers. Even with all the trekking we’ve done, we took a lot longer – sometimes double the estimate.
Paper Map: Picos de Europa National Park – Anillo de Picos (1:50,000) by Adrados Ediciones, ISBN 9788493317775. At the end of the trip, Alfonso gave us a copy of this map with the route marked on it. Although Adrados do two more detailed maps at 1:25,000, the 1:50,000 has all three sections of the Anillo on one map.
That said, having a guide who knew the route inside out meant we didn’t need to rely on maps or GPS.
On the ground, the routes are way marked – yellow and white stripes, red dots, plus PN PNPE signposts in the main places. Most of the time the trails are clear. The trickiest sections were day 1 (Puente Poncebos to Vega de Ario) over the high pastures and day 6 (Collado Jermoso to Urriellu) crossing the moonscape. On both occasions the way marks were sometimes hard to spot. You do get your eye in though.