Annapurna Circuit Trek - Crossing the Thorong La Pass
Read our practical day by day Annapurna Circuit Trek guide. The sixth part of our amazing adventure in the Himalayas features how to cross Thorong La pass, where to sleep in Muktinath, trail description, what to pack, how to acclimatize, and useful hiking tips.
Finally, the most anticipated day has come.
Crossing the Thorong La Pass (5416 meters above sea level) is the highlight of the whole trek and the highest point you will reach on Annapurna Circuit, and for most of us, it's even one of the highest points in the world we can get without climbing experience and proper gear.
In good weather, the trek is challenging but doable as you battle only against fatigue and high altitude.
Be always prepared for the possibility of snow which can make the pass impassable for days and although nobody wants to wait or in the worst scenario walk back, don't risk your life (in October 2014 forty-three people lost their lives because of heavy snowfall when 1.8 m of snow fell in 12hours).
We had snow showers last three nights before crossing the pass, but it didn't snow during the day, the snow was slowly melting, and the trail remained still passable.
Later that evening, we talked to the lodge owner about the weather, and he was optimistic and reassured us that everything should be ok the next day.
The journey from Thorong Pedi across Thorong La to Muktinath requires six to eight hours walk in good weather, and you'll ascend 1040 meters and descend 1620 meters that day.
When we woke up at 5 am, the place was still pretty quiet, but we could hear people leaving earlier.
We checked the weather as the first thing in the morning and made sure it was clear, then we packed our stuff, had quick breakfast and set off. It was still dark and freezing outside.
We were so cold that none of us wanted to hold hiking poles in hands because our fingers were numbing from cool.
The path is extremely steep from the very beginning, and we steadily worked our way up through a series of several switchbacks.
Even though it was exhausting, it helped us to keep our bodies warm.
The only thing we had worried about was the snow covering the trail which could make the crossing impossible. Fortunately, locals and early hikers had climbed their way up in the morning making the path visible and passable again.
After an hour of a strenuous climb, you'll reach the High Camp standing on a small opening.
From the High Camp, the trail goes up steadily, but it is not that steep as the first part.
The path traverses canyon back and forth, and approximately 45 minutes later, you'll exceed the 5000 meters zone (there is a small seasonal tea house).
From this point, the trail is not that steep, and we could have been amazed by vistas of surrounding snow-capped mountains, but the backpack, extortion, compacted snow on the trail and the altitude started to slow us down.
We had to motivate ourselves, and as there are snow poles along the route, we stopped next to every single one and took a few seconds break just to catch a breath.
Several false summits made the final push even harder, but after four hours we finally reached Thorong La.
The pass itself lies between two 6000 meters high mountains, Yakwakang and Thorong Peak, and welcomes you with a traditional chorten, prayer flags, and congratulation board.
Even though the views of both sides of the valley and the surrounding mountains are still incredible, this place is more about emotions which will surely overwhelm you.
After fourteen days of every day trekking since we‘ve departed Besisahar, we finally made it to Thorong La pass at 5416 meters.
Take your time here, embrace the moment and admire the views of Great Barrier Ridge, Kali Gandaki Valley or Chulu West peak.
We found the descend (1600m) equally exhausting as the climb up.
The first section was extremely slippery because of the compacted snow turning the trail into ice, so we were more sliding than walking on the way down and fell several times.
The lower part was tricky too due to running water and muddy patches on the trail.
You must be cautious all the time, and your legs will suffer.
Trekking poles will help you tremendously at this point.
After 2 hours we finally reached small settlement Chabarbu where we had lunch and restored some physical and mental strength to carry on.
From here, it's less than an hour of enjoyable walk to the quiet village of Muktinath, home to Hindu Muktinath Temple.
But for most hikers who have just finished their journey, it is mainly a place, where you get a hearty meal, hot shower, and comfortable bed.
This side of the valley offers beautiful views of the seventh highest mountain in the world Dhaulagiri (8167m) and a glimpse of forbidden Mustang District.
You can carry on from Muktinath on foot to neighboring villages, or you can take a bus to Jomsom, Pokhara or Kathmandu.
Don't miss the opportunity to experience a unique taste of Tibetan atmosphere, and visit a medieval village of Kagbeni, only two hours walk from Muktinath.
WHAT TO PACK FOR ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT
Packing for the Annapurna Circuit Trek can be challenging.
We started in Besisahar (740m) in a jungle-like climate, where temperatures were hitting 30+ degrees of Celsius and after more than 14 days of challenging trekking finally crossed the snow-covered Thorong La Pass (5416m), the highest point of our adventure.
You need a bit of everything, but also you must pack light, so try not to overpack. Every extra kilogram will count and you will feel it when climbing up. To give you a simple example, you need short-sleeved t-shirt and shorts for the first part, but you also need a down jacket for cold weather and should wear winter gloves for Thorong La in case there is a snowstorm.
These seven things are absolutely essential to include in your packing list.
Rucksack for Him & for Her | When traveling without a porter, it is essential to choose the right large backpack with waist straps and good back support - nowadays you can choose a backpack for man or women, because the physique is different, and the comfort will be better. When it comes to hiking Annapurna Circuit, bear in mind that you should not carry more than 13 kilograms, optimal weight is anything between 8 to 12 kilograms to enjoy the hike without back and knee pain.
Sleeping Bag for Him & for Her | There is no heating in the rooms, and nights can be really cold. Well, we don't want to scare you, but they will be cold. I remember one night, when I was wearing down jacket, warm hat and leggings inside my sleeping bag, and was not able to warm up. Accommodation might provide you with extra blankets, but they are not often enough. Generally, we wouldn't travel to Nepal without own sleeping bag.
Hiking Poles | Nepal was the first country where we used hiking poles, and we had a great experience. Hiking poles will help your knees when hiking downhill or uphill and are great for establishing walking pace and rhythm.
Camera | Camera and lenses were probably the heaviest things we packed with us to Nepal, but they were well worth it.
You can also read our in-depth Annapurna Circuit packing list, where you will find more useful tips and advice on what to pack and what to leave behind.
WHERE TO STAY IN NEPAL
Nepal is still a developing country, and services, for example, accommodation to be specific, is quite cheap. In Nepal, you can afford to sleep in a nice place for a bargain price.
To make your hotel reservation in Nepal before your arrival, click on the links below.
Kathmandu | Oasis Kathmandu Hotel - Spotless modern rooms, quiet location so you will get a good sleep at night, and walking distance from Thamel.
Pokhara | Hotel White Pearl - Centrally located hotel overlooking the Phewa lake and mountains. The rooms are spacious and clean, the staff is professional and friendly and a great breakfast is included.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!