ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT TREK - TILICHO LAKE SIDETRIP
Read our highly informative and detailed day-by-day Annapurna Circuit Trek guide. We spent 14 days trekking around Annapurnas, and we’d like to share useful hiking tips, how to acclimatize and where to sleep. In the fourth part of our lifetime adventure, we did a three-day side trip to Tilicho Lake (4919m), the world's highest lake of its size and one of the highlights of the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
After few days of acclimatization and exploring the area we left Braga. The weather forecast looked promising, we were on time, so after a lively discussion, if it's worth the effort, we made a final decision to take a three-day detour to Tilicho Lake.
We stopped at the checkpoint in Manang, asked the officers about the trek conditions and set off. The first day we only wanted to get to Khangsar village, sleepy settlement sitting at 3756 meters above sea level, approximately two hours walk from Manang.
Up till now we always walked longer hours or climbed more difficult terrain, and we also knew, that from now on, we should follow the "don't sleep higher than 300-400 m than the day before" rule, so we felt like this will be enough for today.
The route to Khangsar leads high above Margsyandi River through Khangsar Khola Valley. The river basin is broad, meanders the valley, and it is hard to imagine that during the wet season the water is running down in its all width. But in April the river basin was almost dried out, and only a few narrow streams were running down the valley.
As we climbed higher, the views of massive Great Barriere were opening up, and we could still see Annapurna II behind us. After approximately 45 minutes we had to cross a suspension bridge and gradually climbed to Khangsar accompanied by magnificent views of the canyon.
After we arrived in Khangsar, we had lunch, and then we sat outside and relaxed.
A few moments later, a Nepali guy carrying an extra large plastic bag came, and all present locals gathered around him. The bag was full of shoes of different sizes, colors, and types, and he was selling them.
The small village itself offers only a few accommodation options otherwise it is a group of few stone buildings with flat roofs, and there were significantly fewer people in comparison with the main trail so we could enjoy a peaceful atmosphere. We spent the rest of the day in bed drinking tea, planning next days and idling.
Next morning we walked from Khangsar to Tilicho Lake Base Camp (ask people from Khangsar, especially in low season, if the lodges are open as they run the base camps), so we started our ascent early in the morning.
We passed by another settlement called Shri Kharka (4045 m), and right behind it, the way splits into three. The path in the middle is the shortest but also the most dangerous one as it intersects steep rubble slopes.
The upper trail is way too long and challenging, and the lower path is unmarked. We took the middle route which is also used by most of hikers and locals. The sky was clear so we could see Tilicho Peak and Phra Idam ahead of us.
One of the most significant peaks along the trail is Khangsar Khang also know as Rock Noir, black rock. Its wall is so steep that neither snow or ice can stick on it and it creates the black field on its top. The ridge going north from Khangsar Kang leads to Annapurna I, the highest mountain in the Annapurna Range and between Khangsar Khang, and Tilicho Peak spreads impenetrable Great Barriere.
The trail led us further to a bridge, then we had to ascend another hill, and from this point, could see the long narrow path traversing through the steep debris slopes.
The pathway can be slippery so mind your steps and do not forget to watch for loose falling rocks. It takes about 30 - 40 minutes to pass this scree slopes, but it seemed much longer, and we were glad once we left this passage safely behind us.
Tilicho Lake Base Camp is not far from here, and you can find three lodges there. We stayed in the first one because there is not much of a difference between them. There was a hot shower thanks to solar panels on the roof, paid wifi connection in the restaurant and charging station for a fee.
Dark clouds rolled over later that evening, and the room got pretty cold. The insulation of the room was nonexistent, and gaps between wood planks wall didn't help either. We slept all dressed in our sleeping bags, and Lucie kept her a woolen hat on through the whole night.
When we woke up in the morning, it was cloudy, but we were hopeful that the sky might clear up. We ordered lunch to go in our lodge and set off carrying only small backpacks packed with food and a few extra layers of cloth.
If you look back, the east side offers views of Manaslu and massif of Ngada Chullu. The trail to Tilicho Lake is well-marked and zig-zags the landslide area. When we set out, it got distinctly darker, and it started to snow lightly.
We continued further, but the snowing did not cease, the trail became slippery, and visibility was close to zero.
We met a few parties on their way back, and they told us they did not make it to the lake because the weather was much worse up there, they couldn't see anything and were afraid of getting lost in the fog.
We followed their advice and decided to give up this attempt and turned back, meanwhile the trail got icy and extremely slippery, and it took us forever to get lower. When we were almost within sight of the lodge, the snowing ceased, and blue patches of the sky appeared.
We waited for a while, had lunch and when we could see the weather was getting better and snow on the trail started to melt quickly, we decided to give it another try.
Well, the second attempt was so much harder because we were tired this time, but we steadily climbed up the zig-zag path again until we reached the opening with a small frozen lake.
Here we met the only person who endured the severe conditions and made it to the lake. He encouraged us to carry on as the Tilicho lake from this plateau was only 20 minutes walk on the almost flat path covered with fresh snow.
Martin started to feel a headache because of the altitude, and the arctic wind was gusting on the top, but we had a motivation to get to the lake.
Finally, we made it to frozen Tilicho Lake, it was all white and still because of ice and snow, and low cloud was hanging above it.
We could admire the lake from a viewing point just by ourselves, and it was a well-deserved reward for our efforts that day. This feeling lasted about ten minutes, and after that, we started getting very cold, although we put the rest of our clothes on.
The strong wind was throwing snow in our faces and everywhere around, and there was nowhere to hide. We took a last look down at the lake and surrounding mountains and started to walk back.
The way down was easy after all, and we descended quickly back to our lodge, where we drank hot tea and tried to dry our boots for the rest of the evening.