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Annapurna Base Camp Trek: Planning your trip

April 03, 2024

Annapurna Base Camp Trek: Planning your trip

Overview of the Annapurna Base Camp trek

The Annapurna Base Camp trek is one of Nepal’s most spectacular high altitude hiking routes, offering breathtaking views of the Annapurna ranges and surrounds as you trek through the Annapurna Sanctuary National Park. The trek offers a cheaper and more relaxed alternative to the often highly trafficked route to Everest Base Camp.

Along the way, you’ll trek through diverse environments starting off in beautiful and lush forests, trekking through expansive rice paddies and sunny fields, stopping in at local teahouses to meet the locals and immerse yourself in their culture. The landscape gradually evolves into snowy vistas as you gain altitude, with stunning views of the nearby Annapurna I and the sacred peak of Machapuchhre, as well as numerous other Himalayan peaks.

How difficult is the Annapurna Base Camp trek?

The trek would be considered to be moderate to advanced in difficulty. There are some more challenging stretches of terrain, but the paths are generally quite good and easy to follow. The more difficult stretches of trail come towards the end, where weather (potential for snowfall) and altitude can slow progress.

How long is the Annapurna Base Camp trek?

Depending on your route, it will be in the region of between 60-80km in total. The trek begins and ends in Pokhara, making it an out and back trail that can follow the same route, or vary slightly on the way back. Depending on your experience, fitness and chosen route, it is usually recommended to allow at least a week to complete the trek.

How high does the Annapurna Base Camp trail go?

Base camp is at an altitude of 4,130m, making altitude sickness a real possibility for your trip. Base camp is flanked by the incredible peaks of Annapurna I (8,091m), Annapurna South (7,219m), Annapurna III (7,555m) Machapuchhre (6,993m) and Hiunchuli (6,441m), providing you with breathtaking views of some of the world’s tallest peaks.

A view of some of the peaks to be found on the ABC trek

How should I manage altitude sickness on an ABC trek?

All trekkers undertaking this trip should be aware of and well prepared to manage symptoms of altitude sickness. The effects of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) do not simply correlate with one's health, fitness or previous experience at altitude, so all trekkers should treat AMS seriously.

Symptoms can begin showing as early as 2,500m above sea level, often being compared to a hangover. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite and shortness of breath are some common signs your body is struggling to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. The key is to pay attention to these early signs and take the time to let your body acclimatise, take an extra rest day, walk at a slower pace, etc. Pushing your body through these symptoms will only make matters worse.

Drink plenty of water, try to avoid alcohol, get plenty of rest each night and take the trekking each day slowly (its not a race!). For those that have struggled with altitude in the past, Acetazolamide can be taken from a day prior to you starting to gain altitude. Our advice would be to talk to your healthcare provider and your local guide about this. You can read more on altitude sickness here.

How much do I need to budget for an ABC trek?

It really depends on a few factors (your route, any additional inclusions you want, time of year, travel plans), but there are some non-negotiables that you’ll need to account for. Assuming you have your hiking gear already sorted, you’ll also need the below. 

Transport: One of the benefits of the ABC trek is the ease at which you can get there from Kathmandu. There are several flights daily that last around 30 minutes, with a selection of buses to choose from too. Bus tickets cost around $30 AUD, and flights are closer to $140 AUD.

Permits: Two permits are required for the trek, both of which can be arranged at the tourist office in Pokhara before you set off. You’ll need a Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card and an entry permit to Annapurna. These will be checked along the way, and will run you around 5000 NPR (around $60 AUD at time of writing).

Guides: In 2023, new rules were introduced that forces all foreign hikers to be accompanied by a licensed local guide (excepting the Everest region). This is intended as a safety measure but also supports the local economy – which we can get behind. With this in mind, you have a few options for guided tours which will run you between $300 AUD and up to over $1,200 AUD for the more all-inclusive tours. Your options include booking through a licensed tour company in advance or organising a licensed guide in Pokhara.

Insurance: Trekkers travelling in the mountains in Nepal should be aware of the risks they are facing. Having the right insurance is very important. Unfortunately, in the post COVID world, obtaining trekking insurance for Nepal has become quite difficult for Australians.

In general there are a number of different coverage options offered, and trekkers will need to decide on the level of cover they are happy with. Trekking and Mountaineering Insurance for Australians is a handy resource for Australians with up-to-date information (at time of writing).

What are the accommodation options?

Locally run teahouses will be the main places for you to stay along the route, they offer a lovely experience where you can meet fellow trekkers and the locals alike. The rooms will have beds and basic furnishings, with electricity and sometimes additional comforts such as Wi-Fi (although you can't always rely on it, and it’s often painfully slow). Make sure you book in advance, especially if you’re travelling in peak seasons. Enjoy a nice, hearty meal, engage with the locals and take in the sites after a long day of walking.

Local wildlife watches on as hiker treks through to the Annapurna Base Camp

When is the best time to complete the Annapurna Base Camp trek?

Nepal’s weather follows a typical four seasonal pattern, with the summer bringing warm cloudy weather with daily monsoonal rains, and the winter brings frigid cold temperatures with some snow. Our recommendation would be to travel in the spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November).

Spring is very popular, as the valleys will be lush and green, the flowers will be in full bloom and generally the temperatures will be warm, and importantly will get warmer as the season goes on. Autumn is equally popular, as just after the monsoonal moisture leaves the mountains the air is crisp and clean, giving trekkers the best views. The trails will be less dusty, however the temperatures will be cooling off, and by November temperatures can start to really drop and often winds can start to pick up in the leadup to winter.

Hot tip: a trip in November can be a lot quieter on the trails!

What temperature can I expect on the ABC trek?

Spring (March to May): March will be cool having just come out of winter, with daytime temperatures reaching a high of between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius. Although expect to feel warmer in the high-altitude sun! Minimum temperatures in March can be as cold as -8 degrees Celsius overnight.

Summer (June to August): Expect warm days and cool nights that can be managed easily with the right gear. Think tropical conditions down low, with daily rainfall usually starting by late morning and lasting into the evening, rain and sometime snow will fall at higher altitudes. Highs will reach around 17-20 degrees Celsius, falling to as low as 3 degrees in the night time.

Autumn (September to November): Clear skies through Autumn make the days warm and comfortable, usually sitting between 16-20 degrees with lows of 0 or just under. As winter draws nearer in November, days and nights will be cooler, dipping to -10 at night.

Winter (December to February): Night time temperatures can get as low as -20 degrees Celsius, a significant challenge for trekkers. During the day, the high will reach around 8 degrees Celsius. The weather is often clear, with higher winds. For those prepared and experienced, wintertime can offer a peaceful experience on the trails.

An example of the bridge crossings found on the ABC trek

What gear should I bring on the ABC trek?

In general trekkers will be required to take very similar gear, regardless of the season they are going in. Generally you will trek with a day-pack (20-30L in size) in which you’ll carry all your items you may need for the day, and have a porter carry your other gear for you each day in a larger duffel bag (60-90L in size).

The below list is by no means exhaustive, it covers the main items trekkers should have.

Wet weather gear: Mont's Austral pants & jacket (for men) or Siena pants & jacket (for women) are great options, with the Mont Odyssey jacket for those looking for a more breathable option. The Mont lightspeed jacket and pants are a great option for those looking to cut the weight down!

Thermals:Consider Mont's range of Polartec Silk Weight Power Dry long sleeve tops and bottoms. Feel the cold? Opt for the Polartec mid-weight power dry long sleeves top and bottom.

Mid layers: The Mont Grid Pro hoodie is a highly versatile top, being warm yet breathable it's perfect for trekking in. Mont Flashpoint pants are a great option for the legs if you feel the cold. Add in a Flashpoint or Slinx top if you want an extra layer for the upper body.

Pants and Top: Mont Bimberi pants or shorts are my favourite trekking pants at the moment! Pair these with a Mont Lifestyle shirt and sun hat for the ultimate all day comfort and sun protection!

Down layer: This is where the real warmth gets added. While you’re trekking you could layer with a Mont Zero down jacket or Mont Guide hoodie if you would like a synthetic option. For those cold evenings you’ll want to consider a bigger down jacket such as the Mont Fusion or even the Mont Icicle if you feel the cold or are going in the wintertime.

Sleeping: I would always recommend you take your own inner sheet with you. The Mont Thermolite liner can work really well with the blankets provided at the tea houses. Feel the cold? Bring a sleeping bag like the Mont Helium 450 sleeping bag to really make your nights comfortable.

Other gear: Bring your favourite worn-in boots or hiking shoes, trail runners are also an option for those experienced. Trekking poles are certainly recommended but by no means a must. A powerbank to charge your phone at night can allow you to go for longer times between charges at tea-houses. And lastly bring your favourite camera/phone, as you will not be short of views to capture along the way!

While this trek is more advanced than your average, the local culture and environment more than makes up for it.

If you have any questions or you’re in need of any upgrades to your gear before you tackle the Annapurna Base Camp trek, Mont Adventure Equipment can help get you get on track sooner.

Browse our range of hiking footwear, multi-day packs and hiking clothing to name a few, or come visit our Fyshwick store and speak to one of our experts!

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