Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nepal: March 27 - April 9

During our first assignment in India we opted out of a planned short trip to Nepal due to perceived instability with the Maoist regime that had been causing issues in the country. While I enjoyed our substitute trip (Kerala in southern India), I knew a visit to Nepal would be in order at some point in the future. In hindsight, the amount of time we had set aside to go to Nepal was nowhere enough to get the experience we would have wanted. Regardless, we're back in India, only a 90 or so minute flight from Kathmandu, so it was time to right that wrong and hit one of the big lifetime trips.
What follows (or what you may have already read depending on how quickly I post updates) is organized in a few different sections. Some updates will be more categorical in nature (i.e., general impressions from the trip) while some updates will be more daily journal updates from the trek itself. Bottom line, this was a trip I had anticipated for a long, long time and to put it simply, the adventure travel bug has hit.

Why Annapurna?
The most common question I was forced to answer prior to the trip when people found out we were going to Nepal was, “So you’re going to Everest Base Camp, right?”  My answer, “No.” Instead, I had selected a trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary. To save everyone the trouble and share my reasoning, here’s a quick hit list of reasons why I selected Annapurna:
  • Duration – 14 days in Annapurna (10 days trekking) seemed more palatable and appropriate than 19 days in Everest (15 days trekking) from a “time away from work” perspective when there are a lot of other trips we’d like to take over the next two years
  • Camping – Somehow I was able to justify to Lindsay that 9 nights of camping couldn’t be so bad in Annapurna when it could have been as many as 14 nights on the Everest trek, especially considering neither one of us had really ever camped before. For all I knew, I was going to hate the camping and would be forced to put on a happy face in front of the wife throughout (Note: There was a happy face; it was not forced.
  • Elevation – Annapurna Base Camp rests at 13,500 feet (with the highest camp around 12,300); whereas, on Everest you spend a few nights camping at or above 13,500 feet and sleep at over 17,000 feet. While I’ve spent time in Colorado and hiked to over 14,000 feet, I’ve never slept any higher than around 10,000 feet. The combination of these first three elements started pointing me toward Annapurna.
  • Scenery – Based on my research, this was pretty much a wash between the two trips. Some say that Annapurna has more varied terrain while some would be disappointed to not spend as much time at high alpine environments. In my opinion, Everest as a 29,029 feet peak (or 29,013 if you agree to disagree with the Chinese) likely looks no more or less impressive from 18,000 feet than the peaks in the Annapurna massif (ranging from 23,685 to 26,545 feet) look from 13,500 feet.
  • Temperature – For those unfamiliar with the mountains, there’s typically an inverse relationship between your elevation and the temperature which means if it's cold around Annapurna it's really cold around Everest. Really cold can (though it's not a guarantee) equal really unhappy Lindsay. I'm not sure if you've met really unhappy Lindsay but I'd recommend against it. When you combine the duration of the trip, an introduction to camping, elevation that I knew we could handle, scenery I knew would change, and temperatures that would only get really cold for one or two nights, I figured our best bet to leave Nepal as a married couple was to select Annapurna.
And that's why we went to Annapurna.

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