Read on for a detailed account of our seventh day on the Annapurna Circuit. Today was an acclimatisation/rest day in Manang. We decided to trek from Manang to Ice Lake (Kicho Tal), covering 16km in around 6 hours 45 minutes along the out-and-back hike. Despite a tough day where we gained 1100 metres of elevation, the experience prepared us well for the days ahead. The views were stunning too. I also cover alternative options for your rest day in Manang!
Our seventh day on the Annapurna Circuit had a bit of a different feel to it. Most trekkers usually spend an extra day in Manang to help them get acclimatised to the altitude. We decided to do the same. There are many options for the rest day including…well, resting or a range of hikes and activities that will help prepare you for the tough days ahead. I’ll talk about how to best spend your free day in Manang including my own experiences of hiking from Manang to Ice Lake (Kicho Tal). Starting at 3540m, we would ascend to 4600m by the end of the day. It’s around 16 km and 6 hrs 45 mins hiking from Manang to Ice Lake including all stops.
Read on for my experiences, tips and advice from day seven hiking the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
Day Seven: Acclimatisation Day Hike From Manang to Ice Lake on the Annapurna Circuit
Manang Rest Day: Why You Should Acclimatise
Getting an acclimatisation day in Manang is very important even if you don’t feel any symptoms of altitude sickness. It can hit people at different altitudes so you might feel fine at 3500m but start feeling sick at 4000m. At this point of the trek, it’s all about preparing yourself for the crossing of Thorong-La Pass (5416m). With an almost 2000m altitude gain over the next three days of hiking, it’s extremely important to prepare your mind and body as well as possible. Plus, let’s face it – you’ve earned a day off, right? Well, while it’s certainly possible to spend a day doing nothing in Manang, there are loads of alternative ways to spend your time here.
Things to Do in Manang on Your Acclimatisation Day
There is no shortage of things to do on your rest day in Manang. It’s the biggest town this side of the Thorong-La Pass and makes for a great place to hang out for the day. However, if you still have energy in your legs, there are plenty of active ways to spend your day too!
- There is a choice of day hikes that will further help with acclimatisation, including a tough 7-hour return trip to the Ice Lake (Kicho Tal). Read on for my experience of this hike!
- If you are particularly flush with time (and fitness), you can attempt a 3-4 return day hike to Tilicho Lake. It’s the highest lake in Nepal. Check conditions in Manang as trails may be closed due to bad weather.
- If that all sounds like too much hard work, you can spend your day hanging out in Manang resting and preparing for the rest of the trek. There are a few shops where you can pick up gear, provisions and anything you may be missing (I got some much-needed sunglasses).
- Make sure to attend a useful talk at the Manang Clinic (3pm daily) where volunteer doctors explain altitude sickness, its symptoms and how to prevent and combat it. We found it super useful! You can also check your blood oxygen levels, stock up on medicine and talk to the doctors. Read more about the clinic below
- There is also a cinema that has daily film screenings, cafes and places to get your laundry done.
- You could also just spend the day at the bakery located at Tilicho Hotel. I really wouldn’t blame you!
Manang to Ice Lake Hike (Kicho Tal)
Manang (3540m) – Ice Lake – Kicho Tal (4600m)
Distance: 16km return
Time: 6 hrs 45 minutes (08:15 –15:00)
As I mentioned above, you have plenty of options for your rest day in Manang. There is a choice of day hikes that you could tackle, including a tough 7 hour return hike to the Ice Lake (Kicho Tal). This hike was exactly what our guide, Dipak, had in mind for us today. The lake, well, lakes – turns out there are two of them – lie at 4600 metres so it’s a big 1100m elevation gain. This does technically go against the concept of a “rest” day but I do feel that choosing to do this hike helped prepare us for the Thorong-La Pass. There are some incredible views along this hike but bear in mind you have tough days ahead of you, so don’t overdo it!
After a delicious breakfast from the Tilicho Bakery, we set off to the Ice Lake with just our day packs. After a week of wearing our big packs, this felt amazing! We retraced our steps to Braga, the village we passed the previous day, before turning off the road. Donkeys and cows grazed contentedly near a beautiful stupa. We located the trail entrance marked by the familiar blue and white markers behind the shrine and navigated a maze of alleyways to head above the village. The path climbed quickly and we were soon treated to sweeping views of the mountains across the valley as well as Manang. The trail zig-zagged up for a while as we spotted birds of prey circling majestically on the lookout for food.
As we climbed higher, patches of white started appearing and soon the path disappeared under a layer of snow and mud. It was getting more and more slippery and it didn’t help that the path also weaved across steep parts of the mountain side. There were times that I was getting almost no traction on the trail and almost lost my balance a few times. My motivation to stay upright was avoiding quite a significant drop on one side of the trail.
We passed a small tea house where hikers relaxed with steaming cups of tea and tucked into their packed lunches. We decided not to stop and instead powered on. After 3 hours of walking, we finally reached the Ice Lake even though it turned out there were two lakes here. We only just reached the Lower Ice Lake with the Upper Ice Lake still a few hundred meters away.
Ice Lake (Kicho Tal)
It was time for lunch and we tucked into our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (are you even a hiker if you don’t have PB&J sandwiches with you?). The views of the lake and the snow-covered mountains beyond provided a stunning backdrop as we chatted with other hikers. A Polish guy next to us decided to test the thickness of the ice and went for a walk on the lake. May not have been the smartest idea of the day, but I got a great photo out of it!
We decided to push onto the Upper Lake and soon reached a stupa on the frozen shore of the lake. We took some photos and started heading down – we didn’t want to spend too much time at 4600 metres! I started feeling unwell again as the altitude was making itself felt. Luckily, it’s all downhill down to Manang which makes for quick progress. Although the constant switchbacks aren’t great for the knees. Eventually, we retraced our steps back to the road at Braga. From there on, it’s a straightforward repeat of the walk to Manang from Day 6!
A “rest” day this was definitely not but it was great to spend an extra day in Manang without feeling rushed. The Ice Lake hike was also a big highlight and provided us with some much needed acclimatisation for the days ahead.
Manang to Ice Lake Hike Key Notes
- Look, this hike definitely doesn’t put the “rest” in rest day. It’s tough. Like, actually tough. An 1100m elevation gain in a few hours is nothing to be sniffed at. Yet, it’s a great way to acclimatise to the altitude and the main reason I felt no symptoms of altitude sickness from here on in.
- Many people stop once they reach the Lower Lake. The Upper Lake is only a few hundred metres beyond this one. It’s worth checking out the lake and the stupa
- It can get very slippery on this day hike. Be careful and take your time. The last thing you want is to pick any sort of injury so close to the pass!
Manang Medical Clinic Talk
The Himalayan Rescue Association (HRA) has an aid post in Manang and holds a free daily talk on its premises. The informal talk focuses on Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), its symptoms and how to prevent it. Presented by volunteer doctors, it’s an invaluable session which provides a lot of information about AMS and is particularly useful if you are worried about anything altitude related. There is also an opportunity to stock up on medicines like Diamox, get your blood oxygen levels checked and to ask any questions. The talk takes place daily at 3pm.
The HRA is a voluntary non-profit organisation that was founded in 1973. A team of volunteer doctors spends a season in Manang and helps make the Annapurna Circuit a safer place for tourists. One of HRA’s main missions is to prevent deaths from AMS, both in trekkers as well as their guides and porters. To find out more about the great work that they do, visit https://himalayanrescue.org.np/.
Manang Rest Day Key Notes
- Your body knows best. If you feel that you need a day to recuperate, skip the hike and relax. I would still recommend some light walking to 100-200 metres higher than where you will spend the night.
- Your shopping options become extremely limited (not to mention, pricey) from here until Mukhtinath. Make sure to stock up on anything you may need for the next 3 days.
- Did I mention the coffee and bakery at Tilicho Hotel? Yes, yes I did. You can literally enjoy it for the whole day if you wanted to…
Staying in Manang: Tilicho Hotel
This was our second night at the awesome Tilicho Hotel. It wasn’t vastly different from the first. After a hot shower, we spent the afternoon making sure we had everything ready for the next few days. After attending the talk at the medical clinic in Manang (read about it above), we headed back to the hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and chatting over coffee and pastries at the café, playing cards and enjoying a big carb-filled dinner.
Up Next: Manang to Yak Kharka – Day 8
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