Read on for a detailed account of our ninth day on the Annapurna Circuit. Today, we trekked from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi (Base Camp) covering a distance of 6.5 km in around 2.5 hours. While being one of the shortest days of the trek, it’s the final day before crossing the Thorang La Pass.
Our ninth day walking the Annapurna Circuit was the shortest but for good reason. For most trekkers, this is usually the last day prior to attempting to cross the 5416m Thorang-La Pass. Today’s route would take us from Yak Kharka to Ledar, from Ledar to Deurali Tea House and finally from Deurali Tea House to Thorong Phedi. Starting at 4100m, we would ascend to 4450m by the end of the day. It’s around 6.5 km and 2.5 hours walk from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi including all stops. We also took an acclimatisation walk and hiked half way up to High Camp in the afternoon.
Read on for my experiences, tips and advice from day nine hiking the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
Day Nine: Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi on the Annapurna Circuit
Thorong Phedi (Base Camp) or High Camp?
There are two options for today’s trekking. You can either have a pretty short day and only walk as far as Thorong Phedi (4450m) or head all the way up to High Camp (4880m). The issue isn’t the distance between the two – it’s only about 1 km and 1.5 hours walking – but the altitude. You would be going above the recommended 500 metres a day elevation gain and regardless of the option you choose, it will be the highest you will sleep on the Annapurna Circuit. If you manage to get any sleep that is! At these altitudes you are only getting around 55% of oxygen you would get at sea level. It’s normal to feel more out of breath than usual and your resting heart rate will be higher too. This is another reason why acclimatisation is so important at this stage of the trek.
So, even though on paper, today’s walking isn’t super tough, you will get tired quicker than usual which is important to keep in mind. Next day is summit day – you will be crossing the Thorong La Pass – and where you stay will also determine how long your day will be and how early you will start.
Thorong Phedi (Base Camp)
Thorong Phedi isn’t as much a village as just a couple of guesthouses where a lot of trekkers choose to spend their last night before tackling the pass. This was our preferred option. Walking from Yak Kharka, the elevation gain is only 425 metres which is under the recommended 500 metres. The only real disadvantage of spending the night here is a VERY early start on summit day – we were up at 3 am and started walking at 4. It’s a long and tough trek to Thorang La Pass an then on to Mukhtinath. However, even with the benefit of hindsight, I would still choose this option. Many people reported a pretty miserable night up at High Camp due to altitude. So I reckon we made the right decision. The early start and the super long day only made for another awesome story!
Many trekkers choose to stop for an extended lunch at Thorong Phedi before continuing on to High Camp. I can understand why. It’s a relatively short walk from Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi and even with a later start, most trekkers will be done for the day by late morning. Majority of people would still have enough in the tank to attempt the tough 1-1.5 hour climb to High Camp. Another advantage would be the shorter climb to Thorang La Pass the following day and a slightly later start than the 3am wake up call we subjected ourselves to.
However, while you are very likely to have a restless night regardless of where you stay, adding an extra 340 metres isn’t ideal. We decided that staying at the lowest altitude possible would be a better idea. High Camp also has just one accommodation option which fills up quickly. While there is plenty of space. some people do end up sleeping in dining areas. The later in the day you arrive, the less chance you have of snagging a bed.
In summary, it’s definitely a matter of preference as either option has its advantages and drawbacks. In hindsight, however, I would still stick with our decision to stay at Thorong Phedi and walk to High Camp in the morning.
Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi
Yak Kharka (4100m) – Ledar (4200m) – Deurali Tea House (4440m) – Thorong Phedi (4450m)
Time: 2 hrs 25 minutes (08:32 – 10:57)
We set off from Yak Kharka and retraced our steps to Ledar which we reached on our acclimatisation walk yesterday. There is no much point in stopping here except for a quick water break. There are a few guesthouses and cafes but unless you forgot to stock up on something, you should have everything you need. We followed the trail along the river below spying some more spectacular mountain views. After a while we saw a suspension bridge below and followed the trail down towards the river. After a tough climb, we reached a small hut where everyone takes a breather after the challenging section. It’s possible to buy snacks and drinks here if necessary.
Another half an hour later we passed a sign warning of landslides in the area. Sure enough, a few minutes later we came up behind a queue of people on the trail. Turns out that rocks were falling from the top, only narrowly missing passing hikers. The danger here is quite real as a guy in front of us told stories of people getting seriously injured on the trek due to falling rocks.
The guides and porters decided that we needed to pass the short 40 or so metre section as quickly as possible. They acted as lookouts as we tried to run across the open area as fast as we could. I can’t say I’ve ever tried running at 4500 metres with two backpacks on before but I don’t remember ever being that out of breath afterwards!
Having safely negotiated the landslide area, we reached Thorong Phedi soon after. We dropped our bags and explored the compound before setting off for our acclimatisation walk.
Thorong Phedi to High Camp Acclimatisation Walk
It was only around 11 am when we reached Thorong Phedi and having done only 2.5 hours walking, we decided to just do our acclimatisation walk straight away. After a few minutes refilling water bottles and checking out the area, we started the climb up towards High Camp. This section of the trail mainly consists of a series of switchbacks that we needed to negotiate carefully. There were loads of loose rocks and we took our time heading up. After climbing up around 200 metres, we sat down and took in the views. I closed my eyes for a while and nearly fell asleep listening to the wind blowing over the mountains around us.
On the way down, we met an Australian couple that we’ve been bumping into for the last few days. I’ve been having concerns about the big elevation gain on summit day and was thinking about spending the night at High Camp to avoid any potential complications with altitude sickness. When we spoke to the guys, they reassured us and told me not to worry too much. After Thorang-La, the trail heads immediately down so we wouldn’t be spending too much time at over 5000m. Call it divine intervention or coincidence, but it was that encounter that convinced us to just go for it the next day so we quickly told our guide that we want to attempt the pass as originally planned. I am still thankful to these guys for the words of encouragement. Even though I don’t remember their names, I hope they know how much I appreciate it!
After making our way back down, we headed to the bakery at the Thorong Base Camp Lodge where we enjoyed cinnamon rolls and tea. It wasn’t as good as the bakery in Manang but was still a welcome reward for the day’s trekking. We spent the rest of the day between the social area at our guesthouse and the bakery, relaxing, playing cards and drinking a record amount of tea! It was another social atmosphere with trekkers enjoying themselves before a long day climbing up to the pass.
Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi Key Notes
- It may seem like a tough call on whether to stay in Thorong Phedi or head to High Camp. Honestly, it felt like a 50-50 split from observing people today in terms of who stayed and who continued up. For us it came down to not wanting an 800m elevation gain at this altitude in one day. On the other hand, summit day is a VERY long day when starting from Thorong Phedi.
- The café and bakery at Thorong Base Camp Lodge is a fun way to spend your time in Thorong Phedi.
- Make sure that you prepare for summit day tonight. Fumbling around in the middle of the night isn’t practical especially on very little sleep! You’ll thank yourself later!
- Definitely do the acclimatisation walk and climb a couple of hundred meters towards High Camp. It will help prepare you for the tough day tomorrow and will also help with orientation. You will be doing this for real in the dark the following morning and doing a trial run definitely helped.
Staying in Thorong Phedi: Hotel New Phedi
There are two main guesthouses in Phedi – Thorong Base Camp Lodge and Hotel New Phedi. There is another building a little further up the path towards High Camp but I am not sure if it currently offers accommodation.
Thorong Base Camp Lodge is easily the most popular of the two. It has a bakery (not quite as good as Manang’s), big social area and friendly staff. The atmosphere was great. We didn’t stay here but were welcome to use the facilities for most of the day. It definitely has the better hangout space of the two guesthouses. Remember, if you are getting free accommodation, you will usually be expected to have your evening and morning meals at the guesthouse. We almost forgot that part as we spent most of our day here even though we were staying at:
Hotel New Phedi. Located just above the Thorong Base Camp Lodge, it has simple rooms and a social area that also gets pretty busy. The food here wasn’t amazing but it’s OK for a night. I don’t recall there being showers. It’s not very well lit at night so you definitely need your head torch to get to and from the bathroom/dining room etc.
We decided that we would set off from Thorong Phedi at 4 am to try and beat the masses departing from High Camp before sunrise. That meant a 3 am wake-up call so an early night was definitely in order.
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