Hike, Bike and Raft the famous Annapurna Circuit
Forget the Olympics, here’s a triathlon-Himalayan style.
This once world famous classic trekking route has been re-invented and re-imagined into a unique multi-activity adventure. Trek over the mighty Thorung La (5416m) to Jomsom, descend by Mountain Bike beneath Dhaulagiri & Annapurna, then whitewater raft the Kali Gandaki River.
Descend the Kali Gandaki Valley by Mountain Bike
For a few years now there’s been one of those travel rumours going around that the world famous Annapurna Circuit trek has been ruined.
Not at all…..
OK, so there is now a road running up through the Kali Gandaki Valley, the descent of which from Jomsom is often referred to as the ‘second half’ of the Annapurna Circuit. The ‘first half’ being the trek over the Thorung La and down to Jomsom. Update-the road to Manang is now also complete.
Firstly, let’s get things straight. The road up through the Kali Gandaki Valley (or to Manang for that matter) is not a road as you’d probably know it. There’s not a patch of tarmac in sight. Maybe one day there will be, but for now this is a bumpy jeep road best suited to 4WD vehicles. So, there is nothing even close to what could be called ‘heavy traffic’.
Nonetheless, it is arguable that the trek down the Kali Gandaki Valley feels different because of this dirt road. But, let’s not forget that such progress is rather important to the local people who live in the villages of the Kali Gandaki Valley and indeed even further above in Upper Mustang too. Being connected to the rest of the world is access for these people and would you want to live virtually cut off from the outside world?
On the ‘first half’ of the Annapurna Circuit a road is also being constructed that one day will probably connect Manang (update-it’s now reached Manang!) to the main Kathmandu Highway. Who knows whether they’ll attempt to create a road over the Thorung La too? We’ve seen some most improbable mountain roads in other parts of the Himalayas.
It’s perhaps then fair to say that the Annapurna Circuit as it once was is evolving.
You still have to trek all the way up the Marsyangdi Valley to Manang, you still have to make the epic crossing on foot of the Thorung La to Jomsom and so it is only here that change arises. Because of that ‘road’ many people now choose to end the trek at Jomsom and fly back to Pokhara. An eighteen minute flight instead of several days more trekking.
The infamous Thorung La- 5416m- literal high point of the Annapurna Circuit
With the full Annapurna Circuit being around 17 days of trekking (including that all important acclimatisation), when you add on International travel, as well as internal travel in Nepal, it just wasn’t something that most people could consider. Most people find themselves restricted to two week holiday breaks at a time.
This got us thinking….well if you like trekking, you probably like mountain biking too (especially when it’s all downhill!).
So, let’s ‘do’ the first half of the Annapurna Circuit as a trek, crossing the Thorung La to Jomsom via Muktinath. For many, this has always been the highlight of the Annapurna Circuit trek, so keep the best bit.
Now, there’s a mountain airstrip at Jomsom, which means that we can fly the mountain bikes up there from Pokhara or transport them all the way up by jeep. So, the ‘second half’ then becomes a downhill ride through the Kali Gandaki, consequently making the most of the existence of the jeep road.
Then we thought, “why not make it even more fun”, as where the biking would end the Kali Gandaki River has become navigable by raft. So, that’s exactly what we’ve done. Added a few days of whitewater rafting down the Kali Gandaki River with some cool, wild river bank campsites along the way. With a touch of poetic licence we’ve actually extended the full Annapurna Circuit. In fact we’d like to think that we have re-invented this once classic circuit trek into a multi-activity circuit adventure.
Rafting on the Kali Gandaki River
We’ve called this the Ultimate Annapurna Adventure, because that’s probably what it is. Maybe it will become known as one of the new great Himalayan adventures and must certainly rank as one of the greatest multi-activity adventures in the world. All the same, we think it’s a novel, fun and innovative way of undertaking and enjoying the very best of what remains a wonderful, challenging but rewarding true Himalayan journey.
To see all our amazing trips in the Himalayas visit: Snow Cat Travel