Nepal plans

I’ve made up my mind to return to Nepal next spring for a few weeks. Due to a one-time fluke in the vacation procedure at work, in 2013 I will have a few more than twice the normal number of days off. Until years of seniority yield a significant vacation allotment, this will be my only chance to take a long trip out of country for the foreseeable future.
How to spend the time in Nepal becomes the question, since things like flights (now obtainable online), passport renewal, visa, budget, lodging and equipment (REI is down the road) are easily handled. The country has a wealth of opportunities to explore, and I need to make the trip worthwhile without packing it full to the point of overworking myself. I do not want to repeat the sights and activities of my 1999 trip, but there is little chance of that given the change of seasons (spring versus monsoon). I have little use for jungle, bugs, tigers and elephants, so the south part of the country is out — I’m going to walk among the blessed mountains. Other than the obligatory chill days in Kathmandu and Pokhara, three trekking trips have come to mind so far:
AC map with previous route highlighted in blue at left.

West side of the AC: The only ground I’ve covered on foot in Nepal is the stretch of the Annapurna Circuit from Beni to Kagbeni and Muktinath. If I did that trip again, I would start on the more easterly beginning from Pokhara, stopping this time for a sunrise at Poon Hill over Ghorepani. From there, the traditional route to Tatopani and up toward Upper Mustang, avoiding the new road as much as possible (see my last post). Given that I’d have a GPS this time, an overnight camping side trip to the west end of Tilicho Lake from Jomsom seems doable, and so would a side trip over on the Dhaulagiri side of the Kali Gandaki valley. From Jomsom, I could trek back down or take a bus or flight to Pokhara.

Portion of the AC, east to west: I probably will not have an entire three weeks to devote to completing the Annapurna Circuit. However, I could do a portion of it. As much as it would seem like cheating, taking a bus up the east side from Pokhara could give me a few days jump. I could trek up to Manang and Kangsar, stop to acclimatize, then make a through trip of the Tilicho Lake area, cutting over to Jomsom. Alternately, I could do the traditional Thorong La route over the top of the AC, which wouldn’t involve camping, as much gear or as much risk. From Jomsom, I’d face the same options as above: finish the circuit on foot or burn some petroleum to get back to Pokhara.
Annapurna Sanctuary and Poon Hill loop: Requiring less time than either of above options, a trip to Annapurna Base Camp (south) and a side trip to Poon Hill on the return route to Pokhara would be very doable. The base camp is not really base camp for the attempts on Annapurna I that will no doubt be in progress during my trip — it’s another collection of teahouses, this one surrounded by the Annapurna range at the end of the trail. Depending on snow conditions, several of the surrounding peaks are non-technical treks, but that would require a climbing permit in addition to the ACAP entrance permit. Seems like four or five days would get me to ABC, a couple more to Poon Hill, and a couple more to get back to Pokhara. Unless it seems crowded or the snow is too deep to make it, this trek may be a really good fit given the length of my trip, opportunity to acclimatize and training.There are literally hundreds of other ways to spend a week or two in the Nepal Himilaya. I’m focusing so far on what is familiar while trying to inject a dose of something less popular, like Tilicho or ABC, and ensuring that I will have close-up views of the most beautiful and grand snow-covered peaks in the world. I also miss Pokhara and want to spend some time there, which dictates a trek in the Annapurna area. Due to the monsoon weather last time around (and the fact that it will have been fourteen years), I don’t think I will regret returning there.