In late March, I head to London for around a day and a half. I have no real plans beyond a hotel and exploring a city I’ve never seen. Leaving London, I head to Abu Dhabi for a two-hour layover, then it’s off to Kathmandu.
Arriving Kathmandu, I plan to stay in the American Alpine Club clubhouse for a couple days to get acclimated, then move either to the Thamel area or directly to Pokhara. Either way, I should be in Pokhara within a few days of landing. As with last time, I will probably climb Sarangkot one day as a warmup, rest a day or two, then take off into the mountains.
From Pokhara, I plan to trek part of the west side of the Annapurna Circle — the Beni to Kagbeni side. Where to start is the question. I could take a bus a little ways from Pokhara toward the Poon Hill route or skip that since my planned destination is closer to the big mountains anyway. Skipping it would mean taking a bus or jeep up that side from Pokara to somewhere around Baglung. My intent is to hike up the Thulo Bugin ridge from its base near the Kali Gandaki, descending from Herzog’s Pass of 27 April 1950 via the typical route from Annapurna North Base Camp. That should involve three days away from the tea-house circuit, and I’ll have to camp up there. The wide-open, crowd-free views of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri are the anticipated rewards.
Returning to the main trail, I may head up to Marpha, which was a beautiful city last time. From there, it’s a short walk up to Jomsom and a plane ride back to Pokhara or a longer trek further around the AC before returning to Jomsom. I could trek down from there, too, depending on how well the weather is cooperating for flights out of Jomsom.
If I spend ten days trekking, I should have a few days left in Thamel before my return flight. There is actually not a lot of spare time in this itinerary, despite having four weeks from departure to return. As much as is prudent considering the need to warm up and acclimatize a bit, I plan to leave the hanging out in Kathmandu and Pokhara for the end of the trip, which will allow flexibility in the trekking schedule.
Once I depart, you will be able to track my progress [EDIT: on Delorme’s site]. There is nothing there now, but assuming good satellite coverage and GPS reception, my location will be updated periodically while traveling and hourly while trekking. If I run into any trouble, there is always the backup team of Global Rescue, part of any American Alpine Club membership. While I do not intend to have a phone on all of the time, I will get a local SIM card for my phone and should have regular access to email throughout most of the journey. The satellite tracker also allows some limited two-way texting, so I can be touch occasionally even outside cell coverage.
The return itinerary is similar to the outbound one but without a stop in London. I’ll have to get back to Kathmandu from Jomsom or Pokhara. From there it’s one hop to Abu Dhabi and a second directly to Chicago. That makes for a long flight, but I have a feeling I will appreciate the minimal layovers at that time. After clearing customs at ORD, I will have two nights and a day to unpack and solve my jetlag problem, then I’ll have to turn the BlackBerry back on and go back to life. But let’s try not to think of that just yet.