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ACT Day 08 - Ngawal to Khangsar

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To Manang


I woke up around 02:00 that morning to try and capture a shot of the Milky Way, but the heavy mist foiled my plans once again. All that could be seen were bats that flitted around overhead as they chased moths that had been drawn by the lights of the guesthouse. It was still misty when I stepped back out of the room and into the courtyard five hours later, and almost everything was obscured in a white-out. We had breakfast, which was apple pancake (NPR350/2) and tibetan bread (NPR300/2) to take-away, and were pleasantly surprised to see that the mist had lifted by the time we were packed and ready to leave the guesthouse.

We turned left at the first red marker that led into the main part of Ngawal (elevation : 3660m) instead of going straight ahead towards the stupa and the start of the ridge climb. The route took us through a hidden part of the hamlet that we had previously been quite unaware of. Guesthouses lined the alleyways and people were out to perform their morning 'puja'; what had looked abandoned from afar was actually very much alive. We eventually reached the large tree that was located in the middle of the hamlet where immediately up ahead lay the start of the ridge climb. We instead turned left here to exit the hamlet.

Cut-leaved morning glory

Cut-leaved morning glory (Ipomoea laciniata)

The road diverged after the exit, with the right branch heading up and the left branch dipping down and going around a small hill. We decided to take the latter as it was a shorter route and we needed the extra time as we had intended to visit the Ice Lake, or Kicho Tal, later on that day. The road continued on past a stupa and a mani wall, and traced the sides of the hill as it curved around to the right. Down below and to our left lay a stream and across from it was a pine forest, and on our right were sparse bushes that dotted the slopes of the hill. We reached a junction soon after, with the left branch descending down to Humde. We took the right branch that continued on to Manang and followed the road as it switch-backed down the slopes. An attempt was made here to look for a way to bypass the switchbacks, but the only things that we encountered were crumbly terrain and views of the pine forest below. As such, we were forced to make our way down the (very new) series of switchbacks, their presence having erased all signs of the old walking trail.

A huge brown crag that was pockmarked with fissures lay straight ahead of us and the sight of it made me yearn to go rock climbing. We passed Humde (elevation : 3280m) and its incongruous airstrip on the other side of the valley shortly after. The brown barren spurs, that were topped by lush pine forests and numerous waterfalls, emerged from the base of the mountain and could be seen snaking towards the airstrip like tentacles. We then crossed a bridge that spanned a fast-moving river and walked past another mani wall not too long after.

sap dripping from pine cones

Icicle-like sap dripping from pine cones; common thistle (Cirsium verutum)

The road that made its way west was long, but there was an abundance of life all around. Dragonflies buzzed around and pikas (Ochotona macrotis) darted across from bush to bush. Vultures soared high above the cliffs to the right and all around us, transparent sap oozed imperceptibly slowly from the pine cones at the sides of the trail. The brown glacier that tumbled down the northern slopes of Annapurna III (elevation : 7555m) began to appear across the valley just up ahead, and the stupas that dotted the slopes up to Milarepa's Cave could be seen disappearing into the distance.

We reached the tiny hamlet of Mungji (elevation : 3330m), which is where the Upper and Lower Pisang trails merge, approximately six kilometres into the day's hike. The hamlet had several guesthouses as well as a bakery, and one of the trails that led up to the Ice Lake--that was apparently an entire hour less than the trail from Bhraka--began from here. Bhraka was the plan however, so we continued along the trail as it veered right and through fields of flowers. Blister beetles (Hycleus spp.) completely covered most of the flowers here, and meadow blue butterflies (Polyommatus sp.) flitted around from flower to flower looking for gaps.

redflower buckwheat

Fields of redflower buckwheat (Eriogonum grande)

We came upon the hamlet of Bhraka (elevation : 3360m) not too long after. None of the guesthouses were open--most likely because of the hamlet's proximity to Manang--but most of the restaurants were. Our plan had been to drop our main packs in the room and to take our daypacks to the Ice Lake from there. But since that was no longer an option, we were forced to just proceed to Manang. The surroundings seemed to get more desolate and more arid from there, and groups of pockmarked brown caves began to appear on the cliffs to our left; flags adorned the top of the ridges, and strange mis-shapen spires erupted from the ground to our right. It was just after midday when we reached the sprawling town of Manang (elevation : 3540m).

the town of Manang

A donkey (Equus africanus asinus) trotting through the town of Manang


Next (Day 8) : Ngawal to Khangsar (Part 2)

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Crossing the Confluence


The town of Manang (elevation : 3540m) was absolutely massive. It was also fairly overcrowded as it is a regular stop for hikers who want to acclimatise before their long ascent to Thorong La Pass (elevation : 5416m). We walked straight through the town, intent to avoid the crowds of hikers, and only stopped once to refill our water bladders at one of the taps at the side of the alleyway.

We walked out of the north gate to the prayer wheel with the junction immediately after. This is where the Thorong La Pass direct route and the Tilicho Lake routes diverge. We turned left and down the narrow trail that led through dense bushes that were lined with an assortment of various flowers, before turning into the road that bypassed Manang. Looking back, the proglacial lake that lay right next to the town could be seen. Its location was where the terminus of the Gangapurna glacier used to be several decades ago, but the terminus has since receded further up the valley.

Marsyangdi Nadi

Marsyangdi Nadi and its confluence on the far right of the image; Gangapurna (elevation : 7454m) is hidden behind the clouds

The route followed the edge of the hill past bushes of woolly catmint (Nepeta floccosa) and ran parallel to the Marsyangdi Nadi for a while until it reached the confluence of Thorong Khola, which flowed from Thorong Phedi (elevation : 4450m) in the north, and Marsyangdi Nadi, which flowed from Tilicho Base Camp (elevation : 4150m) in the west--both of which consisted of water of different colours.

The road switch-backed down the hill whilst the trail led up to a suspension bridge that spanned the Thorong Khola on the right. We were forced to lower our heads and brace ourselves as we crossed the bridge due to the fierce winds that gusted through that were funnelled by the gorge from way up north. We continued up the steep pine-tree fringed slope and rounded the rise above. Alpine shrubbery--mainly whitish-purple asters (Aster spp.) and silver edelweiss (Leontopodium sp.)--lined the trail here. Down below lay the twisty road, and even further down, the turquoise-grey river of the Marsyangdi Nadi; the clouds remained low-lying however, so nothing above the dense pine forest on the other side of the valley could be seen.

The suspension bridge

The suspension bridge that spanned the Thorong Khola

Looking back towards Manang

Looking back towards Manang

Just over 12 kilometres in, the trail dipped down to join the road once again, and the hamlet of Khangsar (elevation : 3790m) was reached not too long after. The sun was fairly low in the sky and the temperatures were beginning to drop by then, so we were quite eager to freshen up before it got too cold. We decided to stop at 'Maya Hotel' (NPR100/2 for the room) where a lovely meal of steaming dhal bhat (NPR500) and hot lemon (NPR55) awaited us.

*We were the only hikers at the lodge once again: Day 7/9

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats

10a

10b

Expenditure

End of Day 8 Expenditure (NPR)*

Accommodation: 50

Medication: 0

Permits: 0

Food: 880

Transport: 0

TOTAL (NPR)


* Excluding the cost of the flights to and from Nepal

Total

: 835

: 435

: 8700

: 7215

: 460

: 17645 

Next (Day 9) : Khangsar to Tilicho Base Camp

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