The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek was a joy to my heart and soul, but still a challenge for my body (SO MANY STAIRS!). Though the views weren’t as varied, raw, wild or epic as what I saw on the Everest Base Camp trek, they were peaceful and beautiful in a different way. Poon Hill offered a great sunrise view, but it was the stars and moonlight on the cradle of mountains surrounding base camp, and the glorious sunrise I saw at ABC, that truly wowed me. The overall journey was great– I enjoyed experiencing the culture and seeing the forests, waterfalls, rivers, wildflowers and mountains of this region. Below is a short video with clips from the trek. The soundtrack is a song you’ll hear a lot in Nepal — an instrumental version of “Resham Firiri,” a Nepali folk song — basically their unofficial anthem. And read on after for more about my experience with a female guide on this trek, and some other key differences from the EBC trek!
DIVERSITY AMONG TREKKERS…AND JUST MORE WOMEN
A big difference in this trekking experience for me, was that, while my EBC experience heavily featured men (and attractive men at that — I could’ve made a calendar, “Hunks of the Himalayas”), my ABC trek was far more balanced in terms of women and families. I met so many women of all ages on this trek; a number were solo travellers (like me) and a couple had also left their jobs to do some long-term travel. Among travellers I also met families — people with young children, a father and son, fathers and daughters — there was a warm and fuzzy feeling to this experience. Once again, I felt like I was part of a mountain family — we all had the same goal and shared the journey.
I also feel like I better connected with Nepali people on this trek, playing cards with guides and porters, and chatting with them at lodges and along the way (this could have also been because I am ethnically Indian, and could also pass for Nepali — this generated a lot of curiosity among locals, who I think found me more approachable than many other trekkers). In terms of locals, I saw many women working in the fields and in villages along the way, as well as babies and young children.
TREKKING WITH A FEMALE GUIDE
Part of what made this trekking experience so rich and meaningful to me was having a female guide (an assistant-guide actually, with 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking). I can’t speak highly enough of Kabita. In addition to being capable and thoughtful, she was warm, generous and kind — quick to smile, to laugh, to share her snacks with me and others along the way. Kabita also shared her knowledge about the region and the trek, as well as her personal experiences as a young female guide in a male-dominated industry. Over our nine days together we spoke about our lives as women, cultural expectations regarding dating and marriage, love versus arranged marriages, and more. I saw the vast majority of men regard her with respect and treat her as a sister, though I did also see a few scoff in surprise to see a female guide on the trail. I felt proud of Kabita’s bravery in the face of the few negative reactions, and also proud to have trekked with and supported a female-owned Nepali company that supported other women.
At 22, Kabita was younger than me and as an assistant guide, part of her job was to help carry some of my gear. I am absolutely a feminist, but having a woman carry some of my stuff did challenge me and made me feel uncomfortable; I had no qualms about having a male porter, but this felt different. In the end, practicality won out. While the weight limit was 10kg I packed ultra light for this trek so as to not burden my guide, and stuffed my daypack with as much as would fit. I felt very protective of my young guide; as much as she asked me how I was, I checked in with her. There was a pleasant bond of sisterhood between us.
I highly recommend 3 Sisters to any solo female travellers, or to any trekkers in general. It’s a great way to support and provide economic opportunities for women, and to learn more about the life of women in this part of the world.
COMPARED TO THE EBC TREK
- More stairs (you’re basically doing a lot of stairs every day) — get ready for buns of steel!
- More flexibility in your route — there are a lot of intersecting options, so it’s easy to shorten or extend your trek in the region lower down the trail
- Milder temperatures overall (it’s hot at the start!) — though it was VERY cold and windy at Annapurna Base Camp
- More time at Base Camp — you spend the night at ABC to wake up for the sunrise, so you can see the mountains in different types of light and at different times of day
- The altitude is only 4130m, so it was easier on my body than EBC (though I was probably well acclimatized at this point)
- Better food — in general I thought everything was tastier, but this region is more accessible, so they have more and better supplies, and can have more variety in offerings as well
- Longer days — but I did ABC (up and down) in nine days — you could extend this to shorten the daily trekking
- More forest views — fewer sweeping mountain views. As I mentioned above, the EBC trek offers more variety and “bang for buck” in terms of mountain views…with the exception of Poon Hill, you’re mainly seeing forests and mountain villages the first few days of the trek, versus snow-capped Himalayan peaks. BUT the mountain views you do get are spectacular! The last couple of days to ABC are fabulous!
- More people on the trails — as I mentioned, the region is more accessible, and with the lower altitude and greater trail options, you can see a lot of people in the villages and lodges and the trails are more crowded (though not actually crowded…you just encounter more trekkers than on the EBC trail, or at least this was my experience)
- Lodges fill up! Book in advance or you may end up paying to crash in a dining hall!
- You have the option to visit some hot springs — do it! It’s a nice way to end the trek, and catch up with people you’ve met along the way. The Jhinu pools are small and more warm than truly hot — but the view of the river is great, as is the social experience
I am so glad I did this second Himalayan trek. While Everest felt like a bold conquest and grand challenge, Annapurna was more of a contemplative journey. The Annapurna mountain range is named after the Hindu goddess of the harvest, fertility and abundance, and I do feel like the trek was a restorative experience, with a wonderful feminine and familial energy.