We have just had our long weekend and almost everyone in the group spent it in the mountains hiking. Some of us did Mardi Himal (5 days) and another group did Poon Hill (4 days). The two hikes are a bit different, but both are absolutely amazing! You get to feel the massiveness of the Fishtail top and Annapurna 1 at Mardi Himal and on Poon Hill you’ll see a beautiful panorama of the Annapurna range. I will write a day-to-day “review” of Mardi Hill as this was the hike I took.
We started the trip a bit early (after school on Thursday) to have a buffer-day in case something would hold us up during the trip. From Tuki Resort we ordered a jeep to drive us to Kande at 1700 metre above sea level. Then we walked three hours to Deurales and there we got a room almost at once without ordering beforehand. (The Mardi Himal trek opened in 2012, so it is not so touristy yet, which we thought was a good thing). The Deurales camp was very cute and the standards were quite good too. On the Kande – Deurales part I would highly recommend to put on some mosquito repellent because you walk in the forest all the way up.
We woke up by chance a bit after sunrise and saw the beautiful view of the Annapurna 1 mountain range. Then we slept a bit more, had egg and toast for breakfast (which we had ordered the night before) and started walking at 09.30. We were super lucky with the weather! It was nice until lunch and then it started raining just when we arrived at at forest camp and fortunately for us it just drizzled the rest of the three hours trek up to Low Camp (2970m). Low Camp had a lot lower standards than Deurales, but we were so tired so it didn’t really matter. I would, however, recommend to reserve a room at the lowest hostel when you arrive at Deurales the day before, because it seemed better. After dinner we sat in the heated common room and played cards, fought a bit, became friends again and played some more cards.
The pancakes at our hostel were super good! We ate outside in the sun and again we had a great view of the mountains, just from a different angle. After trying to calculate the perfect amount of clothing for the day, we got going at 10.00. This day we walked up 600 metres and arrived at High Camp (3600m) at 13.00. Finally we got out of the forest. Some of us now started to feel the height, and our breathing became heavier. We decided to chill out at High Camp to get acclimatized. There was also about 30 min of internet connection so we texted our worried parents and got the latest update from Poon Hill. We were lucky to get a room with five beds this time, but since it was so cold at night we snuggled up together anyways.
We woke up at 04.00, not really ready to get going, but we dragged ourselves out of bed and managed to have some breakfast. The temperature was below zero, so all our warm clothes came handy this morning. It was still dark as we climbed the first hills, but around 05.30 we could turn our torches off. Be sure to charge your phone that night! Both to have enough battery for the light and to take pictures. Seeing the sunrise on the way up was magical. I felt so small compared to those enormous and royal mountains. All I could do was stare and stare and stare, and none of us could get enough of it. At one one point we were so busy watching the mountains (as we would lose them if we didn’t pay attention), that we lost track of the trail. But then, out of the blue, a fairytale-like white horse appeared on the path above us and we found the way again, all quite starstruck. We fought against our lack of breath all the rest of the way up to View Point (time: 06.30). Here we had a good half an hour break and watched three paragliders take off. The mountains looked so stunning and unrealistic, like they were painted on the sky. If you at this point cannot go further, you can relax with the fact that you have seen everything, moreover it gets a bit cloudy later on, so this is the very best you’ll get. I was actually on the verge of staying behind, but I wanted to go to those 4500m, so still with the mountains in front of and beside us, we took the last 300 height meters and got to Mardi Himal Base Camp (time: 09.00). At the top we cried of happiness. I felt like I had won a championship. We had a cup of tea to support the little tent up there and then turned our backs to the mountains and headed down to High Camp again (time:12:00). We decided to stay the night there due to sideways snowing even though we had planned to go down to Low Camp again.
This morning we took it slow. We had pancakes for breakfast and started descending at 09.00. The plan was to reach Sidhing, just a four hour trek, but about 2000 height meters down. It was harder on our body than we thought, so we had to take it a bit slow, but we managed the distance in approximately 4,5 hours. We also got accompanied by a very cute dog on the way down. Apparently he’s a trekker, because we were told that he usually follows the tourists up and down different routes in the area. We named him “Sidhing” to make it more personal. When we were finally down at Sidhing, the place, we hired a jeep to take us down to Pokhara again for 5000 rupees. Driving down the road from Sidhings to Pokhara in that jeep is the scariest thing I have ever done. The road was a total mess: it had fallen out several places, there were rivers running over it, there was no fence (obviously) and on the sides it was maybe 200m straight down. I can’t even describe the holes in the road like regular holes, because the whole road in itself was just a long row of holes. I would actually not recommend going down that way, because it was really not safe. The best thing to do is probably to spend another day descending and take a night at Forest Camp, for example. Anyways, all of us luckily came down alive, and the shower I took at home, was the best I’ve ever had.
To battle altitude sickness: drink enough water! We drank about one litre of electrolytes everyday on the way up, and in general around 3 litres of liquid per day. In addition, it is important to take enough breaks to catch your breath and have some snacks. There are also pills against altitude sickness which are easy to get at a pharmacy, but we didn’t take these as we heard that they give the same side effects as being heightsick. However, there are some that recommend taking half a pill a day to have some protection during the escalation. The symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and lack of energy. These were some of the symptoms we got actually, but they are mild ones and you can easily walk although having some of them. If, however it gets worse, it might be that fluid is accumulating in your brain and lungs, and then you have to descend at once or call an emergency number to get help to get down. It is important to take this seriously, but usually there is no big problem at the height of the Mardi Himal trek. Just make sure to listen to your own body signals.
General tips for trekking:
- First of all, remember to fix you permits for the trekking. This is to support the local community and help make the tourism sustainable. You can do this at the Nepal Tourism Board in Pokhara, just a 15 min taxi-ride from Tuki Resort. You need two and they both cost 2000 rupees each (plus taxes). You also need four passport sized pictures, but it is possible to take them there for free. Bring your passport and visa information.
- Pack warm clothes! Woollen underwear was probably the most important thing I brought, both for the last part before the top and because it was nice to sleep in during the cold mountain nights as the rooms are not heated. Gloves, a hat, woollen socks and a scarf or buff could be handy too, especially if windy.
- Bring cards (or other small games)! Reason: A fun way to pass the time, you almost feel like you’re at a cabin with friends at home and it’s always a good way to get more friends.
- Buy baby wipes for a quick shower when it’s too cold to take a real one. Also remember enough toilet paper for the whole trip because there’s nothing at the camps (about two rolls per person).
- We didn’t have walking sticks, but kind of regretted it as there is a lot of up-and downhill and it can relieve some of the pain in the legs. It’s possible to rent this in Pokhara.
- Remember to put on sunscreen! It is so easy to get sunburnt on the mountain. Sunglasses are also a good idea.
- And finally, like the Norwegian unwritten rule: let the slowest one walk in front (that was me), then no one will be exhausted fast and demotivate the rest. In addition, it holds everyone together in a group which makes the walking easier and keeps the mood up!
I had a great time doing the Mardi Himal trek! It was the perfect challenge for a not-so-fit person like me, and the view made it worth it a thousand times. I would really recommend it to everyone!
If you chose to do Mardi Himal in the long-weekend and have questions that are not answered here, you can just send me an e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org