I’m making this post for two reasons: Safety and accountability.
First, safety. I’m setting out on a solo trek in the Himalayas tomorrow for six days. I didn’t want to hire a guide and joining groups is expensive. So I’m making this post as a precaution. If I’m not posting on social media or giving some kind of signal by October 21st at the latest, then it’s a good idea to check up on me.
Second, accountability. I’ve never been out trekking before, solo or otherwise. So this is kind of intimidating, as you will see from my itinerary. But now I’ve told you all about it, so I can’t back out! If I’m not posting pictures of mountains in a week or so, hit me up with a friendly WTF.
October 13th: I have a 7 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara, the second-largest city in Nepal. I’ll spend the night there and set off in the morning.
October 14th: I’ll leave Pokhara, most likely on foot, and hike 20km (12.5 miles) to Dhampus by way of Hemja. I’ll spend the night in Dhampus. My highest elevation of the day will be 1600m, or ~5200 feet.
October 15th: The distances get shorter from here on out. I’ll leave Dhampus and hike 10km to Forest Camp. The highest elevation of the day will be 2550m.
October 16th: It’s 7km from Forest Camp to High Camp. It’s a short distance, but an apparently tough day due to the dramatic elevation change — I’ll finish at 3580m.
October 17th: It’s 5km from High Camp to Base Camp, which is situated at 4500m (coincidentally the highest elevation I’m insured to reach). It’s been unclear whether or not I can spend the night at Base Camp, so I’ll either sleep there and extend my itinerary by a day, or rest for a few hours then head down to Low Camp.
October 18th/19th: From Low Camp, it’s either 7km to Sidhing or 14km to Lwang. The elevation will be 1885m. I haven’t yet decided if I want to go through Sidhing or Lwang, but the end result is the same.
October 19th/20th: From either Sidhing or Lwang, it’s roughly 20km back to Pokhara. I’ll have a hostel again for this night, and this’ll probably be the first you’ll hear from me.
October 20th/21st: I’ll get on the bus and go back to Kathmandu, which will be my whole day.
The only unexpected factor that might change my itinerary is the fact that I’m getting over an ill-timed brush with food poisoning. Today, the day before my departure, is the first day I’ve walked around without being light-headed. I wasn’t even driving my scooter because I couldn’t really stay upright that long. It was Wednesday when I was actually vomiting. I’ve recovered pretty well and don’t anticipate many issues, but combining it with the elevation change is what makes me nervous.
Mardi Himal Base Camp is at 4500m, which is 14,763 feet. That’s higher than any point in the continental United States, so this will be the highest elevation I’ve ever been. It’s a real possibility that I might decide to cut my trek short and head back if it becomes too much.
But whatever happens, I won’t regret trying it. Even if I decide to turn back, I can still talk about the time I tried to climb a mountain with food poisoning. Because the adventure doesn’t start until something goes wrong.
When you go completely solo, trekking in Nepal can actually be surprisingly cheap. At least, the preparations can be. I’ll need to buy food at every camp from local villagers which is where the bulk of my money is going, but it supports people so I’m alright with it.
To go trekking in Nepal, everyone needs a TIMS card. It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It’s a safety thing — you register your trekking itinerary with the department of tourism at Durbar Marg and Exhibition Road, and they can know when you need to be back by. A TIMS card costs 2,000 NRS (16.90 USD). Make sure you bring your itinerary and passport. Also bring eight passport-sized photos — you need one for each permit and for their records. If you don’t have enough (like me), they can print them for you for free.
The Mardi Himal Trek is in the Annapurna Conservation Area, which requires its own permit. You can get the ACAP from the same office as the TIMS card. I paid 2300 NRS (19.43 USD) for my ACAP.
The Annapurna is accessed out of Pokhara, which is an 8 hour bus ride from Kathmandu. You can take a flight and be there in like 45 minutes, but I’m trying to do this on the cheap. I booked a ticket for 850 NRS (7.18 USD). Normally it’s 700 NRS, but Nepal is about to observe a huge public holiday. Nonetheless, this ticket was my cheapest option. Be mindful, however — cheap bus tickets usually don’t include lunch.
Lastly, I’ll need to pay for food the whole time. The good thing about trekking in Nepal along established routes is you’re generally hiking from village to village. It cuts down on the amount of gear you need to bring (i.e; tents) and you really don’t need to bring extra food because you can buy it in the villages. I’ve read that prices of beds range up to 400 NRS, and food can cost up to 600 NRS. I’m estimating that 2,000 NRS per day will be sufficient. This is also the sort of thing a guide or tour company will take care of for you. But since I’m fully solo, this is on me.
So stay posted! I’ve had a lifelong obsession with mountains that will never ever be satisfied by the Midwest that’s been my home until this point. I’ll be posting again once I’m back in Kathmandu, sharing photos and stories from my first solo trek into the mountains. It won’t be the last.