I’m lying on a bed in a hotel in Pokhara, sniffling with a cold. Not exactly how I thought day 7 of my Run Annapurna adventure would be. There has been non-stop snow for over a week up high which has completely blocked the Thorong La pass putting any attempt at even walking the Annapurna Circuit, let alone running it, out of the question.
Time for plan B.
Run Annapurna, so far
I can’t believe I’ve only been here a week. The long days and varied scenery have made it feel much longer. I also find an afternoon nap makes one day feel like two with the post-siesta portion of the day feeling like a freebie.
I made it into Kathmandu and met up with Dorjee Sherpa, owner of Windhorse Adventure as well as founder of Wide Open Vistas (please donate here, if you can!). He has organised my permits as well as given me invaluable tips and advice for the adventure.
Over breakfast he gave me an update on everything and answering any last minute questions I had – I had many! With my permits in hand, I had just one day to enjoy Kathmandu before a car came to pick me up and drive me to Besi Shahar and the start of the trek.
I had been advised to get straight underway with the trek and to get out of Besi as the next villages were much more picturesque, with the drive taking 6 hours I knew I wouldn’t get far but still managed a good 10km before the heavens opened and I took refuge in my first tea house.
The rain was an ominous sign of what was to come. I knew that rain down here would mean snow up high but I hoped beyond hope that the length of the valley would let this storm be a localised cluster. I was wrong.
With the trek I wanted to aim to fast pack it, this is a relatively new sport and is basically half way between running and trekking; the aim being to cover as much ground as possible, carrying all your needs, but not actually running – though I did end up trotting on the downhills.
By taking this approach, I covered a lot of ground very quickly making it 80km into the trek in just 2 days.
I was loving it, the hard days felt great on my legs and I felt strong. This was all going to help build up those last required muscles before the big run. The whole way, however, I was meeting people coming the other way.
Everyone was telling me stories of how they had been snowed in at Manang, a village at only 3500m, and no one was making further progress. For Manang to be the last reachable village was a very bad sign as there was still a long way to go before the high pass. I carried on regardless in a naive and optimistic hope that things would be different.
I made it as far as Chame before I realised this adventure, in this form, is over. From Chame, though the snow was not too bad, there was avalanche debris everywhere and it really just looked like a game of Russian roulette to carry on. Add to that photos of people wading through chest deep snow and I knew I needed a plan B.
The mountains are their own force.
I feel like a took a risk with not much margin for error. I know you need to give these mountains time to give you the right weather window, but I ignored my own advice in the hope that they would play ball.
Now what? Is it all over? Should I just pack up and go home? No.
I came here to run in Nepal. I hoped that this would include running around the Annapurna Circuit but it doesn’t have to.
The trails and mountains here are truly stunning, dotted with villages and tea houses making multi day trail runs an absolute pleasure. The snowed up high pass and change of plan is just an obstacle. An obstacle that, though I might not be able to overcome literally, I am certain I can overcome with an equally stunning and inspiring plan B.
I feel a little short changed with not having properly seen the Annapurna Range in all her glory and so first things first, I’m going to head up the Circuit the wrong way and got to Poon Hill, a stunning viewpoint at 3300m that looks out into the majestic mountains.
From there I want to run. I don’t know where but I don’t think that matters.
Dorjee and Seth have been feeding me ideas of where to go and there really is a life time of trails to explore.
This is not what I set out to do but it’s not a bad plan B really, is it?
First, however, I need to shake his cold. More momos please!