15 October 2009Comments are off for this post.

Annapurna Circuit Packing List

Before leaving for the trip I had some trouble finding good information about what was actually necessary for this trek. The packing lists really varied, with one including some items that definitely aren't necessary (ice axe and crampons), and others seeming incomplete.

A lot of this is going to vary from person to person, but the following should be a good start. Temperatures can vary from the high 80s to the low 10s, and rain or snow are both possible. The bags I carry tend to be heavier than average. My things were normally fairly light, but I carried some things for the group like the first aid kit, clothes, food and extra water.

For a full list of Nepal posts, hit the tag cloud on the side, or this link.

If you are thinking about traveling to Nepal, check out this article by Andrew Hyde. It gives a different than usual, and in my opinion accurate description of what travel there is like.


  • Socks x3 - Wool, not cotton.
  • Shoes x1 - Broken in! The trail is pretty good for the most part, so I recommend approach shoes. Boots are unnecessary.
  • Flipflops x1 - Great for wearing in the evening, and good to have for the shower as well.
  • Pants x2 - Nylon hiking pants will do you fine.
  • Short sleeve shirt x1 - Capilene.
  • Long sleeve shirt x1 - Capilene.
  • Underwear x1 - Patagonia, I only wore them in the evening after taking off the compression shorts.
  • Compression shorts x2 - Minimize chafing. Not everyone needs them, but my chubby thighs do.
  • Fleece/down jacket x1 - Nice for the lodges and the day going over the pass.
  • Shell jacket x1
  • Shell pants x1 - Optional.
  • Sun hat x1 - I wore a baseball cap, but the floppy hats are nice too.
  • Warm hat x1 - Mine is wool lined with fleece - awesome.
  • Gloves x1 - Nothing too warm, a set of fleece ones should be fine.
  • Handkerchief - can be used as a dust filter.


  • Big pack - Will be carried by your porter. We brought my 110L pack and were able to fit all of my things, Dara's things, and the porters pack into it.
  • Day pack - Depends what you want to carry during the day. I filled a 50L bag, but others got by with much smaller ones. *
  • Sleeping bag - For the most part it doesn't get all that cold at night. A 20 degree bag should be fine for most people. If you can't stay warm with that, most of the lodges have heavy blankets to use.
  • Thermarest pillow - A luxury
  • Headlamp - The power will go out, if there is any to start with.
  • AA Batteries - Fit my headlamp and camera flash.
  • Water purification** - The group should have two types.
  • First Aid Kit***
  • Knife
  • Carabiners - Good for hanging extra items off packs, or strapping packs together
  • Camelbak
  • 1L bottle - For water purification.
  • Trekking poles - If you like using them. If you do use them, take a complete pair, and not just a single pole.

Toiletry Items:

  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • Hand cream
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bar of soap in travel case - Can be used for washing clothes also.
  • Shampoo
  • Toilet paper - We started with 3 rolls, but bought more along the way


  • Watch
  • Cards
  • Book
  • Trek map
  • Writing materials
  • Camera
  • Camera batteries - at least two, three is better
  • Camera charger
  • Camera memory cards - lots
  • Snacks - nonperishable items that won't melt are best
  • Cord - Always useful.
  • Clothes pins - Not all of the lodges have good places to dry things, can be used with cord for makeshift line.
  • Ear plugs - Teahouse walls are thin and people snore.

* In my daypack I carried:
- 100 oz camelbak
- 1 or 2 1L Nalgene bottles
- Water purification drops
- Shell
- Long sleeve shirt
- Hat and gloves (on the pass day)
- First aid kit
- Sunblock
- Map
- Book
- Rocks
- Camera batteries, memory cards, flash and charger

** There are lots of options for water purification.

  • MSR Sweetwater: My favorite. A bottle costs about ten dollars, treats 300L of water, kills just about everything possible, leaves only a faint aftertaste, works in ten minutes, and can be used to treat large quantities of water quickly. May upset some people's stomachs, so best to test before leaving home.
  • Steripen: Uses ultraviolet light to purify water. So it tastes about as good as possible. However, it can only treat one liter of water at a time (that cannot be cloudy), is dependent on electricity, is expensive, and I'm not convinced of its durability. Melissa and Franz had one that was held together with tape, and the guy at REI said they'd had some problems with them.
  • MSR Miox: I don't have any experience with this. Uses a salt solution to kill everything. Can treat large quantities of water, and has minimal taste. It takes a long time (four hours) to fully treat water, is dependent on electricity, and can be hard to find in stock.
  • Iodine: Will kill most, but not all things, leaves an aftertaste if you don't have the neutralizer, and takes four hours to reach full effectiveness.
  • Filter: Not recommended. They can't get all the little baddies.

*** First Aid Kit Contained:

  • Tape
  • Bandages
  • Bandaids
  • Bacitracin
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Liquid bandaids
  • Moleskin
  • Safety pins
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Scissors
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diamox - prescription
  • Cipro - prescription
  • Imodium
  • Suture kit
  • Firstaid book - added functionality as additional reading material

11 October 2009Comments are off for this post.

Nepal Part 3 – The Adventure Begins

You know how in movies and television shows roosters crow just as the sun is beginning to rise? That's bullshit. Roosters crow all night, and then continue after the sun has risen. They're the most obnoxious animals that I can think of, besides our cat, and everyone in Kathmandu seems to have one (a rooster, not a cat, Nepalis pretty much hate cats).

Normally 4:30 is closer to the time I go to bed than get up, but with shifting our clocks almost exactly twelve hours, our early bed time the night before, and the crowing, waking at 4:30 wasn't a problem. We got dressed, grabbed our bags and dragged them out to the taxis that were taking us to the bus station. Between the six of us and our bags, it was quite a feat packing everything in, but with a little experimentation we made it work. The taxi I rode in had incense burning in the air vent, and Nepali music playing on the radio, both of which served as a welcome distraction as we sped through the early morning streets of Kathmandu.

A funny thing happened at the bus station. Like just about every other place where there are buses, there are people walking around selling things - food, drinks, trinkets, the stuff nobody really needs, and in this case, watches. I was already wearing a watch, but they tried to sell me one anyway. As I was saying no I took a quick glance at the watches. Something caught my eye, so I looked again, and saw that they were trying to sell me a counterfeit copy of the watch that I was wearing. It's nothing special, just a Seiko diver that I use as an every day beater, I was surprised that anyone would even bother to make a fake version. But I digress.

The bus system in Nepal works a little bit different than in the United States. Buses aren't owned or run by the government. If someone wants to be a bus driver they buy a bus and start picking people up. I suppose there are certain advantages to this, but it also means that the buses can be pretty inconsistent. Actually, I should say that the buses are very consistent - consistently bad, and poorly maintained. The drivers are what's really inconsistent. Some are great - they drive at a reasonable rate, are sober, and aren't overly aggressive. Others aren't so much - they speed, they're drunk, they pass aggressively and race each other for fares at the risk of wrecking the bus and everyone inside it. Fun.

Our first driver turned out to be a pretty good one. Without the driver to worry about, we were left to the helper's questionable taste in music and movies, and hoping the drivers around us were sober - for the six hours it took us to travel one hundred miles. Before you start thinking that's a pretty outrageous amount of time to spend going one hundred miles, I should mention that another group we ran into later took over twelve hours to travel the same route * - we were doing pretty well. Aside from the awful movie that was restarted after every food and bathroom break and played at full volume.

Our first bus ride ended in Besisahar which is the traditional start of the trek. In order to avoid walking on roads and to save some time we decided to have lunch and then take a jeep up to the end of the road. The jeep was more like another bus than a jeep, and it was packed about as tight as can be. To avoid spending forty-five minutes with a bunch of hot sweaty people I rode on top with the luggage and a few of the younger Nepali guys. It was like a roller coaster, with everyone throwing their hands in the air and yelling every time we started down a steep section, crossed a stream, or passed a girl. Then I discovered that two of the three bolts intended to attach the ladder I was riding to the bus were missing, and remembered that this was more of a third world death trap of a roller coaster.

At the time, the road ended about two hours of walking away from Nadi Bazaar, though with continued construction the distance is likely less now. The distance worked out to be just about perfect because just as we arrived in Nadi Bazaar, the sporadic drizzle we'd been walking in turned into a full out downpour. After that we were left with what would become the nightly ritual of drinking tea, purifying water, eating dinner, and collapsing into bed sometime around eight.

*something about the bus getting a flat tire and the spare tire being flat and flagging down another bus which also had a flat spare tire and then driving on a flat tire to find a shop to fix it. Twice.

[svgallery name="Nepal2"]

22 June 2009Comments are off for this post.

Nepal Part 2 – Hacking Kathmandu

Catching cabs at the airport in Kathmandu is an interesting experience. Catch a cab from just about anywhere in the city and you can get to the airport for around 200 Rupes. Get out of that cab and into another one and they want to charge you 500 Rupes to go back. It's an interesting sort of negotiation where if the driver doesn't agree with your price they'll just drive off while you're in mid-sentence. It's pretty damn amusing, actually. So long as you're not in a hurry.

We managed to find a cab, and survived the ride to Franz and Melissa's house. James had a phone call about the same time we were arriving, and hadn't been able to to out to the airport. So the thee siblings, Dara, Melissa and James were all together for the first time in eight months. It was a brief but happy reunion from which we headed down to Thamel - the tourist district - to get some lunch, pick up the trekking permits and do a little shopping.

After lunch, Melissa, Dara and James did a little shopping in Thamel while Franz and I went out to see some of the city. Expecting a short trip without much to see, I had left my camera at home that morning, so sadly there are no photos. We spent a couple hours walking around and saw Thamel, Durbar Square, Kumari Ghar, the Pigeon Temple, Freak Street - not actually that interesting, and Indra Chowk - the main market street. Great stuff and worth a visit if you're in town.

Everything went well with the trekking permits, bus tickets and provisions purchasing.  Then just about the time we finished we learned that the prime minister had stepped down over a conflict about the head of the army. I don't know nearly enough about Nepali politics to begin to describe that, but Franz and Melissa's upstairs neighbors suggested that we stay in Kathmandu, stock up on food and supplies and lock ourselves in the house. It should be noted that these neighbors are easily frightened, and offer the same advice just about any time there's any sort of political unrest. This prompted a few hours of frantic information gathering as we had expected to leave Kathmandu around 4:30 the next morning and didn't have a lot of time to decide whether it was better to stay in Kathmandu where it would be easier to evacuate, should the need arise, or be up in the mountains where we would be less likely to be affected by unrest in the city.

After some debate we decided to go for it and head out for the trek in the morning. The rest of the evening was spent packing bags and having dinner before an early bed time. After all of the taveling and activity, falling asleep early for our 4:30 wake time wasn't a problem for Dara or I.

Gallery - A few shots from in and around Franz and Melissa's place in Kathmandu.

[svgallery name="Nepal1"]

16 June 2009Comments are off for this post.

Nepal Part 1 – Getting There

Getting to Nepal takes a long time. In our case, two airlines, three flights, two layovers, and a total of nearly 30 hours of travel time. More like 35 hours if you start from the time we left our place and end when we arrived at Franz and Melissa's home in Kathmandu. No matter how you calculate it, you smell pretty bad by the time you get there. This is just as well, because you're going to smell pretty much until you're back at home.

Our itinerary went something like this:

- As advised for international flights, arrive at airport three hours early.
- Check bags, go through security and arrive at gate two hours and fifty minutes before flight leaves.
- Wait a really long time.
- Have an expensive beer at the Airport Chophouse.
- Wait a while longer.
- Take Frontier flight to Houston.
- Run as quickly as possible through the Houston airport (awful airport) in order to re-check bags for a flight that is supposed to leave in less than an hour.
- Arrive at gate and discover that flight has been delayed two hours.
- Board the plane, ignoring the ridiculous anti-swine flu masks that are being handed out.
- Watch movies on plane - there were 200 to choose from.
- Attempt to wipe spilled red wine from pants.
- Try to push sleeping, snoring, overweight guy back into his seat.
- Repeat for fifteen hours.
- Spend four mind numbing hours in Doha airport.
- Eat excellent lamb curry on flight from Doha to Kathmandu and finally sleep for six hours.
- For the first time in years heard cheers and clapping when the plane touched down in Kathmandu.

In Kathmandu (and Doha) there aren't jetways, so they run one of those portable sets of stairs up to the plane and you de-board on those. I can see the advantages of climate controlled jetways, but I like the visceral experience that stairs provide. I also happen to like planes, and you get a much better view of them from the stairs than you do from the windows at the gate. I had heard before that the air quality in Kathmandu was roughly equivalent to wrapping your lips around an an automobile exhaust pipe as it is started, however, leaving the plane we walked out into pleasantly warm, and very sweet smelling air.

James said that when he arrived at the airport in Kathmandu it was like a war zone. That's fairly accurate, though I'd classify it as more of a riot. Because of the at the time thought to be impending swine flu epidemic we were instructed to check in at the health desk upon arrival in Kathmandu. The sign was falling off and there was no one around so we bypassed that step. Baggage claim was a mess with the bags from our plane scattered across three different conveyors that were randomly stopping and starting. From there we made our way through customs, actually we were just waved through and into the throng outside arrivals where we were met by Franz and Melissa.