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Posts Tagged ‘Hiking’

The Annapurna Circuit is a 230km loop through the Annapurna Range in the Nepalese Himalayas. The hike, taking anywhere from 12-21 days, commences with a 5416m pass and 360° views of the Himalayas. Spanning through rice paddies, deserts, tiny villages, and glaciers, the trek challenges the mind as much as the knees.

On October 7th, 2010, The Khalerias, along with friends Alex Parsons and Josh Phillips, took a 9 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Besishahar, the starting point for the trek.

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A bridge on the way in. It took us over an hour to cross, as the bridge wasn’t able to handle the weight of more than one car at a time.

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Josh rode rooftop (among 10-12 locals, and all our luggage) for about half the trip – a much more comfortable option compared to the cramped seating.

(Thanks to Parsons for these first few photos)

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The start of the hike was surprising – I was expecting cold, ice, snow, mountains – but instead it was humid, green, lush rice paddies. After about a thousand feet of elevation and two days of hiking, the lushness started to mix with dramatic mountains and cliffs. IMG_0411

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Local kids wait for tourists to get to the river crossing, and quickly set up stones to lead you across. Then they ask for money.

**The only English words we heard a Nepalese child speak through our entire trek were ‘sweets’, ‘candy’, and ‘money’. At some point years ago, trekkers started bringing bags of sweets to hand out to the local kids. While this seems like a good idea at first, in reality it teaches the children to be beggars at a young age. If you head to Nepal, or anywhere in the Himalayas to trek, please respect the idea that children gain nothing from a piece of candy besides the expectation that anyone with a backpack owes them something. If you want to help, the tourism commissions in Nepal ask you to bring school supplies (pencils, notebooks) to hand out instead.**

DSC04892 Prayer wheelsDSC04931 Typical guest house

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Herds

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A porter carrying at least 50kg on his back.

Since you hike from village to village, it is easy enough to carry your own supplies and a porter isn’t necessary. But every Coke that you buy, or Oreo that you eat, has to be carried in since there are no roads connecting the whole circuit. A guide we met told us that some porters carry up to 80kg, more than 125% of their own weight, up to 5000m elevation. They are undoubtedly some of the most amazing people I have ever come across.

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Next up: Part two. About a week into the trek, the weather started to shift from hot/humid to freezing, and the mountains went from dramatic and stark to snow covered…

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San Carlos de Bariloche was one of my favorite cities in Argentina – it looks, smells, feels just like Lake Tahoe… so it was pretty much a shoe-in. Summer hiking, beautiful weather, gorgeous lakes, and a hideout for ski bums come snow season.

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View of the city and lake

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Cerro Campanario – once named one of the top ten views in the world by National Geographic. Lived up to the hype.

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We spent some time here spoiling/rewarding ourselves for making it out of southern Patagonia and back to civilization alive, and stayed here a few extra days… eating some seriously good falafel and chilling out at one of my favorite hostels in South America: Pudu. Then we hopped on a bus back to Chile to a small town named Pucon for some volcano climbing.

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We arrived in el Chalten fresh from our trek through Torres Del Paine, to sideways snow. And freeeeezing cold. Like your-fingers-are-going-to-fall-off freezing. We only had one clear day, and only got in one good hike – to Lago Torres and Mt. Fitz Roy.

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SONY DSC (Mt. Fitz Roy on the left. Dont mind that  giant gloomy stormcloud)

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We’re currently in Mendoza, Argentina… stuffing our fat faces with steak and wine like I’ve never had in my life,  and looking forward to a visit from OG Poopswan Lina. From here, we’re off to Buenos Aires, and then headed to Africa! This little Khaleria is so excited she bought an animal print shirt in anticipation… does that increase my chances of seeing a Zebra?

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The front half of our hike through Torres Del Paine National Park is more commonly known as the ‘W’, and is trodden with gorgeous glaciers, snow capped mountains, and lakes made from glacial water.

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SONY DSC Glacier Grey from the top of John Gardner Pass.

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Front view of Glacier Grey

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Lago Torres

The last day of our trek we hiked up the French Valley – a 360 degree view, and my favorite in the park.

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After conquering the park, we rested our feets for a few days and headed to El Chalten for some more hiking…

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The 8 day trek more commonly referred to as ‘the circuit’ takes you through some of Patagonia’s most magnificent sights in Torres Del Paine National Park. We seriously lucked out with the weather… after hearing horror story after horror story of unbearable rain, snow and hail – not to mention 60 knot gusts of wind – we didn’t get a single drop of rain and had only one slightly windy pass.

Also, since we headed out right at the beginning of ‘winter’ (the guide books tell you not to trek past March. This is most definitely a lie.) we didn’t see a single person for two and a half days in one of the most widely visited and hiked national parks in the world. Pretty epic.

The trek is pretty much split up into two parts: the ‘W’ and the ‘backside’ – with the W being more easily accessible and on a more well trodden path, and the backside a little harder/longer/tougher to get through. The landscapes were vastly different on the two parts, so I’m splitting the post into two. Today: the backside.

SONY DSC First view off the bus on day one.

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towers Hike up to the ‘towers’ our second day – probably the most famous formation in the park. (The towers glow this gorgeous red color at sunrise – like this – but this meant you had to get up and hike an hour uphill before the sun came up. Aaaannnd we overslept. Oops.)

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SONY DSC The third day in the landscapes started to change from vast, open fields to rocky mountains, lakes and lots of ice.

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SONY DSC First view of one of the (many) glaciers in the park.

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Day five took us over the infamous John Gardner Pass and onto the ‘W’,  where we were met by nice refugios (campgrounds with lodges), loads of backpackers, and a lot of glacier…

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We’re headed out for an 8 day trek on Patagonia’s Circuit. Be back in a week!

circuit_large This is where we’ll be if you need us.

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Beauty; and the Beast

The three day, 6088m climb to Huayna Potosi proved to be the most challenging thing the Khalerias had been up against yet. In fact, it proved to be too much for one little baby… (whose name rhymes with Labeena)

Day one: we took a two hour bus ride to the first base camp, and then hiked in to a glacier to practice ice climbing.

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Day two: we hiked from 1st base camp to 2nd base camp, where we tried to eat and go to sleep at 5pm – the hike to the summit started at 1am. The reason for early hike was two sided: one, the glacier starts to melt once the sun comes up, making it dangerous to traverse down; and two, the sunrise from the summit is supposed to be epic (assuming its not raining, cloudy or snowy).

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Day three (aka day two at 1am): the summit climb was to take between 6 and 7 hours, with a 2.5 hour return hike to base camp. About 2 hours in, at 5500m, I started to get altitude sickness. By 5600m I was basically rendered useless (think: unable to walk, and spewing), so I had to turn around and head back to base camp with another hiker from our crew. Talk about a serious bummer… less than 500m from the top!

Ryan, on the other hand, was (is) a rock star. After falling behind the rest of our crew when I slowed down, he not only caught up, but was the first to the summit – in less than 6 hours- and the first back to base camp!

SONY DSC Ryan at the top.

IMG_1702 The ridgeline to the summit

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SONY DSC Ryan and his guide on the trek down from the summit. (thank you thank you to MonandJr for this picture!)

A couple hours after returning to base camp I felt back to normal… and was a lot less tired than Ryan the next day. We rested up and head out for a jeep tour through the Bolivian desert.

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