Poonhill is one of the easier trekking trails that you can do in Nepal. The whole route takes just a few days, so it is ideal for those who do not have the time and energy to do the entire Annapurna Circuit (18-22 days). The reward for trekking to Poonhill is an amazing view of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri.
Annapurna has always been my dream. Although I admit that I’m not a mountain lover, there are few mountains in the world that I just want to see, which does not necessarily mean that I have to climb them. 😉 I visit mountains VERY rare and I’m not used to mountain wandering. Instead, I prefer trails on a more flat ground such as the one I did several years ago in the Kevo Reserve or the Lemmenjoki National Park in Finnish Lapland.
And you? Do you like trekking? Are there any particular trails on your bucket list? Share with us in comments box below the post!
My relationship with the mountains is full of love and hate. Climbing mountains makes me mentally tired (honestly, during the trek to Poonhill I thought I was going to die), and because I don’t want to kill anyone around, I have to walk at my own pace and be separated from everyone.
Although the mountains are not my cup of tea, I think you have to see the Himalayas at least once in a lifetime. When you look at the snow-capped peaks and realize that ahead you have the highest mountains in the world and above there is nothing else – this feeling is amazing. It’s worth the effort. That is why I am writing about my love and hatred for the mountains. 😉
I was invited to Nepal by Kathmandu Adventures, a company that organises trekking and tours. There were other bloggers with me: Megan and Scott from the Bobo and ChiChi blog and Reshma from the Solo Globetrotter blog. There were also Matt and Mark, who work with KA and our guides Shyam and Rajan. 🙂
Poonhill trek – before you start
The fact that the route to Poonhill is easier than others in the Himalayas does not mean it is easy. Guides marks it rather moderate or moderately difficult, giving you 3 stars on a scale of 5. In my personal scale I would say it’s moderate.
I went physically unprepared – all days long I was working on another assignment before Nepal, so I did not have time for any physical activity. Next time, a few weeks before departure, I would start moving regularly – not necessarily in a gym, but just walking around the park or even running the stairs up and down once or twice a day would already prepare my muscles for a few days of physical exercise.
About such preparations as what you should take with you etc., I write at the end of this post. 🙂
Day 1 – 3500 steps
How was the first day? Awful. I swear that I was cursing under my breath the whole day and at the end I really hated mountains.
We left Pokhara early in the morning and the jeep arrived at Nayapul (1011 m / 3317 ft), where we moved higher from.
In the beginning landscapes weren’t astonishing. We were in Nepal in the second half of February, just after the winter. This is not yet a season for trekking, and the landscape looks like in Europe or North America, when the snow melts but nothing is blooming yet. Frankly, I don’t know if it was just me under slept or what but the beginning did not amaze me.
We went higher and higher. Practically throughout the whole day we were climbing THE STAIRS. 3,500 tiny steps, sometimes made out of the plate and sometimes chopped in the rock.
Perhaps hiking in the mountains is not common to all blog readers, so let me explain what’s wrong with the stairs. Legs get tired faster as we climb stairs, because our muscles and joints move the same way all the time. If we walk uneven terrain, like a path in the forrest, sometimes we need to take a bigger step, sometimes several smaller ones – that is, we allow our muscles to move in different ways (nota bene, it can be also related to jogging in the street – park or forrest is better!).
And now on those 3,500 steps, imagine me, a mountain trekker.
So far, only one person succeeded in hiking with me in the mountains and preventing me from being an antisocial weirdo (props to you, Kinga!). Because usually in the mountains, when we are in a group, I left myself behind so that no one interferes with my calm (and I just do not want to kill anyone). I put my earphones in and I hike slowly while listening to music and making regular stops (no longer than one song so the muscles do not cool down). 😀 I can stay silent for the whole day, because I’m fine in my musical world that motivates me to march.
Huge ‘thank you’ to our two guides – Shyam and Rajan. They were closing the group and never hurried me or anybody else who was just walking at the end. It was wonderful because at first I felt a small pressure that they were so close behind me, but then I noticed that they were adjusting their pace to the last person. I love them, I want to have them as guides also on my other trips to Nepal 😀
Any positives that day? Nepalese villages! Picturesquely situated on the slopes of the mountains, and this awful staircase leads from one to another. Nature did not amazed me, I could at least see how people live in the mountains in this third poorest country in the world.
It takes few days to get to Poonhill. We spent the first night in Sudame (1320 m / 4330 ft) at something a la inn, which is simply called a tea house. In these places there are usually bed linens (although it is good to have your own sleeping bag… and a towel!) But there is no heating and sometimes hot water. But you can still eat well and maybe even use wifi if you want to work.
In the evening we sat around a big metal stove in the middle of the room, heating and drying sweaty clothes and watching an Indian action movie (all right, it was me) – at least until we run out off the credits. 😀
Day 2 – the best panorama
At sunrise we drank coffee looking at the sacred Fishtail Mountain (Machhapuchhare; 6993 m / 22 943 ft), the only one in Nepal that can not be climbed and has never been reached.
This day was much nicer to me than the previous one. First and foremost, the trail was easier – not only up, but sometimes up, sometimes down, and more often flat. 😉 Well, the landscape began to change, it became much more pleasant.
We slept in the village of Ghorepani (2858 m / 9375 ft) in the hotel, which probably had the best view of all the places so far. We sat in the restaurant and admired the panorama – Southern Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. But the most amazing views were to come just the next day.
I admit that this night was hard for me. We slept in small cabins in front of the hotel. There was no heating and hot water, so I just hid under two thick blankets. It did not help much, because in the night the temperature in the cabin dropped to 5 Celsius degrees. I wore all the clothes, two comforters, and I was still cold.
Day 3 – Poonhill, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri
But the morning of the third day was the worst.
We planned to reach Poonhill at sunrise. From our hotel we had to leave at 5am. Unfortunately – and here is the attention to the organizers for the future – no one previously told us about it (I didn’t notice?), nor did we expect how it would look like.
It was completely dark outside, and unfortunately we did not have flashlights. If I had known before, I would have taken a small head flashlight, because a flashlight from a cellphone is not a good idea when you don’t wear gloves… Besides, we went out without breakfast. Well, in Pokhara I bought a lot of snacks, so I took a bottle of water and a packet of nuts with me.
Besides, I was freezing after cold night, and at 5 o’clock the temperature was still negative. Ah, I would forget – to make matters worse, I suffered from food poisoning, so every toilet on the trail for a few days was my BFF.
The crisis came 10 minutes after the start, because my muscles and stomach were terribly squeezed with the cold and I was constantly wondering whether I would first vomit because of the effort and only then I would fall or vice versa. In the middle of the 1 hour trek I had tears in my eyes and I promised myself that I would never go again to the mountains again because I really do not like them at all.
And I noticed that I forgot the memory card for to the camera. (Fortunately, Scott had a spare one.)
When I climbed to the top and saw the sign ‘Poonhill 3210 m’ (10 475 ft) and the landscape around me, I cried out with happiness and tiredness. I was still cold, I was exhausted physically and mentally, and I had a huge people-aversion. But as soon as the rays of the rising sun illuminated Annapurna South (7219 m / 23 684 ft), one of the apex of the Annapurna massif, it didn’t matter anymore whether I was cold, hungry or tired.
Btw, we have seen Annapurna itself too, the main peak of the massif. It was only the tip that looked timidly from behind Annapurna South, but we saw it. 😉 That does not change the fact I want to go back and do another trek in this area to see the main peak of Annapurna!
However, I did not expect to see Dhaulagiri (8167 m / 26 795 ft), the seventh highest peak in the world. To be honest, I did not know much about the panorama seen from Poonhill. So when I saw the mountain unveiled in all its form, which top was slowly enveloped by the golden rays of the rising sun… I could just stand there and look, and enjoy the view. It was a wonderful sight.
I don’t climb summits because it is not my cup of tea, but for me the top of my dreams was to see Annapurna. Dhaulagiri was a surprise that stole my heart. The icing on the cake was that sight exactly during the sunrise.
Later we returned to the hotel, had breakfast, packed things and kept hiking.
First we went a little higher over Ghorepani, from where you can see the peaks from a different perspective. Then the trail ran practically all the time down.
I’m glad I had trekking sticks, because after three days my right knee started to give me a lot of intensity. Theoretically, it does not hurt every day, but after a little effort it gives me a hard time. This time my knee was really tired and I could hardly move the weight of my body onto my right leg, so I treated my sticks as crutches. I was lucky that our guides could lend me these sticks at all, because I unfortunately did not have my own (lesson learnt).
Last night we spent in the tea house in Tadapani (2721 m / 8927 ft). In our rooms there was no heating and the warm water was just outside the building (no way to get me out there). But at night, surprisingly, under those super thick comforters it was very warm, so I slept in my underwear only.
Day 4 and my impressions
On the fourth day we walked only 3-4 hours, mostly down the Nepali villages and dried rice terraces. Finally we came back to Pokhara by a jeep via Nayapul so we almost made a loop.
What are my impressions of trekking?
Primarily trekking on Poonhill is an easy entry, although I had some bad moments. But that is because I do not often hike in the mountains 😉 If you are not mountains lovers, and you want to do some easy trekking in Nepal, I recommend Poonhill, and below I provide information about how to prepare for this trekking.
My trip to Poonhill took place in the second half of February 2017 with Kathmandu Adventures, whom I thank for the invitation!
Poonhill trek – Practical information, how to prepare
When to go to Nepal?
Remember that you can go to the mountains and not see them because of the weather. We were lucky because we were just before the season, the weather was still whimsical, but just that morning when we were on Poonhill it was perfect! There was not one cloud in the sky, it was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my life, especially just before dawn, when the mountains and sky were still purple and full of stars.
When is the trekking season in Nepal? There are two: March to April and October to November. Then you have the best weather. 🙂 (And the largest crowds and prices…)
How to prepare for trekking?
Below is a list of things that I had and which I did not have, but I wish I had them as they would be very helpful, so I still recommend to carry these items with you. 🙂
– backpack: North Face Electron 40l (I left my main 60l backpack in Kathmandu and most people do so)
– trekking sticks
– warm clothes, e.g. thermoactive underwear, long sleeve sweatshirt, t-shirt, long trousers with detachable sleeves
– hat and gloves
– chocolate snacks, nuts, dried fruit as energy injections (available in Pokhara before departure)
– comfortable shoes and socks (my shoes were brand new and I was afraid I would have blisters, because this is how my adventure with new shoes ends up usually, but they were perfect!!!)
– shower slippers
– first aid kit: (besides the necessary accessories) good slices on the blisters, something against the food poisoning
– warm sleeping bag
– headlight torch, pocket knife, matches or lighter
Besides, it is good to be prepared before departure, and start moving a few weeks early so you are physically prepared for the trek. 😉
Prices on the trail to Poonhill
Of course, remember to have cash on hand. You will not pay with the card. 😉
In the tea houses you can spend the night, eat and use the wifi. Below are examples of prices in US dollars. Remember that prices are rising with the altitude 😉
– overnight stay in the tea house: $ 3-10
– hot shower: about $ 4
– electricity: $ 1-2 for one device
– wifi: about $ 3 per person 😛
– food: about $ 3-5
Tea houses are in the villages, about 1.5-2.5 hours away from each other. In TH food must be ordered by 5 pm with giving the time when we want to eat. Also breakfast should be ordered the day before.
If you do not want to carry your luggage yourself, you can hire a porter. It costs $ 15-20 per day.
In order to climb mountains in Nepal you need specific permissions. You can make them in Kathmandu or Pokhara. The fees are paid in Nepali rupees. We also need passport photos (2 for each document; possible to take in the permits office).
TIMS – (Trekkers’ Information Management Systems) mandatory entry to the trekker database; 1600Rs (about $15)
ACAP – (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) admission to the trails around Annapurna. Single entry ticket, valid for 30 days; 2000Rs (about $20)