Most Inspirational Moment
Getting to the top of Thorong La pass at 5,400 metres. We got up at 2:30a.m. at around 4,500 metres and set off with head torches for the top of the pass. After a tea stop at 5,000 metres it started to get tough and our group had a collective feeling of relief and achievement when we reached the top of the pass in glorious sunshine. How people climb 8,000 metre peaks without oxygen I do not know. The trek is very well organised inasmuch as you gain altitude slowly in the 8-9 days before Thorong La and so most of the party didn't need Diamox and only had occasional headaches which is quite normal. The sunrise at Poon Hill also deserves a mention as it is absolutely spectacular and not at all arduous compared to Thorong La.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Our group leader was Tsering Dorjee Sherpa. I've been on numerous organised tours with various travel companies and I can say that Dorjee was one of the best leaders I've had teh pleasure of meeting. He was mature beyound his 23 years, extremely well organised, very passionate about Nepal and his Sherpa heritage and went out of his way to ensure the trip ran smoothly and that everyone enjoyed it. He was ably backed up by other guides and a team of porters, all of whom interacted with our group and collectively we had a great experience. If you're lucky enough to have Dorjee as your guide you will have a great trip and will learn a lot about Nepal, it's people and its culture.
Advice for Potential Travellers
(1) Changing money in Kathmandu - the Himalayan bank will give you a much better rate if you bring new £50 notes. Any used £20 notes were scrutinised and any with writing on, slight rips in etc. were not accepted. It's also difficult to change the Rupees back to Sterling in Kathmandu so leave time to go round a few bureau de change. The rates are pretty similar across the bureaux de change
(2) Most of the tea houses have power of some description to charge electrical items (USB or Mains) but power banks to charge phones / camera batteries are useful. Take a bag to put all your batteries in and put it in your sleeping bag at night to prevent them losing charge
(3) The Exodus sleeping bags / down jackets tend to be on the heavy and bulky side and as weight/bulk is at a premium it's good to bring your own if you can. We had sleeping bags rated down to -2c (comfort) which were fine coupled with merino baselayers at higher altitudes
(4) We had a Steripen, as did a number of our group, and they are the best thing for these types of trips as they probably cost the same as all the chlorine dioxide tablets you would need instead but you don't get the nasty aftertaste of tablets. Be sure to bring spare rechargeable batteries and a fast charger to keep the batteries charged.
(5) We bought diamox in Kathmandu (£1 compared with £30 for a private prescription in the UK). We didn't need them in the end but we did use Ibuprofen for the occassional headache. Drinking lots of water is essential and a number of the group thought the garlic soup of the trail may have helped alleviate altitude issues
You don't need to be super-fit to do the Annapurna Circuit as most days don't exceed 12 miles but the altitude can be debilitating. As you can't train for altitude just ensure you have a good base level of fitness, your boots are well broken in and you are very familiar with all your gear. For the photographers I took my Canon EOS with a 10-22 and 70-300 lens. Yes, the long lens weighs a fair amount (1 kg) but you get some fantastic close-up photos of the Annapurna range. Also make sure you take a polarising filter because the glare can wash out your photographs.