Along with 3 friends (Shyam, Runa and Quintijn) I had done the Annapurna Circuit trek in Apr/May 2011. At that point of time I did not have a blog nor did I have a camera to take pictures -:). I have had a few questions on public forums (like IndiaMike, yahoogroups like himalayan_trekkers) so I am posting some relevant information here for everyone's benefits.
ACT Trek Part 1 Itinerary
Apr 19th - KTM to Besisahar and trek to Bhulbule
Apr 20th - Bhulbule to Jagat
Apr 21st - Jagat to Dharapani
Apr 22nd - Dharapani to Chame
Apr 23rd - Chame to Upper Pisang
Apr 24th - Upper Pisang to Khangsar via Ngwal
Apr 25th - Khangsar to Tilicho Base Camp hotel
Apr 26th - To Tilicho Lake & back to Tilicho base camp hotel to Khangsar
Apr 27th - Day Hike to Ice Lake (Kicho Tso)
Apr 28th - Khangsar to Letdar
Apr 29th - Letdar to High Camp
Apr 30th - High Camp to Muktinath (over Thorung la)
ACT Trek part 2 Itinerary
Apr 30th - Muktinath to Jomsom via Lupra village. Reached Old Jomsom by 6:00 in the evening. Was starting to rain and had to hunt for the trail to Lupra a bit...
1st May - From Jomsom took the east bank route via Thini, Dhumba Lake (small and beautiful lake), detour to Katsapterenga Gompa, Chairo, Chimang, to Tukuche (lunch stop). Tukuche to Larjung (along west bank - road), then to kokhethati (along east bank), titi Lake, Konjo, Chayo and then Ghasa (evening 8 pm)
2nd May - Ghasa to Garpar and Dana (along the east bank) upto the hydro station. Then crossed to west bank side (road) to Tatopani (lunch), tatopani to ghara - shikha and Chitre (Evening 7 pm)
3rd May - Chitre (6am) to Ghorepani (7 am) to Naya pul (1:30 pm). Naya pul to Lumle (lunch-3:00 pm) to Khare and Naudanda, kaski, kaule, sarangkot, pokhara lodge (11:00 p.m). Tiring day 50+ kms of walking. Had blisters on my feet (first time and realized what they were )
There was a Maoist strike on 2nd/3rd May 2010 and therefore no buses/jeeps were plying and so I had to walk all the way from Naya Pul to Pokhara
My recommendation to other trekkers (reading this blog) on my itinerary
Do not start the ACT part 2 (journey from Muktinath to Jomsom) the same day as you arrive there. Take it easy.
Budget at least 2 (perferably 3 more days) to complete the ACT part 2.
So I would recommend 14 days from KTM to Muktinath for ACT part 1 : Itinerary above + 1-2 additional day for Manang and 1 additional day for Tilicho excursion)
And 7 days for ACT trek part 2.
Folks not wishing to do ACT trek part 2 can fly out from Jomsom to Pokhara..
Do budget a couple of days for relaxing @ Pokhara as I am sure you have earned the rest after 3 weeks of trekking -:)
Since this trek was done a long time ago I am writing just a few interesting highlights which linger in my memories (and not a day by day account).
Permits Required for this trek
TIMS permit : See this blog for info on this
ACAP Perrmit : This costs 200 Rs for SAARC nationals (indians) and 2000NRs for non-SAARC nationals. This can be obtained at the NTB. See this site for more info. In case you dont have an ACAP permit dont worry as you can buy this at the first checkpoint except that it will cost twice as much (NRS400 for SAARC nationals). Sometimes it better to do this as going to the NTB office for the permit (say by Taxi to/from Thamel) might cost you just as much -:). Of course one can walk to the NTB office easily from thamel (or take a bus).
Some notes/recommendations for other trekkers based on my experience
Manang is a lovely place to stay. Budget additional 2-3 days for staying here as there are number of lovely day-hikes one can do here like the Milarepa Cave, Ice Lake etc.
The side-trip to Tilicho Lake (from Manang) is a must do. Though the guidebooks say that it is a landslide prone area (and it is and the trail looks more scary than it actually is...). There is just a basic lodge @ Tilicho. Though I did the round trip from Khangsar to Tilicho in 2 days one can budget 3 days for the same. Also, there is no need to return to Manang as on the return you can take a detour to Yak Kharka...
Try to stay in Upper Pisang as the views from there are fabulous...
Guide books may recommend not staying at High Camp hotel because of the cold. My view is that one should stay there as it makes the climb to Thorung La - the next day much easier.
DO NOT do attempt the Thorung La crossing from the Jomsom/Muktinath side as it much much tougher.
Seabuckthorn juice is a locally and freshly available here. Savour it during your trek.
Crossing Thorung-la : There are a number of teashops en route to Thorung-la (even from high Camp) and even @ Thorung-la so it is very much doable. At the time I cross there was not much (if not any) snow on the pass (main trail) though you could see snow on the adjacent peaks.
The descent from Thorung-la to Muktinath is a long and tiring one. This one is more of a killer than the ascent.
Funniest moment on this trek.
This incident happened when I was crossing the landslide area en route to the Tilicho Base camp. Just to set the context the trail is a very narrow ledge cutting through the landslide and if you fall it is easily a 100m slide down to the river below. I was on this trail when a yak came and stood facing me on the trail about 10-15 m in front of me. There was room on the trail for only of us to cross. I guess neither of us wanted to budge. We stood eyeballing each other for a minute or so, checking to see who blinks (or in this case moves first). There was no way I could budge as that seemed like a certain death warrant -:). Then I moved a bit closer waving my arms and trying to shoo (scare it away). Finally, when I came pretty close to the yak it finally relented and gave way allowing me to cross. Just imagine what would have happened if the yak stood its ground -:).
Other interesting memories from this trek.
I was slow on the day I climbed from Tilicho Base Camp to Tilicho lake (compared to my companion Quintijn, a 22yr Dutch lad ). He was well ahead of me and after getting close to the lake I lost my way and ended up climbing a hill nearby to spot where the lake was. Then I descended. This detour and slowness caused Quintijn to wait 45 mins @ the lake before i joined him...
On our return from Tilicho Lake to Tilicho base camp my friend Quintijn wanted to be a bit more adventurous and decided that instead of retracing the path he would go down to the river and walk along the river to the Tilicho base camp. So off he went down and as there was no route he had to cross the river in waist high water with his backpack held above his head. What was worse was that after some distance he had to recross the stream similarly. He returned to the Tilicho base camp an hour after me fully drenched & cold -:)
Possible extensions to this trek.
If one wants to trek further one can combine this trek with the Annapurna Base Camp trek. One can take a deviation from Ghorepani to Tadapani. If memory serves me right there are clearly marked sign boards towards this trail
One can go from Tilicho tal to Jomsom over the Mesokonta La pass (and completely avoiding the Thorung La). I think it takes 2 days and one would have to be fully equipped as there are no places to stay after the Tilicho base camp hote.