"Tilicho Lake: Manang to Jomsom" Annapurna Himal by Cruxer
Annapurna Himal Travel Guide: 197 reviews and 457 photos
About a year ago, my friend and I discussed the prospect of entering the higher realms of the earth, the Himalayas. We wanted an experience that would stretch us both physically and mentally. The two of us, being in fair shape and itching for an adventure unlike any we had attempted before, set our sights on two particular areas: Langtang and Annapurna.
Originally, the Ganja La pass in the Langtang region caught our attention. However, after much research and through the counsel of others far wiser than ourselves we realized that our budget was insufficient and the season we intended to trek gave us no guarantees.
Our greatest hurdle was our finances. We simply wanted the cheapest package that would allow us the opportunity to climb/trek high (preferably above 5000m) and do so without the aid of a porter or guide. We were not out to prove anything or impress anyone, simply to enjoy the beauty of the mountains we've heard so much about.
After even more research and counsel we chose the Manang to Jomsom route via Tilicho Lake within the Annapurna Circuit. I would like to stress that this route, if done in March, is a considerable challenge, especially if the weather were to turn sour. Fortunately for us, there was a span of about four cloudless, sunny days during which we trekked to the lake, camped, and then made our way over the passes and on to Jomsom. We were sufficiently warned of the potential risks and hazards of the area (eg. altitude sickness, considerable snowfall, etc...) and yet chose to commit ourselves anyway.
**I would strongly encourage anyone wanting to reach Jomsom via the Tilicho Lake route, regardless of the season, to be quite thorough in their preparations and research. It is not a route to be attempted "willy nilly," without proper awareness of potential hazards.
***HOWEVER, I would also like to say that this is an absolutely breathtaking area and quite worth the effort to get there. You may notice many guidebooks and trekking agencies strongly discouraging this route without porters or a guide. Hands down this should be considered, but my partner and I found it quite possible during our trip. We were "unaided" and it was quite difficult, but not impossible. Don't let your fear of this route's reputation keep you from experiencing it firsthand... BUT PLEASE prepare appropriately and pack sufficiently should you go without an agency, as we did.
[The trip report can be found below...]
[If you are looking for a report detailing the circuit trail before Manang, you will not find it here. There are many great, detailed presentations of that segment elsewhere. My partner and I were far more mentally pre-occupied with Tilicho Tal itself to note much on the way, so we feel it most beneficial to omit that section in our report. **IF you feel that I have falsely presented any information in this report please notify my by message or email so that I may correct or omit it.]
Days 4-5: March 6-7
We spent two nights in Manang, as per direction in order to properly acclimatize (acclimate, acclimatise... choose your word). We had intended to hike up to the "Ice Lake," aka: "Kicho Tal," however my partner was feeling quite weak after having just recovered from a bad fever and my heel was troubling me a bit. Instead, we opted for a closer hike up to "Chongor Viewpoint" just West of Manang, located on the ridge of the dramatic rock formation directly across from the river (not so high in elevation, but a beautiful panorama).
Day 6: March 8
Nearly an hour's walk from Manang brought us to Khangsar, the last village settlement before committing to the lake-bound trail. We hiked up to "Chyongo" in the afternoon (located North of Khangsar), took some photos, and rested most of the day. Both yesterday and today, we noted a decrease in the accumulation of snow on the hillsides leading to Tilicho, which truly proved a blessing for our travels.
Day 7: March 9
We traversed the scree-slopes leading to the Tilicho Basecamp Lodge, encountering a minimal amount of snow on the trail. The Basecamp itself proved too expensive for our liking so we pitched our tent and cooked dinner ourselves (Dhal Bhaat=400rs). We met a team that was turned around by heavy accumulations of snow and the likelihood that the lake would not be visible due to the overcast sky. We were told by everyone at Basecamp that there was too much snow to camp at the lake or find the trail over to Jomsom. We weren't being stubborn, only confident in our research and abilities. We told them we would try, at the least.
*This turned out to be the last spot for the next two days that we were able to fill up our bottles with running water. Everything around the lake itself and higher was completely frozen over, so prepare for this if you intend to come in March or earlier.
**The men working at the lodge here told us that they had only come about 5 or 6 days earlier to open. It is quite likely that any earlier attempt could not rely on these facilities and must be properly equipped to camp and cook from this point on.
Day 8: March 10
Well, the ascent to the lake was quite exhausting. We were each lugging around 20 and 25 kilo (45 and 55 lb) bags respectively and when we reached the snow deposits that covered the ridge our progress slowed drastically. We arrived however, and the view was beyond words. I have never seen anything quite so grand or so beautiful anywhere else in the world. Yes, the lake was completely frozen over and covered in snow... but that only served to make it all the more magnificent!
We found a spot for our tent (seen in the photo, just this side of the lake) and settled in, taking videos and photos and just soaking in the scene around us. We even witnessed a powerful avalanche as it sped down the steep wall to our South. After that we cooked dinner and melted about 4 liters of snow as there were no other sources around.
I don't know the exact temperature but it was COLD. If you were out in the wind, it was even more bone-chilling... what an amazing sensation. :) My watch indicated about -13 C after the sun went down, but I was forced to put it in my sleeping bag as it started to "malfunction." It was certainly sub-zero by the Fahrenheit scale. Make sure you have a WARM down jacket and sleeping bag.
Day 9: March 11
This day was our most physically and mentally demanding of the trip as we were often "lost" due to the considerable amount of snow covering the trials. To be honest, we had expected much more precipitation but were indescribably grateful that our expectations were not met. From the lake's Northeastern shore we ascended a fairly steep scree-slope, gaining more solid ground, and then continued our ascent North and back East reaching the Eastern pass after some time. This places you North of the lake, the large rock formation spanning the lake's Northern shoreline blocking your view South.
From this point on we were unable to find any trails, with the exception of two signs labelled "Meshokanto Pass -->." These were useless to us as we intended to crest the new "Tourist la" (I am not positive on that name). Armed with our map and the pictures we had seen in various online trip reports we traversed and ascended the hillside toward what our best guesses told us was the correct pass. Thankfully, it was.
Our trail however proved quite tiring and even disheartening at times. The snow was often knee and thigh-deep, making our ascent slow and arduous. My partner was plagued by a stomach bug this very day rendering him very weak and dehydrated, but he pressed on. After a few hours of breaking trail through the snow we caught sight of some cairns at the pinnacle of our intended ridge. This seemed to deliver a shot of energy into my partner as he blazed ahead, gaining the ridge long before me and letting out a victory shout upon arrival. We spent some time on the ridge taking in the jaw-dropping panorama until the problem of our descent shook us from our stupor.
This proved far more difficult than we had expected. The trail down from the ridge was noticeably well-developed. Sadly, it was nearly entirely covered with snow giving us only an occasional glimpse until it eventually disappeared altogether.
**(NOTE: We rented ice axes from Thamel and found them invaluable the whole day, especially during our descent)
We crossed the river into the center of the large valley and ascended to the middle-most ridge. Here we were forced to erect our tent in a most precarious location due to the lateness of the day and our current confusion on how to proceed. We were still at 4500 meters and were unable to find any water leaving us both considerably dehydrated and exhausted.
**(Make sure you have the capacity to carry AT LEAST 6 liters of water
between the two of you. We had only the potential for 4)
It was very windy and we often thought the tent would surely be swept away... it wasn't. :)
Day 10: March 12
We packed up camp and, as per my partner's strong suggestion, chose the ridge just South of our position. It stretched due West and descended to a small frozen river and a steep drop. After sitting around for a while, confounded as to how to proceed, we glanced North and noticed a trail going up from the river onto the opposing hillside. We kicked at the snow a bit and found evidence suggesting a trail traversed down to the river on the North side of our current ridge. We stepped heavily into the steep snow-covered hillside making our own trail across and down to the river where we FINALLY were able to fill up our Nalgenes with water!
From here the trail was revealed and easy to follow all the way down to Jomsom. It was a long day simply because of our inability to find the correct trails but I imagine in the summer months it would be easy to navigate. Also, were it not for the FANTASTIC weather we had our endeavor may easily have been unsuccessful. **Always be aware of the weather and potential storms.
A highly recommended trip altogether as you get the amazing lake view and reach a pass of nearly 5400 meters. Enjoy!
- Pros:Breathtaking scenery, challenging trails, memorable people
- Cons:Progressively Westernized villages and trails
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