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How to Prepare for Annapurna Circuit Trek?

Discover vital strategies on how to prepare for Annapurna Circuit Trek, guaranteeing an enriching adventure amidst stunning landscapes and cultural encounters

How to Prepare for Annapurna Circuit Trek?

Traversing through the challenging yet stunning landscapes to reach amidst the Himalayas and get a stunning view while feeling like you are at the top of the world is what an iconic trekking route like the Annapurna Circuit trek is all about.

However, along with the rewards of the trek come the challenges which might be back-breaking if you are not prepared to take them head-on.

Therefore, in this blog, we are discussing how you can prepare for the Annapurna Circuit trek and navigate the challenges and delights of this beautiful adventure.

Understanding the Annapurna Circuit

The Annapurna Circuit trek is a twisted challenge as while it is amongst the best trekking routes for beginners, it might also prove to be very challenging without proper preparation.

This trek circumnavigates the Annapurna massif and covers a distance of around 160 to 210 km depending on the route you choose as it can be completed via different itineraries, with or without side trips.

Capturing Moments along the trail
Capturing Moments along the trail

It takes you through a variety of landscapes and you can explore the rugged lands of the Himalayas for almost three weeks. During these three weeks, you will be walking for 5 to 6 hours on average every day.

Not to forget, you will also be climbing to the highest accessible mountain pass at 5,416 m at the Thorong La Pass which is the most demanding aspect of the trek.

At the same time, this trek will leave you stunned with the breathtaking views of the Annapurna range, Manaslu, Machhapuchhre, Dhaulagiri, Gangapurna, and other stunning snow-clad peaks.

The difficulty level of Annapurna Circuit trek is considered moderate to challenging, but with proper preparation, you might as well be going on an adventure of a lifetime.

Building Your Physical Base

A big part of enjoying the Annapurna Circuit trek is having a strong physical base with good strength, endurance, and stamina, or else you’ll just be left to drag your feet till you make it to the end of the circuit.

The circuit features several ascents and descents along with long hours of walking every day and what is the most dreaded part of it all is the soreness that follows at night making your body, especially your legs, crumble in pain.

It is as dreaded as it sounds. However, what can help is prior physical preparation that allows you to experience the soreness before the trek itself and allows your body to adapt to it not turning your night during the trek sleepless.

Happy trekkers after making it to Thorong La Pass
Happy trekkers after making it to Thorong La Pass

The main aspects of physical preparation for the Annapurna Circuit trek are limited to certain types of exercises like cardio, strength training, and preparing for the trek under similar conditions. You can pick the best exercises under these and include them in your regime.

Cardiovascular exercises like jogging, swimming, running, cycling, and brisk walking are the best as they strengthen your heart and lungs allowing you to do strenuous activities with limited oxygen, which is exactly what you’ll be doing on the trek.

Besides that, indulge in strength training while focusing on your core, calves, back, and shoulder muscles as it helps you to climb the ascents with an additional weight in a much more convenient way.

Doing strength training also helps build your balance and aids in proper footing. You can also do reps of other exercises like pushups, squats, planks, lunges, leg presses, and inclined walks.

Trail to Upper Pisang
Trail to Upper Pisang

An even better way to tackle the ascents and descents of the trek is to climb the stairs and get down as it is a good mix of cardio and leg-strengthening exercise. Go for short hikes or even treks at high altitude areas to prepare under similar conditions to the trek.

It is best to start your preparation early and do 4 to 5 days of cardio per week along with at least 3 days of strength training. If you start exercising three months before the trek, you can give your body a rest a week before embarking on the trek for a fresh experience.

To make your preparation stage as well as trekking much easier, it is best to include 10 to 15 minutes of stretching during the beginning as well as the end of the physical activity as it allows your body to relax along with increasing flexibility.

Mental Preparation

Mental preparation on the Annapurna Circuit trek is as important as physical preparation as while physical fitness allows you to complete a tough day of trek, mental resilience is what drives you for the day that follows.

On a double-digit trek such as the Annapurna Circuit that lasts for around 3 weeks and covers almost 210 km, going gets tough as on some days you will be shivering at extreme temperatures amidst the unknown faces wondering if you can carry on.

Blooming rhododendron flowers along the Annapurna Circuit trail
Blooming rhododendron flowers along the Annapurna Circuit trail

Even the change in altitude can cause some fluctuations in the mood. Amidst all that challenge and lack of motivation due to fatigue, mental fortitude is very important to help you look beyond the challenges and not give up.

Engage in mindfulness activities and yoga to help you visualize the moment of conquering the trek and give you the much-needed boost that can act as a differentiator between you giving up or going ahead stronger. Manifest your success and you shall have it!

Health Consideration

In a trek as demanding as the Annapurna Circuit, it is important to prioritize your health. While on the circuit, take simple yet important measures that can ensure that you are healthy.

The Annapurna Circuit features lots of teahouses with an extensive menu for food, including the mouth-watering Thakali cuisine. Make sure to have a balanced diet with enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to keep you nourished.

While the local meal is healthy and filling, make sure to also carry some protein-rich snacks to munch on while you are walking or in between meals to help you get rid of palate fatigue and also give you an energy rush amidst a demanding walk.

Acclimatization hike during Annapurna Circuit Trek
Acclimatization hike during Annapurna Circuit Trek

Be hydrated and carry lots of electrolytes and rehydrating salts as hydration is the key to avoiding many health issues on the Annapurna Circuit trek, including altitude sickness. Avoid drinking alcohol while on the circuit.

Also, avoid eating meat and stick to vegetarian meals as consuming meat might cause dietary issues and even food poisoning.

Besides these, also take care of your body amidst other challenges of the trek. Apply sunscreen with a high SPF along with a lip balm with SPF to prevent issues like sunburn and rashes while walking at high altitudes. Carry shades to prevent snow glare.

Altitude Awareness

Going on the Annapurna Circuit trek means reaching an altitude of 5,416 meters at the Thorong La Pass, which is the highest walkable mountain pass in the world and the highest point of the Annapurna Conservation Area.

Therefore, the chances of altitude sickness are very high when you are embarking on this trek. This happens because the air thins as you ascend higher leaving you with less and less amount of oxygen and your body has to adapt accordingly.

Trekkers traverse the rugged path to Thorong La Pass.
Trekkers traverse the rugged path to Thorong La Pass.

In such cases, you might experience symptoms of acute mountain sickness like nausea, dizziness, headache, lack of appetite, and loss of sleep, and the symptoms might turn life-threatening if not paid enough attention to.

Altitude awareness is very important while on the trek as you need to know the ways to prevent altitude sickness. Proper acclimatization is the key to successfully conquering this challenging trek.

Crossing Thorong La pass to reach Muktinath
Crossing Thorong La pass to reach Muktinath

You need to give your body enough time and suitable conditions to adapt to the lower oxygen levels. Therefore, ascending slowly, listening to your body, taking time and making stops if needed, and staying hydrated are the major steps that you should follow.

Dedicate a couple of days throughout the Annapurna Circuit trek distance for proper acclimatization and embrace the principle of ‘climb high, sleep low’ by going on acclimatization hikes.

Essential Gear

The Annapurna Circuit trek features several challenges ranging from slippery trails and unpredictable weather to scorching heat and late-night walks. In such cases, it is important to pack all the essential gear while keeping the weight in check as well.

Therefore, one must curate an elaborate list of items after thorough research and guidance to make sure they don’t miss out on anything important while also not burdening the porter.

Feeling on to of the world at Thorog La Pass
Feeling on to of the world at Thorog La Pass

The basic thing to include in your packing list should be clothes for all kinds of weather ranging from technical fiber base layer going as far as fleece jackets as the temperatures keep fluctuating.

Besides this, proper footwear is extremely important to tackle the variety of terrains that you will come across. A sturdy backpack with easy organization and hip support goes a long way in making your trek comfortable.

Rainfall during Annapurna Circuit Trek
Rainfall during Annapurna Circuit Trek

A sleeping bag rated for cold temperatures keeps your cozy sleep covered and rain covers for your bag and a waterproof outer layer of clothing also keep you protected from rain.

Make sure to carry extra items like trekking poles, power banks, and headlamps to make your trek much easier.

For a detailed list, continue reading our blog about the packing list for the Annapurna Circuit trek.

Permits and Documents

A big part of preparing for a trek like the Annapurna Circuit trek is to be aware of the documents and permits that you will need so that you are not caught by surprise.

The Annapurna Circuit trek lies within one of the conservation areas of Nepal which makes it a fragile ecosystem to be in. Therefore, trekking the circuit requires two permits: the Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP).

Annapurna Conservation Area
Annapurna Conservation Area

These permits ensure your security while monitoring your activities on the circuit. Make sure to obtain them beforehand.

You can apply online for it or obtain it from Kathmandu. Even better, you can trust a local tourist agency like Ace the Himalaya and we will do the hard work of obtaining these permits for you.

Besides these permits, make sure to carry the original and photocopies of your identification documents, preferably a passport, and a few passport-sized photographs, just in case. Carrying a printed air ticket might also come in handy.

Also, make sure to get your travel insurance in place so that you won’t have to panic in case of any emergencies. Getting insurance that offers helicopter evacuation is the best.

Emergency Preparedness

Although the Annapurna Circuit trek is considered a very safe trek to embark on, you might come across some emergencies and you wouldn’t want to be caught off guard if that happens, so prepare accordingly.

These emergencies could be anything ranging from health issues like altitude sickness, dehydration, or even injuries due to slipping. Sometimes you might come across a trail blockage and while the circuit features dirt roads, evacuation might be needed.

Trail leading to Thorong Base Camp
Trail leading to Thorong Base Camp

To overcome situations like this, it is very important to carry a well-stocked first aid kit with medicines for basic injuries and illness including a wide spectrum antibiotic, an ointment, bandages, blister pads, pain medication, medicines for altitude sickness, and other basic things.

Again, make sure to get travel insurance that provides helicopter evacuations, medical treatments, and high-altitude rescues.

Carry local SIM cards if available or research any kind of communication that can be established while on the trek for emergencies. Also, maintain crystal-clear communication with your guide at all times.

Bonus Tips

Once all the things mentioned above are in place, there are other additional preparations that you can do to enhance your entire trekking experience while also maintaining the sanctity of the Annapurna region.

  • Embrace the ‘leave no trace’ policy with utmost dedication and take out everything that you take into the region so that you can leave the circuit for the coming generations of trekkers to enjoy and cherish.
  • The entire journey, while thoroughly engaging, can at times be boring. So, make sure to carry some entertainment options like books, a diary for journaling, board games, or a deck of cards.
  • If you are carrying gadgets, it is best to carry solar-powered options for chargers as you can save the resources of the delicate region that way.
  • Budget properly for the trek and consider all the costs beforehand so that you don’t get any surprises while on the trek. Allocate an extra sum of money for any additional expenses too.
  • Learn a few local phrases and greetings like Namaste, Dhanyabad, and more so that you can interact with the locals and form a connection. Respect the local culture, especially while visiting the temples and monasteries on the circuit.
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