My Experience Trekking in Nepal ...as a Single Female - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

Join me on the epic journey through the highs and lows of the Annapurna mountains.

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The trick is to focus on the ground. When all you can see is the path underneath your boots, the depth blurs into a solid, rocky, one-dimensional plane, losing all sense of ascent. Still, you can’t fool yourself completely. At 5,000 meters, the breath is ripped from your lungs, leaving hollow, deflated spaces in your chest. I breath deeply, as deep as I can, and it feels like there’s not enough oxygen in all of Annapurna to fill my lungs.

My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

My 13-day trek on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal was the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever subjected myself to. But it was also the most surreal. I started in Daraphani at 1,860 meters, went through Thorong La Pass at 5,416 meters, and ended in Jomsom at 2,720 meters. I had a backpack filled with thermal wear, a raincoat that made me look like Quasimodo, walking poles for my weak knees, water tablets, snacks, my Kindle, and my laptop (for which I received plenty of teasing).

The unforgiving ascent and the weight of my backpack were making me think twice about my physical strength and my mental fortitude…

On my first day in Daraphani, I awoke to the startling discovery that I had altitude sickness, or at least something that fiercely resembled it. At only 1,860 meters, everyone tried to convince me that this simply wasn’t possible. But the symptoms spoke for themselves… loudly. I was dizzy, my stomach was angry, my head hurt, and the simple task of putting one foot in front of the other was becoming a new personal challenge. I always did enjoy proving people wrong.

I set out for my first official day of trekking the next morning at 9am. The unforgiving ascent and the weight of my backpack were making me think twice about my physical strength and my mental fortitude. I thought of all the thousands of trekkers that had come before me; some soft from desk jobs, some older and frailer. I thought of Cheryl Strayed; her hefty backpack and gallons of water roughing it all the way through the Pacific Coast Trail. Ten minutes into the trek couldn’t be enough to overpower me with doubts. All the same, I started doing mental inventory of the contents of my backpack to decide what I could live without.

My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

At the next town, I ran into my first trekker, a Russian-Israeli woman also traveling alone. We quickly fell into step, and in the fashion of all travelers, started speaking without the bother of names. We would become trekking mates for most of the rest of the journey.

Inna was an experienced climber who often chose vacation spots based on the quality of the local rocks. She was stronger than I was, more prepared, and infinitely generous. She shared with me the contents of her “kitchen;” a bag filled with snacks including a porridge called tsampa that had both the consistency and flavor of cold mud, but was an epicurean blessing when I was starving and the next town was still two hours away.

My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

When we had a day of seven to nine hours of mostly uphill walking, she was encouraging. Our mantra was an Israeli phrase she had taught me, “We are in clouds!” The phrase has the connotation that we’re euphoric, but in our case, it was a literal translation.

The hike was exhausting in ways that were previously unknown to me and gave me pain in places that I just didn’t have the motivation to examine. I dreamed of the Lake at Pokhara, and good food. One time I thought I saw the outer corn husk of a tamale on the trail and it occurred to me that murder would be a viable option to get my hands on one.

The Silicon Valley girl that still resides somewhere deep inside my soul made a small scream and tried to call an Uber out of there.

As we ascended higher, the scenery changed. From lush forests and grassy pastures, the landscape slowly gave way to rocky passes, impossible cliff faces, and stunning views of snow-capped peaks. It was the kind of place that made you whisper. Sometimes I would get so absorbed in making it up the next slope without tripping over my own feet that all I could see was the dirt path in front of me. When I looked up, it was often with renewed wonder, as if I had suddenly been transported from the fantasy burrito I had been devouring to a landslide painted gold in the Himalayan light. All of a sudden, the tsampa didn’t taste so bad anymore.

My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

Inna and I began to play a sort of game. The mountains were so immense that it was impossible to know what was around the next bend. Whenever we could see the curve of the trail around the mountain, our mental kinetic energy shot around the bend to guess at the next sight and we would say “I wonder what we’ll see next!” Our imaginations never did quite live up to the impossibly grand cliff face shrouded in ephemeral cloud or the steep valley cut through by time, water, and glaciers. The views took away what little breath you had available and left you standing silent and numb to the weight of your backpack or the soreness in your legs. It was the best anesthesia.

On the fourth day, when we reached Lower Pisang at 3,200 meters, we were greeted with the usual “Namaste” and the news that there was no electricity in the entire town for the foreseeable future.

The Silicon Valley girl that still resides somewhere deep inside my soul made a small scream and tried to call an Uber out of there. Somewhere she’s still wandering around in the dark recesses of my mind, holding her phone up to search for the best WiFi signal. But at that moment, trekker me took over. I swallowed and contented myself to a night of staring at mountains and reading The Snow Leopard.

My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

Lower Pisang

On the fifth day, going from Lower Pisang to Manang, Inna and I decided to split up for the day. She wanted to take a more scenic route that featured a harder climb and better views. Judging from my extraordinary struggle of the last few days, I decided to take the road most traveled. Along the way I shared a cup of what tasted like sugar with a bit of tea mixed into it with a Nepali-Tibetan man named Karma. Karma comes in all shapes and sizes, and this one wore an electric green Slipknot hat. I desperately wanted to subject him to the musical renderings of Psychosocial. However, with no wifi available, I thanked Karma for the sugar, and went on my merry way.

Karma comes in all shapes and sizes, and this one wore an electric green Slipknot hat.

At one point, I walked up a hill with a sharp wind. The wind whipped away the low-hanging clouds like a curtain and I saw the snow-capped peaks of mountains arranged before me as if I had stumbled upon a private peep show. The were grand and vulnerable and self-assured. The snow on their peaks was the source of the clear stream running beneath the old wooden bridge I stood upon. They were close enough to touch, but I knew without trying that they were mirages that would move further away the closer I got. I could never get close enough to something so impossible.

My Experience Trekking in Nepal …as a Single Female

I heard laughter and was startled to find that it was coming from me. I shrugged off my backpack and leapt around, leaving myself breathless and heaving from my small happy dance. I sat on a rock and stared and marveled and was reminded of a quote I had read in The Snow Leopard: “How wondrous, how mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water.” The statement is self-sufficient and self-sustainable. It is all it needs and can lend itself to all situations. I carry fuel, I laugh at mountains.

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Ariana is a writer and world traveler. Her writing covers her three main passions: women’s empowerment, travel, and culture. The beauty of the world is not just in scenic mountain views or turquoise waters; it’s in doing the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. For Ariana, that thing is stringing words together. Email her at ariana@thewaywardpost.com and follow her journey on Instagram @surrealife.

Reader Discussion: 51 Comments

  1. Geraldina Lee

    Nepal is one of the best tourist spots in the world. But I still do not visit there. I keep myself promise to travel in this winter with my friends too.

    • tulsi

      I am from nepal as a tour and trekking guide in nepal. one can find me as a friend travel or tour with me. more information you can contact bhusaltulsi@gmail.com

  2. Francis Walton

    Thanks Hilary for sharing this article. It is one of the best articles from the Urbanette. It’s interesting to learn how safe Nepal is and its natural beauty. You provided us with a clear picture of it all. Thank you so much to bring it into the light.

  3. Cody Pierce

    Wow! I love Nepal.
    I am so lucky that I visited Pokhara. Pokhara is the most beautiful city in the world. You must go once …then once is not enough for you because of its natural beauty — the best, not just in Nepal, but also in the world.

  4. Julia MacLean

    Excellent article on trekking in Naple. So many travelers think it’s like a trip to Disney World-it isn’t. Thank you for the post. Very helpful for first time Trekkers

    • Dawa lama

      If you want to travel with me I will guide for you… My number 9823532024 I am Dawa lama mountain guide from langtang areas

  5. If you were planning your first Nepal trek/visit and your choice was between Everest Base Camp or the Annapurna Range which would it be? Your comment and experience will be appreciated.
    So please get back to me if you can.
    Thank you 🙂

  6. Sasha Rosswell

    That’s exactly what I want my trekking in Nepal to be like. What a stunning view!

    I’m also questioning Annapurna (foothills) vs. Ebc and although Annapurna sounds perfectly suited to me (love nature, varying scenery and trekking), I don’t want to feel like I’m taking the easy option. Would you still consider the Nepal Adventure to be a challenging trek?

  7. Teresa Tanner

    Can you tell us where exactly were the pictures taken?? It’s too beautiful, i would love to go there. Nepal has really a long list of beautiful places for hiking.

  8. Leah Helms

    Recently we returned from a four-day trek with a friend in the Annapurna Himalayan range. Boasting spectacular scenery, rugged terrain and extremely welcoming locals, I’ve never visited another place on earth like Annapurna.

    IWe didn’t hire a guide. We made a DIY guide, we uploaded it to our ipods. I am glad we didn’t hire a guide, that would have been a complete waste of time and money imo.

    • Kim Hartford

      I disagree with your strong stand against hiring a guide. I hired a local as a guide for the Annapurna to Muktinath trek. While I agree that a person could follow the trail without much difficulty, I can’t imagine the experience without my friend. We had a great time and I found the experience far more enjoyable because I was with someone who could unlock the countryside/cul ture for me. When we stopped at guest houses, we ended up eating in the kitchen with the people who ran it, rather than sitting in the dining room. I think you run the risk of closing yourself off from a great deal of what makes trekking in Nepal unique if you view guides/porters as scam artists. Possibly they’re doing some of the few tasks that they can in an economy where there are few other options.

  9. Lynn Hayes

    What a great article. Thanks for all the down-to-earth advice and info. I’m planning a trip to Nepal in January and am really conflicted between getting a guide, and not. This helps.

  10. Jae Medina

    Hello all & Ariana! First of all amazing and very timely article! Secondly I’ll be coming to Nepal for the very first time this September and would like to do a trek but I can’t decide on which one exactly. I’m arriving in Kathmandu on September 16th, very early in the morning. Probably spending the day in the capital and flying to Pokhara first thing in the morning on the next day. From there I could either do the ABC or the Annapurna Panorama Trek. As I will have only around 6 full days (outbound flight already fixed) do you think the ABC is doable? I’ve read a bit about both and think that I’d like the Annapurna Base Camp better than the Panorama trek. I’m also planning to get a guide/porter, probably from an agency.

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