Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Team #NoShaveNepal circled up for intros with students from the Thame Village School, Summer 2017 ~ 360° pic; click & drag to see everybody in the circle
June 15 – 30, 2019 (dates subject to change)
~ a trek for high school and college-age students through the Annapurna Himalaya with cultural and service exchanges, homestays and high passes, all woven into one big adventure ~
Himalaya specialists, Jerry Lapp & Ang Dendi Sherpa
The Annapurna Circuit is the Himalaya’s oldest trekking route and comes with a diverse combination of culture, challenge, religion, and comfort. Designed specifically for a younger audience, our trek winds its way upward to the village of Manang where we’ll take part in an exchange with the local school. Nepali language classes are part of every day as we continue, climbing up and over the Thorong La Pass before diving steeply down into the roiling, black waters of the Kali Gandaki Valley into a land whose people and terrain are much more Tibet than Nepal.
Medium/High ~ while our villages en route have been somewhat tamed by time to provide us with comfortable stopovers, our trails guide us into challenging but well-traveled terrain.
The village of Chame is the start and low point of our trek. It’s stacked above the Marsyangdi River just past the turnoff to the hidden valley of NarPhu. Arriving there in late afternoon, we’ll begin walking the next morning in the crisp, clean air of 8,900 ft above sea level, ie, 2,714m meters.
At 17,769 ft, the Thorong La has demanded excellence from generations of trekkers and local residents. Wide and generous on its summit approach, its graceful trails pull us upward to views of yet another 8,000-meter peak, Dhaulagiri.
The oversized views from Ice Lake? Sunset in the high village of Thorong Phedi? Making new friends with fellow students in Manang?
Room & Board
You’ll be treated to basic but comfortable hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara at the beginning and end of our adventure. The Annapurna Circuit has been welcoming trekkers since the 1960s and is sometimes called the Apple Pie Circuit for, yes, its apple pie, and mountain lodge amenities. While trekking, we’ll stay in village lodges or homestays where we’ll also share meals.
$3,599 is an all-inclusive price that covers almost all of your expenses over 14 days in Nepal, including guides; porters; 4×4 jeep transfers; Kathmandu & Pokhara hotels, all mountain lodges while hiking; all meals throughout; language classes; trekking permits; double occupancy. Ground transport from Lancaster, PA to our departure/arrival airport is also included.
International flight into Kathmandu. Although the flight cost is not included in our Tour, Skychasers will arrange group travel from the East Coast, most likely Philadelphia or New York. You might expect fares to be in the range of $1,000 to $1,800. Travel insurance w/ evacuation coverage is required. Bring cash for snacks and soft drinks along the trail; the stray shower; tips for local guides; your Nepal visa; shopping; and other small miscellaneous expenses.
Nepali Language Classes
Nepal is one of those countries where your already-incredible travel experience will be even better with rudimentary language skills. Towards this end, our awesome language teacher, Mina Rana, will again be trekking with us and we’ll end each day with an hour of formal language training.
New for 2018/2019 . . . interest-free installment payment plans!
We’re passionate about Himalayan adventures and strongly believe they open a student’s life to a whole new world of opportunity and should be accessible to all. Choose an installment plan or a traditional payment plan when you register.
Sarah & Maya, right, made bracelets at home, then broke the ice along the trail by handing them out to local kids . . . click the pic to see the full photostory of our 2017 Student Service Adventure
Our Student Service Adventure is an eight-day fully supported trek through the heart of the Himalaya
You’ll carry only a small day pack while the real work is done by our team of precocious porters. Beginning in Kathmandu, we’ll drive to our trailhead deep in the Marsyangdi Valley of the Annapurna Range. From there we walk up to Ice Lake, spend a few days with the school students of Manang, then embark on a high-altitude crossing of the Thorong La Pass. Our trek ends with a couple days in the lakeside town of Pokhara before returning to Kathmandu.
Your Tour begins in Kathmandu’s peaceful Tibetan Buddhist enclave of Boudha and ends with a spectacular drive from Pokhara to Kathmandu
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Your mountain guide, Mr. Ang Dendi Sherpa, is wearing the baseball hat, above, and is a two-time Everest summiteer ~ 360° pic; click & drag to look all around, up and down
“I appreciated the fact that you showed us on Google maps where we were going before we left. It made it clear in my mind that you were organized. As we were traveling you checked in with each of us to make sure we were happy with the way the tour was progressing. I felt safe every day. I had so much fun every single day! Each day was a new adventure.”
~ Nanette B, school teacher
FastFacts on the Annapurna Student Trek
- 15 days door-to-door from North America
- our Tour winds up in the deepest valley in the world, the Kali Gandaki
- we’ll start with a visit to the Hindu temples & cremation ghats of Kathmandu
- the trek is designed to accommodate a wide range of hiking speeds
- summer is monsoon season, but our trek is shielded from most of the rain by the high and mighty Annapurna Range
- the Thorong La Pass gives our students a big dose of alpine terrain, but should be relatively easy for our students
- paragliding above the lake is a popular pastime in the village of Pokhara, of which we will not partake
▲ The Annapurna Himalaya ▲
▼ Your Route Through the Heart of the Annapurnas ▼
Student Service Adventure Day-by-Day
- Group flight from Philadelphia or New York to our international layover destination
- Fly into Kathmandu from our layover city ~ your Tour package begins in Nepal
- Tour the chaos and culture of Kathmandu
- Private transfer from Kathmandu to our Annapurna trailhead
- Trek to Upper Pisang
- Trek to Ngawal and take the plateau to Braga
- Trek to Ice Lake, then descend to Manang
- Student service & cultural exchange in Manang
- Student service & cultural exchange in Manang
- Trek to Thorong Phedi
- Hike over Thorong La Pass, then down to Muktinath
- Trek the Lubra Valley to Jomsom
- Private transfer from Jomsom to Pokhara
- R&R in and around Pokhara
- Private transfer to Kathmandu and onward international flight to layover airport
- Fly from layover city to home airport
check out the flyover tour of your march through the Annapurna Himalaya
Your Detailed Plan of Attack (dates subject to change)
Fly from your hometown airport to your international layover airport ~ June 15, 2018
Fly from North America to your layover city; most major U.S. airports have high-quality, one-stop flights to Kathmandu, Nepal. New this year, round-trip ground transport from Lancaster, PA to our departure airport is part of the Tour package. Skychasers will arrange a group flight from Philadelphia or New York for those who would like to travel together, highly recommended (!) although international airfare is not included in the Tour cost. Expect ticket prices to be in the range of $1,000 – $1,800 round trip.
Fly into Kathmandu from layover airport ~ June 16
Upon arrival at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, we’ll be met by our driver who will take us directly to our hotel overlooking Tibetan Buddhism’s holiest site in Nepal, the Boudha Stupa, below. If arriving in Kathmandu independently, you will be met at the airport by myself or a member of our staff. Airport transfer, dinner, hotel included.
Tour the living museum that is Kathmandu ~ June 17
Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital of culture and chaos! We’re going to go as deep as possible today, but the diligent traveler could really use a few weeks to do justice to this incredible city. With a million things to do, places to go and people to see, it’s hard to know where to start and end. Going with a few highlights, we’ll walk from our hotel in a Tibetan Buddhist neighborhood to Hinduism’s holiest site, the cremation ghats of Pashupatinath Temple along the banks of the Bagmati River. Pashupatinath is devoted to Lord Shiva and besides the cremation ghats, it accommodates a Hindu school and meditation center, holy sadhus (below), a Hindus-only temple, and a forest complete with a deer sanctuary. Oh yea, there are monkeys too. We’ll take time in the afternoon and evening to go over our gear and pack for the start of our trek tomorrow morning. B/L/D, Pashupatinath tour, hotel.
Private vehicle transfer to our trailhead at Chame ~ June 18
- 150 miles ~ 243 km
- 4,500 ft ~ 1,372m Start in Kathmandu
- 830 ft ~ 253m Low point near Mugling
- 8,900ft ~ 2,713m High point and finish in Chame
No visit to Nepal is complete without a couple road trips! We’ll get an efficient start this morning so that our drive may be leisurely and relaxed, characteristics that don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with travel in this part of the world. As we top the pass on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, brace yourself for the awesome downhill headed your way. A good part of the morning is spent winding along the Trisuli River and marveling at the colorful Indian trucks bringing goods in and out of Kathmandu. A northward turnoff begins our foray into the Himalaya. As we enter the Marsyangdi Valley, our terrain narrows and we find ourselves at the bottom of a very deep canyon and eventually, the tiny village of Chame. Private transfer, B/L/D, mountain lodge, trekking permits.
Begin your trek with a hike to Upper Pisang ~ June 19
- 9 miles ~ 14.5 km
- 8,900 ft ~ 2,713m Start and low point in Chame
- 10,900 ft ~ 3,322m Finish and high point in Upper Pisang
Our trek starts with a bang as we fight our way out of the very narrow canyons around Chame on trails above the roaring Marsyangdi River. By lunchtime, our world and our views begin to open up as we round a right-hand bend in the river. As the views widen, a smooth mile-high rock, that might inaccurately be said to resemble Half Dome in the shape of a satellite dish, rises straight out of the river. It’s called the Swarga Danda and it stays with us for the rest of the day. Lurking beyond the Swarga Danda is Pisang Peak, popular as a climbing peak, but infamous for a 1994 disaster. As we continue up the valley, we pass through the lakeside village of Dikure Pokhari over undulating and ascending terrain. Our final steps are gently upward to gain the heights of Upper Pisang, which also houses a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. Mina, our language teacher, starts off Nepali classes after our trek today and they’ll continue every evening throughout the trek. B/L/D, mountain lodge, language class.
Trek to Ngawal and cross the plateaus to Braga ~ June 20
- 12 miles ~ 19.5km
- 10,900 ft ~ 3,322m Start in Upper Pisang
- 10,735 ft ~ 3,272m Low point outside of Upper Pisang
- 12,500 ft ~ 3,810m High point at several spots
- 11,600 ft ~ 3,536m Finish in Braga
The monster massifs of the Annapurna Himalaya make their first big appearance today. Traveling westward out of Upper Pisang, we lose a little altitude in the first hour or two, then take an abrupt right turn upward onto the lowest slopes of Pisang Peak. We could walk on the valley floor, but we’re headed up to the old, traditional village of Ghyaru to take advantage of direct cross-valley visual access to Annapurna II. OK, maybe not direct . . . Annapurna II is almost three miles higher than Ghyaru. From Ghyaru, we traverse far below the Kang La Pass, the high route to the forbidden kingdom of NarPhu and presently march through the plateau village of Ngawal, a great spot for a lunch break. A significant dip in the trail provides false hope as it’s immediately followed by an even more significant ascent before slowly meandering down to the village of Braga. B/L/D, mountain lodge, language class.
Trek up to Ice Lake, then down to Manang ~ June 21
- 6.5 miles ~ 10.5 km
- 11,600 ft ~ 3,536m Start in Braga
- 11,500 ft ~ 3,505m Low point near Manang
- 15,340 ft ~ 4,376m High point at Ice Lake
- 11,600 ft ~ 3,536m Finish in Manang
We’re now high enough to be in the land of Tibetan Buddhism and it’s just our luck that an exquisite ancient monastery is embedded into the upper slopes of Braga. From here, the choice is yours . . . take the low and easy road or the high and challenging road to Manang. The low road takes an hour or two. The high road goes straight up and up and up the hill behind Braga, to the tune of 3,500 ft up. Ice Lake is our goal and it’s nested into a mini hanging valley that feels impossibly high, but in reality is closer to the valley floor than its mountaintop. This may seem like a lot of work to have a pond as a destination, but the real rewards on this day are the views across the valley to the highest peaks of the Annapurna Range. And never fear, should you feel that you’ve not had enough of a challenge, there are several small summits to tackle above the lake. Our day ends with a descent down the mountain into the biggest village in the area, Manang. B/L/D, mountain lodge.
Cultural & Educational Exchange in Manang, 1st day ~ June 22
- 11,600 ft ~ 3,536m Manang
Most trekkers spend a second overnight in Manang to aid acclimatization, but we’re staying three . . . yes, the altitude will feel lower after our stay here, but what we’re really here for is interaction with the students and teachers of the Manang Village School. I like to call it an exchange opportunity as much as a service opportunity, for there’s no doubt that our student trekkers will benefit as much or more than the students of Manang. Last year’s exchange in Thame, Everest Region, was a highlight of our trek, even though it was cut short by national elections. You might stick to teaching English or a work project, or, like Michael last year, have a go at physics & chemistry with our students! B/L/D, homestay or mountain lodge, language class.
Cultural & Educational Exchange in Manang, 2nd day ~ June 23
- 11,600 ft ~ 3,536m Manang
We continue our educational and cultural exchange today, but schools start late in Nepal, so we’re going to try to sneak in an early day hike. As usual, we’ll invite our new school friends along for the ride. Manang has a wealth of hiking options, it’s the Himalaya after all, and one of the best is the upward walk to Milarepa’s Cave, where the legendary Tibetan Buddhist philosopher lived above Manang, 1000 years ago. We’ll aim to return by start of school at 10am. B/L/D, homestay or mountain lodge, language class.
Trek to Thorong Phedi ~ June 24
- 11 miles ~ 18 km
- 11,600 ft ~ 3,536m Start and low point in Manang
- 14,862 ft ~ 4,530m Finish and high point in Thorong Phedi
After a couple day in Manang, you’re going to be ready to hit the road with intent. Heading west out of Manang, we’ll say goodbye to new friends and follow the valley upwards towards the Thorong La Pass. Continuing above tree-line, the terrain becomes gnarly and rocky as our valley gradually narrows around us. Presently, we’ll cross a bridge that takes us over the glacial meltwater of the Chulu Peaks, far above us to our north. An hour or so later we find ourselves at a fantastic lunch spot in the sparkling village of Yak Kharka. After lunch, our terrain is still rugged, but our walking route is in good shape with thousands and thousands of people having walked it over the past centuries. Thorong Phedi is a great place to hang out – that is until the sun goes down. In an instant, as the sun drops below the Thorong La Pass 3,000 feet above us, the temperature drops 30 degrees. Enjoy the potent energy mixture of excitement and nerves as you and every other trekker in the place anticipates an early wake-up followed by a major league climb up and over the Thorong La. Following language class and dinner, it’s off to bed to prep for an early start up the pass. B/L/D, mountain lodge, language class.
Up, up and over the Thorong La, then down to Muktinath ~ June 25
- 9.25 miles ~ 15km
- 14,862 ft ~ 4,530m Start in Thorong Phedi
- 17,769 ft ~ 5,417m High point on the Thorong La
- 12,000 ft ~ 3,658m Finish and low point at Muktinath
A special day awaits those of you who somehow haven’t gotten enough adventure along the way! After an early morning breakfast, we start on an upbeat, or at least uphill, note as our first goal of the day is High Camp at about 16,000 ft. The first 30 minutes are steep and it’s possible you may think you’re going to die, but fear not, not only will you survive, you’ll make it over the pass. With relative ease. Today. And that’s a promise. Remember, hundreds if not thousands of trekkers make it over the Thorong La every year, and many of them are three or four times older than you. Just in time, the gradient eases and soon you’ll find yourself at High Camp, a collection of a few desperate lodges where intrepid trekkers overnight to get a jump on the Pass.
Take a minute to regroup here, adjust your layers, have a snack, whatever you need. Soon after, the pass opens up into a wide, beautiful dirt meadow between two very high mountains. We’re aiming to go between the two high mountains, but as we wind around, up and down, but mostly up, it’s not always immediately obvious where our trail shall lead us. The last hour before the summit, we’re at some serious altitude and the going gets very slow, maybe even slower than the first steep section, although it’s not nearly as steep up top. Call it relentless though as you put in some work to ease up to the summit at 17,769 ft ~ 5,416m. Congratulations on making it to the top of the Thorong La, something you can hang your hat on for the rest of your life! It’s all downhill from here and hopefully you saved something for the descent, especially your brakes since Muktinath is exactly 5,769 vert feet down from the Thorong La summit. B/L/D, mountain lodge, language class.
Last day of trek: hike to Jomsom via the Lubra Valley ~ June 26
- 11 miles ~ 18 km
- 12,000 ft ~ 3,658m Start in Muktinath
- 12,550 ft ~ 3,826m High point at Lubra Pass
- 9,030 ft ~ 2,752m Low point and finish in Jomsom
Good Morning, trekkers . . . you’ll be putting in a few miles today, but most of them will be downhill and not that steep. After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll have a bit of time to take in the sacred Hindu sites in and around Muktinath. Our day begins with a walk down the valley towards the old, old village of Jharkot with its monastery perched on a hilltop overlooking everything. Before we get there though, we’ll take a left at the bus park bringing in Hindu pilgrims to look for holy fossils called saligrams and visit the Muktinath Temple. Our left turn leads us into rolling, arid pastures through big, big terrain interspersed with oases of green villages and apple orchards. Continuing, we soon approach the low-for-us Lubra Pass and along with it comes super-sized views of the 8,000m behemoth of a mountain known
as Dhaulagiri, unapologetically lording its summit 18,500 ft directly above the Kali Gandaki Valley below. Our Tibet-like landscape takes a sharp downward turn into the absurdly arid Lubra Valley, crossing a long swinging bridge which lands us into the village of Lubra for lunch. Lubra is home to one of the last remaining Bon monasteries of the region, a Tibetan religion that is distinctly different from Tibetan Buddhism. After lunch, the Lubra Valley spits us out into the wide Kali Gandaki Valley, which, along with the mountains walling it in, is the dominant geographic feature of the area. Another hour and we’re back in civilization in the busy airport town of Jomsom. Enjoy a real coffee from Himalayan Java before dinner and language class. Congratulations on finishing your journey through some of the most exotic panoramas on this earth! B/L/D, mountain lodge, language class.
Drive from Jomsom to Pokhara ~ June 27
- 9,030 ft ~ 2,752m High point and start in Jomsom
- 2,713 ft ~ 827m Low point and finish in Pokhara
Yes, the trek is finished, but not the adventure. A couple of 4x4s will magically appear outside our Jomsom lodge this morning and whisk us away to Pokhara. Driving down the Kali Gandaki a couple hours later, we’ll find ourselves underneath the colossal summit of Dhaulagiri and the Icefall that’s continuously gurgling down into its lap. Ladies and gentleman, you are now at the nadir of the deepest canyon in the world! In a matter of an hour, our big, open, desert terrain swiftly narrows and changes to a lovely shade of green as we escape the arid rainshadow of the High Himalaya. We’ll arrive in Pokhara by mid-afternoon where we’ll eat, shower, rinse, repeat with very little planned beyond that. B/L/D, 4×4, hotel.
Free day of R&R in Pokhara ~ June 28
Pokhara is both the adventure and relaxation capital of Nepal, so pick your poison today or mix them up. The mountain biking is epic, and if the weather’s nice, I’ll gladly lead a gentle ride through the hills of Pokhara. There’s a gorgeous Peace Pagoda, below, on one of the hills overlooking the Pokhara Valley that makes a perfect triathlon loop of a boat ride, a hike, and a taxi. After the big trek though, some of you may be content with sitting on the rooftop of our hotel watching the mountains go by. Shopping in Pokhara could be considered both an adventure and relaxing. Whatever you do, we’ll intersperse it with a couple delicious meals, one of the great pleasures of post-trek life in Pokhara. B/L/D, hotel.
Drive or fly Pokhara to Kathmandu, then catch onward international flight to our Layover City ~ June 29
Today is getaway day, but Nepal still finds a way to captivate its guests until the bitter end. Driving back to Kathmandu lands us in Nepal’s capital sometime in the afternoon. If there’s time before your flight home, we can do some last-minute shopping, grab a bite to eat, or whatever before we head back to the airport to catch our flight home. B/L/D, ground transport, airport transfer.
Fly from Layover City to North America, arrive home! ~ June 30
Qatar and its capital of Doha are our most likely route to and from Kathmandu. From there, it’s a 12-hour flight to New York or Philadelphia. If we don’t fly Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, China Southern amongst a number of others, all provide excellent one-stop service between many North American gateways and Kathmandu.