The love of trekking has brought many avid trekkers into ACUBE family but this is the first time ever an Himalayan trek has been undertaken under the ACUBE banner. Today is the day that we have been waiting for as we will be summiting our final destination to Annapurna Base Camp! Everyone looks pretty excited and energetic! It's high time that I introduce you to the ACUBE ABC expedition team - VBS Mani, Prakash Hamirwasia, Sunil Karegaudar, Mukund Mulay, Dr. Vinayak Mane, Kiran Mohite, Amit Kothari, Vikas Banduke (Mamaji) and yours truly Anand Ghatnekar. The amazing Sherpa boys led by Phula Sherpa, assisted by Karma Sherpa and Pemba Sherpa. Phuri, Kunga, Mingma, Lakpa and Nawang were the porters who scampered up and down the ABC trails like the nibble footed mountain goats!
We started from Deurali (3200 m) at 7:30 am. The trek was pretty steep and tough as we approached MBC (Machhapuchere base camp) which is at 3700 m elevation. The weather was getting very cold (4 degrees). We stopped there for lunch at 11 am and took some rest before we started the last leg of our summit to ABC at 1:30 pm. The last trail of approximately 3 kms and 500 m altitude was getting very tough because of the high altitude. Our lungs were desperately gasping to catch all the oxygen that they can. We finally reached the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) 4170 m at 3:30 pm. It took us almost close to two hours to reach the base camp. It was a moment of joy and accomplishment for the nine trailblazing "ACUBEians"! Indeed a great team work!! All the toil, sweat and grime that culminated into this pinnacle of achievement. This moment would not have been possible without the ever enthusiastic, tireless and persistent prodding from our inspiring mentor Maniji!! Words aren't enough to express our heartfelt gratitude towards his guidance to all of us in conquering our individual Annapurna's! We took some pictures at the camp and settled down at our hotel Paradise. The weather is overcast with a occasional drizzle where the rain drops are turning into miniature sharp icicles. This didn't dampen our urge to go further up 50 meters to see the Annapurna glacier and the memorials of the brave souls who are now resting peacefully somewhere in the Annapurna. We bowed our heads and sent our prayers with the fluttering Lungtas (Tibetian prayer flags). The biting cold wind slicing through the multiple layered clothing forced us back into the warmth of the dining room. We finished our dinner at 7 pm and retired into our sleeping bags. No amount of layering could protect us from the biting cold and soon some of us started experiencing splitting headaches which was a symptom of AMS. Turning and tossing we somehow saw the night through. Early next morning just before dawn, our busting bladders drove some of us out of the comfort of the sleeping bags. This was a boon in disguise, for what we saw on stepping out into the cold will forever remain imprinted in our memories! It was a pitch dark sky with the entire Annapurna range lit up ethereally by the star lights. The first sentence Dr. Vinayak Mane uttered "Maniji Ko uthao" (wake up Maniji) for he had the high end DSLR camera. We took some awesome photographs of the Annapurna range with the stars. We stayed on in the bitter cold (Minus 10 degrees Celsius) to experience the magic as it unfolded with the sunrise. We celebrated the success on the auspicious festival of Dusshera which traditionally is a celebration of victory! There couldn't have been a better time for celebrating this success!!
The setting of Annapurna Base Camp is at 4130 m is unique and incredibly spectacular, set amidst the majestic peaks of Hiunchuli (6441 m), Annapurna South (7219 m), Annapurna Fang, Annapurna 1 (8091 m), Glacier dome, Tent peak, Gangapurna and a few unnamed ragged ridges leading to Machapuchhre (6993 m) completing the amazing panorama. On our way back between Deorali, MBC and ABC we spotted and took pictures of Pika, Spot winged Grosbeak, Yuhinia, Red fronted Rosefinch (male) and Lesser Kestrel.
We started our descend from ABC at 7:30 am as we had to cover a long distance in a day all the way to lower Sinuwa (2200 m). It was a tough descent as it took us almost 7 hours covering 24 kms and a descent of 2000 m which took us almost 3 days for ascending! I have mentioned the elevation that we covered so far but let me tell you that the entire ABC trek is full of stairs either ascending or descending! Almost half the distance is full of stairs and yes I literally mean it! Out of the 70 odd kms (one way) that we covered one way we would have ascended or descended atleast close to One lakh steps (one hundred thousand) steps, that's an average of ten thousand steps per day! For amateur trekkers doing the Himalayan trek for the first time was a lot! But we did it with conviction and more importantly we completed it safely! We reached lower Sinuwa at 4 pm and took it easy for the rest of the day. Since the cell phone signal was available almost after a gap of three days we hurried to connect with our families back home. The local people had arranged for a folk dance post dinner which was lot of fun as we enjoyed the live folk music and dance along with the local people and also some trekkers from Poland and Germany. It was almost 10 pm when we called off for the day. We have one more long day to go, to complete our final descent to Syauli Bazar.
Last but not the least, our sincere thanks to all the friends, family members and ACUBEians who encouraged and supported in competing this endeavor!