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Trekking Thorong La Pass: how hard is it?

Sebastien Chaneac
Trekking Thorong La Pass: how hard is it?

Thorong La Pass is the climax point of the Annapurna Circuit at 5,416 metres altitude and one of the hardest treks on the Annapurna circuit. At this altitude, there is only half of the oxygen available at sea level. This basicly means, that every step you take feels like you just ran a marathon.

However, trekking Thorong La is far from being impossible. With enough preparation and time, anyone can do it. The secret is allowing enough time for your body to acclimatise to the altitude. We saw people of all ages trekking Thorong-La and they were all fine.

And in case you're wondering whether you need special climbing equipment: no, Thorong La is a “pass” so you only need to hike through it.

All you need is to follow the steps below which will turn a very difficult hike into a modearate one.

1. Acclimatisation at Manang village (3,500m)

Most trekkers start from Besi Sahar (1,000m) and work their way around the Annapurna circuit anticlockwise to Pokhara over a 2-4 weeks period. This allows for a break mid way at the village town of Manang (3,550 metres) to acclimatise before heading higher:

Map of the Annapurna Circuit
Map of the Annapurna Circuit – the climax point is Thorong La pass (5,416 metres)

This is where you preparation for the crossing of Thorong La really starts. At 3,500 metres, symptoms of altitude sickness may appear, so acclimatisation at this point is crucial! Whilst we were ok at this altitude, fellow travellers complained of breathing problems at this point and headaches.

We strongly recommend spending at least 2 nights in Manang and doing small hikes to allow your body to acclimatise to altitude.

Breakfast with this beautiful view of the Himalayas at Manang village
Breakfast with this beautiful view of the Himalayas at Manang village – 3,540 metres altitude

2. The trek from Manang to High Camp

From Manang, you then hike to a village called Yak Kharkha (4,050m) when you spend the night. This is when the views of the Himalayas started to become even more incredible and we saw less and less vegetation.

The next day, you trek to the village of Thorong Phedi (4,500m) and then to “High Camp” (4,800m), where you will spend you last night before crossing Thorong-La.

This was one of the hardest parts of the Annapurna trek for us (even harder than crossing the pass) as we started to feel the altitude symptoms. We needed to stop every few minutes to rest before continuing further, panting hard. Drinking plenty of water and rest is the best way to deal with the symptoms, along with hot drinks like lemon and honey or mint tea.

Our guide even managed to persuade us to drink coca cola to help alleviate headaches – and despite Stefan’s protests (he thinks Coca Cola is toilet cleaner), it worked!

Trekking from 4,500m to 4,800m
The altitude sickness started to hit us during the 300m climb from Thorong Phedi (4,500m) to High Camp trek to High Camp (4,800m)

3. Crossing Thorong La Pass

The most difficult part of hiking Thorong La pass is that you have to wake up very early to leave at 5am. You need to start early to avoid the heavy winds that occur at high altitudes in the late morning before midday.

It will be cold so make sure you wear those thick woolly hats, gloves and down jacket you have been carrying all the way!

You trek the last 600m up to the 5,416m Thorong La Pass climax point, then down 1,800 metres to Muktinath village (the hardest part of the journey, especially for your knees).

We went at a slow pace and reached Thorong La pass at 8am. We were overjoyed! The adrenaline at this point kicks in, which helps with all the altitude symptoms:

Crossing Thorong La Pass - 5,416 metres
Crossing Thorong La Pass – 5,416 metres, with our lovely guide Kiran

Then follows the hard part – trekking down from 5,416m to the village of Muktinath – 3,800m. Oh boy do those walking sticks come in handy at this point!

4. Chill out at Pokhara

The ending point for most trekkers is the peaceful city of Pokhara. It has a beautiful lake to rent a boat and just relax after a strenuous two weeks trek:

Sebastien's attempt to row our boat across Pokhara's beautiful lake
Sebastien's attempt to row our boat across Pokhara's beautiful lake (Stefan did all the work)
Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Nepal

Nepal is one of the most gay friendly countries in Asia, especially for LGBTQ travellers. The Nepalese are super sweet, welcoming of everyone and really curious with foreigners. We love them! Whilst society retains strong conservative values, tourists will have no problems here. Back in 2008, the Nepalese Supreme Court ordered the government to introduce a very progressive Constitution, which included an array of anti-discrimination laws. It is also discussing laws to recognise same-sex unions. Find out more in our interview with Tilak from Kathmandu about what it's like growing up gay in Nepal.

For more, watch more from our video about what it's like travelling as a gay couple in Nepal:

 

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

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Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends most of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details and if not, he'll probably be cooking. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.