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Trekking Thorong La Pass: how hard is it?

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

Our thorough guide to trekking Thorong La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal with lots of invaluable safety tips.

Thorong La Pass is the climax point of the Annapurna Circuit at 5,416 meters 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 basically means that every step you take feels like you just ran a marathon.

However, trekking Thorong La is far from impossible. With enough preparation and time, anyone can do it. The secret is allowing enough time for your body to acclimatize 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 moderate one.

Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travelers to Nepal

Nepal is one of the most gay friendly countries in Asia, especially for LGBTQ travelers. The Nepalese are super sweet, welcoming of everyone, and really curious about 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 recognize same-sex unions. Find out more in our interview with Tilak from Kathmandu about what it's like growing up gay in Nepal.

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 meters) to acclimatize before heading higher:

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

This is where your preparation for the crossing of Thorong La really starts. At 3,500 meters, symptoms of altitude sickness may appear, so acclimatization at this point is crucial! Whilst we were ok at this altitude, fellow travelers 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 acclimatize to the 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 meters altitude

2. The trek from Manang to High Camp

From Manang, you then hike to a village called Yak Kharkha (4,050m) where 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 your 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 5 am. 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 meters 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 8 am. 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 meters, 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)

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

Sebastien Chaneac

Hey everyone, I'm Seby, the co-founder, editor, and know-it-all IT guru behind the Nomadic Boys gay travel least that's how Stefan describes me! I'm also a total travel nerd and food enthusiast. Over the past 10 years, I've travelled to over 80 countries with my partner in crime and the love of my life, Stefan. I've written for a wide range of publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Want to know more about me? Check my full bio here.

Rojina Gurung

Sunday 7th of March 2021

Oh my gwad!!! My home town is Pokhara (Nepal) but my family been living in Hong Kong for long. It's sad that being a Nepali i haven't explored any on the trekking routes in Nepal but that changes now and it's freaking Thorang La. Planning my trip on April. Agreed, downhill is way difficult. Wish me luck, thank you for your blog. Lots of love from Hong Kong/Nepal.

Stefan Arestis

Sunday 7th of March 2021

Well, we always underestimate what's in our back garden right? Enjoy enjoy - you're in for one massive treat :)


Sunday 8th of November 2020

Hey guys, thank you for your post about Thorong La Pass, I needed to know how is it before doing it (I hope I will start the circuit in one week or so :D), and congrats for your amazing blog! I am living in Nepal 8 months already since more or less corona lockdown happened here...but it made me discover this country way much deeper than I expected and I am completely in love with it. Keep travelling guys and being safe!

Stefan Arestis

Monday 9th of November 2020

Thanks Melisa - what an incredible country eh? :)


Friday 16th of October 2020

I've been getting interested in the Anapurna circuit recently, thanks for the great recap!

Stefan Arestis

Friday 16th of October 2020

Our pleasure :)

Dawa Sherpa

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Hey, I love the way you enjoyed your trek, I hope you had a wonderful moment. I want to let you know that I am using your first paragraph in describing the Annapurna Circuit trek, in my Linkedin article. I had the equal opportunity to do the trek back in 2017, and today I decided to write my feelings down. I am giving credit to your words, I hope you find this ok. If you want to decline, I am totally ok with it, also I am not going to publish it unless I get your permission.

Thank you

Stefan Arestis

Thursday 20th of August 2020

Sure thing - as long as you put a link to the original article crediting it please.


Sunday 10th of November 2019

Thanks for a good article about Trekking Thorong La Pass

Stefan Arestis

Sunday 10th of November 2019

Our pleasure :)