Trekking Thorong La Pass: how difficult 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.

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

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)

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!

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)

Watch more from our travel in Nepal in our awesome video:

 

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12 thoughts on “Trekking Thorong La Pass: how difficult is it?”

  1. Yeah I loved this content. Thorong la pass is considered as a difficult trekking destination.Video summarizes almost all Nepal.

  2. I’m so glad you missed that freak snow storm, from the news footage that looked awful. Your photos are just insanely beautiful; we had originally planned on doing the hike this autumn too but our teaching contracts put a stop to that plan. Hopefully one day we will tackle it though; one of my biggest issues would be the cold I think, I really struggle with that. Well done on not hiring a porter too, I’m impressed that you carried everything yourselves!

    • Thanks Amy!

      Mongolia and Nepal have so far been our stand out highlights and definitely want to return for more trekking here.

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