Annapurna Circuit - Day 17 (Ghorepani - Birethanti incl. Poon Hill)
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The early morning alarm sounded at 4:45 AM for the march up Poon Hill for sunrise views of the Annapurna Himal. Hordes of people from the Ghorepani lodges accompanied us up the trail for what is supposed to be one of the classic views of the Annapuna Himalayas. Many people come to Pokhara and do a short 3-5 trek in the Annapurnas and this includes Ghorepani so they were even more people around then we usually saw on the Circuit itself.
It was a 45 minute walk up another 300m (985 ft) to the summit of Poon Hill (3193m, 10475 ft) from Ghorepani. Early on as darkness was replaced by early dawn light I knew things weren't looking good. Last nights rain clouds had not departed and enveloped the areas leaving us with none of the views that Poon Hill is so famous for.
If you want to see a panorama from Poon Hill, here's one I found:
Before breakfast the drama started. I spoke earlier that our group dynamic wasn't the greatest. I liked everyone individually but we just didn't mesh as a group. Today took that to the extreme when one of our group decided to walk off and finish the last days of the trek and return to Kathmandu by himself. To this date not exactly sure of his reasoning at that point but it is what it is and is water under the bridge at this point anyway.
After breakfast those of us that remained started the last full day of trekking. Before leaving the clouds did briefly clear for some views of Annapurna South so I can say that I saw all of the major peaks of the Annapurna Himal at some point on the trek. Like the trek from Kalopani to Tatopani two days ago today was another downhill day. Including the descent from Poon Hill we would go from 3193m (10475 ft) down to 1025m (3363 ft) at Birethanti, our final destination on the Circuit. The initial descent was gradual through forests of rhodendronand down into some very thickly forested terrain. Some steeper descent brought us eventually out over a large valley and the town of Ulleri (1960m - 6430 ft). We stopped here for a tea break and could see the small farms and villages dotting the sides of the valley far below.
Lunch was at the bottom of the staircase in Tikhedhungga. Once again the rain caught up with us at lunch in the afternoon. We still had 2.5 hours and another 400m of descending before Birethanti. The rain was light at first again, but we couldn't outrun it today either. Before we got to our lodge we were soaked once more. A scraggly and soggy bunch had a final trekking dinner, a few celebratory drinks, a few final games of UNO and then the long day (8:20 minutes not counting Poon Hill) combined with the early morning wake-up led everyone off to get some welcome sleep.