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Biking Around Annapurna: Are You Serious?

By Adam Marsal

Nowadays, you can go almost anywhere on mountain bike, but there are those who always want to take it that little bit further. Like the Himalayas? Not an obstacle!

At 8091m (26,545 ft.), Annapurna is one of the world’s ten highest mountains. Don’t even think about climbing it unless you’re a professional climber, but even a moderately fit mountain biker can trek around it. What will you have to deal with when you get there though?

The good news is you can pedal virtually the entire route and the trails are absolutely fantastic! The trek takes about three weeks, during which time you will find yourself at altitudes ranging from 800m (2,500 ft.) to 5000m (16,500 ft.). You’ll pedal through areas populated by different ethnic groups and you may be surprised at how well Hindus and Buddhists are able to live together side by side.

Your first port of call will be the bustling city of Kathmandu in Nepal. No doubt, once you arrive you’ll be longing to hit those mountains! The Marshyangdi river valley is full of giant boulders, lakes, waterfalls and forests where at times you’ll have to ford the river. The first few days are almost entirely uphill, but it doesn’t feel like a struggle when views of the huge Manaslu and Annapurna massifs gradually open up before your eyes with peaks soaring up to 8000m (26,000 ft.). Battling your way uphill is not the only challenge. The narrow bridges over the river may look a matter of little concern from a distance, but up close they have been known to reduce any rider’s legs to jelly. When you see children running across them completely carefree, however, it helps chase those butterflies away. You then gradually leave the subtropical climate behind you and the evenings start getting colder.

The gravel tracks head ever upwards and sometimes you have to hoist your bike onto your shoulder. This is no trip for the faint-hearted. The daily stages may not sound very long, but at an altitude of 4500m (15,000 ft.), riding just twelve miles can be extremely draining.

You won’t be wallowing in luxury, but you will be able to find clean accommodation, even in small villages. You’ll be able to wash every day and although the water may sometimes be a bit chilly, sometimes you’ll come across hot springs to make up for that! That’s not all there is to look forward to though. Buddhist temples, picturesque villages, and surprisingly good food all await you and to cap it all off there are wonderful views and outstanding trails. That’s why you’re there after all!

It makes sense to take your time as you gradually head up past the 4000m mark(13,000 ft). The Thorong La pass, the highest point you can reach by bike, lies at 5416m (17,769 ft.), where you will need warm clothing, including a puffer jacket. The reward for drudging all the way up there is that you can later let yourself fly downhill by dropping 1700m (5,500 ft.)!

You may think that you can manage the trek without Sherpas, but you’ll miss the most beautiful parts, not to mention the possibility that you’ll just wind up getting lost. Also don’t count on communicating with the locals in English or German. If you’re interested in embarking on an expedition to an exotic country like Nepal, you’d probably be best off contacting a specialist, whether that means a guide or an agency.

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All photos: Mountainbikereisen.ch