cycling the Annapurna Circuit

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles – day 1 | 2 | 3/4

My best ride EVER.

Jeeps and buses now shuttle up and down the valley all the way to Muktinath, causing some trekkers to dismiss this section of the Annapurna Circuit as ‘over’.

It’s not over. Most who do it still enjoy the hike down.

Still … cycling is better.

Cycling Annapurna is getting increasingly popular. But it is dangerous.

One guide I cycled alongside had 3 clients: all 3 fell over two days, one evacuated back to the U.K. with a broken collar bone.

Here’s the best easy & inexpensive option, in my opinion.

I did the Muktinath to Tatopani ride in 2014. Enjoyed it so much that I repeated exactly the same trip in 2019.

First you have to make your way to Muktinath (3800m) and be acclimatized to that altitude.

Many offer to rent you a bike. I went again with Mustang, as I like their professionalism. For this trip and 6 years ago the cost was $60 — and you could do the trip in 1, 2, 3, or 4 days for that price. Most do 2 days. They shuttle your luggage to Tatopani.

  1. Muktinath to Marpha (2650m descent)
  2. Marpha to Tatopani (1130m descent)

There are several ways down to Kagbeni, all interesting. This time I took the high route via Jhong (Dzong; 3580m) on the other side of the valley from the motor vehicle traffic. Loved it.

All day long you are staring at impressive Dhaulagiri (8167m).

Day 1 is dry, arid Tibetan landscape.

You definitely need protection from wind and dust.

You reach fantastic Kagbeni without passing any traffic. But road building is ongoing in the so-called Annapurna Conservation Area.

Riding through Jomsom is ugly and un-fun. But there’s no alternative to the busy main road.

Almost everyone stops in lovely Marpha. I followed the guide and her clients to this Guest House. In fact, I got the room of her injured rider.

Next morning I toured Marpha, the apple capital of Nepal.

… a pretty stone lined village which has survived the transition to the current time, by catering to trekkers and tourists. …

Dominating the village is the Nyingma monastery …

Day 2 you can often choose between the main road (bad), the river (hike-a-bike) or the new Annapurna trekking trail (single track with plenty of ups-and-downs).

I enjoyed it much better than 6 years ago.

The final ride down to Tatopani (hot water) is very, very rough. I’ll post video of that section later.

😕

BUT … it is great to hit the hot springs after 2 long, dusty days.

There’s no easy way out of Tatopani. My first time here I continued trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, a serious commitment. This time I got on the local bus … $5.50 for a 7 hour, very bumpy ride back to Pokhara.

Trip report by BestHike editor Rick McCharles – day 1 | 2 | 3/4

Matador Freefly16 packable daypack

Kraig and Dave on The Adventure Podcast frequently recommend Matador products.

As I travel much of each year, I use packable daypacks nearly every day on those trips. Often it carries my laptop and other essentials for short trips.

Often I use it to carry my daily groceries.

The Matador Freefly16 has replaced my my Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil® Dry Day Pack. The Matador is slightly heavier and bulkier, but much more robust and full-featured.

This 16 liter backpack is built from waterproof Cordura® with sealed internal seams and sealing zippers.  Incredibly light and seriously equipped, Freefly16 is ready for whatever’s ahead.

Dimensions:

  • Unpacked 17in x 11in x 8in
  • Packed 4.75in x 2.75in diameter
  • 4.8 oz

details 

Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.

Testing water filters for hikers

Misleading and unsubstantiated claims are a problem in the increasingly confusing assortment of options for filtering water.

Here’s the most comprehensive evaluation I’ve ever seen. See how your product rates.

Survival & Backpacking Water Filter Tests

LifeStraw Mission and MUV Survivalist look to be the units that best suit my needs. They are both about 350 grams.

BEST National Parks in the World

I love National Parks. But ranking the 4000 worldwide is super difficult.

Men’s Journal gave it a try.

1. Wrangell-St Elias National Park, Alaska

2. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

3. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

4. Kakadu National Park, Australia

5. Jasper National Park, Canada

See more.

https://twitter.com/kungfujedi/status/1120704057792921600

(via Adventure Blog)

2 Foot Adventures mobile gear shop

PCT schedule 2019:

  • Warner Springs, CA – March 15 to May 16
  • Lone Pine, CA – May 24 – June TBD
  • Etna, CA – July TBD – Aug TBD

I met Mary and Charlie at Warner Springs and really appreciated their advice on very light hiking gear.

I bought my first pair of Injinji toe socks. They worked well.

2 Foot Adventures carry Granite Gear, my pack of choice for many years.

But I was convinced to try a Hyperlite next time I’m buying.

100% waterproof Dyneema®. The external mesh pockets are bigger than my Granite Gear. Weight is a bit more, however, at 2.17 lbs | 34.82 oz | 987g (Black).

There’s no doubt I should switch from sleeping bag to quilt soon. The Jacks R Better “Sierra Sniveller” 20 degree is my choice, so far.

Helly’s LifaLoft jacket – my review

Kraig Becker sent me an early prototype of a Helly Hansen LifaLoft jacket for my 2019 trip to Patagonia. I wore it non-stop for a couple of months cycling and hiking in wet, windy and sometimes cold weather.

LIFALOFT™ is not down. It’s arguably lighter and warmer.

The idea is to trap a maximum amount of air in a small space. And due to the hydrophobic properties of LIFA®, LIFALOFT™ has an inherent water repellency that should keep you warm, even when wet.

It worked for me as advertised.

Glacier Vinciguerra, Ushuaia, Argentina
Cerro Guanaco trail, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina under a rain shell

The best test came when I got caught in a surprise downpour while hiking without my shell. I was worried.

But next morning the LifaLoft looked and felt 100% perfect.

Kraig sent me this to replace my FAILED Columbia OutDry down jacket. It was useless after 7 months.

The Helly Hansen is far superior. The Colombia failed — I think — because it couldn’t handle being frequently compressed into a stuff sack. The HH LifaLoft seems much more durable.

In Patagonia Helly Hansen is the go-to brand for serious sailers and outdoors-people. Developed in Norway, HH is tested under the worst weather conditions.

For future hikes in moderate weather where weight is a big consideration, I’ll be carrying the LifaLoft and just a waterproof ultra-light Frogg Toggs shell.