The Best Itinerary Of Nepal's Khopra Ridge Trek
In my previous article on the Khopra Ridge Trek of Nepal, I have discussed the major highlights of the trek but now I will emphasize on why I chose to explore it from the Nayapul side and not to proceed with the conventional route from Ghandruk which leads to magnificent Khopra Ridge.
Let me just give you an idea on how a pre-planning of a trek works which in other words is known as a recce (reconnaissance). Personally, double check the already established trail and how feasible it is to follow that specific trail for an operator to run this trek.
During mid – April 2019 when I decided to explore this trail, I came to know that there are a few local operators who operate this trek with a certain itinerary but it is always advisable to do a bit of fact-finding before getting into any exploration. After getting hands on the itinerary and the map of this region of Annapurna Conservation area I decided to do it in the reverse order, thus deviating from the standard itinerary.
In this article, I am going to justify my reason for why the Khopra Ridge Trek must be done in the reverse order and hopefully, it will make sense to you in the end.
Conventional vs. Explored
Technically speaking, let me give you an idea of the standard itinerary and the itinerary explored and followed by us at Bikat Adventures.
Conventional Itinerary as followed by other operators:
Day 1: Ghandruk (6,654 ft) to Tadapani (9,020 ft); 5 hours, 8 km
Day 2: Tadapani (9,020 ft) to Dobato (11,826 ft); 5 hours, 7 km
Day 3: Dobato (11,826 ft) to Khopra ridge (12,581 ft); 7 hours, 10.8 km
Day 4: Khopra ridge (12,581 ft) to Khayar Lake (15,640 ft) and back to Khopra ridge; 8 hours, 15.5 km (Optional)
Day 5: Khopra ridge (12,581 ft) to Swanta (7,786 ft); 5 hours, 9.6 km
Day 6: Swanta (7,786 ft) to Ghorepani (9,775 ft); 4.5 hours, 9 km
Day 7: Ghorepani (9,775 ft) to Ulleri (6,400 ft); 3 hours, 7 km
Itinerary as per Bikat Adventures:
Day 1: Pokhara to Hile (52 km drive). Hile (4,921 ft) to Ulleri (6,578 ft); 2.5 hours, 2.5 km
Day 2: Ulleri (6,400 ft) to Ghorepani (9,775 ft); 5 hours, 7.5 km
Day 3: Ghorepani (9,775 ft) to Poon Hill (10,532 ft) and back to Ghorepani; 1 hour, 1.5 km. Ghorepani to Swanta (7,786 ft); 4 hours, 4.6 km
Day 4: Swanta (7,786 ft) to Sistibung (9,843 ft); 5 hours, 5 km
Day 5: Sistibung (9,843 ft) to Khopra Ridge (12,581 ft); 3 hours, 3 km
Day 6: Khopra Ridge (12,581 ft) to Dobato (11,240 ft); 7 hours, 11 km
Day 7: Dobato (11,240 ft) to Muldai Top (11,932 ft) and back to Dobato; Dobato to Ghandruk (6,654 ft); 7 hours, 12 km. Ghandruk to Pokhara (60 km drive).
There are two strong reasons why one should undertake the Khopra Ridge Trek from the Nayapul side, in the reverse order of the standard itinerary.
1. Unnecessary Difficulty Level
As per the itinerary followed by other operators, the initial days are longer and have more height gain as compared to our itinerary, which is unnecessary.
According to the standard itinerary, the Day 1 of the trek starts from Ghandruk which is at 6654 ft and takes you to Tadapani which is little more than 9000 ft. Which is definitely too much in terms of height gain and distance of 8 km. For people coming straight from the plains, the body takes time to adjust to the terrain, altitude, and environment. Thus, it is always advisable to take it easy on the initial days of a trek to acclimatize properly. If you are looking for a challenge then there is a gradual process to successfully overcome the same. Be it terrain, extreme weather conditions or the altitude factor being most important.
Considering all these factors, I decided to start my exploration of the Khopra Ridge Trek from Nayapul side, the same place where all the other operators end the trek. One can start the trek from Nayapul itself, but I found out that there is an unpaved road till Hile which otherwise will come after a good three hours of walking. So there was no point of trekking to Hile since there are vehicles that can take you all the way to Hile. But it is relatively easier for a group to book a vehicle as opposed to a lone trekker. If you are alone you can ask for a lift, it will cost around 200 Nepali rupees. The trail from Hile to Ulleri is not a cake walk instead, this little stretch has 3500 steps to overcome which is a very good warm-up for the upcoming days.
Proceeding with my planned itinerary, I realized that it is appropriate and technically correct in terms of acclimatization, which is the most important part of high altitude treks. In short, it means that your body is successfully adjusting to the altitude gain. Up to Khopra ridge, in terms of altitude gain, it is safe every single day, which any moderate level trek needs to offer.
If you decide to end the trek at Nayapul, there will be a continuous descend down the steps which will be strenuous. Exerting too much pressure on your knees must be avoided as much as possible to prevent ligament injury, which is not the case in terms of descending down uneven terrain.
This is not the case if you descend towards Ghandruk. Yes, there are steps but not like the ones on the Nayapul side, it will be much easier on your knees.
Then there are steeper ascends in the standard itinerary as opposed to the trail and the itinerary followed by Bikat Adventures.
2. Revelation of Milestones
A trek is like a storybook or a script of a movie. It should unfold step by step.
So, I noticed something is not right with the way the highlights of the trek were getting unveiled according to the conventional itinerary followed by all others.
Firstly, I need to point out about the Muldai Top which according to the conventional itinerary is the first highlight of the trek. But, the Muldai Top is too good to get unveiled too soon. The views are absolutely stunning from the viewpoint with close to 23 Himalayan peaks. From the likes of Annapurna range, Dhaulagiri range, Nilgiri Himal range, etc the Muldai Top presents and amphitheater of epic Himalayan ranges.
It is very much relevant to the fact that keeping another highlight of this trek which is Poon Hill at the end is not fitting well. Let me explain this fact in a better way.
The biggest highlight of the Khopra Ridge trek is the Khopra viewpoint, as the name of the trek itself suggests. It is for several reasons, especially the view of not one or two but 23 snow-capped mountains. But, there is one peak in particular which stands out among all the other peaks. That is Mt. Dhaulagiri. It is believed that one gets the best view of this particular peak from this point. But, there is one more point where you get to see this particular peak in this same trek itself and that is Poon Hill. It is way less in terms of altitude and it is pretty far too so imagine getting the same view but not so great as the one you get from Khopra.
I am not at all denying the fact that Poon Hill does not offer great views. Especially the view of Mt Machhapuchre (Fish Tail). But, again it is not up to the league of Khopra viewpoint. It will definitely feel pointless to keep Poon Hill as the last milestone of the trek when you have already experienced this thing from a better angle and viewpoint.
So why it is better to keep Muldai top for the end?
Mainly because you are not seeing the view of same snow-capped mountain ranges so it will not make it feel repetitive. Plus the trail from Khopra ridge to Dobato which is the halting point for Muldai top is magnificent. Especially the ridge which we keep appreciating in this particular trek.
In my opinion, leaving aside the milestones, in terms of the overall variations in landscape and terrain, this explored route by us is much more charming and attractive. Since the best part the trail comes after the second half of the trek, it will be much more engaging in terms of the overall experience of the trek.
As a passionate mountain lover, I'm fond of sharing my adventure experience not just by writing it down but most importantly it makes me happier when someone really experiences it on their own. So it is obvious that as a professional mountain guide we would definitely try our best to give or share the ideal experience. With all due respect, there is no way I am trying to disregard someone else’s plan or work regarding any particular trek but improvisation is always healthy. That is exactly what we have tried to do with the Itinerary of Khopra Ridge Trek.
If you are going to undertake any trek, then make sure you do it in the best way. Do it right!