Mardi Himal is the name of the long raising ridge and its summit (5,588m) that forms the southwesterly slope of Mount Machhapuchhre, immediately below its sheer south face. Machhapuchhre, which towers majestically over the Pokhara Valley, is best known as Fishtail Mountain because of its twin peaks that mirror the image of a fish tail. It is superbly beautiful and is considered sacred, permission to climb it has, so far, always been denied. This trek climbs through forests, and above the tree lines to follow the ridge that takes us up to ‘High camp’, 3,620m where time is spent acclimatizing while being awestruck by the views. Annapurna South seems near enough to throw a rock at and Machhapuchhre close enough to touch. Finally, we enter the wilderness territory as we go beyond 4,500 meters where the great ice fields and blue glaciers of Annapurna Base Camp lie below. Around us, in an arc from east to west, are a dozen or more glistening snowcapped giants, with Annapurna I being the highest of them all – a view that is almost impossible to equal. Conquering this wilderness territory and the incredible proximity of 5 of the highest mountains in the world leaves one feeling they have explored.
At Kathmandu International Airport, you will be met by a Trek Nepal representative and transferred to your hotel. There will be a full tour briefing in the evening.
We drive out of the Kathmandu valley following the Prithvi highway, which descends to the scenic and tranquil town of Pokhara. En route we will have outstanding views of the Ganesh, Manaslu and Annapurna ranges of the Himalayas, along with river valleys, terraced fields and local villages. Pokhara is set on the banks of Phewa Tal (lake) beneath the Annapurna range, which create a spectacular backdrop for this serene town. On arriving you are free to explore the town, take a boat out on to the lake, walk up to the peace pagoda, or simply relax and soak up the atmosphere by the lake.
To reach the start point of our trek we take a short drive west of Pokhara to Phedi. The trek starts with the climb of a steep stone staircase as we follow the main trail to Dhampus. From here, Machhapuchhre and Annapurna South reveal their magnificence with spectacular views. Continuing upwards through pastures and forests we reach the Gurung village of Pothana, where we stay the night. We have stunning views of Annapurna ll (7,937m), Annapurna lll (7,555m), Annapurna lV (7,525m), Annapurna South (7,219m), Lamjung (6,983m) and Macchapuchhre (6,997m).
Mornings usually offer stunning views of the mountains particularly at dawn, and this morning is no exception as the sun rises over Annapurna South. An easy walk along a slightly ascending trail through a lightly populated rhododendron forest, with views of the Annapurnas, leads us to Deurali. On approaching the village Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world, comes into view for the first time. The forest becomes denser with giant rhododendron, birch, oak, maple and hemlock as the trail initially ascends for an hour then eases to a winding path with a series of ascents and descends to Forest Camp. This enchanting forest is inhabited by deer, monkeys, and occasionally leopards and black bears, which we may encounter. Forest Camp where we will spend our night is appropriately named, it lies in a beautiful area almost enclosed by forest, and to the west there is an opening from where we will view Ghandruk, one of the biggest and oldest villages in the Annapurna region.
Continuing to be surrounded by forest the vegetation changes to suit the higher elevation notably tree ferns mosses, lichen and alpine trees. The trail through the forest is a gradual ascent. Throughout the trail there are natural openings that look out to distant views of Macchapuchhre, and terraced fields and villages clinging to the hillsides. Still enclosed by forest at Low Camp, in the north east there is an opening offering an impressive view of Machhapuchhre, making us believe that will be able to reach out and touch this revered mountain in the coming days. As we continue our ascent, and the forest is left behind, imposing views of the Annapurna Himal come in to view. Throughout today’s trail with each step the mountains were magnified, everything came so much clearer and closer, at High Camp you are left feeling the magnifier is at maximum strength as the views of Macchapuchhre and Annapurna South are so impressively close up.
The mountain view this morning is breathtaking, and is one of the world’s best. The climb to the Mardi Himal viewpoint is subject to weather conditions, all being favourable we will reach over 4,500m. An early morning start, the trail climbs steeply with the occasion respite bite of gradual ascents, as we head closer to the immense face of Macchapuchhre. As we ascend to 5,000m the climb is challenging but the rewards make it all worthwhile. Ahead of us are breathtaking views of Huin Chuli (6,441m) and Annapurna South (7,219m) which both seem close enough to touch. Machhapuchhre (6,997m) is the next closest in view and behind are many other Annapurna peaks such as Ganggapurna (7,454m), Tera Kang (7,069m), and in the far distance lies Tilicho Peak (7,134m) – a horizon that is undeniable mesmerizing. Whilst below us are the ice fields and glaciers of Annapurna Base Camp. Time permitting you may be able to traverse close to the nearby glaciers. The remote landscape, the awe-inspiring views make this area almost impossible to equal. We lunch at High Camp, and then retrace our steps of mild and steep descents to Low Camp.
The trail today heads towards the Mardi Khola, descending we retrace our steps through the enchanting dense forests. In parts the trail is challenging where it drops steeply. Emerging out of the forest onto terraced fields where we continue to Ghalel, a picturesque village. The landscape is a striking contrast to previous days, lush vegetation amongst farming land. With the gradients leveling it becomes an easy walk along winding, undulating trails through pleasant and friendly villages, and farmlands. As we continue we pass through the famous tea plantations of Lwang before entering the village.It is here where we will stay the night in a local home. The village is one of the oldest in Nepal, surrounded by dense forest inhabited by a variety of wildlife such as munal, wild peacock and peahen, bear and cheetah. There are clear views across the valley of Dhampus in the east and Kahun Dada in the west, and the snowcapped mountains of Machhapuchhre and the Annapurna Himal. Upon request we can see a traditional local dance for a small donation.
There is an optional excursion to a tea planation to see how tea is produced; it takes around 45 minutes uphill to reach. The trail to the end of our trek takes us pass the village tea factory, which we can visit and purchase the freshly grown tea we have enjoyed since arriving in the village. We exit the village down stone staircase that leads on to established paths that take us to Anante Thati. From here we drive back to Pokhara.