The photograph below was taken just beneath the Kang La pass in the Annapurna region of Nepal, and shows practically the entire northern sweep of the Annapurna range from Annapurna II on the left to Tilicho Peak on the right. All six of the mountains in this photograph are over 7000m in height, and the highest, Annapurna I, is just over 8000m.
The Annapurna Circuit trail passes through the Marsyangdi Valley just in front of camera, but hugs the valley bottom a full 1500m below where this photograph was taken from.
When I walked the Annapurna Circuit in September 2006, I remember being very disappointed by four days of cloudy weather as I passed through this section. It was early in the trekking season, catching the tail end of the monsoon, and I didn’t get to see any of these mountains until I was heading away from them on my way up to the Thorong La, the highest point on the Circuit at 5416m.
When I returned to the region a couple of years later, I decided to head north off the beaten track into the restricted area of the Naar and Phu valleys. This involved passing through a fantastically narrow wooded gorge along spectacular paths hewn into the cliff face. The gorge led across the Himalayan divide into the drier desert landscape of the Tibetan plateau, scattered with long abandoned Tibetan Khampa settlements. Two unspoiled mediaeval villages where shepherds and yak herders were preparing for a harvest festival took me back in time to a place untarnished by the demands of modern tourism. It was a truly magical trek, but the view which greeted me when I crossed back over into the Marsyangdi Valley took my breath away. It was worth the wait, and worth sacrificing those four days of clear weather on the Annapurna Circuit for ten times over.
I’ve travelled extensively in the Himalayas, from the desert splendour of Ladakh in northern India in the west, to the rounded green hills and forested valleys of Bhutan in the far east. I’ve even toiled through the massive savage landscape of giant rock towers in Pakistan’s Karakoram, but for me this has to be about the best view I’ve ever been lucky enough to gaze upon.
Anyone care to disagree with me? What’s your favourite Himalayan viewpoint, or come to think of it, what’s your favourite mountain view anywhere in the world?