Maurice Herzog Trek: The best hiking trail

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By Thakur Prasad Acharya,Myagdi, May 25: The Maurice Herzog Trek is received as the ultimate destination for hiking enthusiasts seeking to reach the northern base camp of Annapurna Mountain. Offering a safe and efficient route to the base camp, it has quickly gained popularity among both local and foreign tourists, who are now flocking to this previously overshadowed area. 

The footpath has witnessed a growth in footfall ever since it became accessible from Narchang in a single day.

Officially named in 2019 by the Annapurna Rural Municipality, the trail is named after Maurice André Raymond Herzog, a French citizen who accomplished the historic achievement of being the first person to successfully scale Annapurna Mountain on June 3, 1950. 

Situated within the Annapurna Conservation Area, this trail allows trekkers to venture towards the northern base camp of Annapurna Peak, following the banks of the Mistrikhola.

Recognizing the importance of the footpaths, the Ministry of Tourism of the Federal Government, in collaboration with the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), has undertaken efforts to develop essential tourism infrastructure, including footpaths, suspension bridges, resting areas, and shelters. Later on, the rural municipality joined hands to enhance the existing infrastructure along the footpath.

Narchang village serves as the gateway to Annapurna Base Camp, with the road stretching from Myagdi to Humkhola, covering a distance of 21 kilometres. The trek begins from Humkhola with picturesque views.

After approximately eight hours of trekking, trekkers can take a break at the tourist shelter near Panchkund Lake, situated at an altitude of 4,500 metres. Just an hour's journey from there lies the base camp, which is at an altitude of 4,190 metres. Adventurers who reach the base camp can stay in tents.

Bharat Kumar Pun, Chairman of the Rural Municipality, said, "This one-day trek to the mountain's base camp is an extraordinary experience. It symbolizes the true spirit of Annapurna's base camp." 

However, due to a lack of publicity, its attraction had diminished. In an effort to transform it into an exceptional walking destination, the municipality has begun construction of the necessary infrastructure and initiated a promotional campaign.

Diwa Kumari Tilija, Vice-Chair of the Rural Municipality, stated that the municipality intends to conduct a comprehensive study on the tourism potential of the base camp area and formulate plans for essential infrastructure development.

Amrit Subedi, Chief Administrative Officer of the rural municipality, emphasized that the number of tourists visiting the base camp could be increased significantly by focusing on maintaining the footpaths and suspension bridges, constructing additional shelters, and boosting publicity.

Currently, shelter infrastructure have been established at seven locations, namely Base Camp, Dharamdhunga, Bhusketmela, Guphaphant, Sandhikhark, Humkhola, and Chotepa.

Tej Gurung, Chairman of the Maurice Herzog Trek Management Committee, and Narchang tourism entrepreneur, stressed the importance of building more shelters at the base camp and Bhusketmela, expanding drinking water facilities, and improving mobile phone connectivity in the hope of increasing influx of tourists.

As one embarks on the journey to the base camp, one can view the picturesque banks, delightful waterfalls, breathtaking glaciers, unique geographical features, majestic mountains, and rare flora and fauna along the banks of the Mistrikhola, flowing from the foothills of Annapurna and Nilgiri mountains.

At the foot of Annapurna, the splendid Panchkunda Lake, spanning over 20,000 square meters, serves as a major attraction for tourists. From this beautiful point, visitors can view the awe-inspiring Annapurna First, Nilgiri, Tilicho Peak, and Barahashikhar. Chitra Tilija, a tourist worker, said this area gives an impression of a true slice of heaven.

Route to the base camp

Day 1: From Beni, the headquarters of Myagdi, a journey of approximately one and a half hours along the Beni-Jomsom Korola road leads to Narchang in Annapurna Rural Municipality-4. Although the road section is currently undergoing upgradation, Narchang offers a range of homestays and hotels. In the evening, visitors can pamper themselves by bathing at the nearby Paudhar Hot Spring and Bhurung Hot Spring.

Day 2: After traveling 21 kilometres by vehicle along the road constructed by hydroelectric projects in Narchang, one arrives at Humkhola, the dam site developed by the first Nilgiri Hydroelectric Project. 

Humkhola hosts a small hotel, where trekkers can enjoy lunch before starting the Maurice Herzog Trek. After approximately five hours of trekking, one reaches a place called Bhusketmela, where a shelter has been established for tourists. While those unable to continue their journey can stay at this point, others set forth on the trek to the base camp. About three hours of trekking from Bhusketmela will bring trekkers to Panchkunda Lake, situated at an altitude of 4,500 metres.

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