There's a reason Nepal is a trekking Mecca - it's hard to beat those stunning mountains.
THE SUN IS YET to appear but already we can feel them - the mountains, all around, hidden in the dark before dawn. The chance to see these rugged giants reveal themselves is invigorating - thankfully so, as it is bloody cold. We're at a lofty 3660m on Nepal's Khopra Ridge, where we've just recently convinced our bodies to take leave of warm, cosy sleeping bags and Khopra's lodge.
And then it starts; the night's curtain pulls back to reveal the aeons-old mountains that surround our eyrie-like ridge. Dominating the scene is the imposing bulk of Dhaulagiri, one of the 8000ers, that famous group of the world's 14 peaks above 8000m. This is the physical highpoint of our Annapurna-Dhaulagiri Circuit, led by Peregrine Adventures, and also one of the most satisfying moments in my 25 years of trekking. But, as is often the case when you reach a goal, it is just the culmination of many memorable steps along the way.
Trekking Nepal: the ultimate bucket list
Nepal. It is on every serious trekker's bucket list. Whether they plan on venturing to Everest Base Camp or enjoying the Annapurna Circuit, walkers see this small mountainous country as the must-do destination. And yet, I have to put up my hand and admit that I have never been here before. How the hell have I missed it? A good question; and one I find plenty of time to answer as I wait in the customs queue at Kathmandu airport.
The waiting time does go quickly, thanks to a quiet buzz of anticipation emanating from the entire line of arrivals. I am in Nepal for nearly two weeks. Peregrine Adventures has convinced me to act as a host for a trekking group that will be undertaking the Annapurna-Dhaulagiri Circuit, a unique trek that encompasses some of the best of the famous Annapurna Circuit itself, along with the chance to experience some more remote - and less crowded - tracks that crisscross the mountains.
On these, we will not only gain more solitary time, but do so while staying at community lodges that Peregrine supports. The chances of a cracking good time are high - and I have timed it perfectly as our group is heading into the high country at the beginning of rhododendron season. Thinking of what lies ahead makes the crowded terminal seem a very small price to pay.
Read the full story in the September/October issue of AG Outdoor.