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The Dhaulagiri circuit trek is a challenging trek on an off-the-beaten-trail that circles Mt. Dhaulagiri, the worlds seventh highest mountain. From 1808 to 1848, Dhaulagiri was thought to be the highest mountain in the world; from 1848 to 1852 Kanchenjunga; and since 1852 Mt. Everest. Now Dhaulagiri is the seventh highest mountain in the world at 8,167 meters (26,795 feet). The Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek is more challenging than the Annapurna Circuit Trek or the Manaslu Circuit Trek and requires walking for several days on a moraine and a canyon with some rock fall danger.
The Dhaulagiri Circuit trek begins with a flight to Pokhara followed by a bus ride to the trail head just beyond Beni. The trek begins in forested and terraced hills inhabited by the Magar people. Past permanent settlements, the trek continues through thickly forested jungle trails and then through the seemingly never-ending Dhaulagiri moraine for several days until you cross the French Col (5,360m/17,600ft.) to enter the Hidden valley. From here, you have the option to summit Dhampus peak (6,060m/19,850ft.). Cross the Dhampus pass and descend to Jomsom where the trek ends.
This trek is rated challenging but is moderately paced. The trek involves daily hiking of between 5-8 hours and the entire trek involves lots of up and down. Highest altitude reached is 17,700 ft. and highest camp is at 16,700 ft. While the trek requires good physical fitness and involves walking through rocky terrain and landslides, no technical climbing experience is required. But you do have to be a very experienced hiker.
|Day 1||Arrival in Kathmandu||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 2||Exploring Kathmandu||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 3||Kathmandu to Darbang||Darbang|
|Day 4||Darbang to Sibang||Sibang|
|Day 5||Sibang to Muri||Muri||1,850m/6,100ft|
|Day 6||Muri to Boghara||Boghara||2,080m/6,800ft|
|Day 7||Boghara to Dobang||Dobang||2,520m/8,300ft|
|Day 8||Dobang to Italy Base Camp||Italy Base Camp||3,660m/12,000ft|
|Day 9||Explore American Base Camp||Italy Base Camp||3,660m/12,000ft|
|Day 10||Italy Base Camp to Swiss Base Camp||Swiss Base Camp||3,730m/12,300ft|
|Day 11||Swiss Base Camp to Japanese Base Camp||Japanese Base Camp||4,300m/14,100ft|
|Day 12||Japanese Base Camp to Dhaulagiri Base Camp||Dhaulagiri Base Camp||4,740m/15,550ft|
|Day 13||Explore Dhaulagiri Base Camp||Dhaulagiri Base Camp||4,740m/15,550ft|
|Day 14||Dhaulagiri Base Camp to Hidden Valley||Hidden Valley||5,100m/16,700ft|
|Day 15||Hidden Valley to Kalopani/Yak Kharka||Yak Kharka||3,680m/12,100ft|
|Day 16||Kalopani/Yak Kharka to Jomsom||Jomsom||2,870m/9,400ft|
|Day 17||Jomsom to Pokhara||Pokhara||827m/2,700ft|
|Day 18||Pokhara to Kathmandu||Kathmandu||1,340m/4,300ft|
|Day 19||Final Departure|
Arrive Kathmandu. Transfer to Hotel. Rest of day free. Welcome dinner. (Dinner)
Visit Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, with its two-tiered golden roof and silver door. Here, you’ll probably witness a Hindu cremation along the banks of the Bagmati River.
Then drive to Bhaktapur, the City of Devotees, for lunch and a tour of the royal palace square. Bhaktapur is a medieval city in the Kathmandu valley and is least disturbed by modern life. Here, you can absorb the architectural splendor of the five-storied Nyatapola temple, or the sculptural delight of the Peacock Window. (Breakfast and Lunch)
Morning flight to Pokhara. Continue by chartered bus to Darbang (4 to 5 hours). Your porters and kitchen staff will already have arrived at Darbang and will have set up your tents. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Cross the bridge over Myagdi Khola and walk on level trail to Phedi. Slowly ascend switch-back for about 30 minutes to the top of a hill. Beautiful views of Dhaulagiri I, II, III, IV and V on a clear day. Trek on gently uphill trail to Dharapani where you stop for early lunch (2 to 3 hours).
After lunch, ascend slowly through terraced rice-fields, first to the large village of Takam and then to Sibang (2 to 3 hours) which has about 100 houses. The land here is fertile and is evident from the terraced rice-fields that extend all the way to the river below. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Today is a short trekking day of about 2 to 3 hours only. Ascend gently to the ridge and descend to the stream. After crossing the suspension bridge, climb gently for 60 to 90 minutes to the large Magar village of Muri. On the trail, you get your first chance to appreciate the deep valleys. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Descend steeply through terraced fields to the river. Cross the bridge and ascend steeply to the ridge. Descend through temporary cattle sheds to the village of Juge pani for lunch (2 to 3 hours). After lunch ascend steeply for about an hour. The trail is now high above the river valley, etched along the cliff. In any case, the trail is at least 5 feet wide at the narrowest sections. After an hour or so, you will arrive at the smaller village of Boghara. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
From Boghara, walk through corn-fields and ascend steeply to the ridge. The trail then becomes a gentle uphill. Lunch is at Lipshe, a small clearing the forest used by cattle herders during the monsoons. After lunch continue through the thick forests for 2 to 3 hours (gentle uphill) to Dobang. Dobang is a largish clearing in the forest with two huts and a large area for tents. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
From today, begins the real adventure. The trail isn’t very clearly marked and balance and concentration is very important. Past, Dobang, walk along the raging Myagdi khola. Some sections require scrambling on all fours and balancing on fallen logs. Soon, cross the bridge and climb steeply through bamboo and old growth forests. You will cross two sections where part of the trail has been washed away by landslides. Here you may see langurs jumping around in the trees. After walking 3 to 4 hours from Dobhan, you will arrive at Sallaghari, your lunch stop.
Past Sallaghari, continue to climb steeply through thorny aegelia brush. After about 2 to 3 hours, you will arrive at Italy Base Camp used by the Italians for their ascent of Dhaulagiri. Overnight Camp (All meals)
Acclimatization day at the Italy Base Camp. You have the option to climb a small ridge to the American Base Camp. Though the main summit of Dhaulagiri isn’t visible, you do get up-close views of the gigantic massif. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
A short day of 1 to 2 hours hiking to the Swiss Base Camp. As you climb slowly from the Italian Base Camp, you cross several memorials for climbers that have perished on Dhaulagiri. They include three Chinese who fell to their death in the Spring of 2010. Descend carefully into the moraine. A fixed line has been left behind by a previous party which makes the descent on the precarious trail a lot easier. Cross the moraine to the Swiss Base Camp where there is a single hut. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Today, you will be trekking through a narrow gorge. A section (about half an hour of walking) poses constant danger of rock fall and hence it is important to look up as you walk. Soon you will be on the moraine ascending slowly to the Japanese Base Camp (4 to 5 hours of hiking). Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Ascend slowly through the moraine. The moraine is constantly moving and hence the trail changes every year. Thus trail finding can be a tiresome process. Descend to another moraine adjoining a snow field extending from the Dhaulagiri ice-fall. There is the remains of a helicopter that had crashed several years ago. Walk a little further to camp. (4 to 5 hours of hiking). In the afternoon, you are free to hike to the ice fall. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Explore. You are free to walk closer to the Dhaulagiri massif and the glacier. It goes without saying that you should be careful. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Today is a gruelling day involving walking up to 6 hours at high altitude. A little past camp, the moraine ends. Climb steeply to a small hill and continue ascending gently on a trail on the ridge over which the Tukuche Peak looms to the east. Looking back, the main summit of Dhaulagiri becomes evident. After a few hours of slogging, turn west and climb slowly to the French Col (5,360m/17,600ft.). At the pass, there are several memorials dedicated to fallen climbers. The Hidden Valley is visible to the North East and so are several peaks – Mukut Himal, Dhampus Peak, Hongde Peak etc in the distance. Descend to the valley floor and continue to camp. Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Those climbing Dhampus Peak (6,060m/19,900ft.) will start out at 3:00 am. Climb Dhampus Peak and descend to Kalopani. (10 hours). Overnight Camp. (All meals)
Weather permitting, today could be one of the most picturesque days. (Though this section is notoriously popular for whiteouts and strong winds). The Dhaulagiri peak is to the South West, Annapurna, Nilgiri to the East, the Kingdom of Mustang in the distant to the North and the deep Kali Gandaki valley. Most of the trail is level or a gradual descent until near Yak Kharka from where the trail descends steeply into Marpha. After lunch, continue to Jomsom. Overnight Lodge with showers. (All meals)
After breakfast, fly to Pokhara. Free day in Pokhara. Overnight Hotel Big Pillow Inn or similar. (Breakfast)
After breakfast, fly to Kathmandu. Sightseeing in Kathmandu. Farewell dinner in Kathmandu. Overnight Hotel Tibet. (All meals)
After breakfast, transfer to Tribhuvan International Airport for your final departure. (Breakfast)
Per person price (valid until December 31, 2020)
2 persons: US$ 4,200 per person
3 – 5 persons: US$ 3,780 per person
6 or more participants: US$ 3,360 per person
Single Supplement: US$ 300
* Dhampus peak permit and climbing Sherpa is fee extra.
It is possible to add the climb of Dhampus peak (6,090m/19,700ft.) to the program. You would make an attempt to summit from the Hidden valley camp. This will add one more day to the trip for contingency for possible weather and health delays. But this will add a substantial amount to the cost as the Nepal Government has listed this peak along with other major expeditions peaks of Nepal. The climb itself, depending on the season, does not entail more than slogging and some scrambling and a little traversing on the ridge. The peak fee is US$ 400 per person and the climbing guide insurance is US$600 per group.
There are two preferred seasons for the Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek: Spring (April through June) and Fall (October through November). In the Spring, because this trek involves crossing a high pass, we wouldn’t recommend this trek in March as it may be too early and there may excessive snow in the pass. But that said, since this trek does involve trekking a lot in the rain-shadow region, you could push back the trek even till July.
Day time temperatures range in the 50’s and 60’s (10 to 15 Centigrade) while night-time temperatures are in the 30’s and 40’s (0 to 5 Centigrade). Expect night time temperatures of below Freezing near the Base Camp. Expect some late-afternoon showers in the Spring which is the season for rhododendrons and magnolias. October is historically regarded as the best month to trek with clear skies and better views of the mountains.
All cooking gear and food have to be carried in from Kathmandu. The cook will purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and rice/lentils from the villagers en route. You will be surprised as to what the cook can make on a small gas stove. In general, expect porridge (Oatmeal), toast, eggs (various style), muesli, hash browns, sausages etc for breakfast. And sandwich, pizzas, momos, noodles (dry and with soup), rolls, fried rice, Indian bread with vegetables or Daal Bhaat (Rice with lentils) etc for lunch and dinner.
Yes, we will provide good quality Mountain Hardwear Trango or North Face VE 25 tents for this trek. We will also provide a 2 inch foam mattress and an insulation pad. You can bring an additional pad if you wish. We will also provide all the kitchen gear.
We have lately been providing Exped air mats. Check them out here.
This is a challenging trek. Even for the hardy Nepali staff. Make sure your staff and porters have good gear and enough food to complete this trek. Ask your operator what they provide for the staff. Are they provided meals or are they responsible for their own meals?
We provide snow goggles, mittens, gore-tex parka, water-proof pants and good water-proof hiking boots (mostly Lowa GTX renegade) to the staff. Also, the staff and porters will be provided all meals on the trek. We’d be glad to provide references who can allude to our claims. All our staff are insured. And we will bear the cost of a helicopter evacuation in case of an emergency.
We would recommend the Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek to seasoned hikers only. You must be able to hike up to 12 miles a day (mostly at high altitude). While this trek does not involve and require any technical climbing, you must have the mental and physical toughness to hike on sketchy trail with some objective danger – there are sections which with rock fall danger. You would be walking and camping on moraine for about four days as you walk from before the Italy Base Camp to the Dhaulagiri Base Camp. Here you would be walking on a canyon with possible rock fall danger. Also, earlier you would be crossing small streams on some sketchy bridges – one of the bridges is just a couple logs tied together.
It is advised that anyone with a pre-existing condition consult their doctor before signing up for a trek. We rate the Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek a 5 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 5 (challenging).
The more physically fit you are, the more you will enjoy the trip. There are three aspects to training for any trek.
1) Cardiovascular Training will make your body more efficient in using oxygen. Running, walking, swimming or biking, or any combination of these are great for cardiovascular conditioning.
2) Strength Training by either using free weights or machines at the gym will build hiking strength. Walking stairs, especially with a pack will simulate the hiking environment. We also recommend practicing squats. Trekkers will encounter low hanging obstacles to duck under, and many toilets are at ground level, which requires a low squat.
3) Endurance Training is where you build endurance in the months leading up to your trek, slowly increase your length of training sessions. By the time you are 2 weeks from the scheduled trek date you should be able to ascend 3,000 ft. in a 3-4 hour period.
In the end, the more your training simulates a trek, the better off you will be. So hiking 4-5 hours outdoors, uphill and downhill, about once or twice a week in addition to other cardio vascular training at the gym or at home will greatly benefit and prepare you for the trek.
There is mobile signal only at some of the villages at the beginning of the trek. And then at the end of the trek at Marpha and Jomsom. Wi-fi is only available at Jomsom.
On camping treks, toilets are a hole in the ground in a small tent to allow for privacy. Showers are available during rest days and involve a bucket of hot water. On most days you can clean yourself with wet wipes. We will provide a small bowl of warm water with which you can wipe yourself with a towel.
Layering is key. And it’s always recommended to trek with good branded gear. A good pair of hiking boots that’s been broken in is very important. Good top and bottom base layers, a mid layer (fleece or capilene), and an outer layer (Gore-tex or other material). If you tend to get cold quickly, bring a down parka especially for the evening at the lodge. On most days, you’d be hiking in a convertible hiking pant that can be converted into shorts and one or two top layers.
if you’re trekking with Crystal Mountain Treks, we provide a sleeping bag (rated to 0 degree F or -17 degree C), duffel bags, down jacket and Steripen for water purification to our clients for no charge.
It is possible to buy cheap and relatively functional gear in Kathmandu – convertible pants, down jackets, fleece, Gore-tex jackets. But remember, you get what you pay for. Wool gloves, hats, socks are available too.
There are quite a few branded stores too. North Face, Moutain Hardwear, Marmot and Sherpa. If you’re coming from Australia or Europe, items in these shops are probably cheaper than back home. But if you’re coming from the US, it’s better to buy branded gear at home.
I very much recommend Crystal Mountain. From the start of planning our trek Jwalant was very helpful as we explored a number of possible options. We were constrained in time and Jwalant was able to work through several possible itineraries with us to find something that suited our time constraints and met the goals of what we wanted from our trek. Communication via email (my preference) was clear and extremely responsive. Our guide was Ram Rai, who has worked with Crystal Mountain for 30+ years, with the assistance of Rinji Sherpa. Ram’s ability to manage the trek and work with us during the trek to ensure that it went well was outstanding. Because of Ram’s and Rinji’s experience and Crystal Mountain’s flexibility, we were able to make changes to our itinerary during the trek to ensure that were able to complete the ascent of Thapa Peak. Also we were able to change the second part of our trek “on-the-fly” when weather made our original plan questionable. Ram talked with us and kept us very well informed about what was going on throughout the trek. The food during the trek was outstanding, with lots of variety. The cook (Raju) was able to respond to our tastes, and came and talked to us at most meals about how he was doing, and to ensure that we were happy with the food. I can confirm what others have said: the porters were supplied with real hiking boots, warm/waterproof shells and waterproof/breathable pants.
-Trek: Dhaulagiri Circuit + Muktinath, October/November 2011