Trek with a difference

Look out for the new trek guides that our friend Alonzo Lyons has put together. This is one of the routes, making a change from Poon Hill

Below are details for Khopra Danda, the viewpoint surpasses Poon
Hill in both height and proximity to the snowy mountains.

Additionally, if they make it to Komrong Danda, a couple of hours
beyond Ghandruk, I couldn’t recommend more the isolated, peaceful
lodge named Little Paradise, 30 minutes east along the ridge away from the other lodges of Komrong Danda.

The ridge north of Chitre offers astounding views of the surrounding area. A lodge at a location known as Khopra Danda has a commanding position to survey the lower valleys and mountains that tower above them including the Dhaulagiri Range, Nilgiri, Fang Peak and close up views of Annapurna South and the vistas here are better than the popular Poon Hill.

There are a few options up to the lodge and lookout point, and it can be combined with the Annapurna Circuit as well as the Annapurna Sanctuary trek. However, the lodge lies at 11,975 feet (3650 m) and AMS can be a concern, especially for people who are on the way up the Kali Gandaki River (west half of the Annapurna Circuit) or Modi Khola (Annapurna Sanctuary) rather than returning from the heights. The following are the route options to Khopra Danda:

The most common trail is via Chitre Village, the trail leads off from a turnoff point about an hour below Ghorepani, at Chitre’s New Dhaulagiri Lodge. Follow the trail north from here (the route/road to the west of here heads to Tatopani). Descend and avoid a branch to the right but in a couple of minutes reach a few homes. The route heads to the right/north between these homes (rather than along the main trail that continues to Sikha.)

Descend steeply on a narrow trail and reach a juncture at a chautaaraa in 15-20 minutes. Descend between more homes to the north rather than following the trail left or right. Reach a suspension bridge in 15 minutes and cross to the north bank of the Marisango Khola. Ascend steeply along stone steps to a juncture in 10 minutes. Head left/west here rather than continue straight (which ascends to the eastern end of Swanta Village) and meet the motor road and two lodges of Swanta (7,264 ft, 2214 m) just above in a little over 5 minutes.

The charming village is widely spread over the hillside. At the west end, near the lodges is a primary school with a basketball court and a nearby temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesh. Head to the right/north (rather than through a salutary gateway to a trail that descends to cross the river to Shika Village). In a few minutes, pass another branch that descends to the left to Shika. Stay right and within 5 more minutes, come to a junction and again stay to the right.
Ascend and head up the valley traversing the side of the hill above an unseen Dhaske Khore stream below.

After 1¼ to 1½ more hours, descend near a beautiful falls on the other side of the valley to a bridge over the Dhaske Khore (7,831 ft, 2390m). Cross to the north side and climb steeply to reach a
teashop/restaurant near a pastoral dwelling in 15 minutes. There is a flat area for camping nearby here. Keep climbing steeply along the ridge to the north (don’t follow the inviting grazing trails to the east here). Reach the first lodge of Chistibang/Dhan Kharka (9,612 ft,2,930 m) in 1¼ hours. A large community lodge is just above (affiliated with the schools of Kindu and Shika villages). Electricity is currently not available at these lodges other than small solar panels, however, rechargeable reading lights might be available.

The view of the lush valley below is stunning and Ghorepani can be
spotted across the way at a notch in the ridge. Look for Ghoral in
this area, too. Continue up to Khopra Danda by following the trail
east from the upper lodge (a trail leading west from the lower lodge descends to Dhaske Khore and Kindu villages). In just over 5 minutes, reach a junction. Stay left for Khopra Danda (to the right is a little used, difficult to find trail leads to a lodge at Baili along the route that continues to Tadapani and Deurali). Ascend steeply passing chautaaraa and seasonal herder huts. Eventually, emerge above the treeline to a chautaaraa in 1¼ hours. A trail leads east here to Baili, but to go on to Khopra, then head west. In 30 more minutes, ascend to another chautaaraa with a commanding vista of the valleys to the east and south with the Dhaulagiri Range in view to the west.

It is a level walk in from here to the inn at Khopra Danda (11,975 m,3650 m), 10 minutes away. Electricity is supplied by solar panels and batteries can be recharged and even internet may be available! There are a few large dharamsala here that serve pilgrims heading to the Janai Purnima festival at a shrine above a lake at about 4600 m and a half a day’s walk above the lodge here. The festival occurs around the full moon of August and draws hundreds of people from the local area. The trail to the shrine ascends to the east of the lodge and travellers need to be self-sufficient in food, shelter and fuel to continue in that direction. Nearby the lodge are several goTh and many herders
populate the territory above during the rainy season.

The trail to the northeast (outlined below) descends to the Kali
Gandaki River at Narchyung where it meets the western half of the
Annapurna Circuit. A trail to the northwest travels through Lareni and
Paudar and ties in to the route to Ghorepani at Ghara Khola Village and another trail (outlined below) travels to a newly constructed set of pools on the east side of the Kali Gandaki just across from the settlement of Tatopani (to be distinguished from the similarly sounding Tadapani, village…‘Tato’ means ‘hot’ and refers to the hot springs nearby the eponymous Tatopani Village, whereas ‘Tada’ means ‘far’ and the water of Tadapani Village is piped in from a source nearly an hour away)

For a return via Tatopani hot springs,consider the following in reverse…

This is a steep route and there may not be facilities along the way although a hotel is under construction at Bal Kharka. However, until its completion there may not be formal accomodations until Khopra Danda and home stay would have to be arranged in Gonpani, Kopa Danda,or Chitre. The trail needs improvement and signposts and until they have been placed, a guide would be advisable.
Ascend to the left and pass through a small ledge above the pools with two dharmasala (rest houses) before ascending steeply. Reach a chautaaraa in 1 hour where a trail ties in from Narchyung. The first houses of Gonpani (5,187 ft, 1,581) are 5 minutes further. Ascend steeply to a chautaaraa above the homes of Kopa Danda (5,741 ft, 1751m) in 30 to 45 more minutes. Come to a junction in 10 minutes. Right heads to Paudar Village. Stay left and in 10 more minutes come to a chautaraa and ascend to the north. Climb to the enchanting houses of Chitre (6,706 ft, 2044 m) in 20 minutes where homestay might bearranged. Continue ascending and keep to the widest trail mainly following the ridgeline. Reach the open ground of Bal Kharka (8,750 ft, 2667 m) pasture area where lodges are under construction (with an ambition to have a nearby tennis court, according to the builder) in 1½ to 1¾ hours. The trail from Chitre arrives from the west near a dilapidated relay tower. A trail to the north descends to Narchyung whereas the trail on to Khopra Danda departs to the southeast. Ascend to the ruins of a chautaaraa in an hour where a trail to the right/south ties in from Paudar. Continue left/east to another junction known as Dobato, “two paths”, (9,931 ft, 3027 m) in another 20 minutes . The trail ties in with a main trail from Paudar coming up from the right/west. Ascend to the left/east passing a chautaaraa with
a small overhanging rock in 30 minutes. In another hour, reach a
junction below with a trail that heads sharply to the left towards
Narchyung. Stay straight, passing another trail to Narchyung and
descending to the left to reach the inn at Khopra Danda in 10 more

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