I began this list of my top-10 mountain treks in Nepal, on Gokyo Ri. Unsurprisingly, Nepal and the Himalayas appear again, with a little-known and spectacular trail that offers an alternative to the fast-dying Annapurna Circuit.
7. Kopra Ridge (Nepal)
Once up on a time, the Annapurnas used to be de rigueur for trekkers in Nepal. At the start of last decade, it was said that two-thirds of all trekkers in the country went to the Annapurnas, mostly to hike the famed Annapurna Circuit, a walk rivalled in popularity only by the trek to Everest Base Camp.
Now, as roads munch their way through the valleys around the Annapurna massif – some estimates suggest the roads will encircle the Annapurnas by 2017 – the Circuit’s shine is well and truly diminished. But that doesn’t mean that trekking in the region is any less appealing. The Annapurna Sanctuary remains as a destination, and lesser-known treks have blossomed around it. Such as Kopra Ridge.
A trekker near the crest of Kopra Ridge, with Dhaulagiri ahead
Draping down from Annapurna South towards the world’s deepest gorge, Kopra Ridge is a stunning balcony from which to observe the Himalayas. So many trekkers stand atop the popular Poon Hill and gawp across at Kopra Ridge, but few realise they’re doing so. When you do know, it becomes obvious that the ridge is going to offer better views than Poon Hill itself, for it’s both higher and nearer to the finest mountains in the scene.
The route to Kopra Ridge leaves the main hiking trails before Poon Hill, ascending to the ridge and a community trekking lodge poise atop it. Yak herds amble by, and there’s often the surreal view of planes flying below you, through the Kali Gandaki Gorge. At the lodge, there’s a view you rarely have to share, for few trekkers are yet to discover Kopra Ridge. Above is Annapurna South, with Dhaulagiri – the world’s seventh-highest mountain – across the deep and dark Kali Gandaki. The amber cliffs of Fang are like a light trap at dusk.
The lodge on Kopra Ridge, looking over the Kali Gandaki Gorge to Dhaulagiri
Wander up the ridge and you eventually come to the holy Kaire Lake, while the journey down takes you through villages that rarely see trekkers, even sometimes just a few hundred metres from the main trails, which you eventually – and now reluctantly – rejoin.
* Adventure before Avarice trekked to Kopra Ridge with Peregrine Adventures.