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Annapurna Circuit, by Carl Berg

All my life, I have been fascinated by mountains.

I grew up in a small mountain village in the north of Sweden, close to the Norwegian border. My father was a professional landscape photographer and an avid outdoorsman, so I spent most of my childhood hiking, skiing or kayaking. I remember climbing my first mountain at the age of 5. Although only a few hundred, I considered it a great accomplishment at the time and I would brag about it for years. For the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to share my time between Stockholm and Tenerife, where I have been able to pursue my love for climbing, hiking and trail running. I usually never bring a camera to the mountains, and never when I travel, but this time I’m happy I did.

The Annapurna Circuit is one of the classic treks in Nepal. Originally a 230 km long trek, accessible only by foot or on horseback, most of it is now accessible by jeep or bus. Me and my partner decided to do the full trek and avoid the road as much as possible. In total, I believe we spent 18 days trekking, with only one day of resting. The highest point of the trek is the Thorung La pass, at 5416 m. As neither me nor my friend had had any previous experience on high altitude, we were equally excited and anxious to see how we would perform. This was especially important to me, as I am hoping to one day climb some of the highest mountains in the world. I am not sure how well I handled the altitude, as I fell ill with a high fever for three days as we reached 3500 meters. It is hard to separate the effects from the illness from whatever effects the altitude had on my body. Apart from me still being weak from the illness, we performed well on the Thorung La pass and made it down on the other side safely. Although the scenery in Nepal was breathtaking, what really fascinated me was the people living in this extreme environment. Every day, we would pass old ladies carrying weights almost as heavy as themselves, usually in simple wicker baskets attached to their foreheads, wearing only sandals. Sometimes, they would pass remarks and giggle at us when we passed them, gasping for breath and sweating heavily wearing only our lightweight backpacks.

Words and photos by Carl Berg