I have been living in Nepal for seven months and as a trail runner, I like to get off the beaten path whenever possible. During my first few months along a more common trekking route to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) I spotted other trekkers along a ridge to our west. After some investigation, I discovered they were heading to Mardi Himal Base Camp (MHBC) and I added it to my “Must Trek” list, however I did not get the chance until five months later. This March a group of friends and I carved out the time and made the trek.
A Jeep took us from Pokhara to the village of Landruk (1,620 metres), which can also be easily reached from ABC making this a great add-on to that trek.
That first day we undertook the short and steep 800 metre climb to Forest Camp (2,630 metres), staying at a small lodge by ourselves. In March the rhododendron trees were blooming, and though the jungle was a little bit dry there were still plenty of ferns, mushrooms, forest flowers, and evergreens, as well as a viewpoint overlooking the eastern side of the Annapurna Himal.
Next day we lunched at Low Camp (2,990 metres). But we pushed on past “Middle Camp” to High Camp (3,580 metres) for the night as just above Middle Camp you start getting views of the mountains, including Mardi Himal, Machapuchre (Fishtail), Annapurna South and Hiunchuli, plus the lodges at High Camp are better than Low Camp.
From High Camp it was a 2.5 hour climb up to MHBC (4,500 metres), walking along a ridge most of the way that deceptively makes you feel like you could just keep climbing just a few hours longer and summit Mardi Himal, however just a few metres beyond Base Camp it gets significantly more technical. A Frenchman ahead of us ventured only a few feet beyond the warning signs and fell into snow up to his shoulder; luckily his guide was there to rescue him. On the way up we came so close to Mardi Himal that Machapuchre disappeared with each snowy footprint.
While trekking through the jungle is beautiful what makes this trek unique is the sunrise and sunsets at High Camp and the views along with way to Base Camp and back. By walking along the ridge you have clear views of snowcapped peaks during the day and then of the sunset while sitting over the sea of clouds that block Pokhara and the Mardi Khola.
Mardi Himal truly is a hidden gem, one of the last so close to bustling Pokhara. The locals have started to catch on to this fact while few westerners have yet to. We saw double the number of Nepali trekkers than foreign ones. Despite being a “new” trek, the trails were clearly marked and well-maintained, that is until the descent.
On the way down we took a “new trail” suggested by one of the lodge owners that dropped us roughly 1,700 metres in six hours through step dry spring beds to the village of Sidhing, which is large enough to have a few places to sleep. We asked around until we found a local couple willing to prepare us some noodle soups for lunch while we waited on the next Jeep back to Pokhara.