Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek Difficulty
The trek to one of the 7th highest peaks above 8000 m is an amazing experience for all the trekkers around the world. Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek passes through several snow-covered slopes, icy glaciers, and lateral moraine. This trek provides you with a wonderful opportunity to take a circuit trek around the Himalayas of Nepal.
Dhaulagiri is the Nepali name for the mountain which comes from the Sanskrit word. The word Dhaula means dazzling, white, beautiful and Giri means mountain. The Dhaulagiri massif extends 120km from the Kaligandaki River west to the Bheri. The circuit trek to the seventh highest mountain in the world at 8,167 meters in one of the challenging yet exciting experiences. Dhaulagiri borders within the single country Nepal and it was 1st climbed on 13 May 1960 by a Swiss/Austrian/Nepali expedition. The challenging yet exciting trek lies in the Annapurna Region which takes the trekkers to the base of the world’s seventh-highest peak, Mount Dhaulagiri (8167m).
Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
The splendid view of the majestic Dhaulagiri massif along with other mountain peaks that are above 7000m are the major attractions of this circuit trek. The Circuit trek is challenging and a real adventure for those who are looking for an expedition-like experience. Likewise, one can enjoy the farming villages in the Himalayan foothills to high alpine pastures, uninhabited valleys, and close-up views of several peaks over 8,000 m, throughout the trek.
Among several circuit treks to the Himalayas in Nepal, Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek is one of the challenging adventures. The trek begins with your arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu. Then, fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara, another tourism city in Nepal. From Pokhara drive to Darbang. The real journey begins from here. Similarly, you will pass through densely forested trails and terraced hilly areas. Besides, The trekkers will get an opportunity to walk past various Magar villages which allows them to understand their culture and lifestyle. The circuit trek lets you pass through three of the base camps including Italian Base Camp, Dhaulagiri Base Camp, and Japanese Base Camp. The trekkers will be mesmerized by the stunning icefall descending from the northeast col between Dhaulagiri and Tukuche Peak.
On the other hand, trekkers gently climb up to the French pass walking through the glacial moraines on a white icy track. It is the highest point of the trek at an altitude of 5360m. Likewise, the trail then follows to reach the Hidden Valley behind the Dhaulagiri massif. Crossing across Dhampus Pass and Thapa Pass the trekkers reach Jomsom. Therefore, for those who love challenges, this trek includes walking over creaking glaciers and crossing a high mountain pass.
Highlights of Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
- Explore Pokhara valley including Fewa Lake, David falls, Mahendra cave, Seti George, and many more.
- Inspection of the world’s deepest George, Kali Gandaki Gorge flowing between Annapurna I and Dhaulagiri I.
- A close glimpse of Dhaulagiri with 360° view throughout well-known peaks above 8,000 m including Mt. Machhapuchhare, Mt. Annapurna, Mt. Manaslu, and many more.
- Experience of cracking glacial walk and route via high passes including French pass (5,365 m), Thapa pass (5,244 m)
- Opportunity to explore unique culture and traditions with the complicated lifestyle of individuals and communities
- A dip in natural hot spring water creates a mind-blowing moment.
- Experience the completely camping or Home-stay trek
How Difficult is Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek?
The trek has a reputation for being one of the most challenging treks in Nepal. Due to its exacting level, it requires physical fitness, good health condition trekkers, and previous trekking experiences in life. On the other hand, the daily walking distance is 5/6 hours a day which is challenging enough even for experienced trekkers. The route itself is strenuous, with several ascents and descents throughout the day. Also, the trek passes through several beautiful villages at low altitudes but trekking trails will be narrow and steep slopes are difficult in high altitudes. It is a camping trek therefore, an experienced trekking guide and strong porter to carry camping equipment is a must. The guide and porter will help you with every step along the trail.
Furthermore, they know how to fix the camping tent to avoid the wind and also help in cooking meals. The altitude in this trek increases very quickly as it will only take 4/5 days to reach above 4000m heights.
Starting with a low altitude of 1,180m at Darbang village it will be very hot and humid with temperatures of up to 25 to 30 Celsius for the 1st few days. So, trekking on hot and humid days can be very tiring. Make sure to carry a wide-brimmed hat, bandana, or scarf plus sunscreen and lip salve with a high SPF.
From Muri village to Myagdi Khola the trail will be along a narrow valley. The trail is high up and there is exposure with a steep drop to the river below which is extremely strenuous.
The trail has lots of exposed tree roots walking through the forest above Boghara camp. It is easy to trip up or to take a slide through the route.
From Italian Base Camp, walking down a steep glacial moraine onto the glacier and back up a slope on the other side. There used to have a fixed rope but now a path has been carved out of it. On the other side of the glacier, there is a slope with a narrow path and there is a steep drop down to the glacier below.
While at Chonbarden Gorge there is a high risk of rockfall. Therefore, camping is not an option here. We also insist that everyone wears a helmet even when walking.
In some places, the river crossing can even be challenging.
The descent of the French pass is not steep although there may be deep snow on this slope, occasionally.
The crossing of Dhampus Pass is harder than French Pass where the ascend is easy. However, there is only a short descent of 100m. Likewise, there is a traverse along a contouring path for four hours. As the trail is not too exposed although the slope is a sustained 30 degrees. Here is the high risk of falling or slipping in icy or snowy conditions.
At an altitude of 5050m, Hidden Valley is a cold place. The overnight temperature can go down to around -15 Celsius.
Altitude Sickness in Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
To a high-altitude trek like Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek, one of the main difficulties is altitude sickness. It occurs due to the fast climbing to higher altitudes of over 500-1000 m or more. As you climb higher, the level of oxygen decreases, and the atmospheric pressure gets thinner. Your body suddenly experiences new kinds of environments which it was not used to before. Because of this, you may face difficulty in breathing. The problem of altitude sickness is mainly because of the failure in proper acclimatization. Everyone doesn’t need to get altitude sickness on a high-altitude trek. It may happen to anyone of any age group.
Some symptoms of altitude sickness start from an altitude of 2500m and over that. Also, the higher altitude of the Dhaulagiri circuit trek is at 5360m. So, it is very common to get common symptoms like headaches and tiredness. However, if the symptoms worsen you may have to halt the journey.
Sometimes, altitude sickness may occur even if you are physically fit and healthy. It’s just that your body cannot tolerate the new environment which has a lesser amount of air. You may face some problems like vomiting, nausea, headache, loss of appetite, and most commonly fainting. You can be prepared to take medicine but rather than that try preventing it naturally. Drink a lot of water, take a walk slowly if you are exhausted, listen to your body. Don’t rush for it or don’t push your body.
Acute Mountain Sickness
It is the most common form of sickness when trekking to high altitudes. Acute Mountain sickness is more dangerous where people find it difficult to breathe. Besides, the more dangerous form of altitude sickness is high-altitude pulmonary edema which makes the fluid build-up within the lungs leading to difficulty in breathing. Normally, this happens after two nights spent at a high altitude, but sometimes it can happen earlier or later.
High Altitude Pulmonary Edema
This happens very quickly. It directly affects the respiratory system which people collapse or may ultimately cause death. Generally, people don’t feel any pain in this case. As they push themselves too hard and overdo the trek. It may affect their body unknowingly. This is an extremely dangerous kind of sickness where people may die when sleeping. So, one needs to be extra careful with this kind of sickness and try to stay hydrated and don’t push your body.
High Altitude Cerebral Edema
The severe form of altitude sickness is high altitude cerebral edema, in this case, fluid builds up in the brain. As the brain swells with fluid, the person gets a really bad headache and bad mental state changes. Due to an extremely bad headache, the group should descend downwards as soon as possible. If the person stays at the same altitude he/ she will lose coordination and, finally, cause death. To avoid this stage we must be careful in the first phase and use diamonds as preventive safety.
Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek Difficulty
Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek Route is graded as moderate to difficult level trek where the routes are quite harsh compared to other trekking destinations. The walk will be difficult through remote areas and inhabited villages. The routes can be challenging for beginners as well as for intermediate. During this trek, there will be lots of steep uphill climbs and downhill walks. And walking about 6 to 7 hours a day on off-beat paths can be difficult for beginners and even for experienced ones.
Another major difficulty of the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek is its altitude. The circuit trek takes you to an altitude of 5360m Which is completely a higher level altitude for anyone new there. As the altitude sickness starts anywhere from above 2500m. Therefore, anyone can suffer from fatigue and shortness of breath due to an increase in altitude. The level of oxygen decreases with the increase in temperature making the body hrs to adjust its new temperature. This may lead to problems like altitude sickness.
Weather conditions are one of the necessary things to consider while going on treks. The nice clear and brilliant weather can make yin altitude easier and more effective. However, the weather at altitude can never be predicted. The climate in the mountain area goes through several changes in a day. It can be sunny one moment and windy the next moment. Moreover, the weather is more unpredictable during the season of Monsoon and Winter. Similarly, there are high chances of road blockades due to heavy rain and snowfall. Also, bad weather conditions can result in delays or the cancelation of the trek. So you need to be well prepared while trekking in these seasons.
Best Season for Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
Trekking in Nepal is popular worldwide either for trekking in the hilly or the Himalayas. As Nepal is a country with Himalaya there are lots of destinations to choose from for the trek and tour here. Likewise, the Dhaulagiri circuit trek is one of the challenging treks that lead you to the extravagant journey to the Himalayas. Likewise, for a tremendous trek like the Dhaulagiri circuit trek, planning the trek is the most important. And planning here includes the time for the trek as well. Trekking in Nepal is possible throughout the year. But the best time depends on the region you are planning to do the trek. Nepal goes through four seasons: Spring, Monsoon, Autumn, and Winter.
As for the trek to the Himalayas, spring and Autumn are the most preferable seasons. And same goes with the circuit trek to Dhauligiri. However, you can trek even during the winter and monsoon season with some sort of extra preparation and precautions.
The months of March to May are spring in Nepal. These are the beginning of new vegetation all around the region. The scenario will be filled with buds of flowers in the forest path, greener around the valley during the spring season. Trekkers and visitors will get to enjoy the natural vegetation along the way. Besides, the weather and temperature are also suitable for the trek with the clear blue sky and the astounding view of Mountain peak. Despite being a cold place, the days are warm making it suitable for the trek or walk. Furthermore, the nights are neither hot nor too cold. However, early mornings can be mildly cold. If you are completely into nature and natural things, then consider trekking in the spring season. Spring represents the best of nature.
The month of June to August is the monsoon in Nepal. Right after the end of spring, the monsoon starts and these are the least preferred season for the trek in Nepal. This is the season when the lower region of the Himalayas gets continuous rainfall. Although there are low chances of rainfall in higher regions. Similarly, there are high chances of flood and landslide due to continuous rainfall. As a result, the trek might get delayed or canceled. On the other hand, the paths get slippery and muddy making your walk difficult. Therefore, one must be prepared with their trekking gear, equipment, and footwear. On the other hand, the trails are less crowded during this month. So if you want to enjoy the best of nature peacefully, this month is ideal for you.
The average temperature stays between 15-20 degrees Celsius in the lower region but there is a decrease in temperature with the increase in altitude. The sudden and unpredictable rains with the dark cloud may obstacle the trek. However, the view after the rainfall is the best and most fresh view ever. So, the monsoon has both pros and cons. However, this season is the best time to visit Dhaulagiri trekking for botanists and researchers.
The month from September to November is Autumn in Nepal. Autumn is, no doubt, one of the peak seasons for trekking in Nepal. The climate, the weather, the views, and the season of the festival is Autumn. Trekkers have a lot to gain and save visiting in Autumn to the Dhaulagiri circuit trek. Most trekkers from all over the world choose this season for the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek. September, October, and November receive the highest number of trekkers and visitors in Nepal. Similarly, the weather is in favor of the trekkers offering them the panoramic scenario of the Himalayas and the landscapes. Walking under the clear blue sky, with the mesmerizing view of Mt. Dhauligiri, Annapurna Massif along with Machhapuchhre, Manaslu, etc is a memory to cherish for a lifetime. There are very low chances of snowfall and rainfall during these seasons.
Likewise, The weather and temperature are perfect in autumn with moderate days and cool nights. The temperature is neither hot nor cold and is highly suitable for the trek. The day temperature during the day is 15degreese Celsius with 7-8degreese Celsius of night temperature. However, the temperature may drop to freezing point in the French pass and Italian pass. As one needs to be cautious during the trek to high altitude, the Dhaulagiri circuit trek.
Winter starts in December and lasts till February in Nepal. These months are the coldest season of the year and off-season time for trekking in the Dhaulagiri circuit. However, the high mountains are covered in snow and the sky is clear blue presenting the stunning view of nature during the winter season. Also, the chances of rainfall are relatively low and the trekkers will be able to enjoy the obstructed view of the entire Himalayan ranges. Similarly, due to a low number of trekkers, the lodges, roads, and teahouses are less crowded compared to the peak season in the Dhaulagiri Circuit trek. However, The snowfall can last up to 36 hours in favored conditions making the trails covered with snow and challenging to walk. On the other hand, the temperature reaches nearly the freezing point in the lower altitude as on the higher altitude it is below the freezing point.
However, the days are warm while the night and early mornings are windy and cold. If you are planning your trek during this season, be well prepared.
1: Kathmandu to Beni
2: Beni to Babia Chau
3: Babia Chaur to Dharapani
4: Dharapani to Muri
5: Muri to Boghara
6: Boghara to Dobang
7: Dobang to Choriban Khola
8: Choriban Khola to Italian Base Camp
9: Acclimatization Day
10: Italian Base Camp to Dhaulagiri Base Camp
11: Dhaulagiri Base Camp to French Pass
12: French Phedi to Thapa Pass| Trek to Kalopani
13: Kalopani to Marpha
14: Marhpa to Jomsom
15: Jomsom to Pokhara
16: Pokhara to Kathmandu
Facts of Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
- Dhaulagiri is the seventh highest mountain in the world, is situated in Nepal, and forms part of the Dhaulagiri mountain range.
- Its name is derived from Sanskrit, which means ‘white beautiful mountain’.
- Dhauligiri was 1st ascended in 1960, and since then the mountain has been climbed successfully hundreds of times.
- Several attempts were made to reach Dhaulagiri’s summit between the years 1950-1959 by Swiss, French, Argentine, and Austrian climbers. Out of which every attempt was made via the north side of the mountain, and each attempt failed.
- The first successful ascent was made via the Northeast side by a Swiss-Austrian team led by Max Eiselin.
- Upon its discovery in 1808, Dhaulagiri was thought to be the world’s highest mountain, displacing Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador.
- Dhaulagiri stands over the great Kali Gandaki Valley, which by some measures is the deepest gorge on earth, as it is flanked by two 8000m (26,250ft) peaks (Dhaulagiri I & Annapurna I).
Tips for Dhaulagiri Circuit Trek
As for the trek to the Dhauligiri Circuit, the trekkers must be cautious of several things.
When trekking to the Himalayan of Nepal, it is always better to start your trek early. Starting early is always safer in the Himalayan region than staying late. The same goes for the Dhaulagiri circuit trek, starting early one can be blessed with the view of the outstanding landscapes as well as the Himalayas. If you start early, you can get more time to explore nature. Starting early and finishing early are likely to prevent any kind of weather disturbance in Annapurna Massif.
Choose the right backpack
Choosing the right backpack and making it comfortable can make your trek convenient. Make sure you carry only the needed stuff that will make your bag look smaller and saves you from the pain and discomfort during your journey.
Water is one of the must-have things when trekking to Dhauligiri. Choose to stay hydrated, grab water every once an hour. Staying hydrated helps you get a lower risk of altitude sickness and your body needs extra hydration for high altitude trek. Your body will dehydrate quickly in such high altitudes so you will need to compensate more by drinking a lot of water.
Bring comfortable trekking shoes
It is always wise to have proper trekking boots with a sturdy sole. You have to trek through various inclined, rough, and dry roads and you have to walk for a long distance. Therefore, normal sports shoes can’t take the pressure off your feet. So trekking boot is one of the musts while trekking to Dhaulagiri Circuit trek.
Carry Diamox for altitude sickness
As you go up higher, you may face the danger of altitude sickness. The level of oxygen decreases with the temperature rise. From an altitude above 2500m, there is a chance of altitude sickness. However, the highest altitude of this circuit trek is at the French and Italian Pass. So one may face several symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, fainting, headache, etc. Therefore, carry Diamox medicine to relieve altitude sickness.
Interested in this trek? Then here is more detail.