Mardi Himal Trek
Mardi Himal is a 5,587m. peak beneath the much more prominent Machapuchare in the Annapurna region of Nepal, from which it is separated by a 5,200m col. It was first summited in 1951 by Basil Goodfellow.
In 2012, the Mardi Himal Trek was opened, following a ridge towards the summit, with lodges, teahouses, and homestays open to an elevation of 3,550m, with a further climb to “Base Camp” at 4,500m. The peak itself is classified by the Nepalese government as a “trekking peak” and is offered by many expedition companies.
Mardi Himal is a lesser-known trek that runs along the ridge just east of the popular Annapurna Sanctuary trek to Mardi Himal Base Camp. From high on the ridge, the trail provides panoramic views of the Annapurna range, Machhapuchhre (Fish Tail), and Mardi Himal as well as sweeping vistas of the Himalaya foothills and cities of Ghandruk, Chomrong and Pokhara. Compared to nearby treks, it is less busy, shorter, and has a more consistent ascent to its maximum elevation of 4,500 m.
The trek can be comfortably completed in 5-6 days including transport to and from Pokhara although most trekking companies advertise an 8-day itinerary out of Kathmandu.
The increased popularity of the trek has led to an accommodation shortage at peak times. In response, may tea houses have set up tents to accommodate the overflow. If you wish to be sure of securing a room either call to reserve or arrive early in the day.
Most lodges have gas showers and lights provided by solar power, although some have backup generators. Prices are fixed and regulated by a committee so they should be the same for all lodges at a single location.
The trail primarily follows a ridge so there is little surface water most of the year. All lodges have filtered/boiled water for purchase as well as free water that you can purify yourself.
Most lodges have shared dining rooms that feature a wood stove that can be used to dry clothes and warm up in the cold months.
Best months for trekking
April and May are considered to be the peak hiking season in Nepal when you get the best weather conditions as the result all trekking routes get very busy. We always try to hike in border season; March or November. There are significantly fewer people but sometimes you can be quite unlucky with the weather.
From May to September it’s the monsoon season a lot of rain, the roads and trails get very muddy not nice weather for hiking in the mountains. As for the winter months, I read that some people like hiking in December – February because there are very few people but it gets very cold and on the routes like Mardi Himal where there are no local villages it might be difficult to find accommodation and food because the places are closed for offseason.
Mardi Himal route options
Permits for hiking the Mardi Himal
Like for any other trek inside the Annapurna Sanctuary area to trek Mardi Himal you need the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP) and TIMS card. You can get both at the Tourism Information Center in Pokhara (about 1,5 km from Lakeside) or in Kathmandu. We got ours in Pokhara, the office is opened Mon to Sun from 10 am to 5 pm. We prefer to do paperwork in Pokhara; it’s a much nicer place than Kathmandu, you can get around walking.
To get a TIMS (trekkers information management system) card and a permit you’ll need a passport, insurance (nobody asks to show it but you’ll need its details to fill in the form), a contact person in Nepal (we usually give our hotel details) and 4 photos (can be taken at the office free of charge).
To get the TIMS card;
First, fill in the form that you get at the counter
Second, take a photo. You don’t have to bring your own photos they take it right there at the office and it’s free of charge (4 passport size photos, it’s included in the price of your TIMS card).
Third, give the filled form, two photos, and NPR 2000/US$18 pp. (paid only in Nepalese Rupee) at the counter
Forth, get your TIMS.
Note! TIMS card and permits are valid only for one entry to the park every time you exit you’ll have to get a new TIMS card and a new permit to enter the park again. It’s checked and tasted, we met some people trying to get with their old papers but it didn’t work and they had to pay US$55 at the entry point.
To get the Annapurna Sanctuary Permit;
First, after getting your TIMS card go to the next-door room and get the form
Second, fill in the form
Third, hand the filled form, passport, two photos, and NPR 3000/US$27 pp.(paid only in Nepalese Rupee) at the counter.
Forth, get your permit.
Important! Don’t lose your TIMS and permit keep them till you exit the park there are control points throughout the park.
Insurance for the trek
The Mardi Himal is a high altitude trek through remote and difficult to access areas of the Annapurna Conservation Area, having travel insurance is highly recommended. In fact, it’s required for getting a TIMS card and a permit. Nobody has ever asked us to show our insurances but when you fill the form they ask you to provide the name and the phone number of your insurance company.
There are many travel insurance companies we’d recommend using one that has experience in covering outdoor activities and working in the region like World Nomads. Nepal is one of their top hiking destinations with thousands of people buying World Nomads insurance policies for trekking in the region. Their insurance is very flexible you can buy one that covers the entire trip or just the period of the trek. For example, if you have cheaper travel insurance that doesn’t cover high altitude hikes you can buy World Nomads policy covering only the hike. You can get insurance just a day before the planned activity or even the same day, it takes just a couple of minutes, quick and easy.