Thorong La Pass: The Highest Pass in the Annapurna Circuit

The Thorong La Pass is a formidable yet awe-inspiring gateway to some of the most breathtaking trekking adventures in the Himalayas. At an altitude of 5,416 meters (17,769 feet), this high mountain pass traverses the rugged terrain between the Manang and Mustang districts, offering intrepid trekkers an unforgettable journey through Nepal's majestic landscapes. Thorong La Pass, strategically positioned along this circuit, connects the Manang and Mustang districts. It is one of the highest passes in the world also. 

The Annapurna Circuit, one of the world's most renowned trekking routes, takes adventurers through the Thorong La Pass, presenting them with a true test of endurance and resilience. The ascent to the pass is a challenging yet rewarding experience, as each step brings trekkers closer to the awe-inspiring vistas that await them at the summit.

As trekkers approach the pass, they are greeted by a stunning panorama of snow-capped peaks and glaciers that stretch as far as the eye can see. The Annapurna Massif, with its towering peaks like Annapurna I (8,091 meters) and Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters), dominates the skyline, leaving trekkers in awe of nature's raw power and beauty.

Crossing the Thorong La Pass requires physical and mental fortitude, as the thin air and harsh conditions challenge even the most seasoned trekkers. However, the sense of accomplishment and the breathtaking views from the summit make every step worth the effort.  In fact, the Himalayan Rescue Association in Manang recommends trekkers to spend five nights in Manang before crossing the Thorong La Pass and to Mustang.

Thorong La Pass is always crossed from east to west for safety and convenience. Almost everyone aiming to cross Thorong La Pass spends the night at Thorong Phedi (4,540 meters / 14,895 ft)  or Thorong High Camp (4,880 meters / 16,010 ft). To avoid the afternoon wind, trekkers rise as early as three am at Thorong Phedi and battle the icy cold winds and challenging terrain to cross the Thorong La Pass before sunrise and arrive at Muktinath. 

You can, of course, try to cross Thorong La Pass from west to east, but it is not recommended as the elevation gain is abrupt and substantial and does not allow enough time for acclimatizing. Those who dare to take this challenge stay at Ranipauwa (3,670 meters/ 12,041 ft).

From the Thorong La Pass, you will see the glorious Himalayas extending to Tibet, and if you look back, you will see the stunning Annapurna range. 

The safest months to cross the Thorong La Pass are March, April, October, and November. Other months carry increased risks of frostbite, avalanches, and even storm whiteouts.

After crossing this pass, you will descend into the Mustang region, a land of stark beauty and ancient Tibetan-influenced culture. The trail winds through arid landscapes dotted with ancient monasteries and villages that seem frozen in time, offering a glimpse into a way of life that has remained unchanged for centuries. Most trekkers cross Throng La Pass and reach Muktinath temple on the same day. 

Muktinath Temple is sacred for Hindus and Buddhists alike. For Hindus, this temple belongs to Lord Vishnu. It is renowned for its 108 water sprouts, with water flowing from the Kali Gandaki River. However, records indicate that until the middle of the eighteenth century, Muktinath was a temple for the Buddhist deity Avalokiteshvara. The Buddhists call this temple Chumming Gyatsa, meaning “Hundred waters”. The Tibetans believe that Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, meditated at Muktinath before heading to Tibet. Guru Rinpoche is regarded as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.

Whether you're an experienced trekker seeking a new challenge or an adventure-seeker looking to push your limits, the Thorong La Pass and the Annapurna Circuit offer a truly unforgettable experience. From the stunning vistas and rugged terrain to the rich cultural tapestry woven into the journey, this trek is a testament to the enduring allure of Nepal's Himalayan wonders.

Paul Gurung

Paul has an extensive experience in the tourism industry. Through his blogs, he shares his deep knowledge about the stunning trek regions in Nepal, inspiring trekkers worldwide to explore these regions and enrich their lives. In addition to geography, his writings delve into the human side of the trek regions, including culture, traditions, religions, and etiquette, offering a comprehensive and enriching perspective on the Himalayan trekking and expedition experience.