The Annapurna Circuit is a loop that's normally walked anti-clockwise; it circles round the east-west Annapurna mountain range, starting and ending at Pokhara to the south of the range. These mountains are huge; the tallest, Annapurna I, reaches 8091m (26545 ft), a height approaching that of Everest's 8848m (29028 ft). The track doesn't quite reach such dizzying heights, but the 202km (125 mile) walk has a fairly hefty high point at its northern tip: the Thorung La pass is 5416m (17769 ft) above sea level, just under two-thirds of Everest's altitude. The highest I'd ever been before tackling the Annapurna track was 3726m (12224 ft) on Lombok's Gunung Rinjani, but the Thorung La pass is nearly half as high again, and it feels like it.
The pass neatly slices the track into two halves: the section from Pokhara to Thorung Phedi, which takes you up to the eastern side of the pass; and the track from Muktinath back down to Pokhara on the western side of the pass, which is popularly known as the Jomsom Trek and is commonly walked by those unwilling to tackle the pass.
In 1993/4, 5898 walkers headed up the eastern side; in the first half of 1997, 18.1 per cent of those walkers were from the UK, 11.4 per cent from Germany, 11.3 per cent from the US and 9.7 per cent from France. Conversely, on the western side there were 15822 walkers in 1996/7, of which 13.7 per cent were from the UK, 12.7 per cent from Germany, 10.5 per cent from France and 9.2 per cent from the US. The pass sure puts people off, and because the western side is more luxurious than the east, hardly anyone just does the eastern trek, as shown by the fact that there are three times as many walkers on the Jomsom as on the Circuit.
And those walkers doing the whole Circuit will pass through 73 villages in 90 hours of walking, with 540 hotels to choose from with a total of 5218 beds. Annapurna means business.