Annapurna is a massif in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes one peak over 8,000 metres (26,000 ft), thirteen peaks over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft), and sixteen more over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft). The massif is 55 kilometres (34 mi) long, and is bounded by the Kali Gandaki Gorge on the west, the Marshyangdi River on the north and east, and by Pokhara Valley on the south. At the western end the massif encloses a high basin called the Annapurna Sanctuary. Annapurna I Main is the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8,091 metres (26,545 ft) above sea level.
The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the 7,629 square kilometres (2,946 sq mi) Annapurna Conservation Area, the first and largest conservation area in Nepal. The Annapurna Conservation Area is home to several world-class treks, including the Annapurna Circuit.
Historically, the Annapurna peaks are among the world's most dangerous mountains to climb, although in more recent history, using only figures from 1990 and after, Kangchenjunga has a higher fatality rate. By March 2012, there had been 191 summit ascents of Annapurna I Main, and 61 climbing fatalities on the mountain. This fatality-to-summit ratio (32%) is the highest of any of the eight-thousanders. In particular, the ascent via the south face is considered, by some, the most difficult of all climbs. In October 2014, at least 43 people were killed as a result of snowstorms and avalanches on and around Annapurna, in Nepal's worst ever trekking disaster.
Annapurna is a Sanskrit name that literally means "full of food", but is normally translated as Goddess of the Harvests. According to Devdutt Pattanaik, Annapoorna devi is "... the universal and timeless kitchen-goddess ... the mother who feeds. Without her there is starvation, a universal fear: This makes Annapurna a universal goddess ... Her most popular shrine is located in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges River." Her association with the giving of food (wealth) led her in time to be transformed into Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.
The Annapurna massif contains six prominent peaks over 7,200 m (23,620 ft) elevation:
Annapurna I (Main) 8,091 m (26,545 ft) Ranked 10th
Annapurna II 7,937 m (26,040 ft) Ranked 16th
Annapurna III 7,555 m (24,786 ft) Ranked 42nd
Annapurna IV 7,525 m (24,688 ft)
Gangapurna 7,455 m (24,457 ft) Ranked 59th
Annapurna South 7,219 m (23,684 ft) Ranked 101st
Less prominent and other peaks in the Annapurna Himal include:
Annapurna I Central 8,051 m (26,414 ft)
Annapurna I East 8,010 m (26,280 ft)
Annapurna Fang 7,647 m (25,089 ft)
Lachenal Peak 7,140 m (23,425 ft)
Nilgiri Himal North 7,061 m (23,166 ft), Central 6,940 m (22,769 ft) and South 6,839 m (22,438 ft)
Machhapuchchhre 6,993 m (22,943 ft)
Hiunchuli 6,441 m (21,132 ft)
The Annapurna Conservation Area (7,629 km²) is a well known trekking region. There are three major trekking routes in the Annapurna region: the Jomson Trek to Jomsom and Muktinath (increasingly disturbed by a road-building project); the Annapurna Sanctuary route to Annapurna base camp; and the Annapurna Circuit, which circles the Annapurna Himal itself and includes the Jomsom route. The town of Pokhara usually serves as a starting point for these treks, and is also a good starting place for other short treks of one to four days, such as routes to Ghorepani or Ghandruk.
The Mustang district, a former kingdom bordering Tibet, is also geographically a part of the Annapurna region, but treks to upper Mustang are subject to special restrictions. Mustang is also increasingly becomin popular for Mountain Biking because of the construction of roads undertaken by the Nepali government in the region.
About two-thirds of all trekkers in Nepal visit the Annapurna region. The area is easily accessible, guest houses in the hills are plentiful, and treks here offer incredibly diverse scenery, with both high mountains and lowland villages. Also, because the entire area is inhabited, trekking in the region offers unique cultural exposure and experience.