This is a recommendation specifically for Norsang Lama (Owner / Manager of High Camp Trekking based in Kathmandu, Nepal)
My partner and I had chosen to trek the Annapurna Circuit for 16 days in Feb 2014 and as we were new to the region and high altitude in general we were not going to attempt this without a guide.
After trawling online forums (including here) for recommendations and requesting recommendations from family and friends back home who do have some experience we posted out requests for information to 3 or 4 of the most promising reviewed individual guides and companies, this included Norsang.
Norsang responded promptly with the most comprehensive and detailed response we received with a background of our kit requirements (Clothes, Equiptment and First Aid recommendations), route to be taken what was or was not included in terms of food and accommodation and transport details.
We requested some small changes to our itinerary (walking an extra section instead of taking a bus).
Norsang was quite flexible and proposed an alternate plan that did what we wanted. He also highlighted from the beginning that as we had chosen this route in the winter that it may not be possible to complete and that whilst the high pass en route (Thoroung La) was open at the time that if snow fell during our ascent there was some risk that the pass may be closed.
During the trek we both found Norsang to have plenty of experience and familiarity with both the trail conditions and route and had particular preferred Tea Houses in each town. However when these Tea Houses were not available due to closure off season, alternatives were always found and we certainly felt we were staying in good accommodation whilst there was a choice of it lower down.
Norsang consulted us where there were options to press on if we were making good progress or if we felt we needed to stop earlier than planned for a break and he was vigilant with our altitude conditioning on the higher trail. He also outlined the plan for the next day with options depending on progress and each day over 3000 metres included a plan for acclimatization training with side treks, to take us higher and back down to sleeping altitude if this had not already happened during the days trekking (this also meant we saw some other interesting sites, monasteries, viewpoints of glaciers or lakes etc).
He was also a good host and shared a wealth of information about the local environment, culture, history, religion, politics and Nepal in general. He was happy to stay with us and chat or play cards after the days trekking was finished and was also happy to head off and chat with the tea house owners or other guides porters so there was no pressure either way. He was very diligent in keeping us topped up with included drinks and making sure we were fed with all we needed to keep us going. This was nice to see as the food was included as part of the package but there was no attempt to scrimp on our food or drinks bills! Norsang always sorted us first and made sure that breakfast was ordered the night before for a prompt departure the next day.
Norsang is also a nice guy to get on with and speaks good English.
The way in which the trekking package was structured with included food and accommodation made our lives a lot easier and more straightforward when things got a little tougher. During our trek we had many comments (compliments) from others both with and without guides that we had been lucky with our choice of guide and after 2 weeks on the road in various conditions including heavy snow I have to agree!
We did hit the first snow of the winter the very night before we were due to climb the highest pass and we did attempt to cross the pass before the snow grew too deep. A couple of hours in and with the knowledge of how long we had to go the other side of the pass, Norsang made the call to turn around and return to our last camp (High Camp).
The snow worsened and we were safetly back in camp as it continued through the whole day and essentially snowed us in. Norsang advised we wait another day to see what the weather does and sure enough, the sky cleared and we partnered up with several small trekking groups and crossed the high pass together in one large party with the guides including Norsang taking turns to break the snow at the front.
We did make it over in the end and we had a very tough and memorable trip with plenty of stories to tell. I would certainly choose Norsang again for a trek in Nepal and I would recommend that you add him to any list of initial enquiries for a Nepal Trek to compare the responses and prices with others.