Annapurna with G Adventures – approaching Thorong La

Posted: October 29th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Day 5 – Chame (2640m) to Pisane (3300m)

It’s about 4C, and I’m wearing mittens while typing… they’re fleece lined and hand knitted with yak wool and have those neato flappy covers that expose or cover the fingertips. They cost me about $2 CAD in Kathmandu, which seems absolutely crazy to me since I know how much work knitting take since one of my favourite past-times at home is to sit and read while @pipesdreams knits on the couch next to me.

Today is our first full day above 2500 meters elevation, which means we’re now at the point where altitude sickness can become a factor. So far I’m doing ok, I can feel that the air is thinner, there was a short portion of today where we had to rush as we were passing a rock-slide zone (in itself a somewhat stressful undertaking, walking fast single file as close to the cliff as possible with huge drop a meter or so away) and after that I really felt short of breathe far beyond the what the exertion would have warranted. But other than an awareness of thinner air I’m so far free of any nausea, headaches, aches, or tiredness. Not everyone in our group is so lucky, as I write several people are lying in bed trying to acclimatize.

As for today’s hike, it was cold cold cold. Up until today we’ve been super lucky with the weather, enjoying clear skies and good views of the mountains for most of the day, and sunshine to keep us warm as we walk for at least most of the day, but today it was clear around 6am and cloudy from 8am onwards. Everyone broke out all their layers today, and my plan of doing without a down jacket and going for layers seems to be working, although it is strange to be trekking the himalayas with the same rain coat I use when riding my bicycle to work in downtown toronto.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a light hiking day, we should reach our destination in time for lunch, and then we spend a whole day more there in order to acclimatize to the altitude before we make the approach to the high pass of thorong la and our maximum elevation for this trip.

Day 6 – Pisane (3300m) to Manang (3540m)

If yesterday was defined by being cold and wet, today was it’s glorious opposite. The day dawned with blue skies, bright sunlight, and a generally easy walk with few steep ascents. It’s a good thing too, because the mountains were unbelievable. I really don’t have the words to describe it, so I’m going to hope that by the time I find internet I’ll be able to upload at least one of the many, many photos to illustrate.

The whole day was basically spent staring upwards at the huge imposing peaks of the Annapurna range, walking slowly a little bit, then stopping to go “holy shit” and taking a photo.

Weather wise it was warm to start, but at some point we passed onto a high mountain plateau with a wicked wind which cooled things down considerably. Thankfully the wind was always at our backs so once we all put on a wind proof shell it wasn’t a problem. I kept on thinking we were going to lose our sunlight, but our luck held and we had clear skies all the way to Manang.

Apparently, once a year they race Himalayan horses right through the centre of town, and today was the day. So after checking into our rooms and having a little wander through the town we were able to watch some pure chaos. Horses going at breakneck speed, others waddling along behind with smiling and laughing little men on top shouting jokes back at the crowd, all going at the same time in both directions. It was exhilarating, if a bit freezing once the sun went down (to be fair, I probably should have worn more than a t-shirt and a hoodie before going out).

Tomorrow is a rest day, I might take the opportunity to search for some internet to upload this post. I think there might be some sort of day-hike planned, probably all calculated to help us acclimatize to the altitude. 

Day 7 – “Rest day”

Apparently rest day really means acclimatize to altitude by doing a hike day. Today we hiked from Manang at 3540 meters altitude to Praken Gomba at 3950 meters, to visit a local holy man who has lived in a little cave up there for the past 45 years. We were all blessed and given a little necklace of holy string and given a hearty good luck with Thorong La pass.

The hike up there was very pretty, we followed small trails through high alpine fields with first goats grazing and higher up the yaks. It was pretty much 2 hours of climbing, sometimes very steep, before we finally reached the mass of prayer flags and the small garden that marked the entrance to the cave we were heading for.

It was a pretty cool experience, I’m normally pretty cynical about religious figures but you simply have to respect anyone with the tenacity to live in such a remote and unforgiving place and dedicate his time to meditation and contemplation. Oh, I should mention that he’s 94 years old, with a very weathered face. His little cave is covered with mementos of his life, photos of him with the Dalai Lama, Buddhist imagery, and assorted random things that people have given him over the years.

We were lucky again with the weather, although it wasn’t as gloriously clear as yesterday it was sunny until about 3pm, which was plenty of time to get up and come back down to Manang again. Right now I’m looking out of the dining hall in our tea house looking out the window at a huge glacier high above me slowly being obscured by clouds.

I did go on a search for internet, and while there is some it’s very expensive and you have to use their computer, and I’m not super keen to trust my logins to random computers likely full of spyware. It looks like this won’t be posted until after I cross the pass, it’s going to be a long blog post when it finally comes 🙂

Day 8 – Manang (3540m) to Yak Kharka (4000m)

“Ready to go? Slowly, slowly.” That’s the refrain of Romesh, our tour leader as we continue to hike now that we’re at altitude. It’s strange to walk so slowly, but it’s pretty much necessary as he prepares us for the Thorong La pass. On paper it’s hard to appreciate how much of this trip is tailored to ensure that everyone makes it through without suffering altitude sickness.

Today we gained 500 meters in elevation by lunch time, and arrived at our tea house completely wiped. It really wasn’t a super hard walk, but the combination of sun, altitude, wind and cold was enough to give me something of a headache. Nobody was keen when Romesh announced that after lunch he wanted us to go for a hike up to 4200 meters and join him and the porters in a song and dance. Seriously, singing and dancing on the mountain top.

Just to be clear, our porters were really keen on this plan and how can you say no to the people who are working hard everyday carrying your gear? After following a pretty steep path up the local hill we stopped about half-way up, sat down among the low bushes, and took a rest break that turned into a dance party. After you got over the initial “dang, I feel pretty stupid” it was pretty fun, I now have a tune stuck in my head to which I know none of the words and can only barely hum.

At one point during the dancing a huge eagle passed directly over head, perhaps 10 meters above our little song and dance party, with the huge mountains as a backdrop, it was pretty magical and completely revived me, which I think was the point.

Tomorrow is our last day before we cross Thorong La and reach our highest elevation, and while I certainly won’t find internet access before the pass I’m going to end this post here and start another, likely it’ll be posted from Pokkara and I’ll have strong enough internet to upload at least some of the photos.

One Comment on “Annapurna with G Adventures – approaching Thorong La”

  1. 1 Pipes said at 7:39 pm on October 30th, 2012:

    Ahh… that’s just what I was looking for. A lovely blog post to expand my mind and freshen up my bleary, indoor day.

    I like that you ended on the eagle image in your writing. The old hermit sounds pretty amazing, what a privilege to meet someone who has spent so many years on this earth, following his heart. A rare creature in these modern times.

    Glad to know you’re still safe, get worried when you are treading where I have not, but put my faith in your sense of self-preservation and the hope that strangers will be kind to you.

    Namaste, enjoy the sights and the dancing. Don’t fret about the photos, we’ll see them soon enough. Thank you for writing.

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