Archive for the Thorong-La Pass Category

Are we there yet?? x100 (AC Day 9)

Posted in Annapurna Circuit, Muktinath, professional tourist in the making, Thorong-La Pass on June 16, 2014 by twotwoeight

Day 9 — Destination : Thorong-La Pass, 5416m –> Muktinath, 3880m

This is it! Today is the day of the ‘climax’! Slept only minimally due to a mixture of headache, nervous anticipation and sometime in the middle of the night, I felt the pitter-patter of tiny feet running across my head!!! Gasp!! I jolted up and immediately turned on my head lamp, but could not see any small creatures – read : rodent – scurrying away.  Felt too real to be a dream.  Contemplated waking PW up but since I couldn’t see anything to cause concern, I decided to not disturb her sleep.  Took me awhile before I could lie down again…and soon, the alarm rang and it was time to get up.

Packed up and had as much of the breakfast as we could stomach at 3am…Dev kept persuading us to eat more, as he was worried we wouldn’t have the energy for the trek ahead, and it was going to be a long and hard day. We set off at 4am.  It was still pitch dark but the trail up to High Camp was already buzzing with a flurry of activity.  A steady line of tiny dots of light from the glow of each trekker’s head lamp began to form — in a sinuous ascending pattern, disappearing behind the highest point.  From the foot of the trail, that point seemed like an eternity away.

IMG_4568

I don’t know if we were psychologically and mentally prepped by yesterday’s ‘acclimatization walk’, but the climb that morning seemed easier than anticipated, and High Camp appeared sooner than we imagined it would.  Dev and Mr.Limbu were excellent at locating the easiest route for us, letting us know which places were safe to step on and which to avoid as the trail had become icy and slippery overnight. We reached High Camp just before 5.30am and by then, the light of day had broken through.

Image

Image

After a few minutes rest, we set off for the Pass and the trekking in the snow began.  It was much harder than I expected and I always felt like slipping even though Dev kept reassuring me snow was not slippery!  It doesn’t help when the trail is just wide enough for 2 feet and on the very edge of the cliff!!! I shuffled around at the pace of a snail…until Dev helped me put spikes on my shoes.  And after that, I could walk so much faster without worrying that I would slip and fall off mountain! Hurray for spikes!!!

Image

Image

Luckily, Dev offered to take my camera and snap photos for us, otherwise we would probably have no photos of the incredible views on the mountain and at the Pass as PW and I were both busy trying to walk, breathe and stay alive to make it to the Pass!

Image

We reached a teahouse after about an hour’s walk and stopped for a cup of hot lemon, huddled inside the small little teahouse which was more like a little brick hut.  We were parched, as our water had started to freeze up by then and the feeling of warmth trickling down the insides provided by the hot drink was just heavenly.  Dev literally had to drag us out of the teahouse as we were getting comfy!

Image

Then it was another gruesome 2 hours before we finally reached Thorong-La Pass.  We stopped so many times to catch our breaths that I lost count.  Each step forward was agonizing and each breath felt like it was inadequate and not bringing enough oxygen to the lungs.

Image

The snowy mountain views were too gorgeous for words, but sometimes, we felt so so tired that we could not even look up.

Image

Image

Sometimes when there is nothing but vast whiteness ahead, and the end seemed so far away, we really wanted to just turn back. At some point, we even asked Dev to entice us with the idea of fake KFC and beer!  Luckily, Dev and Mr.Limbu were there to motivate us and lift our spirits as well as physically help us through some rough parts.  They also brought out Twix candy bars and chocolate when we were half dead!!! Chocolate never tasted this good, I’m telling you!!!

Image

There were many false passes before we reached the correct one.  The trail would just ascend to the peak and give you the hope that the pass might be just beyond this peak, but every time we asked Dev “Is this the pass???”, the answer was always “Not yet…just a little bit more”.  I felt like Donkey in the Shrek cartoon asking “Are we there yet?” a gazillion times. Luckily Dev wasn’t Shrek! 😉

Image

Finally, after what seemed like eternity, we could see prayer flags and the famous marker of the Pass ahead! Hallelujah!!! We finally reached Thorong-Las Pass at 8.30am. Woohooooo!!! 🙂

Image

We were so cold and exhausted by then that much of our enthusiasm and excitement had been zapped away.  Nevertheless, it was an incredible moment to remember, and as I stood there staring at the signpost that said ‘Congratulation for the success’, a quiet sense of satisfaction came over me as I was never really sure if I could make it to one of the highest mountain passes in the world on my own two feet.  No donkeys, no horses, no helicopters.  I was thankful.

Image

After catching some photos, we started to make our way down. We made our descent quickly as Dev said the winds were coming and it would get too windy and cold at the Pass.

Image

Thank goodness for the spikes, I could actually literally run down the snow-covered path.  Breathing was also noticeably getting easier as we lost altitude.  We even had time to stop for a rest and what do you know, Mr.Limbu whipped out digestive biscuits!!! These two are incredible! Their backpacks were tiny in comparison to ours and yet they seem to have an endless supply of snacks which always appear just when we needed them most.

Image

Image

However, the easy part of the descent soon came to an end and the crazy steep rocky descents started! Some parts, the path was so obscure that I didn’t even know where to put my foot.  Luckily, I slipped and fell on my bum only once! We definitely couldn’t have made it without Dev and Mr.Limbu guiding us through.  Finally reached the teahouse at the bottom of the mountain at about noon.  By then, we were beyond exhausted and too tired to finish our lunch of mushroom soup and egg curry rice. Then it was another 3 hours long walk to Muktinath, the town where we would be spending the night.

Image

We reached Muktinath at about 4pm and had a hot shower which was heavenly!  We were contemplating exploring Muktinath but our legs were adamantly protesting against it so we settled into the dining hall and had the most amazing chicken mushroom pot pie I have ever tasted.  No pictures of it, because we gobbled it up.

Image

The guesthouse also had wifi, the first after we started our trek.  On one hand I was glad to be connected to the world again, but on the other, I was a little reluctant to bid goodbye to the solitude and peacefulness of the mountains which offered a sense of divine isolation.  Time to come back to reality.

Wanted to do a bit of reading but the electricity supply was erratic and as a result of that, we had a ‘candle-lit’ dinner. We treated Dev and Mr.Limbu to dinner as a token of appreciation for helping us make it to the Pass and down.  We had the pot pie again, yak stroganoff with rice, spinach canneloni and a tuna pizza to share and the food was fantastic! Can’t believe there’s such good western food out here!  After dinner, Dev passed us hot packs and we went to bed at 9pm and for the first night in ages, I managed to sleep well without having any headaches! 🙂

PS/ Muktinath was still cold

*All photo credits to Dev