Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Actually, Yes. We Made It! (Annapurna Circuit Day Nine)

Congrats Indeed!
Date: April 30, 2011
Start: Thorong High View Camp
Finish: Muktinath
Distance: 21.1 km (yeah, that's more than a half marathon)
Elevation (Start): 4850 m
Elevation (Highest Point - male): 5486.4 m (18,000 ft)
Elevation (Highest Point - female): 5416 m (17,769 ft)
Elevation (Finish): 3760 m (ascent: 600 m; descent: 1656 m)

You think you know the supertrekkers?
Do you know us by our shadows?
Beep, beep, beep. It’s 4 AM and the alarm is going off.  The push to the summit requires an early start. But really, did we need to get out of our sleeping bags, pack our luggage, and take our entire breakfast before the sun even began to rise? Actually, yes.

This may be a good time to explain why each post is titled "Actually, Yes..." or "Actually, No."  Shiba, our trusted guide and friend, would respond to all of our questions with a long, drawn-out "actuuuuaaaallllllly," pause for a moment and finally, answer yes or no.  We loved Shiba's catch-phrase and thus named each post with him in mind.

The Annapurnas at dawn

The Supertrekkers at dawn.
We hadn't seen a car for over a week, but just in case, J had plenty of reflectors.
We actually began the 600 meter ascent at 5:15, with the moon still the main source of light in the sky. Soon, however, the sun rose and lit the tops of all the mountains. By 6:30 the sun crested the mountains and shone brightly in the cloudless sky. We had a perfect day to walk the snowy trails towards the Thorong Pass.
Fine explorer stock
Milky Himalayan water.  Delicious.
We were high
By 7:30 AM we had made it!  We reached 5,416 meters (17,769 feet) above sea level. We unraveled our prayer flags, prayed(?), and placed them on top of the hundreds of other prayer flags wildly strewn all over the Thorong-La pass. To celebrate we busted out our most prized snack – a whole roll of Oreo cookies. And they were delicious. Though next time I do a ten day hike with a porter I am quite sure that he will be carrying a small (350 ml? 500 ml? magnum?) bottle of champers.
Sweet, sweet success
Then, as planned, Jesse and I broke into our wedding dance.
The others weren't sure what exactly was going on.
Then things got really wild.  

We had done it.

Seeing how we were only 231 feet below 18,000, the boys decided to push upwards to make it to this arbitrary, but psychologically meaningful altitude. The girls, not impressed by climbing to arbitrary (and imprecise) round altitude numbers, choose to stay at the pass and do a group stretching session. And they ate the rest of the Oreos.
Oh yeah.  Stretch it out!

Whoa!  18,000!?!  They are awesome!
And we're done walking.
Walking up at least...
No big deal.  Just slightly higher than some commercial airliners
This is also where I tested Twinny-Brown's rollability at ultra-high altitudes.

With its high chassis, it rolled with flying (techni)colors.
I also thought Mila was due for rest so I managed my own luggage for a few meters.

After a few more minutes at the top of the pass taking fun photos, we began the grueling descent into Muktinath. And grueling it was. Descending over 1500 vertical feet an hour for three and half hours is tough on the knees.  On steep, gravelly switchbacks it is even worse.  With many slips but only a few falls we successfully made it to Muktinath.
Goodbye Thorong Pass

We've got a ways to go

A long ways.
I interrupt this photo descent to reveal the best outfits we saw on the entire trek
Because we weren't even close to done.
And it was steep
Really steep.
These furry creatures are the love children of cows and yaks.  Caks?  Yows?
We left the 5416 M pass at 8:00 AM and arrived at 3760 M Muktinath at 12:30 PM taking an hour lunch break at 10:30 (a late lunch when breakfast is at 4:30!). This was also the site of our first celebratory beers of the day. Sadly, the Diamox from that morning had not yet fully worn off. Bad as Everest Beer is as a general matter, it stands no chance when your altitude medicine’s side effect is to make all carbonated beverages taste flat and metallic. Yuck.

10:30 AM means breakfast beers for most of the world, but not us!

As I always say...
Our first stop in Muktinath was with thousands of Hindu pilgrims at the Muktinath Temple, who come from all over India to run beneath 108 freezing cold water taps. I made it through one before bailing. I also made a very generous donation to a holy man ($.28) that earned me a gray ash bindi and many many blessings. It also bought me the aggressive solicitation of more offerings from all of the holy man’s nearby friends. But one was enough.
Ahhh, almost home.
Eeeeeeek, its cold.
That's a lot of good luck for $0.28

After a huge day: 4 AM wake-up, summiting the pass, testing Twinny Brown's rollability at high altitude, climbing to 18,000 feet, and then walking, slipping, and sliding a half marathon downhill it was especially sweet to check in to the Bob Marley Hotel (despite the oddest pillow cases we’d ever seen).
The Bob Marley hasn't re-decorated since its namesake was alive.
Couldn't flip this pillow over to the cool side
(the white is the pillow case - they were very economical at the Bob Marley).
Everything is relative, isn't it.
[JLM:  Didn't flush though.  Let's not get crazy.]
With only one more day to go the hike feels nearly done. It flew by. I can’t say I’m surprised given the superb company, fantastic guide, and stunning scenery. I can say I’m surprised given the state of the bathrooms, quality and variety of the food, and frigid nighttime temperatures inside and outside APC hotels.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, congratulations on an amazing feat. I am so impressed by and proud of you guys.

    Too bad you couldn't ski down...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.