Monday, July 11, 2011

Actually, Yes. You Can Get Altitude Sickness When Hiking at 16,000 Feet. (Annapurna Circuit Day Eight).

Looking down towards Thorong Base Camp Lodge.
The winding path is visible on the left side.
Date: April 29, 2011
Start: Chuli Leder
Finish: Thorong High View Camp
Distance: 11 km
Elevation: 4850 M (climb 650 M)

At 6:30 AM the Snowland Hotel was freezing.  Breakfast was a hat and gloves (and fleece, and micro-fleece, and fleece pants) affair.  The plan was to walk to Thorong High View Camp (4850 m; 15,912 ft), the highest hotel before the Thorong Pass (17,769.028 ft, approximately).  Staying that high would help us acclimate for the pass, and more importantly, shorten the amount of hiking necessary when we actually crossed the pass.  And so, like every day before, we walked.
Allow me to present: The Supertrekkers!
On the road again
Did I mention how awesome porters are?
Here we are hiking with small day packs.
Here are our porters with our large packs.
This was a real win-win trade.
Helpful signage
The mountains remained gorgeous, the snack breaks wonderful, and our spirits high.
Didn't believe me about the cold?
Here are some frozen waterfalls.
Spectacular views?  Incredible mountains?  Unbelievable panoramas?
These were nothing compared to the joy a Snickers in one hand and a Chips Ahoy! in the other brought me. 
We were zany from the sugar rush!
We passed through a dangerous rockslide zone, which was slightly scary, and thankfully slideless, passed wild horses and then walked some more.  What else is there to say?
Hello horse.  No ride?
Before the Thorang High View Camp (4850 m) was built, trekkers stayed at the lower Thorong Base Camp Lodge (4540 m).   While resting and rehydrating there we read and considered the stern signage warning trekkers about Acute Mountain Sickness (“AMS”).  We also read in the Lonely Planet Trekking guide about trekkers who push up to the high camp, only to return to the base camp later in the day with debilitating headaches, nausea, and other symptoms of AMS.  Duly noted, we pushed on.
The team makes its way into Thorong Base Camp
This is actually Thorong Base Camp.  They have not yet
purchased a new sign since a hotel established itself 300 meters higher.
Seriously, you are really high.
And the team heads out of Thorong Base Camp
Its not an easy hike
Fatigued at the top.
What were those AMS symptoms?
[JLM: Could Dave look any more oldey-time with that hat and backpack straps?]

Dave and Jesse feeling good.  Almost made it.
And then, just as all the warnings indicated, once we reached the high-camp a member of the team came down with, wait for it, altitude sickness.  There was some upside:

Kate: Where is the bathroom?
Sarah: The scary shed outside the dining room
Jesse: The dark, dark shed out and to the left.
Charles: It is right next my vomit.
Kate: Oh, I know where that is.

So, I gave him up.  It was Charles.  Thankfully, he recovered after some frightful vomiting (have you seen the bathroom photos from the past week?  You have to be really sick to put your face anywhere near those "toilets"), a long nap, and some Diamox.  But not before Shiba forced us on a hike-high, sleep-low acclimatization afternoon activity.  And while the rest of us enjoyed the views, Kate nursed poor Charles up, and then down the mountain.
Sarah, Jesse, and Dave at the top of the acclimatization hike
Kate, Charles, and Charles's vomit at the top of the acclimatization hike.
Thorong High View Hotel is below.
A knife's edge ridge leads out to various prayer flag cairns. 
And here I surf on the edge of the huge drop-off.
In retrospect, this was not a smart idea.
And while the Thorong High View Hotel is true to its name, the rest of it was pretty par for the Annapurna Circuit course.  Except for the bathrooms, which were FWS.  And vomit.
The view is undeniably spectacular.
The rest of the hotel, not spectacular
The view from my room, spectacular
The room itself, not spectacular
The bathroom: spectacularly gross.
[JLM: Grossest bathroom ever. EVER.]

As for the overall cleanliness and standards of$hygiene? Not spectacular.
Here the "clean" sheets are dried on the ground.  Where the animals walk, and poop.
Thorang High View Camp was also the locale of our first snafu with Stewie, the Steri-Pen we used to purify water for the entire trek.  The water at the high-camp was so milky (yum), it totally blocked Stewie’s deadly UV rays, leaving quite potent bacteria (as I knew from recent experience) alive and well.  So we turned to the old fashioned method and purchased boiled, but still milky, water for 100 NPR ($1.50 USD) per liter.  Sweet.  Here we are resting and relaxing and eating at High Camp before tomorrow's 5:15 AM departure for the summit!
Warming up and reading in the High View's sunroom
[Not pictured: the horrible 10 R&B songs played on repeat for hours and hours and hours] 
Their best dish? Ramen noodles.  Yum.
[JLM: Look at Dave eyeing my soup. You know that the second I put my spoon down he's swooping in.]  
And potato curry
And noodles with yak cheese.
Not a lot of green in these meals.
Kate and Sarah finish off the carb-fest with a apple fritter toast.


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