Day 11: Thorong Pedi to High Camp (15,912 feet) .6 miles straight up
We were woken at about 2am by all the porters getting ready for the day, but we were lucky because we were only going to do the one hour hike up to high camp which is at 15,900 feet. The hike took me an hour and a half. It was great because there is only one lodge at high camp and because all of the hikers had left at the crack of dawn, we had the run of the place. We rested, had tea, and went for an acclimatization hike with our crampons, real “life savers”. They make walking on icy, snowy surfaces SO much easier. I also didn’t take a pack on this hike, and I would highly recommend to anyone thinking about doing the hike, to hire a porter. Taking 30lbs off your back and walking at altitude, well walking in general, is much easier. Again the vistas were spectacular and you realize just how small you are in this world when you are surrounded by such immense beauty. By the time we came back, high camp was bustling with people coming in for the night. We had our usual Dal Bhat and had two hot water bottles made. The higher you get, the more expensive it is for the “lodge” to boil water for you. Beer was also quite a bit more expensive, but porters have to carry it all the way up the hill so it should be. It was absolutely freezing. Even though my husband had very nice gloves, his fingertips were starting to freeze. I got tired of being cold day after day after day. However, I was also excited because tomorrow we were heading over the pass.
Day 12: High Camp to Thorong La Pass (17,769 feet) to Muktinath (12,460 feet) 9.3 miles
Like a bunch of lemmings, the whole lodge basically gets up at 4am and has breakfast. Then repack your gear for the 100th time, and ready yourself for the hike up to Thorong La at 17,769 feet. I know you are tired of reading this, but it was cold and dark. We left at 5:15am to begin our ascent because as the sun rises, the wind on the pass starts to howl. Talk about a dangerous trail. There was basically a conga line of hikers and porters on a foot and a half wide trail on the side of an 80 degree sheer snow and ice covered face. Then picture all of that in the dark, lit with only your headlamp and that of others around you. Also, the poor porters are walking in flip flops. So much for traction. To make the scenario all the more ridiculous, now imagine a group of crazy mountain bikers that were completing a race around the Annapurna Circuit who had no patience and were trying to pass you whilst carrying a mountain bike on a foot wide trail. Needless to say, at some point, just up ahead we heard a scream. Inevitably, one of the bikers had fallen and slid about 100 feet down the hill. He was very luck y that it didn’t happen at an incredibly steep section.
About ½ way up to the pass is a little hut where you can stop and have tea. Great for me, but not so much for my husband because apparently he was just as exhausted as me, but I didn’t see this and was ordering him around. Take my pack, get me tea and so on. He had been so patient with me on this trip, and the poor guy had to listen to me nagging him. Needless to say, he didn’t sit at all and even though I had warmed up a touch, he was still freezing as we heading up the hills. His fingers were frozen, and still to this day if it gets cold the tips tingle. This part of the trek had more false summits than you can ever imagine. When where we going to get there? Eventually we reached the summit of Thorong La Pass and took the obligatory photos and this time even my husband took his pack off to have a cup of tea at the hut.
Now if you think the rest of the day was easy. Oh no. Going down was so much worse. We had just been hiking for three and a half hours up, and we had about 4 hours downhill on snow, ice, slush, and then mud. Your quads are burning and you are begging for an uphill just to alleviate some of the pain. Finally at 2pm, we, well I, limped in to the little hamlet town called “Muktinath” which is at 12,170feet. So basically we came a mile straight downhill. We checked into the Hotel Bob Marley and had a hot shower and settled in for the night. Hotel Bob Marley is great, and I wouldn’t even bother looking at any of the other tea houses. Big rooms and a great little restaurant.
Day 13 Muktinath to Kagbeni (9186 feet) 5.6 miles
The next morning, completely refreshed after a beautiful night’s sleep we headed down the dusty road towards Kagbeni. The scenery on this side of the pass was so stark comparable to the forests and greenery of the other side. The hills sides were brown and the visibility of the mountains were not very good. Another down side was that we were now walking on a road.
The new road bypasses the villages, so you have to veer off the road to get down to them. All the guide books tout Kagbeni as this quirky little town with tons of little back street passageways and a lot of charm. We did NOT see this side of it. To us, it was really dirty and rundown. There were lots of little guest houses to stay at and we settled in at YakDonalds. Yes, you read that correctly, YakDonalds. They even had the red and yellow writing. It was okay. We had a huge bathroom inside our room so it was nice not having to dress to run down the hall at night just hoping that someone else wasn’t already in the bathroom.
Day 14 Kagbeni to Kobang (8661 feet) 10 miles excluding jeep to Jomsom
The next day we were supposed to walk to Jomsom which was about 10 miles. We had heard that the route was not pretty, and also that the winds were very gusty. We decided to cheat and hitch a ride in the back of a truck. Good call. The hike usually takes about 3 hours, and the jeep ride was going to be 30 minutes. The trail was really nothing to speak of. Most of it was in a dry, rocky river bed with uneven surfaces and a lot of wind. We passed several groups of hikers and no one looked happy. Everyone had their heads down and faces covered with either a bandana or scarf.
Jomsom is a rather large town and has an airport. Lots of hikers come over the pass and down to Jomsom and then fly back to Kathmandu. The planes are often delayed because of wind and this airport is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. I was good walking. The town has a bank, stores, and a fair amount of restaurants. In hindsight, I wish we had stayed in the jeep and headed a bit further down the road. The air was very hazy, the wind was blowing a gale, the landscape was barren, and still, you are walking on a dirt road. Because we took a jeep earlier in the morning, we were able to make up some time, but this also changed our sleeping arrangements. We passed a beautiful little village called Tukuche where the guesthouses looked run down from the outside but opened up into beautiful courtyards. However, it was pretty early in the day so we headed on to Kobang. At this point the weather started to turn and drizzle. Of course, I hadn’t planned well and had my rain gear at the bottom of my pack, so we had to stop and dig that out. Luckily for us, it did not start to pour and we made it to our guesthouse just slightly damp. Not a bad 10 mile hike for the day.
Tibetan Prayers bells that traditionally have a mantra written in Sanskrit on the outside. You are supposed to walk by and spin the bells. Very exciting at the beginning, but when you are tired, it takes a little bit more energy to walk along the wall. But who am I to pass up good luck.
Day 15 to the conclusion, Day 19 coming soon! Hope you are enjoying this.