Days 11-13 Yaks, Dr Snowman & Crossing The Pass

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2010

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Where I stayed
Thorong La Base Camp
Shree Muktinath Hotel

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 11- Yak Kharka(4020m)-Thorung Phedi(4430m)
Day 12- Snowed in @ Thorung Phedi
We woke this morning with sunlit mountains around us and sat in the kitchen with our cold toes being warmed by heaters burning charcoal beneath our table. One of the workers presented us with a departure gift of some apples which she slyly put in my bag when i wasn't looking. The gypsy caterpillar gatherers were all up and about early with campfires cooking their breakfasts. The snow that had been falling all night had turned the dark green alpine bushes into a white blanket of ice, an enchanting world.

Unfortunately I was feeling ill and moved quite slowly. An impressive line of mountains was in front of us whilst behind was the Annapurna range with Annapurna III, Gangapurna, and Tarke Kang (Glacier Dome) crowning it. To our right was the Chulu Peaks while on our left was the Muktinath Himal range. It was all happening. We crossed a stream rushing down from the mountains then went through the village of Letdar. High on the hills above us were yaks grazing. I felt nausea setting in as we started to ascend through a deep canyon with rugged slopes and the Khone Khola river below. The surrounding hills were coloured in various hues pleasing to the eye with tones of brilliant copper, yellow and ash brown decorating the surreal landscape. The track crossed the river then zig-zagged steeply up to a lonely teahouse high on the hill where a sweet couple were serving hot tea to the very few trekkers still passing this way. I had to concentrate very hard to make it up the hill, my energy was zapped and i was focused on just making it to Thorung Phedi for the night. We could see Tanja and Omar the marmots had taken a different path on the opposite side of the river. There was a small danger of landslides where they were walkiing. The tea shop owner started yelling and frantically waving a stick at them, but i suspect she just wanted their business.

The tall snowy peak of Yakwakang mountain appeared ahead of us as we made our way through the landslide prone zone, incident free. Hasta pointed out a family of graceful blue sheep that were making their way across the ridge above us. They look like sheep but behave like goats, the coat has a bluish sheen and camouflages them against the rocks they live amongst at altitudes above 3000m, it was another national Geographic moment.

We were greeted at Thorung Phedi (foot of the hill) by a dreadlocked dog with chunks of flesh hanging from a wound in his side and a skanky horse. I was feeling like that dog looked, ready to crash. I was sure it wasn't altitude illness because it was caused by some unclean food and was just vomiting and stomach mash up. The lodge we stayed in was set amongst a bleak Himalayan wilderness and was to become our home for the next two days whilst we waited for the weather to clear up so we could go over the Thorung La pass at the height of 5416m. It was snowing heavily. I spent most of the time lying sick in the bathroom squatting over teh hole in the floor toilet or in bed with my head on a straw pillow, watching the snow fall outside the window. It was too cold for bucket showers but it had to be done. Hasta checked on me regularly tucking rugs around me and insisting that i eat garlic soup, i couldn't eat a thing. Poor Nadine was getting cabin fever in the lodge dining room along with the constantly growing number of trekkers bottle-necked there as they waited to cross the pass. People were playing endless rounds of cards and talking bollocks, i think the delirium of mountain sickness was setting in for some as people were getting irritated and a heated debate took place at the table. Jimbo, a professional climber from the United States told mountaineering stories that we think he stole from the adventure novels he was reading.

I saw the Israelis arrive so immediately sent Nadia out to claim blankets for the night, it was bitterly cold and we ended up with three thick blankets each. Wild horses wandered past the lodge, their coats covered in ice. I tried to work out how i could make a yeti costume from the blankets so i could do a run past the lodge windows and give everyone a laugh.

The up-side was that we has enough snow for a snowman, it's every Australian's dream to make a real snowman so Nadia got to work outside my window so i could see him from my sickbed. A champion effort produced the cutest snowman in the world. He was about 40cm tall, a lump of ice with twigs for arms and a scarf and beanie for decoration. We named him Dr Trashy Snowman so he would help me get better and it worked, i was as healed by a snowman, good as new and felt fresh after downing a bowl of vegetable noodle soup and rice pudding with cloves. I finished some diarrheoa antibiotics, stopped taking diamox and upped the hydration. Alison and Betsy had to descend due to altitude sickness and a fresh batch of trekkers arrived from Yak Kharka. The next day we were good to go. Both of us were a little bit nervous because this was the highest we had ever been.

Day13 Thorung Phedi(4430m) across the Thorung La (5416m) to Muktinath(3700m)

Today was the big day to cross 'the pass' that everyone has been raving about and we started out with a bit of snow but a clear sky. We were up at 4:30am for tea and toast and decking out our shoes with garbage bags to keep our feet dry. Large icicles were dripping down from the doorway of our room and thick snow covered the ground.The gaitors would come in handy too. The marmots were keen to go too and the crew was on, nice one. Unfortunately Dr Trashy Snowman had been out all night the dirty stopout and was now a morphed hill of ice. This reminded me of one of my favourite songs of all time "Walking In The Air" recorded by Peter Auty in 1982 for the Christmas movie "The Snowman", it's about a boy who goes flying with a snowman at night but in the morning is sad to see the snowman is gone, melted away. Lyrics to the song:

We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly

Im holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly so high above with you

Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills
The forests and the streams

Children gaze open mouth
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes

We’re surfing in the air
We’re swimming in the frozen sky
We’re drifting over icy mountains floating by

Suddenly swooping low on an ocean deep
Rousing up a mighty monster from his sleep

We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly

Im holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly so high above with you

We’re walking in the air
We’re walking in the air

The first trekkers had left before us and this was good beacuse we could follow their footprints to find the trail. Firstly we climbed up a steep, pyramidal scree face on a trail switchbacking on the cone. The view looking back was wonderful and i was glad we stopped to take it in because the rest of the day we had blizzards of snow with little or no visibility, i'm sure we missed some fabulous views but the experience of trekking at these heights in the bad weather was a nice challenge. The snow was slippery to walk on and it was a very long climb up to the pass with alot of huffing puffing. Hasta slipped and fell a couple of times and Nadine felt like her inside organs were being squashed even sitting down to cry at one point, it was a difficult climb becuase the air pressure here is only 50% than at sea level. I decided to leave her in the snow and keep walking so she would havew no choice but to go on ahead. There was no option to stop halfway.  It was windy and cold and the altitudfe was starting to effect us so we had to pause and recover our breath every few steps. We had all our layers of clothing on but found we had to peel them off then put them back on as needed. It was what Hasta called 'naughty' weather. We tried to follow the black route markers but found we could just put one foot in front of each other, that's as far ahead as we could see and the footprints in the snow on the trail ahead  were being covered up by fresh snow. It was silent here and felt pure.

Eventually a sign appeared covered in prayer flags and announcing that we had reached the top of the pass. This was also the border for the Manang and Mustang districts. We huddled up in a stone built teahouse and took shelter from the harsh, cold winds with a bunch of random trekkers. Next was was a very long descent towards Muktinath over slushy, slippery snow with no grip on my shoes. Lucky i had the 10rupees walking stick. Clairvoyant Don had warned me 'not to slip on the ice' and i took the the call as a warning to be extra careful.

We were both down in one piece and caught up with the marmots in another teahouse at Chabarbu village(4210m). We had walked over 11km, climbed about 986m and descended 1206m! Of course the sky cleared up and ahead we could see the Dhaulagiri Peak (8167m), the seventh highest mountain in the world with the striking green valley opened up below. The mountains of Tukuche (6920m) and Dhampus(6021m) were also on view. I did a jump for joy on the way down and we felt a lightness in our step as we pixied away down through the valley past a field with horses. The landscape was arid and brown and the villages of dun coloured houses blended organically into the scene. We walked through Muktinath temple complex which has a hill behind it covered with thousands of prayer flags and onto Ranipauwa village. Muktinath is one of Nepal's holiest sites for Buddhists and Hindus and there's even a helipad to fly in wealthy Indians for a visit. Hare Krishna pilgrims stopped to give us a namaste. We were exhausted so made our way to the pilgrim hotel Shree Muktinath where we were happy to see a gas hot water system on offer for 100rupees a head. We were having the hot shower tonight and getting the clothes washed while we were at it. We stuffed ourselves silly with bottomless, thakali style dahl bhat then dropped into bed.

Lame Snowman Jokes Of The Day:

How do snowmen travel around ?
By icicle

What would you get if you crossed a snowman and a vampire?

Where do snowmen put their webpages?
On the winternet

Lame, very lame

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