AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Annapurna Circuit: Day 10 – Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi

Altitude: 4,020m
Climb: 520m
Time: 2hr 10m
Daily Cost: 4,960 rupees ($52/£31)

This was going to be another short day. The altitude meant it would be a bad idea to go any further. High Camp is only 45 minutes after Thorong Phedi but it’s another 300m to climb, which would be a dangerous altitude gain. High Camp is only safe to sleep at if you’re coming from Letdar, which would have been dangerous to reach from Manang because that’s about an 800m gain. As far as I can tell the only people who do Manang – Letdar – High Camp are those who have been to Tilicho Lake or those who disregard the advice on altitude. Almost all the trekkers we met were in the second group. Altitude doesn’t affect everyone the same, so only a few people get ill, hence why people feel safe and ignore the advice!

The night before the huge British group had received a prep talk from their guide. It was mostly the usual rubbish you get from guides, a list of figures of the mountains and heights (all guides do is set an itinerary and list mountain heights). But he’d announced the breakfast time. Armed with that information we made sure that we had breakfast after the group, giving them plenty of time to eat and get out. Why did I hate the group so much? Well, they were incredibly loud and because we could understand them it was harder to block out the words, every other word was LIKE, so nothing they said had any substance, just a bunch of likes strung out into a sentence, they said lots of stupid things, but mainly it was because groups (well the guide or leader) acts like the group owns the place! They tell people to move so the group can sit at the table, their food is the priority for the kitchen and all other trekkers have to wait, tables sometimes have reserved signs on them. This is why we either stay in lodges where there’s no groups or if we accidentally (or have no choice) end up on a lodge with a group we do our best to avoid them. They really are annoying! As we ate breakfast the group assembled outside and headed off up the path.

The weather was in our favour yet again. Blue skies and the sun was shining, although the air temperature was pretty low. It had snowed late in the afternoon and well into the evening the day before, now in the morning sun it looked great. The path was a bit muddy from the melting snow and hundreds of footsteps. We walked up the hill out of Yak Kharka to where we had photographed the yaks the day before and then onwards. It wasn’t long before we reached the suspension bridge, Letdar was on the other side. We were surprised that we had got there so fast, the Lonely Planet estimated a 55 minute walk and we’d done it in about 20 minutes. A good sign that we were strong and fit. Marco was doing this will his full rucksack, quite an achievement!

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After Letdar the path skirted around the hillside into a valley, high above the river. The views were excellent here, a white mountainous landscape, which apart from the footpath looked totally untouched by humans.

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The walk was good apart from one section. It was a huge landslide area. The footpath crossed a section of hillside which was covered with boulders. The slope was steep and was a good couple of hundred metres in height. We followed the safety advice and walked at least 10m apart. That way if anyone was hit the others would be safe and able to get help. Marco went first, then Annemarie. Just as Annemarie set off I saw a rock move far above her, for a few seconds I just watched it, then suddenly I realised it was going to roll down to almost exactly where she was. I shouted to her and she stopped and turned round to me, not exactly the response I wanted. The rock passed less than a metre from her at a considerable speed. That put the fear in us! Annemarie now moved very carefully, constantly looking up at the slope for falling stones. Now it was my turn, gingerly I stepped out from the sheltered spot and into the firing line. To walk on a narrow path a hundred metres above the river whilst looking up pretty much the whole time is difficult. Ahead of us I saw another rock rolling down the hillside. It picked up speed incredibly fast and was heading for Marco. Again, I shouted “LOOK OUT”, and again both Marco and Annemarie looked at me. The rock, which was about football sized, hit something about 5m above Marco and bounced into the air, sailing over Marco’s head, it hit the steep slope below us and continued rolling and bouncing all the way to the river. Damm, that was too close. This was a very dangerous section and it was scaring us. We moved fast, not taking our eyes off the slope above us. We reached the other side after about 5 minutes. Here we saw two porters taking a rest. They pointed up the hillside, at first we thought they were telling us to be careful for falling rocks. Luckily, they were pointing out a group of blue sheep. Phew!

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From here it was an easy 20 minute walk to Thorong Phedi. Phedi means ‘foot of the hill’. We were at the foot of the Thorong Peak and the Thorong La Pass. The lodge was huge and was already looking quite busy. We could get a double room easily but Marco couldn’t get a single room. The odds were that he would end up with a room mate later in the day. We decided to take a shared room with a double bed and a single. We don’t like sharing rooms and neither did Marco, but sometimes you just have to do these things. We then went outside to sit in the sun. My shoes and socks were wet so I took them off to dry in the hot sun. I should point out now that high up in the mountains the air is cold but the sun is incredibly strong. So if the sun is shining it’s hot, but no sun makes it incredibly cold. The contrast between sun and no sun is huge, well over 20°c, and can happen very fast. Just one cloud covering the sun for 5 minutes makes all the difference! Well, my shoes were in the sun and drying, my socks were rapidly drying and my feet were sunning. Annemarie reminded me that I will get sunburnt feet and should put suncream on… It was hot, sunny, amazing views of the mountains around us and the food was good. We both had spaghetti.

After lunch, we had to decide what to do for the rest of the day. After all it was only 1pm. We decided we’d take a walk up to High Camp. It was only a 45 minute walk and we wanted to know how hard the next section would be. Harry had told us that the section from Thorong Phedi to High Camp was the steepest and most difficult, so we wanted to know just how difficult was the most difficult section. Marco was also considering hiring a porter, just for the pass, but if he was OK with the next section he’d do without a porter. We set off up the steep slope and within a few minutes Annemarie was struggling. She was out of breath, her body ached and she had a headache, probably from the altitude. She decided it would be better for her to stay at the lodge and rest. We agreed and then continued up the hill alone.

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Thorong Phedi is located 4,540m above sea level. The climb consisted of steep switchbacks up a very steep slope. We climbed these switchbacks to High Camp, which is a 300m climb in 45 minutes. We were very happy with ourselves. Even better, neither Marco or myself felt any negative effects of altitude. The views around High Camp were great and we spent a while looking around at the scenery. Behind High Camp is a small summit, about a 10 minute climb through deep snow. There were plenty of people coming down or going up so we headed up to. We made it to the summit with some slipping and sliding (I had to use the deep snow for traction rather than walk on the well trodden route). We looked around, marvelled at the fantastic views, talked to a few others, then came down. It took about 25 minutes for us to get down.

Back at the lodge we drank tea, read our books and talked to a bunch of older men from Israel. They were nagging for the heating to be turned on and finally after about an hour they got their way. They took it in turns sitting by the heater warming their feet. We were joined by Marc, the Dutch cyclist. That evening was pleasant and the food in the lodge was pretty good.

Many people, especially those in groups have some kind of obsession with setting off ridiculously early from Thorong Phedi to tackle the Thorong La Pass. Our Lonely Planet timing estimates were 3:15 from Thorong Phedi to the top of the pass, then 3:45 from the top of the pass to Muktinath. The Israeli guys were leaving at 4am, meaning they would be in Muktinath around midday assuming they were walking slowly. The first two hours would be in the dark and it would be bitterly cold. They weren’t the only fools setting off at that time, most trekkers were! We decided we’d leave at 6am. For this reason most people had gone to bed very early. The dining room was almost deserted by the time we went to bed at 8pm. Our alarm was set for 5am. I slept fine, so did Marco. Annemarie didn’t sleep so well.

Day 9PhotosDay 11

1 Comment

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