AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Annapurna Circuit: Day 7 – Manang & Ice Lake

Altitude: 3,470m
Climb: 70m + 1,100m
Time: 15m + 7hr breaks
Daily Cost: Combined with next day

We woke early and decided we’d made a mistake staying in this lodge and that we should pack our stuff up and leave to go to Manang straight after breakfast. We had planned to go to the ice lake from Bragha because we had read the trail was much easier from there, rather than trying to follow the trail from Manang. Plus the trail from Manang was supposedly steeper and more difficult. The weather had also confused things more because there was now a layer of snow on the ground, which made going to the ice lake seem doubtful. The ice lake is at 4,600m above sea level and would be a 4hr and 1,100m climb from here, so whatever weather was in Bragha would probably be worse at the lake.

I left the lodge immediately after eating. The aim was to get a room arranged and also tell Marco not to walk back down and meet us. This plan failed about one minute after I left Bragha I met Marco. We decided we’d all go to Manang to the lodge Marco had stayed in the night before. It sounded quite nice. From there we would plan the rest of the day.

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The walk to Manang was short and we quickly got a room (the lodge had three floors and probably 30 rooms and we ended up in the room next to Marco). We asked Harry what it would be like going to the ice lake and he said it was doable. I quickly ordered a club sandwich to take away and then we were ready for our outing.

We walked across a few fields and the floor of a valley, then climbed steeply up the side of the valley. The snow was on the bushes but the path was mostly clear. We thought the edge of the valley was bad, but it got worse as we climbed up the steep slope leading into the unknown. We stopped a couple of times to get our breath back and allow our heart rate to get back to normal, but for the majority of the time we just plodded on slowly, onwards and upwards. The sun had been shining at the bottom but after a couple of hours the clouds were now blocking the sun, but the effort of the uphill climbing kept us hot.

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By now the path had disappeared under the snow and we didn’t know where the route up was. Harry thought he knew but it soon became obvious that he too had lost the route up. On two sides was a very steep hillside, another was down into a valley far below us and behind us was where we had come from. It looked like we would have to get up one of these slopes. Harry pointed to a stupa on top of a ridge and said we should be aiming for that. About this time some curious yaks came running down the hillside towards us, probably curious as to why some people were wandering about up here.

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I picked a route up and we set off. The first part wasn’t too bad, but we were only making our way though the bushes to the slope ahead of us. Once we hit the slope things got tough. We were at about 4,500m and the air was thin, taking away most of our energy. Plus the slope was steeper than I’d anticipated. We zigzagged our way up the side for about 15 minutes but struggled more and more. Our shoes were not waterproof so our feet were wet from the snow and I’d worn my shoes everyday for the last 6 months, so the tread was well worn and not as grippy as they once were. We had been slipping a bit when we were lower but now we were slipping with most steps. I was struggling the most. But we were going up what had become a near vertical slope and slipping here would be very bad news. I had guided us through the bushes for a good distance up the slope because this gave us something to grip onto underneath the snow, but now the bushes were getting thin and I really couldn’t go much further, although going down would be almost impossible to do so. Marco had better shoes and ploughed on up the slope whilst we were left debating what to do. Standing on the near vertical hillside, covered in snow, with no route up or back down a small amount of fear had kicked in. This wasn’t a game, it was real and we were very high and totally alone apart from the 4 of us. Plus we were a few hours walk from help should anything happen. Then Harry came to the rescue. He kicked a route through the snow for us up the slope. It was slow going as the snow was deep and the hillside was so steep, but for about 10 minutes he kicked the snow and made a path. Thanks to him we made it to the top.

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At the top we could see a lake about a 5 minute walk away. Harry told us that it wasn’t the ice lake; there’s another further up the hillside. We’d had enough though. It had taken 4 hours to reach this lake and we were tired and hungry. To shelter from the wind we ate by a stupa placed on the edge of the hillside.

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After eating we went down to the ‘fake’ lake to take some photos and we asked Harry how far the ice lake was. He said it was wasn’t far, maybe 15 minutes further. After a little thought we decided that we’d come this far and we had time spare so we might as well go to the ice lake.

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The path was well marked and Harry was about right with the timings. The ice lake was true to its name. Totally frozen and almost invisible. But the scenery around the lake was great. These were 5,000m peaks and were little more than hills. It was eerily quiet around the lake, like a place frozen in time. Everything was covered in snow and frozen. Nothing lived or moved and there was no noise. We took our photos then quickly left this desolate place.

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As we followed the path down from the top we marvelled at how well marked it was and how it wasn’t very steep. It was so easy compared to what we had just climbed.

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When we reached the edge of the hillside we had amazing views of the valley! This was probably the best view we’d had in Nepal so far. We could see miles up and down the valley, with mountains behind us, in front of us and at the top of the valley. Simply stunning!

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It took us 3 hours in total to come down the path. In many parts it was very steep and covered with loose rocks and stones making it a bit slippery, but on the whole it was far easier than the path from Manang. The path ended in the traditional village of Bragha. We liked the look of the village and decided we’d come back the next day to explore it properly.

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We got back to the lodge and went to the coffee shop (part of the lodge was a coffee shop with a proper coffee machine and good looking cakes). We sat in there and enjoyed our real coffee and chocolate cookies. That night we met Madeline and Nina (the Swiss and German girls who we’d met in Chame) and talked with them for a bit. We ate good food and the stove was pumping out so much heat everyone was glowing red. We retreated to the cooler dining room, with Marco, for the rest of the evening and relaxed.

Overall, we felt that this had been our best day yet. We were very pleased with ourselves for making it up to the ice lake. It had been tough but well worth the effort. We’d ascended then descended 1,100m in a day, from a starting altitude of 3,500m. We felt good and Annemarie had not suffered any issues from the altitude. We slept well that night.

Day 6PhotosDay 8

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