We spent the night before at the end of the world, or so it seemed. The Annapurna Circuit trail we had hiked for 10 days ended in a canyon as the walls closed in on us. Only the hint of a path zigzagging up the steep slope behind the lodge revealed a possible route over the pass. Tomorrow was to be the high point of our trek, both figuratively and literally. Wake up time was 2:30 AM and after breakfast we would be gasping thin air as we slowly climbed to nearly 18,000 feet starting in the dark.
Breakfast lasted longer than planned—it is the way things work in Nepal. We finally left the lodge at Thorung Phedi at 4 AM headlamps lighting the way. We thankfully carried only cameras. The sherpas carried our packs and the porters carried the sherpa’s packs now that the canned food, water, and bananas no longer weighed them down. Step, deep breath, step, deep breath, and so it would go for many hours.
We reached High Camp at 5 AM. Not much to cheer about—still a long way to go. But it was good for a 10 minute break. It took about that long to catch our breath. The dim light made for some interesting and challenging photography handholding at 1/2 sec and ISO 1600 with just a hint of fill flash. I’m not sure why a map was being consulted; the only way was up.
Eventually light returned as we climbed higher and higher. Here is a 5-shot panoramic image taken just before 6 AM. Those tiny “ants” near the center of the photo are the members of our group. I had fallen behind in order to get some photos of the morning light at this spectacular spot.
We climbed onward seeing many false passes ahead, like the one in the image above. Eventually we saw a large group of prayer flags and a bit after 8 AM we had reached the 17,769 foot pass. Photos were taken by others of us and by us of others as cameras were passed around to document the accomplishment. Here are the 8 trekkers, and the 5 sherpas that got us there.
I conclude this post with a tribute to our leader, Chhongba Sherpa. This is the third time he has guided me on treks through Nepal. He is truly an exceptional leader and a generous person.
Stay tuned for more from this adventure.