The D-day of the trek had finally arrived. The last day of our trek involved the climb of mighty Thorung La at 17,769 feet. The weather in the pass goes bad during the course of the day prompting most trekkers to cross the pass during early morning. Most of the people decided to leave at 4AM but we felt that 5AM should be good enough to start. The hotel bills were settled and breakfast was ordered on the previous night.
Though I ordered some Tibetan bread, I could not eat anything. It may be because 4:30AM was too early for me to eat anything. Nutrition bars would be taking care of me during the day.
|Sunrise at high camp|
At 5AM, we started our climb from Thorung Phedi. It was still dark and we used our headlamps to our aid. The initial stretch involved steep climb of 1300 feet to high camp. All we could see was the moving lights in front of us. As we climbed up, Thorung Phedi and its lodges receded from the view. The advantage of walking in the dark is that one would not feel the height or the depth of the surroundings. I feel that it makes the walk easy.
After about an hour’s climb, we reached high camp coinciding with sunrise. After few minutes of rest enjoying the surroundings and we back on the track. Post high camp, the trail was less steeper but the high altitude slowed our progress.
45 minutes from high camp brought us to a tea stall. I was taken aback when I went to replenish my water bottle. A litre of tap water costs 40 rupees!! A better option was to fill in a small stream that we crossed before the tea stall.
The walk after tea stall seemed to be a long time mainly due to several false summits. Surprisingly, I was going at a good rate in spite of high altitude.
And then I reached top of the pass!! It was 8:30AM and we had taken about 3.5 hours to climb. A very good speed indeed. Few minutes later Subbu joins me and it was time for celebration!! Like every other trekkers, we were elated and overjoyed.
We spent some minutes in photographing and enjoying our success and the scenery.
On one end we could see the Annapurna range, the great barrier ridge and on the other side the Mustang valley stretching to Tibet and Dhaulagiri (Seventh highest peak) beaconed us.
|Dhaulagiri (on the left side)|
The climb down was painful for me and my knees. It was a steep and long descent of more than 5000 feet towards Muktinath.
We saw a person crossing the pass on a bike!! Very adventurous I must say. But the Swiss guy was biking with relative ease!!
After about two hours of descent we reached Chababru, village consisting of few lodges. This is the only place where one can eat or rest between the pass and Muktinath. We rested for a long time here.
Very few people perform circuit from reverse direction. The main reason is the steep climb from Muktinath making acclimatisation a difficult task.
Muktinath is a major religious place for Hindus. The Temple attracts thousands of people from various parts of India. Almost all of them take flight from Pokhara to Jomsom and cover the remaining distance by Jeep.
We spent some time at the Temple complex. Contrary to the expectations, the Temple was peaceful with very people around.
Our trek was officially over. All that remained was the journey to Kathmandu which would take two days. Eight years ago it would have been a different story. The trek to Muktinath was only the first part of the trek. One would have to walk for 7-8 days to reach the motorable road from Muktinath. A road has now been constructed all along the length of Kali Gandaki valley making the second part of Annapurna circuit trek a history. Not many people walk this route now.
The bigger idea behind the road is to connect to Mustang valley and further into Tibet. Else, why would Government spend enormous amount of money building road into this remotest area?
Our day’s halt was at Jomsom. We took a shared Jeep to cover the distance. The painful journey on the dusty road lasted for 90 minutes passing though the village of Kagbeni. We travelled along the banks of Kali Gandaki River.
The Kali Gandaki valley is between the massive peaks of Annapurna and Dhaulagiri. This creates strong winds between 11AM and 4PM.
We stayed at a lodge near Jomsom airport. We were so fed up with Dal bhaat that we ordered some Mexican Burritos and burgers. They looked completely different but tasted yummy!!