Annapurna Day 12- The crossing
Today was the day I was nervous about most, because of the disaster that had happened, unsure if I was strong enough and also well equipped. After 11 days of trekking, my body had build up stamina and muscle and the only thing holding me back was the altitude. Taking baby steps in high altitude leaves me breathless in no time and I remembered this from being in La Paz in 2012.
We got up with the sound of our alarms at 3:45 in order to have breakfast, pack and be able to get up and off the pass on time. We packed hard booked eggs, extra water and Tibetan bread for the journey as there would be nothing until Muktinath on the other side. The scary thing was that even though all these days we had walked on some crazy terrain and had some challenges, the challenge of walking up the switchbacks of the side of a mountain in the pitch black with only an iPhone flashlight to enable you to see, best them al. To top it all off, there was heaps of snow and ice and in the first ten minutes I thought I would get frostbite on my toes and have to have them removed (seriously).
On the steep ascent to Ghyaru, we had been told that was the second hardest ascent on the circuit and here we were doing the most challenging. At times we would lose the trail and have to stop to figure it out, with us splitting up to check. (Not easy on the side of a slippery mountain). We carried on and made it to High camp after an hour or so. After filling up on water one last time and using the toilet, we said our goodbyes to two guides we had met guiding an Italian couple, who wished us look and safety. It was crazy to think that not long ago had we met people who were turned away because the pass was virtually impassable and here we were going for it. I was terrified of my own ability to get to the top and off by 11/12 and hoped for the best. The trek was challenging and you could certainly feel the air was thinner here and after reaching the top of a few mountains with flags and being mistaken for the pass, I finally knew I was there when Dave held up his hiking poles from up there. I tried not to get too excited and paced myself getting up there. Rick had been held back and so we waited for him up there while us and the bunch of students I had been to the cinema with, took pics of the famous landmark! Here we were at Thorong La Pass 5416m in the Himalayas I just couldn't believe it. When Rick finally ascended the mountain, he told us about his struggle with the altitude and his thoughts of giving up and dropping his backpack in the snow. He had said his backpack was too heavy and he didn't think it through. Lucky enough as I was in the middle of Dave and Rick on the way, I could look forward and see Dave and stop to wait for Rick to catch up. I knew it was common courtesy never to leave someone behind and I would never want that done to me especially somewhere as remote as this! We have him a hug and after a snickers or two for some energy, we left for my the 4/5hr steep descent which in fact was exactly that but to add in the fact that it was mostly ice and slushy snow, so yes, id gone 11 days without any falls and here I fell at least 4 times and in mud too! I was gross and extremely tired by the time I got to Bob Marley Hotel in Muktinath. Needless to say I took advantage of the scalding hot shower and put on my cleanest clothes while clutching a flash of hot water. I was woken up by Rick for dinner and luckily so, because I got to spend a lovely Boxing Day evening by the fire with good friends I had made and who had shared this experience too. We sipped on Jack Daniels, I wen tried a bit of Tak steak and we talked about the days gone by.
I forgot to mention a thought that ran through my head earlier. I was thinking about the trek and had I known about the challenges of doing this trek during winter before I planned to go would I have done it and I thought no I probably wouldn't. The reason being that well basically I have no faith in myself. I see things like this all the time and think no way could I do that and some of the things I have done in the past 12 days I am so proud of because I went ahead and didn't think twice about it. I guess that makes a great ending to 2014, doing something I never thought I could do. To be honest December Is the hardest time to do this trek because of the intense cold, the snow but for me it's also the best because there are hardly any people here, the sky's are incredibly blue and it gave me that extra challenge that I needed.
Now for the next few days trekking down the other half of the circuit through the Mustang region.