Saturday, January 14, 2012

Asian Adventure: Day 13 and 14 Going Up

Annapurna Circuit Day 8
Manang (3540 m) to Yak Kharka (4150 m)

We were woken early by the sound of whistles outside our hotel window. We were surprised to see that it was not police but small children playing on the roof of the home across the street. As we were watching them play, an airplane could be heard coming in for a landing at the Hondge Airport just down the valley. All of the children ran, following the plane, eyes towards the sky, whistles still in their mouths, yelling "airplane, airplane" -  I guess airplanes instill excitement when they only land once a week!


The trail from Manang started with a steep climb (of course) gaining almost 400 m in about an hour. At the top of the climb we reached Gunsang (3960 m) where we stopped for a rest and a glass of seabuckthorn juice which was surprisingly good and tasted somewhat like Tang.

Seabuckthorn Juice

From Gunsang, we were treated to several hours of relatively flat walking as the trail wound its way up towards Yak Kharka. Although there where several points where the trail plunged steeply down to the river only to climb back up on the other side. Once the trail turned and started heading north towards Thorong Phedi, the valley was under the constant barrage of cold glacial winds whistling down from the peaks above. 

We reached Yak Kharka in time for lunch and checked into the New Himalaya View tea house. We enjoyed lunch in the sun on the hotel's patio which was thankfully sheltered from the howling winds. 

New Himalaya Tea House
Once you are above 3000 m it is recommended that you do not gain too much elevation in one day and if possible sleep at a lower elevation then the highest point of the day. Therefore after lunch and an afternoon nap (Dave was fighting off a sinus cold), we once again headed out to climb up the hillside behind the hotel.  We climbed about 300 m to a high meadow on Chulu West where we spotted several herds of blue sheep. We also came across a yak that had fallen and hurt its leg. It was unable to stand on its own so Dave and several other trekkers ended up helping it to its feet.

Blue Sheep

The cold meant for another early night - thankfully our room had thick stone walls to keep out the wind, the single pane windows still meant it was drafty. In the middle of the night we were woken by the sounds of resident mouse rustling through our bags but not matter what we did we were unable to locate him. The constant rustling kept us up even after going through the trouble of hanging all of our food from the ceiling and hiding our down jackets in the sleeping bags.  

When we woke in the morning we discovered what he had been after - we had forgotten a chocolate bar in the hydration pocket of my backpack. The mouse had eaten half of the chocolate bar, a large portion of the wrapper and the corner off my platypus! Thankfully he did not actually puncture the platypus.

Annapurna Circuit Day 9
Yak Kharka (4150 m) to High Camp (4800 m)

We woke to find that it had been cold enough over night for the water on the ground to freeze. Thankfully the sun was shining so it did not take long to warm up. 

The trail started with a gradual climb through a glacial valley until we reached Thorung Phedi (4550 m) - a cluster of large tea houses within an impressive stone amphitheatre with glaciated peaks all around. We stopped in Thorung Phedi for lunch where we began to whiteness people starting to suffer from true altitude sickness. Dave's sinus cold had developed into a horrible headache which began to have me worried that he was also suffering from altitude sickness. 

Suspension Bridge
Gangapurna and Annapurna III
Thorong Phedi
After lunch we set off, taking the switchbacks up the steep scree slope, for the final 250 m climb to High Camp (4800 m) - a lone tea house perched high above the valley bottom. 

High Camp
High Camp
Cosy accommodation
By this time Dave's headache had gotten quite severe so he decided to take a nap while I enjoyed reading in the sunny dinning room. When he awoke he was in higher spirits so we attempted a short acclimatization hike to a view point above the lodge. Unfortunately it clouded over before we reached the top and Dave's headache worsened considerable with the small elevation gain. At this point Dave was forced to admit that he might actually be suffering from altitude sickness and decided to take some Diamox just in case. With Dave not well and a 4:30 AM wake up call pending, it made for an early night.

In all of our preparations it never crossed our minds that Dave would be struck with altitude sickness since he had been to 5895 m with no issues when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro - in a much shorter time frame  none-the-less! I had been extremely anxious about getting altitude sickness and did not experience the slightest of symptoms. Goes to show how truly unpredictable the human body is!

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