Monday, July 6, 2009

Annapurna Circuit: Part 4, Thorong-la Pass

June 9: Thorong High Camp to Thorong-la Pass to Muktinath

I conquered Thorong-la Pass today at 5,416m (17,769ft.). The climb was not as difficult as I had expected. I was lucky to have no signs of altitude sickness, though breathing was a chore. Though breathing deeply, it still feels as if one is not getting enough air, perhaps something like suffocation.

We were the first to leave the High Camp this morning at around 5:40am, though the Chilean and his guide and an Italian/Spaniard pair I had met last night soon followed. I thought they might catch up at some point but surprisingly neither pair ever did. So when we reached Thorong-la, welcomed by the well-known sign with prayer flags emerging from a stone pillar, we had it all to ourselves. We dropped our bags and headed up the slope for a better view, from where we could see glacial lakes and a 360-degree view of the surrounding peaks.

The descent was actually more difficult than the climb since after a few hours, even with trekking poles, hip sockets and knees have just had it on the steep, rocky terrain. But we forged ahead without breaks and made it to Muktinath before noon, with a donkey train tromping in right behind us -- they always seemed to find us.

After some rest and a hot shower that felt like salvation we walked up the hill to a Hindu temple complex. Surrounding the temple, where many Indians go on pilgrammage, are 108 taps in the shape of boar's heads along the wall. In the front courtyard are two holy pools. A path leads along the full perimeter amongst shade trees. It was interesting to see the mix of Hindu and Buddhist elements, such as the prayer wheels, there. And above the perimeter wall stood a number of stupas.

The lodge where we stayed, called the North Pole, had the best enchiladas I have ever had served on a sizzling iron skillet. I was beyond surprised to find this Mexican dish done so well in the Nepali frontier.

No comments: