* Summitting Thorung La September 30 2013

We arose this morning after a very chilly night, during which I had vivid dreams & a fitful sleep.We breakfasted open-air style as the Nepali porters broke camp around us, & early rise trekkers from Thorung Phedi plodded slowly up the track past us. Breakfast was porridge, bread & eggs, tea & coffee (load up, you guys ...). Altitude at Thorung High Camp is about 4,800 metres, which means we camped higher than Mont Blanc. No wonder I've got a headache ! The previous night, our Nepali trek leader had advised (repeatedly) that we be prepared with our warmest gear on, & more available in our day-packs. We started climbing about 5am, with down jackets & thermals, scarves & gloves. Temp o/night perhaps -5 to -8 degrees C. Slow & steady was the plan. Keep a careful watch on AMS symptoms, drink lots, & rest often. Not too far short of the summit, our group had another rest stop, & I busied myself trying to record the stop & the scenery. I found it difficult to shoot meaningful images - my concentration was affected by the altitude. The images below show the staggering scenery, with the trail winding around the spur, back down into the valley, toward Thorung Phedi.


The above image also shows a trekker, carefully wrapped against the cold, with knees placed down the slope & head propped up on a medical kit, positioned as safely as possible. I'd not seen this poor soul at the time, & I don't know if our trek leaders saw him. I only identified him when I started processing my trek images, back in Sydney. I expect his trek leaders have organised a yak be bought up from Thorung High Camp, to get him over the summit ASAP.

 All around us, trekkers were either exhiliarated or struggling from head-ache, exhaustion & oxygen debt. We were very lucky with the conditions. Visibility was very good, wind wasn't a problem, & snow depth was as good as we could have hoped for. My recollection now of that day is that the going up was easy. You just did it; stopping when your body said stop, or when your companions stopped. The going down was much more difficult. The (1.6 km vertical) descent to Muktinath is steep, tricky & constant, with snow drifts an easier option than the trail. The trek up, from 4,800 metres to 5416 metres, took perhaps 4hrs; the descent from 5416 to 3800 metres at Muktinath perhaps another 4hrs, & lunch & rest stops another 4hrs. A big day !

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