* 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.

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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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