Trip Report: A Short Walk Around the Annapurnas, Post-Monsoon 2012
First: the obligatory epigraph for all Himalayan journeys:
Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges––
Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!
John McInerney and David Stevenson had plans for the Khumbu region (Mera Peak, + ski descent) but were foiled by six days in a row of cancelled flights to Lukla due to bad weather. Rather than languishing at the Kathmandu airport among the increasingly restless masses, we came up with Plan B: after ten hours overland via Land Rover to Syange, followed by seven days of trekking, most of it on the fabled Annapurna circuit, we found ourselves in basecamp at about 15,500 feet, preparing for an ascent of Chulu Far East (varied heights given; about 21,000 feet). The hoped-for ski descent was nixed based on an “if-you-fall-you-die” terrain assessment. This became a moot decision when Stevenson awakened with Acute Mountain Sickness with oedema-like symptoms. After a rapid 3,000 foot descent we calculated that we didn’t have time for another attempt. Or rather, we did, but then wouldn’t have time to both try again and get ourselves out of the Range and back to Kathmandu in time for our return flights.
We continued to work our way around the Annapurnas to the west, crossing Thorung La, the highest pass in the Himalaya (about 17,760 feet) and descending to the sacred medieval city of Muktinath, birthplace of Vishnu (although we didn’t see the manger, or swaddling clothes. Oh, wait . . . I’m confused. Nevermind). From there we continued around the trekker’s circuit through the deepest gorge in the world between the giant 8,000 meter peaks, Dhauligiri and Annapurna 1. We finished walking in Tatopani (literally: hot water) where we soaked away the grime and soreness in the legendary hot springs. From there we took a pair of tag-team taxis to Pohkara, arriving there 26 days after leaving home.