I’m not even pretending to write any of the Nepali names correctly, because there are no apparent “correct” spellings. If there are–apologies for that, but the map, guide book, and Nepalis all spelled things differently…so…My variations are the spellings I chose in my journal entries as close to “correct” as possible. Hence the weird name changes. Apologies for tense changes as well, since again–this was written AS written in my journals (with minor adjustments for clarity).
Samdo (12,700 ft). April 20.
Short three hour walk today that was actually “gradual flat. Not too much up. Not too much down.” From Sama Goan to Samdo–opening up through green fields and wandering through avalanche shoots & some well-packed snow fields. Beautiful “last” views of Manaslu (until after the pass). We are so anxious to cross Larkya Pass while the weather is excellent. At first I wanted only to see the mountains–now I am greedy for more of this new country & surely do not want to trek down this steep and narrow valley again!
There are many people with the same intentions and lodging is an issue at Darma Sala (Larkya Phedi). I do love how Nepal has several names for everything and nothing is ever spelled the same twice.
Blue sheep on the hillside! They look similar to bighorn sheep, but are apparently closer relatives to the mountain goat.
I met the Czech man again in Samdo. He allowed me to take some lovely portraits of him. He has been to the US (not only for the Simon & Garfunkel concert in Central Park), but also to some national parks in the West. His favorite is Bryce Canyon. He took a photograph of me holding his “American” guitar. He specifically takes this guitar trekking.
His party was set to cross the pass today, but one woman came down with possible altitude sickness symptoms. They came back down to Samdo. Her illness was likely only GI related, but due to time restraints, the group was forced to go down the same way. Yet–this “Czech guy” (as I grew to call him…and unfortunately we never shared names!) was so unperturbed by the whole thing.
Simon & Garfunkel in Czech. Or, how to give a person light.
He said something like, “Look where we are. This place is so beautiful. And, the children, yes. The people–these people are so–wonderful. They have nothing and they are so kind.” Imagine this delicate string of words in a broken, Czech-accented English. The Czech guy made frequent appearances on our trek up towards Larkya Pass and he was always glowing this pure, genuine, no-bullshit happiness.
Yeah. Look where we are.
Tomorrow we go to Darma Sala. Sune will leave early in the morning to save us a room.
Ryan interviews for Yellowstone via satellite phone…What the what?!
And hilarious conversations between Rajbir and Jennifer when we were discussing our concerns about finding lodging in Darma Sala.
Rajbir says to Jen “Don’t worry! If we need to–you put your sleeping bag in Yak shit.”
“The exit?” asked Jen, looking confused.
Jen looks at him like he is crazy, “Yeah, I think I can find a better place than that.”
We all pause.
“Oh, the yak SHED?”
We did stay at the Yak Hotel. Unfortunately I did not take a photograph of the terrifying infrastructure. I really doubt this place is still standing…but I hope I am wrong.
Another amusing conversation took place while kite flying near some mangy looking dogs…on a hillside covered in deeper than expected snow drifts.
A Tibetan guy came over to us (we were flying the kite with some kids he appeared to know). He spoke little English. And we spoke only the “Namaste” equivalent in Tibetan.
We did a lot of pointing and Jen pointed to the browned, arid mountains to our (North?)
She asked, “Is that Tibet?”
The man looked at us with wide eyes. “No! No! This is no Tibet. This Nepal!”
(I’m sure he was quite concerned about the idiot foreigners who weren’t even sure what country they were standing in).
“No, is THAT Tibet?” (again pointing).
“No! Nepal. Tibet…” and then horse-riding mime…”2 hour.” A 2-hour horse ride from Tibet.
Damn. So close. But we all figured that yes…some of those mountains must be Tibet!
Photo taken by Jennifer. Our perceived Tibet not pictured.
DharmaSala (14,700 ft!) April 21
Unfortunately we missed the excursion to the Tibet border. This was actually part of our itinerary, but getting to the border was questionable due to high snow levels. And, even more importantly, were our fears about the weather holding.
Elevation record for both me and Ryan! (Jen has climbed some 14,000 some peaks in Colorado & crossed the Thorong La Pass at 17,769 ft on the Annapurna Circuit Trek).
Glorious views of Samdo Peak, Manaslu North, Naike Peak, and Manalsu itself (hmmm…not sure of accuracy of some of these on second view). There are new views of Larke Peak and many unnamed mountains (or, at least, not on our map. Even though “field of Marijuana” is on the map). We aren’t sure if we are looking at the main Himal Chuli peak or another mountain in that range?
Saw more blue sheep on the way today & navigated through another field of massive yaks (or that other thing that is even bigger than a yak. Ryan wrote down the name). We have seen 3 glaciers–Manaslu Glacier, Syacha Glacier (which means “the sea of snow” and looks that way exactly), and Yamnang Glacier. Tomorrow we will go alongside Larkya Glacier. We saw Samdo Glacier in Samdo (although I only figured that out now).
Weather is warm–HOT–at 14,700 with snow reflections. My lips are still burnt from 2 days ago, so I’ll be more careful now.
Our bunker–I mean lodging–at Darma Sala.
Bimthang April 22nd (From 14,700 to 16,700 to 12,300…so a gain of about 2,000 ft and drop of 4,000 ft).
Woke up at 2:30 AM to start over Larkya Pass. I forced down breakfast (museli with lemon ginger honey tea since the milk will make me sick). We started with our one working headlamp between the three of us and solar-powered lantern. The Tazmanian group was the only other foreign group to start before us–but many more were soon to follow. The Tazmanians were older and impressively slow–although we were later told one group member included some famous British climber.
Daytime view of the start of our trail over Larkya Pass. The outhouse included. We hear this place is unfortunately a mess of human waste & garbage when the snow is not covering all that…
We hiked pass them in the dark. We were so giddy. I had to force Ryan to slow down at this elevation. I was afraid he would burn out too quickly–or get sick. Everything was covered in snow. So grateful for our yak traks on the hardness. We walked in the pitch dark for about one hour–and had already reached higher ground and the start of the seemingly never-ending Larkya Pass. Behind us was a line of flickering headlamps.
And then–the sunrise hit the mountains. The snow began to sparkle beneath our feet. Everything transformed bright and white with clear views of the peaks. Crunch. Crunch. The sound is pleasant…and the rest of the world is quiet and waking.
The porters are ahead of us with their 60-70-80 plus pound loads. They needed to start very early, while the snow is still hard so they will not sink. One porter was dressed in a matching red workout suit & carrying what appeared to be the largest load in the group. He stopped to smoke a cigarette at about 15,000 feet and then passed us.
The pass itself lasted hours…but we were high on a plateau between mountains all over 20,000 ft.
And finally, we reached Larkya Pass after multiple “layer” stops and trying to thaw our camelbaks (which we anticipated). The temperature rose drastically with the powerful sunshine and the snow reflections.
Jen was close behind us. Rajbir carried her daypack on his front and his pack on his back. Jen was having excruciating lower back pain. That said, Jen was still the 3rd foreigner to arrive on the pass and in decent spirits considering her pain. She said a prayer of gratitude (in the words of my father): “Gratitude is the best prayer you can say.” She laid a Juniper branch on the cairn as an offering.
Ryan brought beef jerky. Oops. Cows are sacred in Hindu. But that didn’t deter Rajbir from enjoying his jerky!
Ryan was trying to contact Yellowstone about the “official” job offer, but was not able to get through. He shrugged. A job offer on the pass would have been amazing…but, oh well! We had incredible weather and energy. I gave Jen some pain meds. The guys brought Tibetan bread (a heavy, fried & slightly sweet flatbread) and a boiled egg for each of us–wrapped in tin foil. There was even SALT wrapped in a smaller foil. Best boiled egg of my life. No joke.
From the pass we could (apparently) see: Kangguru, Annapurna II, Himlung, Cheo Himal, and Gyaji Kung among others. I say “apparently” because with so many unnamed peaks and high peaks and dark, wispy clouds on the other side of the pass–it was difficult to interpret the map and real life.
We went down a steep, half-icy descent. Down, down, down. I was relieved to go down in snow rather than on a trail. My knees were grateful. 3/4 of the hike today was in snow or icy snow. The last decent was a bit sketchy…too steep to really slide down without risking a broken body part. By the time we got down, I was sweating profusely in my long-underwear layers. I hid behind a rock and stripped off the choking hot layers. Then, of course, the sun promptly disappeared.
The snow is getting deep and slushy. We are relieved to be across and down before the others.
There is rough rock on the trail down. And more down. Down. Down. to Bimthang. My knees are throbbing.
There are massive, new mountains in this valley. Himlung and parts of the Manaslu Range–including Manaslu itself. We are now in the Manang Region.
We finally arrived to Bimthang around noon and ate spaghetti and weird tomato sauce with potato momos. We had to run outside and sit at a picnic table since the dining room was overtaken by a large Japanese group–including a chain-smoker. The smoke immediately made me nauseous.
I attempted to sleep, but I only laid in bed for a couple of hours. Rain started. It is wet and cold outside. We went back to the toasty dining room and the Japanese guy wasn’t smoking anymore.
There are Tibetan horses galloping outside the dining room window.
Apple momos with honey for dessert.
P.S. On Larkya Pass. The map says “steep descent.” Yeah. This part of the map I would completely agree with.
April 23 Bimthang 12,300
Layover day. We were given the option to continue. But why continue? We have time and I just want to sleep.
I am sitting in a grassy spot on a ridge above our lodge and looking at Manaslu to the southeast. After frigid hair washing and bare bones clothes washing (um, underwear is really the only thing worth washing at this point). There is a little greenish-blue pond below us. I’m too exhausted to write more.
We made it!
But our journey is not over…