Day 8 – Ledar (4,200m) – Throng La High Camp (4925m) - Annapurna Circuit

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April 25th 2012
Published: July 3rd 2012
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With around 750m of altitude gain today there was the very real chance of getting serious altitude sickness (no more than 300-500m is recommended per day). We would be sleeping tonight at 4,925m and were now very much in the altitude sickness danger zone. After yesterdays issues I was understandably concerned about getting ill and was determined to take every possible precaution to ensure that I stayed well. Today I would be eating as many carbs as possible, drinking more water than my bladder could handle, stopping for breaks regularly and eating so much garlic I would even offend a French man. From the start things looked much more positive today, I woke up feeling good, I was a little fatigued when I started walking but by now realised that this was an inevitable side effect of being at high altitude. No one, no matter how strong is immune from the effects of decreased oxygen in the air that occurs when you gain altitude. Everyone slows considerably at altitude, this can be very comical on a steep hill when even the fastest and healthiest person appears to have the sense of urgency and energy levels of a sloth.

While the walk today was taxing, especially the 500m climb to High Camp at the end of the day, I did not suffer from any altitude sickness problems at all. At 4925m the temperature at high camp was considerably colder than anything we had encountered so far, indeed the water pot in the toilet (used for flushing) was frozen solid upon arrival even though this was at the hottest or should I say least cool time of day. We made very good time and arrived into high camp at 11.15am, although due to the taxing nature of altitude the walk had felt longer. Still we had made it to high camp and now only had 500m to climb tomorrow to beat the notorious Throng La summit. Something told me though that it was not going to be an easy 500m.

The scenery today was once again truly sensational. At this altitude no vegetation could survive, around us now was a lifeless, lunar landscape of dusty brown rubble and grey craggy peaks, all of which was dusted with a light sprinkle of delicate Daz white snow. I had always thought that I preferred lush, green environments to harsh, lifeless ones, however there is something about the sheer size, power and inhospitable nature of the mountains which makes for an unparalleled raw beauty. Being surrounded by the mountains you feel the awesome power of nature and realise how small and insignificant we are. It is a beautiful, alien landscape and one I have grown to very much love. There is also something special and rewarding about knowing that the only way to get to this beautiful Shangri-La is by walking for 8 days.

The view from a hill near High Base camp was particularly stunning, providing 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. This looked particularly impressive in the cloudy afternoon sky where the light reflected off the clouds in brooding shades of purple, grey and black giving the surrounding mountain scene a dark, ominous, Mordoresque feel. Once again I felt like I was back in Tolkien’s world.

I met an interesting New Zealand man at the view point who was on an acclimatisation trip in preparation for his planned ascent of The North Face of Everest (The hard option starting on the Tibetan side) in May, good luck to him, he will need it.

Throughout the trek I have been going to bed rather early, although as we have gained altitude this has got to the point of ridiculousness whereby I am heading off to bed at 19.30 (or sometimes before!). The main reason for this is that it is so bloody cold in the evening and it is much more comfortable to get wrapped up before the evening temperature drops too much. The downside of course is that I usually wake up at around 1am thinking it is morning time and really needing a wee. I put off going to the toilet for as long as possible of course but eventually have to go and thus lose all the precious body heat I had gained in my sleeping bag. This in turn means I shiver trying to get warm before I finally get back to sleep 1-2 hours later. I have also found at altitude that I get very vivid dreams. Often these are about the days events, future events or matters I have been thinking about on route. However sometimes these dreams are a little ore surreal, one such surreal dream involved me competing in a music/singing competition that was also a running race, whereby individuals sang/played music whilst running at the same time. Seems strange thinking about it now but at the time it seemed like a fantastic and totally normal concept, got to love the imagination.

I went to bed early again tonight, although with a 05.50am start perhaps tonight it was more acceptable. Tomorrow would be the big day, the hardest day and also the day when temperatures would increase as we descended to lower altitude. I was nervous but also very excited.

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