Day 9 – Throng La High Camp (4925m) – Muktinath (3,700m) (via Throng La Pass 5,450m)

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April 25th 2012
Published: July 3rd 2012
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It was not a good nights sleep for me or anyone else at high camp, indeed I was somewhat lucky in that I did manage to get at least a few hours sleep, my guide KC didn’t manage to get any at all and I’m sure plenty of others suffered the same. It had been a bitterly cold night (I believe about -10 centigrade) and the high altitude had made breathing difficult. I woke up in the middle of the night struggling to breath and it took a good hour or so for me to calm myself down, relax and get back to sleep.

We departed camp at 06.15am, others had left at as early as 04.30am so were walking in the dead cold of the night, well below zero and also in the dark. Not much fun at all. We left at the same time as many large groups, fortunately KC seemed to be thinking along the same lines and we pushed hard to get past the large groups and put some distance between us. As expected altitude was a real killer, especially as the trail was steep and often icy meaning valuable energy was spent on trying to maintain balance as well as keep warm in the sub zero temperatures. Despite the difficulties I felt full of energy and spurred on by adrenalin we passed group after group after group. The climb to the summit of the pass is a cruel one as it contains many false summits, just when you think you are done you realise there is another epic hill to climb. The scenery was however fantastic of course, snow and ice covered mountains surrounded us, this now felt like real mountaineering. The summit from High Camp normally takes 3-4 hours, however me and KC managed to reach the summit in 1 hour and 25 mins, a personal record for KC and for me too obviously! We passed many people who had left long before us and even caught up with a group which had started at 04.30am (nearly 2 hours before us). For whatever reason I felt on a mission that morning and apparently so did KC as we didn’t stop for a break once on the way to the summit, although judging my energy levels later however we probably should have done.

There were great scenes of jubilation as each group reached the summit, me and KC were very much on a high after firstly getting there and also getting there in such a great time. The views from the top were outstanding and the photo opportunities by the ‘you have reached the summit’ sign were excellent, cue the classic triumphant hands in the air photo and also the got to be done ‘jumping in the air’ shot. We spent about 30 mins at the summit before realising that it was really bloody cold and we should start our descent.

The next 2 hours were not fun at all, in fact they were the hardest and least enjoyable of the trek to date, indeed they were some of the least enjoyable hours of my life. It took us 2 painful hours to descend around 1,400m on an icy and lose gravel path. With my adrenalin buzz now gone I realised how much energy I had spent on the mornings climb and how tired I now was. The path required all my concentration to navigate as it was covered with ice, slippery snow and extremely loose gravel/rocks. There was an awful section that took around an hour to traverse which was incredibly steep and incredibly slippery. I found that with every other step I would slip around or lose my footing, this was both mentally and physically taxing, especially on my knees. It was one of those moments where you felt that if the agony went on for much longer you would simply sit down, give up and cry! Still this was the price to pay for crossing the pass and on reflection despite it’s awfulness it was definitely worth it.

The final section to Muktinath took around an hour and dropped a relatively forgiving 300m. Thank goodness it was not like the first section, or there would have been tantrums and tears! Freezing cold, tired and unhappy on the decline all I could think about was getting out of Nepal and escaping to a warm tropical beach and drinking a beer (or 5). I had very much hit the wall and was really not enjoying my trek at this point.

Upon arrival at Muktinath I was so shattered that I felt physically ill, after lunch I went straight to bed to rest my weary mind and body. When I woke up I was feeling much better and much less negative about the trek, however I was considering taking a jeep for part of tomorrows walk (due to be around 7 hours) as I felt like I needed a break. As I write I am undecided whether I will take the jeep or just walk. The idea of getting to a beach and somewhere warmer has not however receded, I am looking at my current travel plans now and considering getting to India earlier than planned and then heading to a nice Thai beach in mid May once my India trip with Matt is over. Lets see how I feel about this over the coming few days.

In the afternoon I visited Mulktinath temple and a local monastery. People travel from all over the world to visit the remote Muktinath temple as it is an important shrine for Hindus as it is mentioned in the important Hindu text, the Mahabharata. It is also important to Buddhists who worship a flame which burns here continuously through water. In all honesty through my temple weary eyes it looked like just another temple and did little to excite me. However clearly for others it was a big deal, there were a large collection of Sadu’s from all over India in the grounds doing their usual blessing for cash patter. I have been thinking a lot recently about how perplexing the Hindu faith is. Despite visiting many temples and hearing many guides talk about Hinduism I still feel like I have no clue about what Hindu’s actually believe. It seems to me to be a very archaic religion and in all honesty a silly one, the traditions such as animal sacrifice feel like they belong to a bygone era and the fact that you can only be born a Hindu seems stupid. It also really bothers me that Sadu’s, supposed holy men, seem to almost exclusively be con artists who are just looking to make money. For example a Sadu at the temple today said “come my friend, have a blessing, you no need to pay money but you can pay a donation if you want”, so I went ahead and got a blessing after which he held out his hand and said “pay donation”, what on earth is that all about? Is that holy? Anyway I will stop there before I start to offend anyone. If anyone would like to put me in my place on Hinduism and/or let me know what the beliefs/moral codes are please do.

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6th July 2012

wonderful scenery mark
wonderful scenery mark

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