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Published: November 28th 2019
Ali Camp Sleeping Altitude:
maybe 4800m, maybe 5000m Trekking Distance
: 12 km Day
The sky is blue, the sun is out and today we are heading to Ali Camp. We have a last breakfast as a whole group- Danny, Gen, Lynton, Anthony, Ian and myself are proceeding with Juma and some of our porters. Mary, Chisato, Fernando and the horses are staying another night at Concordia in the hope that the helicopter will pick up Chisato and Fernando today, if not they will proceed back towards Askole on horseback. Chisato can now weight bear on her ankle but obviously can't walk any distance or climb and jump down from rocks as we have on the way up here. Originally the plan had been that Mary would leave today with the horses, Ali, the lead horseman had invited her to stay with his family for a couple of nights before meeting us back in Skardu so she was a bit disappointed to miss out on that opportunity. We said our goodbyes just before 0900 and headed back over the icy hill and into the glacier.... I was really apprehensive.... not about today's walking but about
the fact that we were now going over the Gondogoro Pass tonight! As we had lost our contingency day it had to be tonight or not at all, despite my nervousness I was hoping that all would go according to plan. Juma kept reassuring me that I would be fine- it'd be amazing. Okay.
We had some water to cross early, we all stuck together pretty much and Anthony, the tallest of us helped out with his long legs and arms pulling us across ledges and jumps from rock to rock. It was incredible with the sun out- it was still cold but so nice to hike in a couple of merino layers and not the down and gortex. The colours were sensational- the sky that intense blue that you get at these altitudes with really interesting cloud formations. Just before 11 we reached the Vigne Glacier which meant the end to moraine (shale and rock) and deep crevasses and now onto ice (and deep crevasses). The Vigne Glacier spans 10km and was named after an early British Explorer, Godfrey Vigne. We had a lunch break before another few hours of walking on the ice. It was probably the
easiest walking of the last couple of weeks, the only tough bit was the fact that we were now at nearly 5000 m. Oh, and that there were lots of crevasses. The conditions were perfect though so no need for us to rope together or get the crampons out. Views of Chogolisa and Mitre Peak today.
As we approached Ali Camp we were all very strung out (distance wise), there was one slight mishap for me as I negotiated the last bit, all of a sudden one of my legs disappeared beneath me! Luckily it wasn't a particularly deep or wide crevasse and I could pretty easily pull myself out- couple of ice cuts and bruises but that was it. Really tired by the time we found our tents, the kitchen guys had set up a tent and had the pot of water boiling furiously for chai- oh my god.... best cup of chai ever. Had a bit of a chat with the Irish group, there was probably about another 30 or so trekkers there besides us but no real interaction. The campsite was pretty rudimentary, there were the porters lean-to's and a large permanent looking tent for the
mountain rescue team complete with a table of pot plants. Lots of trash, massive amount of human waste around the side of the hill. We had a bit of a rest (Anthony and I bunked in together) before getting up for a really early dinner and instruction from Juma re the plan. We went to bed early with the intention of about 5 hours rest/sleep before having to get up for the arduous climb over the pass. Lynton, Ian and myself would start between midnight and 1 am and the others a bit later given their fast pace.
Well.... is that how it panned out?
Firstly, it started snowing around 8. Powdery snow initially then globs of the stuff (ordinarily would have been delightful but not tonight!).
Then.... a MASSIVE porter dispute started about 22:00 (Porter Wars 3! ... As you will have read, Porter Wars 1 & Porter Wars 2 had already happened, also involving sticks and stones). The issue was that several groups were still wanting to go over the pass v the majority of porters saying it was too dangerous to cross. It was actually quite scary lying in the tent and
listening to all the shouting going on around us. We lay awake (or semi-awake) in the tent waiting for news that didn’t come until 05:30- we couldn’t go, the one group who had tried to leave overnight amongst the dispute had been turned around.
So... we were now confronted with the prospect of having to to about face and come back down, condensing the previous 7 days distance into 4 to meet our finish deadline.
To be continued... And, once again lots of photos!
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