Day 135: Muktinath (Annapurna Circuit) – October 30th

Staying at high camp was a good idea until the sun set behind the mountain ranges at about 4pm. That’s when the cold started to kick in, and because it was so far, firewood was not available to heat the damn place up. This is good for the environment, but bad for us. For the first time, even I couldn’t sleep in relative comfort in our -12C sleeping bags as the ‘comfort zone’ is probably closer to 0C. Checking the temps, it dropped past -1C at around 8pm. Don’t even know how the ‘luxury’ trekkers were camping outside….CAMPING IN TENTS!

At high camp, there’s a sense of excitement in the air, as everyone are getting themselves ready for the trek up to the pass the next day, sort of like preparing for the final battle with the mountains.

By 3am, through the paper thin walls and windows of our room, you can hear the commotion of trekkers starting their day as they make their way up towards the Thorung-La pass. It is said that the best time to cross the pass is before 11am when the wind kicks it up a notch. For us, we weren’t too worried and took it easy starting our trek 6:15am.

Off to a great start, we made a move on all the slow trekkers going up on the ascent. The two tough treks at Ice Lake and Lake Tilicho are starting to pay off, ascending was much easier despite being at 4940m in elevation. You can start to see the effects of the altitude on people, as some are too tired to climb and resort to riding the ridiculously over-priced horses, while some are squatting next to the trail ready to hurl up whatever pancake they had for breakfast. We on the other hand, were doing just fine. It was pretty darn cold up here, and even the pipe of our water bag froze, but we were in high spirits. Not sure if it was the altitude, but for most of the time I was actually a bit hyperactive…haha.

…And then we saw a crowd of people gathered in front of us, and then we realized my altimeter was about 100m incorrect and we’ve already made it to the pass in about 1.45hrs, about half the time needed by most people. Woohoo fitness level +1!

We stuck around the pass at 5460m for about an hour, waiting for our friends to come up. By the time they made it up, we had to start descending because we were afraid we’d have no rooms to stay in at the next stop! Coming down as quick as we got up, we were pretty quick all day long. Descending though, was really hurting the knees and whatever muscles in your leg that works on the descent…. After about 3.5hrs of descending about 1600m in elevation (about as high as the city of Denver, Colorado), we finally made it into town. While 3.5hrs later, our friends finally make it too…

Celebrating our awesomeness with some beers and a long overdue HOT shower, everyone had curry chicken for dinner as it’s been a long time since we’ve seen meat on the menu. Alan went on a splurge and ordered a soup and burger/fries, then followed it up with curry chicken just like everyone else. Need some extra calories to make up for all that thigh burning…

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