It is already part of the common sense of the Annapurna circuit.
stay a few days in Braga or Manang was essential for us to realize if we were really in physical condition. It would be ideal to try it out on one of the courses that depart from the banks of Marsyangdi to places high up on the slopes on either side of the valley.
Ice Lake was one of the most recommended. The rail started right there in front of the houses of Braga. As much as we calculated what it would cost us, we couldn't dodge it.
We had ordered breakfast for 7am. We've already woken up twenty minutes after that. Just in time to see the ever-rising Teutonic group leave the front of the New Yak Hotel, pointed to the path we would take.
We ship breakfast in three times. We went back to the bedroom and repacked the backpacks with more this and more. It's almost nine when we leave, with that Portuguese feeling of being late, even if no one has set schedules.
We went through the base of the monastery of Braga, we followed the contours of the village and entered its houses into the house, as we had done the day before. In one of the shady alleys, we find a first sign indicating the final destination. We take this direction until the path makes us leave the houses behind, uphill.
De Braga (Brakka), Up the Mountain
Shortly after, we came upon the main trail that backtracked towards the Monastery of Karma Samtem Ling and towards Ngawal, the village from which we had arrived in Braga.
The further we travel, the more panoramic the view becomes of Braga and the kind of geological groove that sheltered it and the main valley of Marsyangdi. We saw it snaking from Manang and further upstream.
We back off little or nothing. A sign painted on a rock alerts us that it was time to step up in earnest. We cut to the slope and began a zigzag incline up it.
Two hundred meters later, our costly advance is stopped by a long line of older walkers that occupied the entire narrow path. We passed them agitated by a breathless discussion of whether we should hurry or wait stranded at their pace, we didn't know how long.
It ended up winning the law of what was ahead. We overtake them in obvious overheating. We catch our breath as much as we can and calm down. We returned to our normal stride, for the rest of the route with no more traffic worthy of record.
At a certain height, the rail snaps to a protruding edge of the slope. The position of this edge reveals a more open landscape than ever, both to Manang's side and to the opposite.
The First Panoramic Scale of the Rail
Sensitive to its contemplative blessing and that it would be the perfect place for a first, longer rest, the natives installed a long multicolored clothesline there, flowing with Buddhist flags.
We sat down on smoother rocks, devoured the first energetic bars and praised the somewhat esoteric privilege of being able to appreciate such landscapes. From Braga, which was just below, we could only see a point closer to Marsyangdi.
By way of compensation, the entire valley to the east was exposed. Manang's most modern houses on its eccentric alluvial plateau, Lake Gangapurna a little below in intimate contact with Marsyangdi.
The next day, we would walk parallel to the river, until we settled in Manang. But forward, as we saw it, the river valley forked. We wanted to see for sure which of the passes following Manang would lead us to the longed-for Thorong La Pass.
To the naked eye, it was still too complicated to notice. As such, we have suspended the study of the valley. With our thighs cooled, we took a few last photos and returned to the climb.
New Stop. The Very Audible Symptoms of Mountain Evil
A quarter of an hour later, we stopped again at a similar point higher up. Overlooking the valley, but also the viewpoint of former Buddhist flags. At that very moment, the line of hikers that we had passed arrives at the resting point.
The wind blows towards us. We hear two or three of them cough helplessly. We knew it was a bad omen and we felt safe that it hadn't happened to us yet. We guessed that your guides would not allow those three of your clients to proceed.
What happened spilled over or what we expected to happen. There were even two of them, and it seemed to us that one of them could go down with the trio with symptoms of mountain sickness. The other, so we thought, was able to continue with the rest of the group. Even today we still don't understand why. Instead, the two guides and the ten or twelve hikers they led came down.
We continued without any setbacks. Uphill.
Eventually, we are caught up in the sudden vision of Annapurna's supreme snowy summit, jagged by a ridge above our plane.
A flock of wild deer that grazed on this ridge served us as a stopover for the overwhelming mountain that crept there. We were so excited by the majesty of its summit that we almost forgot what our legs suffered.
We resume the steps. Mine, more than burst and recover, Sara's, almost always uniform and well measured.
The Soothing Vision of Ice Lake Tea House
We covered another few hundred meters. Halfway through a new ramp, the trail reveals a house. Finally, we had reached the “Ice Lake Restaurant, Tea & Coffee Shop”, so indicated a white and blue sign placed in a corner, next to the tin roof.
Opposite to the horse that the owner rode every day to take off between his home in the already distant valley and the establishment where he earned his living.
A cold wind blows so we sit inside. The owner welcomes us and installs us. We ordered ginger, lemon and honey teas accompanied by chapatas with yak cheese.
We savored them with the doubled pleasure of the effort and got into conversation with the native who has to do in the kitchen and is not looking forward to it.
As much as we felt like dragging the reward, we didn't hold back for more than twenty minutes. With the withdrawal of the large group below, we had the feeling that no one was following us.
The sign outside the building also announced that we were 1:30 am from Ice Lake.
Being the last ones down was always to be avoided. Okay, we got moving once more.
We to Arrive, Almost all to Initiate the Return.
At that hour or so (it didn't reach 1:30 am) that it would take us to the top, we crossed paths with the rest of the day. All groups had left much earlier than us. Each descended from the lake in their own way and in the way that their health and fitness allowed them.
Sara Peréz and Edo, the Hispano-Italian couple with whom we had lived before, were descending at great speed, without any problem. We also met the Germans. one of them was with mountain sickness, dizzy, with headache and difficulty going down. Two of them accompanied him. Two others had lingered higher up.
In an additional stretch, we entered a section where the trail was muddy from the daytime snow thaw. The dark mud forced us to refrain from stepping.
It didn't prevent, more pause, less pause, more photography less photography, from reaching our final destination.
Finally, the Frozen and Longed Ice Lake
Almost five hours after Braga's match, we had conquered the 4.600 of Ice Lake. So proved a white and gold stupa, decorated with Buddhist flags.
Much more than the lake itself. As the name suggested, and in March, the lake was little more than a snowy surface with diffuse boundaries. Just there, we found a couple taking their last photos, hurrying to start their way back.
We realized then that we were the last ones. Aware that many of the storms on the circuit arrive, fulminating, towards the end of the day. Unwilling to be caught by one of them, alone, at that altitude, on a narrow trail with kilometer-high precipices on the right, we enjoyed the surrounding scenery.
We took a deep breath. We make the last images, ours and those of the couple, moving away on the tiny white ground, against the overwhelming background of the Annapurnas. After this usual ritual, we inaugurate the descent. Graced with the mercy of gravity, we speed up and speed up.
The Hasty Descent Back to Braga
We have the thighs, the calves and all the strong muscles from the previous walks and climbs which allow us to brake in a short time.
We see dark clouds approaching from Chame's sides, aimed at Manang's sides and their tone displeases us.
We had already enjoyed the view on the way up.
We choose to descend in near-race mode, at least until our knees react to the overload and start to ache. We passed the couple who had left before us.
And by another small group. It had been five hours going up. There were only two going down. Back in Brakka, we received the deserved reward.
We had gone up and down without any symptoms of mountain sickness. We were much more acclimatized than before for the 5.416m crossing of the Thorong La Pass.
We immediately celebrated by comforting ourselves with ginger teas with honey and lemon and a couple of Tibetan breads.