Annoyed by some anxiety and the noise generated by walkers in rooms near the New Phedi, on departure, we woke up before three in the morning.
The entire hotel was snowy and icy. Large stalactites hung from the eaves, including inside the shared bathroom. In the time that had passed, the cauldron with water placed there, had generated a large block of ice, with the damage to hygiene that such solidification implied.
From the conversation of two groups of American students, led by professors, their schedule for the circuit was not flexible. We realized that, due to some previous mishap, they were forced to cross Thorong La Gorge, that same dawn.
When we left the room and examined the weather, more than displeasing us, the imminent and precipitous rise of the Americans worried us.
The mountains continued under a gray veil of low clouds and mist. We knocked on Sara and Manel's room. They were getting ready to leave.
We expose our doubts and concerns to them when it starts to snow heavily.
Stronger than we had ever seen since leaving Pokhara.
We told them what we knew of the history of Thorong La crossings and what we had planned to save ourselves from getting scared, which was to avoid going up to the canyon in the middle of a snowstorm, even if many other hikers did.
The 2014 tragedy, which we will talk about in the next section of the circuit, was more than a reason to be astute and to redouble our care.
Upon noticing the intensifying snowfall, without seeing a single star in the sky, Sara and Manel nod.
The four of us decided to go back to sleep and see how the weather was after dawn.
Sunny Morning, Time to Leave Thorong Phedi
We woke up around seven in the morning. With the early departure of the two American groups, the New Phedi hotel seemed deserted to us.
The snow had already stopped. The sky opened before our eyes. In such a way that the sun came in, radiant and, little by little, got rid of the persistent cloudiness.
This yes, it was a scenario that we considered favorable. A sunny post-storm with, it seemed, hours of clear skies ahead.
Let's wake up Manel and Sara. We went back to pack our backpacks.
Don, our porter, was ready for our instructions. Even before eight in the morning, we all left the Hotel New Phedi.
When we reach the beginning of the trail and the slope, we have a broader and more real vision of how the night snow had changed the scenario.
The valley of the Jharsong Kola River and the imposing ridges that jutted from the tight V to the west were now white, with slight streaks of earth where snow had missed surfaces that were too steep.
The Good Tibetan Auspices of the Flags sung ok
A long, multicolored clothesline of Buddhist-Tibetan flags ok, stretched horizontally, it stood out from the white immensity.
Tibetans know them as Wind Horse. They are shamanic symbols of the human soul, also representative of the horse, one of the animals that represent the four cardinal poles.
They are also good luck wishing icons.
Right there, outside Phedi, this wind horse shivering blessed the walkers' journeys in both directions, though our Thorong La's proved far more challenging than the opposite.
Slowly, slowly, we climbed the white slope, which the rapid melting of the snow turned white.
At first, we were just the five of us going up. Little by little, hikers leaving Phedi or already arriving from previous scales – Yak Kharka, by Ledar and others – and who had chosen not to stop at Phedi, appeared at the bottom of the ravine.
The Precious Support of Don the Carrier
This was, without a doubt, the most strenuous stretch since the zigzag trail that rose from the Marsyangdi River to the top of Ghyaru.
This time, thanks to Don's services, we were less loaded.
The option of having a charger between Manang and Muktinah, already on the other side of the canyon, we had taken it precisely because, due to the photographic equipment, we were walking with almost twice the expected weight and that the other hikers were carrying.
We wanted to prevent a sudden injury to the lower back or the like, not to mention the mountain sickness, left us unable to proceed.
Even so, to Don, it was just our excess. Shorter than Nepali shippers are used to.
We transported 9 or 10 kg each, over the recommended threshold.
In these more portable modes, in a mere hour of up-stop, recover-resume, we reach the top of High Camp, where we recover, contemplating the new scenery from the top and the immensity we had left behind.
New dropout caused by mountain sickness
We experience this wonder when, in the distance, we see what looked like a helicopter approaching. In a few minutes, it reached the top of the High Camp slope and landed on a flat ledge used as a helipad.
Two hikers appeared from a hotel. One of them was a young woman, we found out that she was an Israeli and that, to our surprise, she walked in jeans and had difficulties.
The other, well-groomed, in snow pants and a bulky feather coat, handed her over to the rescue team. The dropout would be in acceptable condition, otherwise I hadn't asked for her farewell photo.
The memory fulfilled, the helicopter took off. As we had accompanied him to set himself against the mountains and sky, so we saw him disappear above the bed of Jharsong Kola.
We turn to our own reality.
With the facilities of the High Camp right next door, the doubts of whether we wanted to go on, or spend a night there, come back to us.
The Unplanned Layover at High Camp
We remembered what we had been told at Base Camp in Phedi, that the High Camp facilities, the rooms in particular, were miserable for the cold that was there.
As if that wasn't enough, the entrance to the canyon was a few hundred paces away. We decided to continue.
We walked along the snowy trail for almost forty minutes.
Until, in an area where it leaned over a steep slope, we felt the wind intensifying to gusts and bringing dense clouds on the other side of the mountain range, over the massif of Damodar Himal.
With compromised visibility and growing difficulty in keeping ourselves balanced and avoiding toppling over the slope, we aborted the plan.
We reversed gear. We take refuge in the comfort of High Camp. Coincidence or not, there were already several hikers there.
Many more would appear.
At about ten in the morning, we were left with the last two double rooms available. We left our backpacks and found ourselves in the heated room, at this hour, far from the inevitable salamanders.
We had seriously expended energy on Thorong Phedi's ascension. We feel hungry much sooner than normal.
We had lunch around 11 in the morning. Aware that we had to keep our bodies used to the effort at altitude, we went out again.
Discovering High Camp's Elevated Scenarios
We conquer a headland with a monumental view over the Jharsong Kola valley and the surrounding snow-capped peaks.
Its end was crowned by a pile of stones, the support of a grilled antenna, a unkempt structure, even so, entitled to a religious blessing.
Neither the antenna nor the ok that decorated it arrived to bless the guests of telephone signal, let alone internet.
More hikers followed in our footsteps and appeared from the depths of the High Camp. The tight space around the antenna is no longer enough.
It forced us to exchange acrobatic positions that, if miscalculated, could result in a plunge into the abyss. Resigned, we headed back down to High Camp.
Last Night at the Gates of Thorong La Gorge
We found it by the pine cone. We got a table, once again, away from the salamanders.
Despite the cold and discomfort, we dozed off, almost until dinner time and 20:XNUMX after the dining room closed, which took us to the freezing and spartan rooms.
On that night of renewed anxiety, the plan was to wake up at 4:30 am, have a light breakfast at 5:5 am. And we leave at 30:XNUMX am, about sunrise.
We were lulled by the wish that the day would awaken forgiving.