AC: Thorong Phedi – Muktinath | Dec. 23, 2015

This is the long awaited – dreaded – looked forward to (?) day where I am going to cross Thorong La Pass at 5416m altitude.

The night was horrible, I didn’t sleep much and once even had the feeling I cannot breath at all. I am getting up at 4am, taking a few shots of the beautiful, clear sky with thousands of stars before taking an early breakfast at 4.30am. I am forcing myself to eat at least a bit of my muesli but I can barely eat. That’s very unlike myself as I can usually eat at any time and even when I am nervous, so that must be the effects of the altitude.

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Thorong Phedi at night
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Beautiful sky at night
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Sunrise
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Quite tired but not yet at too high altitude

Together with my guide I am one of the firsts to start hiking. I am wearing all of my clothes so that I am even sweating in the beginning (not for long!) even though it shows sa temperature around -10°C. Thorong Phedi is at 4450m and it doesn’t take long to reach High Camp at 4925m altitude. The acclimatisation at Tilicho Lake has certainly had its effect on me. But then things are getting more difficult. I am walking slower and slower and start feeling pretty cold although the sun is finally raising and the night vanishes. Every step is a huge effort for me and I feel like I am drunk, not even walking straigt. My guide is not a big help, there is no encouragement nor anything else coming from him. So I just keep on going and going, focusing all my willpower on the trail. Others overtake me, seemlessly, as if it would be no effort to them. But I also overtake a few others, who seem even in more difficulties than I am. Why do I love the mountains but they are so hard on me? When I think I cannot handle it anylonger I ask my guide if the elevation in front of us is just one more turn or if its finally the pass. I am so relieved and happy when he tells me we are almost there!

Thorong La Pass – 5416m: As we reach the pass, there are not many other people around. I look around and everything is just brown and not particularly beautiful. I was expecting to feel happy and enjoy the moment but in the end it doesn’t feel special – just very, very cold with the wind blowing. My thermometer shows some -15°C.

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Thorung La Pass with buddhist flags
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I made it!
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Happy but cold
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I believe that this is Thorung Peak
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Way ahead – walking down now!

A few pictures and ice cold hands later we are already descending. My right foot is so cold I am getting worried. At a big stone which acts as a wind shield, I am resting and trying to warm up my foot while drinking some hot tea. At least the thermos flask I carried the whole trek so far served for something finally 🙂 The descent seems neverending and finally around 11h30am we reach some teahouses where we rest for lunch and to warm up in the sun.

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Trying to warm up
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All the way down
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Lunch break ahead!

From there its one more hour to Muktinath (3760m). Approaching the small city everything feels surreal – like being in a science fiction movie. There are many small towns around, in between empty river beds or something similar. There is a big monastery which Muktinath is famous for, but which is surrounded by an ugly white wall topped by wired rope. Every year thousands of pilgrims (Hindus and Buddhists especially from India) come to Muktinath. But currently most of the numerous guesthouses are rather empty and again we have a choice of where to sleep. After visiting a couple of guesthouses, it feels like everyhwere it is the same anyway. I am having my own private bathroom, with a “European” toilet and a showerhead. However, the water is frozen and I have to carry buckets of water and cannot really benefit from my bathroom. Nevertheless I can wash myself and some clothes with hot water and enjoy a nice walk with the Austrian-German couple around the empty town of Muktinath. Because of a non-working hydro power plant, there is powerload sharing with other cities and we don’t have wifi access to send messages to our families and friends to inform them we safely made it over the pass. It doesn’t matter much – I am more fed up with feeling cold every afternoon & evening. I end up in bed again at 7.30pm – the only warm place is my sleeping bag.

I am thinking about seperating from my guide because he is not a big help anyway but finally decide to continue a few days more with him (as I already paid him anyway).

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Looking back at the pass
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Muktinath ahead
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Welcome signage at AC
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Muktinath & temple
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Solar heating to boil food/water
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Muktinath
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Open dorrs
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Temple
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Empty streets in Muktinath
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Not that empty !
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First touristy attractions on the trail
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