10/14/2007 to 10/17/2007 | Nepal

Trekking in the Annapurnas III: Over the Thorung La

From Manang, the second time (courtesy of my snow blindness and need for sunglasses), we took two days to hike up almost 1500 m to High Camp at nearly 5000 m {16,500 ft}.  High camp is a couple of lodges at the foot of the Thorung La pass the highest pass on the Annapurna circuit at 5416 m (17873 ft).  We had planned on hiking over the pass the next day.  However, we awoke the next morning to a snow storm, but even more remarkable was that at 4:00 to 5:00 am the lodge was a buzz with activity as group after group of idiots led on by their guides were heading off into the snowing darkness.  This is where independent trekking paid off, for some reason there is a conspiracy among guides who believe you have to leave at a God awful hour early in the morning to arrive at the top before the wind becomes too strong.  So everyone with a guide gets dragged up before dawn to hike up in the bitter cold hours just to make it over before it gets supposedly windy.  This strategy made little sense to me, and even less when it was snowing.  I was hiking to see the scenery, rather than for the exercise, so hiking over a nearly 18,000 ft pass in a snow storm and not seeing the view from the highest point on the trail seemed pretty pointless.  We decided to wait out the storm at high camp and hope for better weather the following day.  A strategy that turned out brilliantly, despite the very long day of drinking loads of overpriced tea and playing every 3 person card game we could come up with, because the weather the following day was superb.  We left at the sane but early hour of about 6:40 am as the early morning sun began to light up the surrounding peaks.  My months in Tibet paid off, as the altitude was not much of an issue for me and I was at the top by 8:00 am catching many of the 5:00 am crowd in route.  The views were spectacular, and I spent a couple chilly hours at the top taking it in, before we headed down long winding switch backs to the town of Muktinath 1600 m below.

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