10/10/2007 to 10/13/2007 | Nepal

Trekking in the Annapurnas II: Tilicho Lake

From Manang we deviated off the typical circuit route to visit Tilicho Lake.  At 4914 m (over 16,200 ft), and depending on your definition of a lake, it qualifies as the highest lake in the world, a title which seems to be clamed by a number of high altitude bodies of water.  In any case, it is a very high lake in a staggeringly beautiful setting at the foot of 7134 m (23,542 ft) Tilicho Mountain.  The nearest accommodation is at the rather rustic and very cold Tilicho base camp lodge nearly 800 m below the lake.  My British companion was less than impressed with the lodge’s pit toilet. The full extent of the stench that emanated from this feces filled hole in the ground was fortunately muted to my senses by the slight cold which I had picked up a few days earlier.  It was also at the Base Camp Lodge where we observed an “elite” Polish climbing/diving team in complete inaction.  Apparently they were planning to dive in the lake as well as climb Tilicho peak but were presently waiting for their equipment to arrive.  They seemed in no hurry to do either as the most movement we saw them under take in the day and a half we were at the base camp was moving from the dinning hall to the table on the patio 10 ft away.  The two and a half hour hike from the lodge up to the lake was a draining walk especially since the last half was over snow which every few steps would suck down my leg up to my knee.  The way back down was considerably easier as Tom (the Canadian) and I hiked to the side of the switch backs it had taken nearly an hour to climb and slid down the snow on our posterior God given “sleds” in a matter of minutes, covering some 400 m or so of vertical distance.  A strategy that work well until I managed to find a rather large snow cover rock which gave me an unexpected smack between the cheeks (the other ones).  Fortunately a proctologist was not required.

The view of the lake from the 5000 m ridge above it was incredible.  There was snow as far as the eye could see, and nearly waist deep in places.   However, this spectacular snowscape would be the cause of a lot of pain later that night.  I’ve never been a big fan of wearing sunglasses and I neglected to bring any with me, a rather stupid mistake in retrospect.  I was only up at the lake for a couple hours but that was sufficient to give me my first and hopefully last experience with snow blindness, sunburned eyes.  It came on very suddenly in the night, first my eyes began to water and I felt a little discomfort.  The discomfort soon elevated to extreme pain and I could not open my eyes at all.  Feeling like I had a couple knives stuck in my eyes, I could not even lay down as if my head was not vertical the pain was too much to stand.  So I sat up most of the night wondering what I would do if I could still not see in the morning.  Fortunately for me, Tom had gotten sunburned eyes on a previous occasion, so I knew what it was, and that it would eventually get better.  Without that knowledge, I might have really been worried.  It was a fairly miserable night to say the least, but I was relieved in the morning when I could at least open my eyes enough to see. They still felt irritated as if I had sand rubbed into them, but I could make my way to the aforementioned pit toilet without a guide and without falling in.  We made a slight backtrack to Manang so I could buy some sunglasses having learned my lesson the hard way

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