Elev. 5700 feet
This morning we left the Yak Hotel in Lar and started walking back towards the Manaslu Circuit from Tsum Valley. The first hour or so was pretty cold until the sun came out. It’s weird, daylight and sunrise aren’t even close. It gets light out way before the sun shows itself over the mountains. Once the sun does show itself the temperature rises considerable. After we walked through Chhokang Paro the trail dropped steeply for awhile and we had to redo the dicey spot where the trail got real narrow and the footing was soft due to a previous landslide. I usually don’t like doing out and back style hikes but since I felt like death the other day it was nice to re-walk the same trail and I was able to enjoy it more. Same goes for the place we had lunch today in Chumling; 2 days ago I was throwing up in their bathroom and today I wolfed down a plate of fried noodles. From lunch we walked a few hours downhill to Lokpa and then a couple more to where we rejoined the Manaslu Circuit and the confluence with the Buddhi Gandaki river. We all went for an icy cold refreshing bath in a little tributary to the big river. It was so nice! I love cold water on a hot day. We returned to the circuit and everything was new again.
The trail stayed right alongside the river for the rest of the day and in the early evening we got to the tiny village of Pewa where we’re staying the night. Gopal strongly suggested the dal bhat and since I’m a glutton for punishment I figured I should get back at it. It was good, I just hope I don’t suffer the consequences again. The bed here is comfortable and directly next to the loud soothing sound of the river, really hoping for a nice peaceful night sleep.
Elev. 10,425 feet
Today was great day! QB celebrated her 25th birthday and what better place than smack dab in the middle of the Himalayas. I was finally able to lighten my pack and unload her present, a dark chocolate bar that I’ve been carrying for a week.
After breakfast we walked on the side of a cliff along the river for most of the morning. There was only one relatively gnarly spot where the trail was damaged from landslides but we got through no problem. I’m not too crazy about these landslide sections but they’re never as bad as they seem and so far so good, 100% survival rate (knock on wood). For lunch we made it to the little village of Gap and pigged out on some fried noodles with egg. Today there’s been lots of other trekkers from all over the place but none going a similar pace so we usually just exchange niceties and what not and don’t see them again. After lunch the trail went through what I guess would technically be called a jungle and we were suddenly in the middle of a bunch of big trees. The river got smaller and faster as we climbed higher and at one point it caused this really cool arch in the rock. We also saw more monkeys and blue sheep this afternoon. Around 3 we got to Namrung which was home to the fanciest hotel I’ve seen up this way. We aren’t staying here but as luck would have it they were selling pieces of chocolate cake and we were able to have a little birthday ceremony for QB. the Birthday GirlAfter Namrung, Gopal suggested we hike for a few more hours and of course we were all in so we crushed the rest of the day with steep climbs all the way to the village of Lho. People are always asking where we are coming from, it’s like the main topic of conversation out here, and one local villager said to Mac, “Even Nepali people don’t walk from Pewa to Lho in one day.” I guess we really are crushing. Lho is almost 5000 feet higher than where we slept last night. The lodge here is bigger than usual, has a wood stove to keep the dining room warm, a sit down(western)toilet, and some really good food. I got Swiss Rosti which is some kind of delicious fried potato and garlic pancake with eggs and cheese on top, my favorite dish of the whole trip. We also were able to get WiFi cards and had a little bit of service for the first time in a week. I mean a real little bit. Everybody had just enough service to get a message back and forth to their folks.
Elev. 12,700 feet
Today for breakfast I had a huge delicious apple pancake. I have to give it to the place in Lho for food, best so far on the Circuit (in my opinion anyway). It was cloudy when we got in last night because this morning we got our first look at Manaslu Peak. What a beefcake! 8000+ meters and the 8th tallest mountain in the world. After we ate breakfast we quickly climbed about 500 feet to Ribung Gompa and had ourselves a little look around. This monastery was bustling with monks, I think there was a school there and they were all sitting outside studying. From the monastery we walked through lots of pink and red blooming rhododendrons and then the trail climbed steeply through a forest until we got to the town of Shyla. Mountains in every direction. Another hour of walking and we were in Samagon, one of the largest towns we’ve been in. I thought the villages would get smaller as we got higher but I guess since we are getting closer to the Tibetan border the villages draw people from Tibet. From Samagon the trail was really flat for a couple hours as we walked through a huge valley until we got to Samdo.
The plan is to go over Larke Pass(16,900 feet), the main obstacle of the Circuit, in 2 days. We’ll stay in Samdo(at 12,700 feet the highest place I’ve ever slept) tonight and tomorrow and do a couple of hikes around here to get acclimated. Mac’s been over 20,000 feet before, but the highest the rest of us have been is 14,500. I don’t want to mess around with altitude sickness, so I’m really hoping things go alright and we get through the next few days ok. This afternoon Gopal, Mac, QB, and I climbed up to just over 14,000 going up a peak right outside of Samdo. Moist wasn’t feeling too hot so he stayed down low to rest.
On our way down we stopped and watched a festival going on. I guess we just missed an archery competition but there were lots of people dancing and a soccer game at 12,000 feet. The prize for the winning team was standing by, a live goat to be slaughtered. We watched the game for a little bit then got some supper and early to bed. Tomorrow we plan to climb a pass that goes to the Tibetan Border. It would be cool to make it to Tibet but I just heard there’s a decent snowpack so maybe we’ll just get as high as we can.
Elev. 12,700 feet
Right after breakfast today we walked to China. Well we walked to the Nepal/Tibet border and since Tibet is an autonomous region under Chinese rule, we technically walked to China. From Samdo we walked west toward Larkya Pass then cut north through a valley that went towards Tibet. The trail was steep, rocky and awesome. We saw tons of marmots, yaks, a few blue sheep but sadly no snow leopards. I guess this was the place to see the elusive snow leopard but it just didn’t happen for me. Moist rebounded nicely from feeling lousy yesterday and joined us for the first couple thousand feet. He turned back at 14,700 and the rest of us continued. Gopal, Mac, QB and myself got to the border after about 4 hours.
Lajyang Pass, right on the border, sits at 16,392 feet and is the highest I’ve ever been before. At that elevation I could see my house, just kidding. I definitely felt the effects, a little bit of head pressure, but nothing serious. I’ve been drinking lots of water and took a couple of IBs around 14,000 feet. The border itself is just a small fence that goes along the pass in between 2 higher mountains. Gopal said that since it is not patrolled until a 2 hour walk into Tibet, and it was ok to step over and take pictures. I’ll leave it to your imagination whether or not we did that. People on both sides of the border bring their yaks back and forth to graze with special permission from both governments.
The way down was quicker and we were back in Samdo around 2:30pm. Our plan is to get an alpine start in the morning and get up and over Larkya Pass tomorrow. I’m definitely getting another rosti for supper and hoping to get to bed early.
Elev. 12,146 feet
Today we woke up a couple hours before the b-crack of dawn and started walking at 3:45 am. Our goal was to get to the top of Larkya La(La means pass) before the clouds roll in usually around 10 or 11. We all started with our headlamps except for Mountain Tiger, he has night vision so he led the way.
The sky was awesome as we walked through the early morning hours. First the stars were incredible and as the sun began to come out it lit up the very peak of Manaslu and then gradually the surrounding mountains.
We got to the tiny village of Dharmasala at 6am. This was an option as a place to stay last night and I’m glad we didn’t do it. Dharmasala sits at 14,700 feet and has 1 long room where they serve food and a bunch of semi-permanent tents where everybody sleeps. I guess there were around 60 people here last night and when they all tried to get breakfast at the sane time it was just chaos. By the time we got here most were already gone and we stopped in for a quick cup of garlic soup and some black tea. It was cold, at 6 am we still weren’t in the sun so even though I was warm from walking my water bottle was starting to freeze.
Once we left Dharmasala we were in direct sunlight and had a pleasant 3 hour walk to the top of the Pass. It was a beautiful morning and I was feeling good so I was able to crush the couple thousand feet to the top of Larkya La at 16,800 feet. Today felt like a long gradual climb and besides the elevation it was pretty easy. I felt like climbing to Tibet yesterday was a more difficult pass and getting up high definitely prepared me for today.
There was a ton of people on top of the pass and we all hung out on top for about 45 minutes until the clouds started to roll in. The descent was kind of lousy, it was super steep and there was a fair amount of snow. Thankfully QB and I had been carrying micro spikes this whole time and were glad to have them for this section.
Eventually we got below the snow line and walked a few more hours until we got to a tea house in Bimthang around 1pm. We still had lots of daylight left but everybody was content to just chill out and stay here the rest of the day.