Day 12 – Thorung Pedi to Muktinath (Thorung La Summit)
We were awakened at 3:30am with the usual pot of hot tea and washing water in our tent. The morning didn’t seem as cold as some others (or maybe it was just all the snivel gear I was wearing).
We ate breakfast and the crew broke camp. By 4:45 we were hitting the trail. There was this incredible fog laying over the mountains behind us and below in the valley. We took about 10 steps and started a very steep ascent up a scree slope toward High Camp. This was the last camp before we went over Thorung Pass.
It grew colder the higher we climbed. After about an hour we reached High Camp and took a sharp left turn up another steep scree slope (really steep). We came up on the tallest glacial moraine we have ever seen…and climbed over it!
The hike was uphill until we reached a little tea shop. Capitalism is alive and living high in the Himalayas! By the time you get there you’re ready for a break and a cup of hot lemon water. Once again the trail climbs steeply. I lost count of all the false summits. I was tired, cold, and I had to pee. No bushes to be found at this altitude. Just lots of small boulders.
Finally after 3 1/2 hours we reached the summit of Thorung La! at 17,769 feet. It was marked by a mound of rocks and lots of prayer flags. Our guide Raj was so happy! He gave Billy a big hug and me a respectful “namaste” with the folded hands. It was exhilarating to be there among the other hikers who had also just reached the summit. I imagine this must be 1/10 of the feeling that the Everest climbers feel when they reach their summit.
There was a tiny hut right next to the altitude marker. In fact the marker was nailed to the building. There were two Israeli men hugging the kerosene stove! Everyone was cold! The owner of the hut was selling hot drinks (alcoholic and non).
I took pictures of the summit and the area and by then I was frozen solid! We were still waiting on 4 of the porters so I kicked the Israeli’s out and ordered a hot drink while I waited. We figured with the windchill it had to be in the low teens. I was only wearing hiking pants, a shirt, a fleece jacket, and a bali. The rest of the trekkers were decked out in The NorthFace expedition gear! LOL. Heck, Billy did the whole pass in shorts! It gets warm while you are walking but once you stop at these elevations you cool down quickly.
We headed out about 30 minutes later. The downhill was worse than the uphill. Loose scree all the way. We descended about 10,000 feet like that. My knees were are killing me. On the way down we saw a heard of water buffalo and some herders on horseback.
After a grueling 7 1/2 hours total walking, we arrived at the village of Muktinath. A holy place for both Hindu and Buddhists. We stopped in to see the Eternal Flame in the Buddhist/Hindu monastery of Shiva (the God of death). People make pilgrimages here every year by the thousands. The darn thing is a flame underneath the alter. The smell of gas is noticeable. It’s a fake! We went in search of the tank that was feeding it but the Rastafarian-looking priest gave us the glassy evil eye. We left quietly..quietly laughing that is 🙂
Big surprise to find a Bob Marley restaurant and Reggae Bar in the middle of this town. This town is very…weird. There’s some kind of local festival this evening. Lots of drumming and rhythmic singing in a big tent not far from our camp. Ran into a couple of young American girls in the monastery. They’re trying to “find” themselves. On daddy’s money no doubt.
Oh yeah, they smoke a lot of Ganya here, I think. Thought we saw the guy at the police checkpoint smoking a joint. Smoking marijuana is legal here we are told. In fact, a few days ago on our way to Tal, we walked by a huge marijuana field that grows wild. Explains why the Nepali people are so friendly 🙂
Altitude here is 13,000 ft. We are old pros at this now.