Drafted 9-May 2011 12:30pm
Manang at 3,540 meters
We usually hike about five hours a day. It’s amazing what ground a person can cover using their own two feet. Sometimes I look down (from about 600 meters above and 15 km away) and am flabbergasted at just how far away our starting point was.
Yesterday was one of our harder days. The early part was so steep it took me half a buckwheat pancake (saved from breakfast), two granola bars, and a snickers to get the energy to move up the hill.
A hill, you might scoff.
A Himalayan hill I would counter. (The other day I asked our guide, Sanu, what the name of the snow covered mountain was. “That’s not a mountain, that’s just a hill. It doesn’t have a name.)
Walking at this altitude is like having asthma all over again. You try to take a deep breath and it’s like your lungs hit a wall mid breath. The wind, too, takes its toll. Sometimes, when you’re walking on an open ridge, the wind is so fierce that you have to turn your back to it in order to breathe. It’s easy to see why the wind and air figures so prominently in the Buddhism here. It never stops. Sometimes it’s all you can hear other than your own footsteps.
It all feels so surreal. I’m in the fucking Himalayas. I’m surrounded by impossibly beautiful mountains and Nepali village life.
Such an odd routine my life has fallen into of late.
Wake up before six am. Take photographs of the early morning sun hitting a snow capped mountain. Brush my teeth and pee with the same view. Eat porridge, coffee, and half a buckwheat pancake (store the other half for later). Hit the trail by 7:30. Walk until almost noon. Eat dal bhat. Hike until around three. Eat tea and biscuits. Read until dinner or chat with fellow travelers (we’re all doing the same route, so you see the same people pretty regularly). Go to bed. Repeat. Yet it never gets dull, the scenery makes that impossible.
When I signed up for this, I honestly did not think about the pass. I didn’t even realize – either because it was listed in meters or because I just wasn’t thinking – just how high I’d be going. Or that altitude sickness would even be a concern. It wasn’t until a man I met in Pushkar noted that it might be too late in the season to make the pass that it occurred to me that I might be trekking Really Fucking High.
On May 12th – provided altitude sickness doesn’t hit me – I will be trekking through Thorung La, one of the world’s highest passes at 5,416 meters. In addition to the altitude, the path is wicked steep and the day will start before 3:00 am.
Yes, I’m a little nervous.