Yesterday the climb continued past much the same scenery as before but getting higher and higher until we arrived at 2,653 metres. By now the altitude was beginning to show, our pace was getting even slower and we were feeling short of breath.
Eventually we got to a village just below the ridge of the mountain and stopped to visit a monastery. A strange place, with brightly coloured fabrics inside and an altar with a picture of the monastery Lama (now dead) and then a picture of a young boy who is his reincarnation. The resemblance was striking! A few empty beer and Red Bull tins inside, along with an ancient TV in one corner, added to the incongruousness of it all. Outside there was a shrine with flowers held in a Coca Cola tin instead of a vase.
A little later we climbed over the ridge and there miles in front of us was an awesome sight.
There in the distance we caught a glimpse of the Himalayan range, part hidden by clouds, covered in snow, jagged peaks towering above us. “Oh sh*t!” was the universal thought. “What are we doing?” That thought was magnified when we were told the highest mountain we could see was only 7,000 metres high. The same height as the North Col on Everest and one whole kilometre lower than the Everest summit.
We dropped down the ridge a little way to make camp by a village. The flat area we chose for our tents served as a football pitch for the local kids. In no time at all a game had started, mountaineers versus the kids. Ten minutes each way at that altitude had everyone gasping for breath and was all we could manage. More than once the ball went past the goal and into the sewage channel. The Nepali referee had to fish it out.
I’m not remotely interested in football but I had to play. Half our team are serious sportsmen so it was a hard-fought game with our lot taking it very seriously. (Rikki is the former Chairman of Swindon Town football club and he was in charge of strategy.) The mountaineers won by one goal to nil so we were all very pleased with ourselves until Gina rather caustically pointed out that the opposition were mainly six year olds wearing flip flops.
This morning we woke to a lovely sunny day and had our first Loxton’s breakfast, Cumberland sausage and potato. Duffy gave a local dog a sausage and after that it seemed to adopt us.
We set off on what was to be a seven hour trek. This was the last village on the mountain and the stone steps finished. We were now following a rough trail. Soon we were into the forest with rhododendrons, camellias, a giant magnolia tree in full bloom and many other trees that I actually have in my garden - but I can’t remember their names. The Victorian plant hunters must have had a field day here and many of our garden plants at home today came from Nepal.
The scenery was just stunning and at one point the route was lined for miles with acres of purple primulas. Thank God we had finally left the litter behind. Then the going got really tough, gradually it got colder as we got higher and slowly the scenery got more barren. The dog from the village was still with us. We named him Loxton. He really is a beautiful dog, a black husky type I’d like to take home!
Eventually we hit the snow line and it got really cold. The sky was dark and finally we stopped exhausted at 3,700 metres at what was to be our campsite. A basin in the mountain covered in snow with a derelict cow herder’s cottage there.
Charlie had been climbing in shorts and was now very cold and looking quite ill. We had no shelter as the porters with our tents had still to arrive. We lit a fire with what little wood we could find and stood round it shivering.
Eventually our tents did arrive just as it started to snow. We all helped to put them up and then everybody rested inside and sorted their kit out. Finally the mess tent was up and dinner was ready.
Loxton’s Irish stew!
Today the altitude had really kicked in with everyone short of breath and light-headed. A few had minor headaches. Charlie was really now quite ill, he lay in his tent and Hinksey diagnosed mild altitude sickness and low level hypothermia. By 7:30pm we were all in our sleeping bags trying to get warm. I slept for a few hours and was eventually awakened by a storm. Thunder, lightning and a wind so strong I thought it would blow the tent away. It also sounded like a rain storm hitting the tent but it was actually icy snow.
|< Prev||Next >|
Copyright © Iceland Foods Ltd 2011.
All Rights Reserved.