Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Travel: The Snowman Trek (Part VI - Days 13-15)

Day 13

After a windy night we awoke to a cloudy day that proved to be a poor photo day. We climbed up to a valley that was quite open and it was here that we saw some of the rheum nobile – a cylindrical plant that was either red or yellow. It’s a strange plant and I am sorry to say that none of my attempts to capture it on film were successful due to the light (or perhaps my ability with a camera?). Another steep climb followed and we got tantalising glimpses of a big mountain high up in the clouds. A lot of the day involved climbing over moraine and rocks and it proved to be reasonably challenging. By this time we were at about 4900 metres. It was cold and I looked forward to having dinner and then climbing into my sleeping bag.

(Our yaks and yak herders appearing through the mist)

Day 14

I awoke on Day 14 of the trek aware that the tent felt rather warmer than it probably should, given that it was snowing when we went to bed the previous night. As I managed to focus my eyes I could see shadows on the side of the tent. At the same time as I touched them they moved with a ‘sssshhhhh’ sound as the snow slid down towards the ground. A cursory look outside the tent revealed a white landscape that was gloomy under the blanket of a thick mist.

After we had breakfast the mist lifted and we were treated to a magnificent view down the valley with the sun casting a soft light on the snow. We could see for miles. Many miles. There were peaks stretching off in the distance as we looked west towards Nepal. Opposite was Gangla Karchang, a magnificent, sheer rock that reached up to 6300 metres. It was difficult to understand that it was over a kilometre higher then we were – it seemed almost close enough to reach out and touch. The scale of the landscape was very deceptive.

It was a short climb up to the pass (5020 metres) during which time magnificent, if small, glaciers were visible, along with the seasonal deposition lines in the snow. After crossing Karakachu La we began a long descent. Very early on I was able to catch an avalanche on film. This morning was one of the most spectacular on the whole trek. The clear sky and crisp morning snow made the thin air much less tiring, and the view from the pass was awe-inspiring with 7000 metre peaks marking the border with Tibet. Below the peaks was a precipitous valley some 3km lower. These views made the 1000 metre steep climb down from the pass into the valley more seem easier than it actually was. There were plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the view and the rhododendrons.

(On the way up to Karakachu La)

(View from Karakachu La)

(Avalanche on way down from Karakachu La)

Once we reached the valley floor it was a three-hour walk along the flat valley floor to the camp. However, because we had spent so long talking to our Bhutanese guide, Sonam, about the flora of the area, we ended up reaching the camp in the dark using torches. It has been a hard day, but the views were easily the best yet and made the effort seem a small price to pay to see them.

Day 15

We started today walking through the bottom of a glaciated valley that had many large boulders strewn along its length. The river, Tarina Chuu gurgled happily beside us, making the walk rather pleasant, although there were some rather muddy patches.

(The Tarina Chu)

We then began a long climb up towards the village of Woche. This was, as usual, quite demanding and took up until lunchtime. At Woche we lay on the grass and had lunch in the afternoon sun, and watched the locals at work preparing their wheat. It was quite idyllic, however we did need to move on to the next camp.

(Kids at Woche)

We left the village and crossed a large moraine deposit which involved many short, steep climbs before we got to cross the Woche Chuu. As we came down towards the bridge one of our yaks fell in the raging torrents (it’s a reasonably wide river) and we watched as the yak herders kept their heads and managed to guide it back on to the shore. If we had lost the yak, we would have lost everything attached to it for good. However, I’m sure the yak was even more please than we were with its survival!

Just to finish off the day, then came to a very steep climb up to our campsite. It was at least 50-70 metres and proved to be a real effort. Just what we needed. The camp was right next to Green Lake and gave us a great view of Kangphu Kang (7200m) to the north. The lake was indeed green and provided a much-appreciated place to stop for the night.

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