(4,130m - 2,170m) Today could be pretty much summed up in one word. Well, first a phrase "Ooo! Wow that's preeetty!" and then the one word... or more a groan in actuality : "Oooooooouch!". Things begin gently and with great beauty once more. We're all up dead early to ensure that the full dawn colour symphony will be observed. To be honest trekking is so tiring, and nightfall so early (and often cold here) that bedtimes the entire time I am out here is rarely any later than 7 - 8 o'clock. This means my body always shivers me into action at about 4.30am anyhows. Whether I'm snug as a bug in a sleeping bag liner or not :( So this morning I have plenty of time to take in the glorious stars above me ahead of the dawn.
Feeling the dawn chill at Annapurna Base Camp.
Living in England. Specifically a large city in England for the last decade it's true to say that I had never seen the stars above in any genuine way, unimpeded by a myriad forms of light pollution until I came trekking in Nepal. It's one of many treasured new experiences I will carry away from this wonderful country. But more of stars another time maybe. I digress to often and too easily.
But maybe only a few words on dawn today. This blog is already laced with a lifetimes wealt of glorious sunrises and sets and there will be more to come. It is a beautiful moment to witness. This time it's the turn of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley bowl here to dance, that rose-red and gold dance of Phoebus's firsat rays etc, etc.
.. Annapurna I and pals reflect the light, perfectly to order for all the happy trekkers...those that have managed to awaken in time anyway.
The show over, it's 7.30am (ish) and by the end of walking today it will be about 17.15pm. Over 9 hours!!! With barely a stop worth mentioning along the way. Chasing that early sunset all the way back to Chomrong. A long, long, inadvisably long days trekking that Mino, Diana, Eric and I have decided to attempt (despite various guides looking at us sympathetically in a "you fools, you fools, whyyy?" kinda way)... but we've got it in our heads to give it a go and 'save a day' on the itinerary. It will be a hard, hard, fast'n' hard day.
Not even the super-trekkers Barbara and Maud are interested in this and so "au revoir"
to them straight outta the blocks. Today will be a retracing of many a carefully placed footstep... this time much less carefully placed! An endless stream of flights of rocky steps'n' stairways, punishing downward slopes, excrutiating upward climbs all scattered with clusters of writhing, twisted tree roots. Every one a potential trip loop. A ceaseless carpet of rocks jutting out at all angles from dusty or muddy pathways. Every foothold a potential ankle breaker.
As mentioned hardly a break all day except the occasional, obligatory muscle-aching fatigue and hydration stop. Diana, Eric and their guide Padam setting the pace ahead of Mino and I.
Beautiful colours created by the early morning sun at ABC.
..and a fair pace too! Padam knows how quick we have to go if we're to make our target. I'm particularly concerned that my so far miraculously well-behaved left knee will blow a gasket today, but this proves - just about - not to be the case by days end. "phew!"
The others are on a homeward trek but I still have a long
way to go on my mountain journey. No stops for photo ops today guys. Almost the entire 9 hours today my considerations and field of vision rarely extend beyond the next spot to safely place my feet. One after the other. One two one two one two... Stepping, sometimes hopping from spot to spot. From rock to angled rock. On those rare moments I do look up my view is usually punished with a collapse down onto my arse.
I think the tally was 3 moderate tumbles by days end :) Only once for the nimble-toed Football Ninja Mino.
Going uphill is seriously hard going today. Especially when caught in the sun. Diana struggles quite noticably, as I do at such recurrent moments. At the one brief lunch 'stop' my thighs and calves scream soooo hard at me that it remains a miracle that we were able to sensibly carry on... but sensible was never part of todays itinerary. Walk on through the pain people. You don't feel it (much!) if ya just keep moving. Suffer the consequences tomorrow morning. After a final breather at Upper Sinuwa (where I first met Eric) its time for the soul-busting, muscle-rending end to the day. The knee-shattering descent all the way down into the valley and then the never ever, ever, ever, EVER ending stone stairways all the way back up to the top of the opposite side of the valle basin and Chomrong.
This is absolute total, total murder... especially after 8 hours of effort already. Without focussing on the metronomic 'tak thud'... 'tak thud'... 'tak thud' on my trekking pole and bamboo walking stick I think my mind, as with my muscles long before, would have snapped before reaching our vertiginous final destination. The p**s-takingly high (even by Chomrong's standards) International Guest House.
We're all struggling. Except maybe Eric, seemingly a good sturdy trekker. And of course Padam who seems to be able to float 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' stylee up any incline. Di and i, by now firmly the backmarkers, don't know whether to laugh or cry. Mostly hysterical, desperate laughter. The laughter of the broken and the suffering.
Dianne & Eric (more trek buddies!)
every time we reach a staircase summit, we just turn a corner to be presented with yet another rocky ascent. 'tak thud'... 'tak thud'... 'tak thud'. Only this sound and the thoughts of hot showers at the top impart the will to keep crawling an wheezing up. I now know that were I ever to be banished to some mythological vision of Hell, surrounded by various figures of Greek mythology (whose names are beyond my recall at this time) they will forever be unable to quench their thirsts, buried to the neck in sand, be forever pushing immense boulders up impossible slopes, and chained to rocky summits, their livers being devoured by vultures on a daily basis...there will be me, for all eternity made to attempt to ascend a rocky staircase, flight after flighte after flight, drawn on by mirage-like visions of a shower and a bed that can never be reached.
Mino and I, utterly sore and bombed out somewhere in the middle of the killer 'stairway to heaven' steps up to Chomrong. I may be smiling but trust me it's delerium... "I HURT!!!!"
No matter how high I stagger. 'tak thud'... 'tak thud'...'tak thud'...
... Eric, introducing this theme at one final moment tries to stimulate courage for the climb in Diana and I by observing that "it's like a stairway to Heaven". "More like a stairway to Hell!" Diana retorts groaningly. "Well, if it's Heaven then at least I won't have so far to travel now when I expire imminently" comes my own wheezy contribution... 'tak thud'.