(3,230 m - 4,130 m) Okay so today's the day. The Big One. The final push. Having gradually been climbing in altitude by degrees today is the day where for the relatively unaclimatized such as I you have to take things eeeeasy on the pace and physical exertion. As we approach our target the Annapurna Base Camp the air will be getting a little 'thinner' as we go and altitude sickness is not something you wish to succumb to through hastiness and folly. Falling seriously ill means a USD$2,500 helicopter airlift from the mountains, much discomfort and an angry insurance provider... oh and possible death too. Forgot about that last one for a sec :)
But we're well placed.
Although we've about 900 metres in elevation to gain today it's a gentle stroll on an incline all the way. Were it not for the effects of altitude it really would be an easy stroll in the hills. And for the most part this is what we enjoy in reality today. The weather is stunning. Clear blue sky. Hot hot hot. Lots of water imbibed. Mega hydration. This too a must at greater heights. Remember peoples "A happy mountaineer always pees clear" as someone reminds me on the trail :) This probably explains my need to find strategic rocks about every 15 minutes. Mino doesn't seem to get visibly annoyed with these constant breaks in our pace. Happy photographing the mountain vistas... which are incredible all the way.
Finally made it!
From time to time we catch up with straggling members of the group of lady teachers on a 'holiday trek' to ABC who stayed also at Deurali last night. Barbara and Maud, up early and super-accliatized already from their 8 months across the world's mountains steam waaaay
ahead of us. Also a Brit guy steams right past Mino and I early on. A snatched 5 second chat. He's on his way to ABC too. Later on, as we approach ABC ourselves the same guy blasts back past us heading in the other direction?!? I ask why, and he's pretty much just gone there, done that, bought the t-shirt and is on his way back already. Totally pointless super-speed trekking. He can't have been there for more than an hour. Some people?!
There's a brief Snickers break at Machhupuchhre Base Camp (MBC) where we take in the sunbedecked views of the snow-capped mountains whilst chatting to eric, Diana and their friendly guide.
Mino in love! - he celebrates his trek efforts with a mega-pricey can of Coke.
They've been tracking behind us most of the way today having left Deurali after us. The final stroll is very pleasant indeed. Green and gold grasses. Trickling little water ways, where they haven't frozen. Some of the teaching group stop and break large chunks of ice to doosh onto each others heads.
...and then here we are! "HOORAY!" ABC!!! Really, just as easy as "1,2,3" today, provided we took it nice and slow, slow, slow as ya go. Obligatory photos standing beneath the entrance signboard. Barbara and Maud are already installed and taking in the fabulous views. Accommodation sorted at the Hotel Paradise Garden. Loads of fabulous Annapurna Range photos to be taken here of course.
Annapurna I, II and III, Annapurna South, Machhupuchhre, Tukuche and others. I take a stroll further up from the hotel to take in the scenery. Prayer flags are strewn across the pathway and there are numerous sombre memorial plaques riveted to rocks for those who have perished attempting to conquer the highest mountain in the Range, Annapurna I. One Spanish lady only in May of this year I believe. Here you take in the mountains in all their majesty and the large glacier plates that bleed slowly, and for all time from their flanks.
In the meantime it's "mission accomplished" for Mino too. He's already celebrated with a kiss. A treasured caress of a much deserved and expensive can of Coke.
But he's happy. His trusty travel companion (not me this time)... his Nike football will now be put to good use. He is soon dazzling all comers with his quite incredible footy skills. Turns out he's a bit of a freestyle Football Ninja (as i shall now dub him). He bounces, bobs, weaves and controls the ball with about every part of his anatomy. More breakdancing than soccer skills and quite hypnotizing! Amazing. It's fricking cold up here as evening begins to set in but he's there in a t-shirt ball-balancing away. It's hard work though. Of course the lower oxygen content in the air up here means that concentration is tricky for him and he almost collapses in an asthmatic budle everytime his skills go awry.
I revive him at one point with a hypodermic injection of a Snickers bar straight to the heart at one point...well, not literally of course :) Whilst he rests the lady teachers giggle and give high-altitude footy a go in their billowing pink trousers.
We all sit now around the cosier dining hall table. Chatting and updating our respective diaries whilst we await the grand finale of our journey. Sunset at ABC (to be complimented by sunrise tomorrow morning). When it comes it has been well worth all the time and effort. Rose pink and red hues of sundown flow slowly down the snowy peaks, particularly the mottled, rocky flanks of the iconic Machhupuchhre. It's only approximately 17.15. Mino sets up his camera for a fab ABC Conquerors group photo that once I have a copy in my possession will be added to this entry.
A beautiful evening. Very, very cold...even I have to admit as the sun goes all the way down and the incredible blanket of stars starts to glimmer brighter as the darkness deepens. Why is it always coldest just after sunset and just before dawn? I never did get that. An helpful physicists out there?
Dinner is a divine Veg-egg'n'cheese rosti...those large fried potato cakes more commonly associated with Switzerland. Also amongst other new aquaintances of the evening we have a further french pal, Florence who has reached ABC to celebrate her 38th birthday. Happy days! She later purchases two meagre but tasty chocolate pastries and a celebratory candle is attached to one before the pastries are carefully split nearly 10 ways around. "Yum!"