Annapurna Circuit - Day 11 Part 1 (Crossing Thorung La)

Thorung La (Pass) Travel Blog

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Preparing for an early morning departure (5 AM)

Thankfully I was able to keep food down yesterday at lunch and dinner so was feeling much better.  But 4 AM came so quickly this morning and I slept so restlessly due to the altitude.  And it was so cold this morning there was ice forming in my water bottles so it was at least somewhat below 0 Celsius (32F).  But the sky had cleared and the views of the thousands of stars in the crisp Himalayan night sky was stunning.  Even saw a shooting star zip across the sky while I was setting my stuff out for our porters.  We had a quick breakfast in the dining room and set off for the pass shortly after 5 AM.

The early start is predicated two-fold.  One is that it is a truly long day of trekking to get up and over the pass.

More photos of the Annapurna Himal in early morning light.
  Two is that the weather typically deteriorates in the afternoon and the common sense logic is to get over the pass no later than 12 noon.  Seeing that it takes almost 5 hours to get to the pass means that starting later than 6 AM leaves little margin for error.

It was still dark for the first 15-30 minutes of walking so we had our torches/headlamps out to guide the way.  There was no warming up for this trek.  The steepest section of the day was right out from the start as we switchbacked our way out of the small valley that we were located.  We took many short breaks to catch our breaths as the climb was an absolute struggle in the thin mountain air.  Often it was walk for 10 minutes then rest for 5-10 minutes as we climbed.

Other trekkers on the trail.
  We often crossed paths with a few other groups who walked while we rested and rested while we walked.

As light greeted us we captured some superb views of Annapurna II behind us (which would also be our final view of this mountain that has towered over us for several days).  After 65 minutes we reached High Camp at 4900m (16076 ft).  This was a final (very primitive) lodging option on the way up to the pass.  After a slightly longer break where many of us grabbed a Snicker's bar or other form of energy we continued on.  The most strenuous section of climbing was actually behind us but there was still more fun to be had.

From High Camp we turned onto a snow-covered ridge.  The path was well maintained, but a bit slick and deep in spots (I could see why the pass was closed when all this snow came down a few days earlier).

Amazing views...
  At the same time the wind kicked up and blew snow and dust into our faces.  Here at least it wasn't the continual up that we experienced for the first hour as we would cross a ridge then climb, cross a ridge then climb.  Constantly looked like we were getting close to "a" top, but I knew we weren't getting close yet.  Another hour and we reached a small "teahouse" at 5000m (16400 ft).

This wasn't a lodging teahouse but one where you could get some tea and snacks.  Needless to say here it was very expensive, including around 150 Rupees for a cup of tea (around $2 US).  We rested here for about 30 minutes to get briefly warm (or maybe just a tad warmer then the cold we were feeling) inside the teahouse.  Then the final push was on.

Finally at the pass - 5416m (17769 ft)
  The last 400 meters of elevation gain seemed to take forever.  It beacme more barren and desolate as we got even higher.  The sky seemed a different tint of blue that high up.  It was truly a supreme effort to take a single step at most times.

But finally the prayer flags signalling the pass itself appeared.  The just shy of 1000m ascent was complete.  Our objective - the 5416m (17769 ft) Thorung La (Pass).  Much higher than any mountain I've previously summitted.  Crazily we made it to the top in 4:34 and it was just shy of 10 AM.  Felt more like it should be mid-afternoon.  We paused at the top for pictures and congratulatory conversation with everyone else at the top before getting ready for the walk down the other side.  I actually think that the descent was ultimately worse than the ascent but will cover that in the next entry.

Kramerdude says:
Need to get that one at some point. Enjoyed Three Cups of Tea immensely.
Posted on: Apr 21, 2010
vances says:
Perfect timing for an update to your brilliant adventure --- I just started "Stones Into Schools" last night!
Posted on: Apr 21, 2010
McManamon says:
Many of your mountains pictures are awesome.
Posted on: Jul 01, 2009
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Preparing for an early morning dep…
Preparing for an early morning de…
More photos of the Annapurna Himal…
More photos of the Annapurna Hima…
Other trekkers on the trail.
Other trekkers on the trail.
Amazing views...
Amazing views...
Finally at the pass - 5416m (17769…
Finally at the pass - 5416m (1776…
Annapurna II @ first light.
Annapurna II @ first light.
Leaving Thorung High Camp (4900m -…
Leaving Thorung High Camp (4900m …
Up ever upward...
Up ever upward...
Rest breaks occurred with ever inc…
Rest breaks occurred with ever in…
The pass getting closer but still …
The pass getting closer but still…
At 5000m (16400ft)
At 5000m (16400ft)
Arrival at Thorung La
Arrival at Thorung La
Prayer flags whipping in the wind.…
Prayer flags whipping in the wind…
View from Thorung La
View from Thorung La
Finally at the pass - 5416m (17769…
Finally at the pass - 5416m (1776…
Dhaulaguri and Mustang Himal
Dhaulaguri and Mustang Himal
Congratulations for the Success
"Congratulations for the Success"
Thorung Peak - 6144m (20157 ft)
Thorung Peak - 6144m (20157 ft)
Hut at Thorung La
Hut at Thorung La
Thorung La (Pass)
photo by: kevt76