Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 9 Annapurna Circuit

Manang (3540) to Thorung Phedi (4450)

Well now we're getting right down to it, or rather right up to it.  Tomorrow we will go over Throng La Pass, weather permitting.

This heart in Nepal drawn by dbBrad at 13,500 feet is for my fundraiser
 Heart On The Trail 
We both feel good today.  No headaches now for a couple of days, Yak steak and a great meal last night, and though it's cold out, the sun is shining and the sky is blue which always makes everything seem better.

dbBrad along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.
Today our goal is to get to Letdar, one of the last towns to stay in before going over Throng La Pass.  We want to get as close to the pass as possible having heard stories about how tough the climb is.  I'm not worried about hiking the elevation gain so much as being at that elevation itself, which is higher than I've ever hiked before.

Nepalese vernacular architecture.  True to the materials and responsive to the environment.
Beyond Letdar is Throng Phedi, the last town on the maps before the pass. There is another town referred to as BaseCamp about an hour beyond Throng Phedi, but not on either of my maps.  None the less, it is there making it the last town before the pass.

dbBrad in Nepal.   Freestyle on the Annapurna Circuit
We didn't have any hope of getting to Base Camp given the elevation gain for the day and it was said it's a seasonal stop and might not be open.  Spending the night outside at 16,000 ft, without food, water or shelter didn't appeal to us in the least.  A risk you just don't take in December in the Himalayas.

To me, these ruinesque buildings employ beautiful elements of design.
So we hiked up and up all day, past Gunsang and Yak Kharka to Churi Lattar.  Churi Lattar was a small town with a couple tea houses that might have been open but very little going on.  We kept hiking up and up to a very small town of Letdar.

Another heart for Heart on the trail.  It's much more satisfying drawing hearts in snow rather than dry sand because they show up so much more than most of the hearts along the PCT.
Letdar was supposed to have tea houses but we didn't see any.  There were just a few buildings.  No one seemed to be around at all.  I suspect it's seasonal and everyone was gone for the winter.  Up this high most of the businesses are owned and operated by people who live in Manang or other near by towns.  So, if they close, they're vacant contrary to the tea houses and shops in lower villages where the owner is the operator and is almost always there.

dbBrad and Yessi at 4000m in Nepal along the Annapurna Circuit, December 2012
We actually didn't think it was Letdar when we were there.  We thought it was one of those small settlements not on the map near other towns.  So we kept walking, up and up, enjoying the splendor.  Now that we were over 4000 meters (Almost 14,000 ft) the views were just spectacular, in every direction.  No smaller mountains to block our views, we were almost on top of the world!

Two hikers from New Zealand I met on the PCT this year (Wika and Shack, a father and son team) showed me this app called AutoStitch.  You can take several pictures and stitch them together, even after the fact.  It's great for those scenes that are so big, one picture just can't capture it!
It was getting late with the mountains entering the cold shadow that precedes dusk.  Everywhere we looked was magic   This was the reason we were here.  This is why we've climbed up to 4200 meters.  Viewing these amazing mountains and experiencing a place very few will ever get to left us feeling grateful and in awe.

Yessi with her TuTwo gear at 4400m in Nepal along the Annapurna Circuit, 2012
With every step we gain yet more elevation and the mountains in the distance seem to rise from the earth.  As we ascended, the mountains in our view ascended too, getting bigger and bolder, encouraging us to keep walking.

And we did keep walking, right past Letdar!  After about an hour I said 'hey, where's that town Letdar we were going to stop at.  Well, it was now almost an hour behind us.  It wouldn't make sense to go back so we just had to push on to Thorung Phedi, which is several hours from Letdar, but we reasoned we must be half way there by now.
A cute logo on these great hiking pants from TuTwo 图途(厦门)户外用品有限公司
Poles and Jacket also from TuTwo modeled by Yessi Ye of China hiking in Nepal on the Annapurna Circuit

dbBrad takes a break on a rock wall showing off his GreenGiant boots and his OR gators.
And we were half way there.  Though it did state getting dark before we got there, the snow on the ground and our elevation prolonged the light of day and we eventually arrived at Thorung Phedi just before dark.

dbBrad on a shrine holding a TuTwo flag in Nepal.

There were about 12 locals standing around a raging bonfire.  Behind them, total annihilation.  Less than one week previously, the main restaurant and inn had caught fire and burned to the ground,  along with several other buildings.  There was nothing left but piles of rocks and burnt wood timbers, most of which had been collected and were fueling the massive bonfire.

Yessi shows off her GreenGiant shoes
With peak season over and fire clean up underway, they weren't prepared for visitors, but they took care of us none the less.  For about an hour we were given seats on the benches with all the locals and we listened to their joyful conversations wondering what was being said but enjoying the views and the warmth of the fire.

Yessi Ye of China, outdoor adventurist wearing TuTwo 图途(厦门)户外用品有限公司
gear along the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.  Real gear in a real setting used by an experienced hiker.

A picture of an ad for outdoor gear in China.  Definitely not Yessi and dbBrad in Nepal!.  There are so many things wrong with this photo I don't know where to start, but clearly these good looking models have never hiked anywhere ever before!  I love the fact that they set up their tent yet have all their sleeping gear outside and even though all the gear is out and being used, the backpacks are still full!!

After a while, one of the men who turned out to be the manager of the just burnt inn, came and got us.  He had cleaned out one of the rooms, put in a new table a few others had been building, covered it with a blanket, and set the room up so we could eat.  He even had a candle on the table.  Kind of a requirement since the fire had left the entire village without electricity.  There was a charcoal heater under the table to keep us warm.

Thorung Phedi, Nepal at 4450m elevation after a fire devastated several buildings in the center of town. The bonfire is being used for entertainment and heat.  Since the fire, the town doesn't have power, kitchen, TV and many of the workers have only the clothes they were wearing during the fire.  

We placed our order and had a wonderful meal in a very Nepalese room, at 14,000 feet, all by ourselves in this beautiful and remote place.  This is why we were here! 

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