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April 11th: Hiking across Thorung La
We got up a 4am determined to make the pass before midday. We’d heard the winds picked up as the day progressed and the best chance of clear views was in the morning.
The stars were out in force making it easy to see. But it was cold. Very cold. A group of French trekkers were setting off as we packed up. Amazing how much stuff they’d brought with them! There must have been a porter per person and each porter seemed to be carrying his own bodyweight again in gear.
After a quick peanut butter loaded bread roll and set off towards high camp. At 4300 metres, we could feel the altitude’s effect on our breathing. The sun had started to rise, the pink light of dawn settling on top of Gangapurna’s 7455metre peak. The snow cocks had woken up too and it was magical hearing them whistling from the snowy rock faces around us.
After an hour’s walking we could see High Camp but blocking the way were two of the most ginormous yaks I’ve ever seen. Negotiating our way around the woolly prehistoric creatures, we stopped briefly to refuel before pushing on towards the pass.
The sun was above the horizon now and the light had turned golden on the North face of Annapurna II, III, and IV. Not a cloud in the sky and no wind – perfect trekking conditions.
We were now in deep snow and without crampons – my £26 Karrimor trekking shoes were really proving their quality: my feet were soaked. We stopped for a ginger tea at the last hut before the pass and met a poor German girl who had bad altitude sickness and couldn’t go on.
It was 10am now and the sky had turned an impossible blue. We pressed on towards Thorung La and after one more hour of walking we reached the 5416 metre pass!
April 25th: The earthquake:
We were in an old Newari building when it happened – having an early lunch in fact. We’d left the cringe, tie-dye wearing tourists behind in Pokhara and we were now in the much more authentically Nepali town of Tansen.
At first we didn’t know what was going on – was it just a large truck passing on the street outside? But the shaking got worse and soon the whole building was swaying violently.
‘We’re in an earthquake!’ I suddenly realized.
We heard some frightened cries as the Nepali staff rushed out of the building and we didn’t hang around either. Out in the courtyard we watched as the whole ground swayed, like there were huge rollers beneath our feet. A horrible feeling when there nothing is staying still, nothing you can hold on to. The ground is normally firm! Bits of plasterwork on the building started to crumble and we wondered whether the whole thing would collapse on us.
It lasted a minute and in that time I think everyone in Nepal wondered whether it would ever stop.