Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Manaslu Circuit - Part 2

Day 8 - Samagaon (3530m) to Samdo (3860m) 3 hrs Good teahouse
We were woken up in the morning by Team National Parks of Australia getting out of there tents. Eventually dragging ourselves from our beds and looking out the window we were greeted with clear blue skies and stunning views of Manaslu. Soon the chatter outside was drowned out by the sound of a helicopter. It landed on the other side of the river and a woman from the Italian group was piggy backed out to it and whisked away. A sprained ankle probably but at this distance from the roadhead a helicopter evacuation was needed.

Apart from it being a beautiful day we also found that we had woken up in the year 2068. It was the Nepali New Year and they are a bit ahead of us.

After lots of photos we said our goodbyes to our Aussie trek-mates, as they were spending longer on the trek to do some side trips. We headed out of Samagaon along the muddy trail past an Indian Army team planning on climbing Manaslu itself. Being careful to take it slowly we crossed the Buri Gandaki for the penultimate time and were soon in the little village of Samdo for lunch.

James didn't feel that great in the afternoon so I climbed above Samdo on my own to aid acclimatisation. Samdo is close to the Tibetan border and here the passes to Tibet are still open to local trade. We were staying in the lovely Yak Hotel which had a cosy dinning room. That evening we sat around the stove with Team Europe (x4), Team Poland (x2) and half of the bossy Belgians (Lauren was sick) and chatted and laughed at our cultural differences.

James outside our room in Samagaon, the Australians tents in the foreground and the twin peak of Manaslu in the background.

Day 9 - Samdo (3860m) to Larkya Rest House (4480m) 2 1/2 hrs Resthouse tent
Still praying that the weather would hold we made a gradual ascent this morning through moraines. There was now no solitude on the trail as the many camping groups and their massive teams of porters and cooks all moved towards the one destination. We managed to get ahead of them and arrived at the ramshackled Larkya Resthouse in time to get the more comfortable tents rather than the drafty, half-derelict rooms.
Soon a sea of brightly coloured tents grew around us as the camping groups set up for the night.

James and I did a short acclimatisation walk in the afternoon where James managed to lose his warm hat luckily he had a spare as tomorrow we would have to start before dawn to cross the pass - but only if the weather held.

 Larkya Resthouse

Day 9 - Larkya Resthouse (4480m) to Bimtang (3720m) via the Larkya La (5180m) 7 1/2 hrs Very Basic Teahouse
We were very warm in our tent during the night so it was hard to get out of bed when the alarm went off at 3.30am.

Our head torches lit the way as we followed the trail through moraines and along the side of the glacier. The stars gave way to crystal blue skies with pristine mountain peaks everywhere. We gradually ascended from one false summit to the next.

At high camp we said goodbye to Team Poland who were planning to climb a peak from there. A Japanese team were already camped there. With all the different teams heading across the pass the scene resembled the retreat from Kabul. Keeping a steady, relentless pace, and despite leaving after everyone else (our guide, Gopal, doesn't like early starts), we got to near the front of the pack and could enjoy the mountains in relative peace. Finally the prayer flags which marked the pass at 5180m came into view - cue a lot of photos.

The descent was a lot more rapid, taking a route down some steep snow slopes. The porters, usually so sure on their feet, suddenly struggled in this unfamiliar terrain.

Bimtang looked idyllic from above, surrounded by crystal peaks and on a flat plain with a river running through it. This tiny settlement used to be a prominent trading post with reportedly up to 3000 pack animals in the 1950s. In the 1970s it became a hide out for Tibetan guerrillas. It hadn't seemed to have developed much since and amenities such as toilets were still absent. It was a case of lining myself up with a rock where the least amount of people could see me squat.

James, however, was very pleased with himself as we were the first team into Bimtang, and he announced that the Brits had won gold!

When the sun went behind the mountains we huddled around the fire in the kitchen. The stove had no chimney so the smoke filled the room then filtered through the roof. An Italian guide (Bronze position) who had struck up a relationship with her Nepali guide were also in the kitchen trying to have a quiet moment together.

Larkya La, 5180m, the high point on the Manaslu Circuit

The gold winning team, Gopal, James, myself and Nabaraj


Basic teahouse in Bimtang

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