2016 – My 100 days in the Himalayas, Part-1

I’m feeling thirsty as I make my way on a narrow path, towards the destination I’m aiming to reach today. There is fresh snow as far as eyes go. It’s onset of Spring here in Annapurna region of the Nepal Himalayas. What an amazing time to be here.

At one place a few feet away, there are footsteps of some animal, clearly visible on the snow. Very likely, it walked across just the same morning. They don’t look like that of snow leopard, though. I’m still optimistic. I keep looking. One sight of that elusive creature will make my day!

My dry throat draws my thoughts back to the thirst. I get reminded of this line from Samuel Taylor’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’

Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

I turn back. Down to see the Machapuchare base camp (MBC) checking if anyone else is coming. I could use help with some water. There is none. The Machapuchare – literally meaning “fish tail” owing to its resemblance to the tail of a fish – stands tall back there. The near vertical slopes can’t hold any snow so it’s standing there with most of the top edges naked. It is a sacred mountain. Climbing it is not permitted. What a view from where I stand. Coming back to reality, I have considered the worst case scenario of walking back to MBC, in case I don’t seem to make it to the Base camp of Annapurna (called ABC, in short).

I look into the side pocket of my camera bag, only to find the wrapper of last chocolate I ate somewhere before MBC. Could use some instant energy. I find some dry fruits stashed in a corner of the backpack. Munch a few cashew nuts. Having had this rest for a few minutes, I gain some strength and start walking again. The clouds have started gathering up. Just like past several days. I know it’ll start snowing anytime. This has been happening every day for last so many days. Which is a signal that I have to make it to the ABC without losing any time!

I’m able to see base camp far from where I stand but it’s been tough few hours and I still seem to be getting nowhere close. I am counting 10 steps. Followed by stopping to catch my breath. The process keeps going on. Whenever I see a bit less steep walk ahead, I try counting to 20 steps but anything more makes breathing difficult. I’ve been hiking for more than last 20 days now – around the full Annapurna circuit – but today feels different. I tell myself that it’s a marathon, not a sprint…

As the base camp looks within reach, the snow has started falling. And it’s getting windy. The snow is not too heavy yet, but I can’t waste any more minute now. Survival instinct. Gives you energy you didn’t know you had. I guess, this is something hard-coded in the DNA of all life in the world. I can’t have any complaints, because it works.

Finally, at the end of the “marathon”, the jaw-dropping south face of Annapurna reveals itself.

 

Annapurna - south face

 

[Photo from the next morning] The incredible view with the morning sun hitting the south face of Annapurna I – an eight-thousander, the highest peak of the Annapurna massif – makes it all worth it. It stands there in all its grandeur. Massive. Beautiful. Inspiring.

 

 

 

This is just one of those 100 days from my journeys in the mountains this year. Every other day brings new adventures up here.

Nepal, Ladakh, Spiti and Sikkim. Places on the map of my solo trip in the mountains in 2016.

Himalayas. This is my home away from home. This is where I truly feel alive. All these journeys have been full of new learnings every day. Meeting new people every day, from diverse backgrounds and varied cultures, and having conversations on different topics with them, is an enlightening experience for me. Shatters a number of pre-conceived notions we all have about other places and the people living there. Then there is nothing like the amazing views you get to see. Getting completely undisturbed long stretches of time, whether that’s in amazing stays such as Zostel Spiti or remote homestays of Markha valley or Annapurna circuit, provides a great time to catch up with my reading. Far away from the hectic city life, there is something about the disconnect here. It helps to make a better connect with myself.

 

This brings part-1 to an end. Hope you liked it. I’m still trying to improve my storytelling, so love your feedback. Will continue with the other highlights of the journey in Nepal and from the rest of the Himalayas in subsequent posts.

So friends, what are your travel plans, in 2017? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers to a new year, to another year full of adventures!

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