"The stiffer the climb, the gnarlier the dude."
- Albert Einstein, 1998
- Albert Einstein, 1998
We’ve ascended. Steeply. The lines and valleys in the faces of the locals we meet deepen as the climbs heighten. Albert was right, to thrive in the Himalayas these folk need to be tough as the boots they’re too tough wear.
For a bit of context, we’re currently in the final stages of the Annapurna Circuit, a classic Nepali teahouse trek that takes a couple of weeks. The Annapurna’s are a bunch of mountains that are mostly rather large (Annapurna I is the 10th highest peak in the world) and we’re on our merry way semi circling around them. The route we've chosen is 90 miles long and ascends to a whopping 5416 (very precise) metres.
It’s hard to describe the epic nature of trekking past peaks just shy of 8000 metres, it was humbling enough to see those that reach a mere 4000 metres, crumbs, a pair of large hills in Oxfordshire have been known to fill me with wonderment. One involuntary phrase, spoken under my breath to no one, came close to describing the awe I felt gazing up toward the ancient tectonic sculpture of Annapurna II (7937m). It was as if the rock itself had reached into my mouth and plucked, between snow capped thumb and fore finger, the delicate and poetic words:
“Fuck off you fucking mountain”.
The obscenity, free from my subconscious and wafting whispered on the Himalayan breeze, will be heard forever more by those that follow in our footsteps. Lucky buggers.
Thorong-La was the ultimate goal of the trek, it’s a pass between mountains, one called Thorong, the other something else (not La). It’s the culmination of 10 days gradual incline and careful acclimatisation to the increasingly thin air, before 4 days descent and a bus back to civilisation. We journeyed from stepped rice paddies through pine forests and eventually to a mystical snow covered cold mountain realm. There were vultures (endangered white rumped ones) circling us at one point. They know when stuff is near dead and my body... My body was telling them, yes.
5416 metres is a lot of metres horizontal but a steaming shit load vertical. Colder than a witches tit, the water and food in our rucksacks froze instantly as we embarked at 5am. Thankfully, the bitter cold made me unaware of just how sunburnt I was. Thanks nature. Somehow we made it with a great sense of achievement in tow, although I've never shouted the phrase "I'M NOT HAVING FUN ANY MORE" and meant it quite as much as I did that day.
Of all the British creature comforts that have reached the remote villages we stayed in, I’m glad ‘taking the piss’ hasn’t. Dressed like a twat with trekking poles, desperately gasping my way through the lack of red blood cells required to exist at altitude, I’d be ripe.
Now, after the heady challenge of Thorong-La, flat ground is on the horizon and it’s a sight for sore thighs. Tonight we stay in Kagbeni, where the entrance of the town is guarded by a pre-Buddhist wooden statue of a man with an enormous erect penis. I have great faith in the protective powers of this gentleman’s member and feel certain his mighty phallus could intimidate a Mongol horde. I’ll be sleeping well tonight.
The photo-less photography blog continues. Crusty old words from my brain will have to suffice until I’m back home, blistered and broken on a South London sofa, with a cheese and tomato sandwich in one hand and laptop in t’other.
Maybe one day I’ll mount a photography exhibition where, instead off photos, there’ll be descriptions of what the photo would have been written on 6x4 photo paper. Ooh, that’s well arty, that is.
Don’t worry I won’t do it.