For the last two weeks we’ve been hiking through Nepal’s Himalayas, and today’s the day we plan to finally cross Thorong La Pass. At 5416 meters (17,769 feet) the pass is the highest and arguably the most difficult portion of the Annapurna Circuit. The air is thin and each step is labored. So much of my body’s resources are preoccupied with the basic necessities of life that it’s difficult to hold a conversation. Up here, even the donkeys are out of breath.
Slow and Steady
We’ve taken our time getting here, careful to go slow and acclimate along the way. We just finished a side trek to Tilicho Lake, one of the highest altitude lakes in the world. At nearly 5000m (16,200 feet) this visit helped tremendously with acclimation, preparing our bodies to go even higher today.
We also visited Praken Gompa in the hills above the nearby village of Manang. The monk who lives there blesses those who make the short climb to see her, selling necklaces which are meant to bring good luck to those planning a Thorong La crossing.
Over the last two weeks we’ve seen glimpses of mountains towering over us. The overwhelming beauty of what we’ve seen so far has continually been accompanied by faint hints of apprehension as we’ve wondered whether our crossing will be successful. Any number of ailments might strike hikers, from altitude sickness to something more basic – like falling off the hillside.
Crossing Thorong La Pass
Travelers might stay at either Base Camp (4420m) or High Camp (4800m) depending on their level of acclimatization. Since we took our time getting here and also visited the lake, we made the extra hike to High Camp on the day before our crossing. This would save us more than an hour on an already long day of crossing the pass. Waking up before dawn, we were greeted to early risers who were already reaching our altitude on the way to Thorong La.
We packed quickly and set out shortly thereafter. The sun rose behind us as we made slow progress toward Thorong La. The views promised to be stunning, but a fog quickly settled in and ruled out any further dramatic photo opportunities. It started to snow, and I knew the downhill portion into warmer temperatures would be a sleet ridden test of endurance. We pressed on.
Reaching Thorong La Pass
Walking uphill for hours, taking frequent breaks to let our heart rates and breathing settle, it felt like we may never reach Thorong La. Adding to the challenge are a large number of “false passes” – you round a corner thinking this is it, only to see an equally long stretch of trail before you as the one you just passed.
Danielle and I are each pretty stubborn people. This of course leads to a multitude of challenges and compromises that need to happen within a relationship. But our idiosyncrasies can be used as strengths too, like when we’re in Nepal walking uphill at 17,000 feet. For us, there was never really any alternative other than to keep going. I’m glad we did, because this was one of the coolest experiences of my life.
Very cool indeed. Love you pics and your determination.
Thanks Jen, glad you enjoyed the post.
The photo ‘Another step drop off’ just blew me away.
Claire that’s great, thanks for the kind words.
Seems like a tough hike, but the effort seems to be worth it … awesome mountain scenery!
It was tough but the rewards made it worth it ten times over!
Beautiful photos from a stunning part of the world.
Thanks Noor, glad you enjoyed the pics.
Congrats on the achievement and beautiful photos guys! I did a similar trek 3 months ago (ABC) and I know how beautiful the sceneries are around the Annapurna area. Plus, the people you meet along the way are one of the most inspiring and like minded people out there. The mountains are nice and all but the kindness of people both locals and trekkers are what made my trip extraordinary. 🙂
Maybe next time I could go for the circuit too. 🙂
PS: I added your post to Travelistly under Pokhara.
Thanks Pete sounds good! Yeah the people we met out there were just awesome. Really chilled out, down to earth travelers from all over the world. Each with their own story and reasons for being there. It’s easy to forget how huge a highlight that aspect of traveling in Nepal is when you are constantly viewing the most majestic and beautiful scenery of your life!
Ahhh so jealous! I only had 5 days trekking that circuit before I had to move on. Can’t wait to get back there and complete it, looks like you got some incredible views from up high. Stunning shots, love em!
The views were incredible. My favorite was pulling an all nighter, watching the stars go overhead, then seeing the subsequent sunrise from the top of Poon Hill.
Poon Hill Sunrise on Flickr
Stars over Poon Hill on Flickr
Absolutely breathtaking. A journey that takes your body to it’s limits, to places barely touched by mankind. I AM IN AWE!
You should do it!
Incredible! Nepal has been on my mind for so long. It really is an imposing beauty! Thanks for inspiring me to take this trip.
The scenery was imposing but the people were completely disarming.
Wow I salute you for your bravery and determination in climbing such breathtaking Thorong La. Never been to Nepal yet but I’m hoping I can get there someday. I like to read your adventure. Stunning photos too!
Thanks Helen, you should go see it for yourself!
Beautiful photos! Sounds like quite a trek!
Thanks Jp, it was.
Very cool 🙂 Such incredible pictures. Looks absolutely stunning. And what an achievement! Congratulations!!
The world is a spectacle..travel is the most beautiful gift that it can make a person themselve,so congrats;)
Living life is kind of the whole point, right!
Traveling around the world is the best thing a a man can do in his life. Nepal is one of the awesome country to travel and trek.