Day 10 (18th Nov)
Route: Thorung Phedi – Thorang La Pass – Muktinath (14 hours)
Elevation: 966m & Descent: 1656m
We get up at 3am for an early breakfast. I can hear the french group in the room next to us – he is whistling and seems to be in a good mood. I wonder for how long. Today I’m not having much for breakfast – I have never been someone with much appetite early morning and today is no different. If I had known I would trek for a good 13 hours before I would eat something, I would have forced myself. I would have stuffed my face! It turned out that we would only be served a substantial meal after the descent – leaving us all crawling up and down the hills on the little energy released by occasional cookie and sweets we (luckily carried with us and) carefully ration.
Just after 4am we start our steep ascent to Thorung High Camp which seemed to go on forever. After 30min I felt I could not anymore. I just could not. “Ben, I can’t anymore”. “Yes you can – you are doing great”. – “No I can’t. And I’m not going to put my health at risk to climb this stupid mountain”, agitated at him pushing me and throwing a tantrum like a small child.
I felt so weak this morning. I felt I wanted to quit. I did not care about giving up anymore. I have had enough. But somehow I pushed through the pain. All I focused was placing one foot after another. Right. Left. Right. Left. And breathe. At least I was not cold as the exercise was keeping me warm.
Holly has cold hands and I offer to give her my glove liners “Yes please darling, you are an angel. Thank you so much”. She is struggling today. If Holly is struggling, we are in deep shit. It must be hard. I try to rely on the poles dragging me up. These two hours felt like forever.
I start feeling immensely nauseous. Unfortunately I have, through my adult years, had this barrier that kept me from vomiting when I felt sick. I cannot vomit easily. If I do, I’m seriously ill and probably on the verge of being hospitalised. It takes a lot for me to be sick. When we arrived at Thorong High Camp, I say to Ganesh “I feel so sick. What can I do?”. –
“Put the finger in your throat and vomit”. I heard Ed behind me agreeing and nodding, looking at me “Yes just do it, you will feel better”. I turned around and sat in silence and drifted away into thought. I wish I could. But I could ram a whole hand down my throat – I just can’t vomit just like that. I remember as a teenager when I had a phase, like probably most teenage girls, when I felt I was way too fat. So I decided to be like the bulimic girls one day and try to use their technique to be skinny.
It’s quite ironic that the teenage magazine articles about the awful vicious cycle bulimic girls find themselves in (to prevent us girls form going down that road), did not deter me from trying it out, it actually encouraged me as I thought ‘Well, if doing this means I will be skinny, let’s try it’. I got bored of trying, so eventually gave up and decided being skinny is stupid and too painful – so just like that I decided I was happy the way I was.
Now I don’t give a crap about my weight. If my pants fit me and I feel comfortable the way I look, it must be the right weight. And thankfully I had never slipped into bulimia – but also I never learnt to vomit on commando. Which would be really handy right now.
Ganesh seemed stressed this morning – he wanted to get us up there as quickly as possible. But being one of the slowest groups he ever had (I am blaming my snail pace for this…), he knew this would not happen. I get up to go to the toilet. I was already extremely annoyed that morning.
What was about to happen, did not make it any better: so there I was squatting for Nr.2, when the door flings open and this man stares at me – “For fuck’s sake, it’s occupied” I yell as I close the door trying to hold it shut whilst doing my business. ‘Great. Can’t puke. Can’t crap. Is there ANYTHING else I CAN’T do properly to make this morning even more miserable?’ I thought to myself while shaking my head.
All my Zen-like calmness disappeared that morning. My ego had taken over. I was in aggro-mode and the only thing that would lighten up my mood would be a gigantic Yak carrying me up this bloody hill (like some Japanese tourists that morning). But that would mean giving up – and I’m not someone to give up easily.
Who knows what I tried to prove to myself that morning.
I was going to win this mountain over.
Thorong La vs. Tess.
You won’t beat me.
*Imaginary mud stripes painted on cheeks*.
*Eye of the tiger music playing in my mind*
* New Zealand Haka *
*Pulls pants up – GO!*
We continue our march on very narrow paths covered in snow and ice. For the first time on this trek I was scared. To the right of me it was a steep downhill. If I lost balance, there was no return and it would be too steep and slippery to stop yourself from falling deeper into the unknown. A scary thought and I walked with goosebumbs on my back. One wrong step and I could potentially die. There was a big risk of slipping, as I was wearing trail running shoes which did not have the best grip. (Later that day, thankfully not earlier, I did slip several times and fell flat on my bum).
Everyone was so slow at this point – which was reassuring as I felt I was holding up everyone the last days – that was no longer the case. Ed and Holly were in front. Holly cursed the hill as much as everyone else – she cried, she told us later, hating every minute of it. Raphaelle was struggling with High Altitude symptoms at this point. She slowed down feeling unwell.
“Do you have Diamox?” I asked- “Yes I do. I just haven’t taken it yet”. I suggested “maybe take it now – it apparently causes you to hyperventilate, giving you more oxygen to breathe” – She agrees and takes a Diamox alongside two painkillers. I had read that in some countries (such as Germany and Switzerland), Diamox was not recommended as a symptom-relief medication, but rather to be used preventatively when reaching a certain altitude like Ben & I had been doing it as of 2500m.
And yet, in the USA, Diamox is recommended for symptomatic relief – so I figured, it might just do the trick. Ganesh warned about the side-effects of loosing too much fluid when taking Diamox (as it makes you go to the toilet more often) – but as we were all drinking so much, it might not be the end of the world. We continue our march with occasional stops when I keep leaning over my poles to catch my breath. Thank goodness we bought these poles.
It took us another 3-4 hours (I had lost track of time at that point) until we finally spot the finishing line. I was surprised not to hear any cheers or any bouts of emotions. Everyone was just exhausted and glad to have arrived. When I played back the small video clip I recorded of our walk to the Thorong La, I’m shocked about my breathing. (I’m too embarrassed to publish it, as I sound as if I’m busy having sex. No no. This will NEVER be released – thank you very much.)
It’s hard to describe how hard breathing becomes at that point and I just thought…how on earth must you feel like climbing Mount Everest reaching more than 8000m? It must be so incredibly strenuous. Not too imagine how hard it would be without additional oxygen supply (there are some idiots out there who do that).
“Here have some popcorn” says Hollie who has kept the Manang movie Popcorn for this special occasion. We all laugh and devour the content of the Popcorn bag in minutes. I still laugh thinking of her sesame street inspired hat. Ed is right when he says she is ‘eccentric’. And I’m not surprised she lived in London for so long – a city full of eccentric people. Another reason I absolutely adore the city!
Someone I knew once said that London is the city for damaged personalities. I say, London allows you to be just the way you are. No matter how crazy or boring or ‘different’ you are – you’ll feel at home in London. Everyone can make friends in London and no one will ever feel bored. If you feel bored in London, you are seriously doing something wrong. There is no way you could ever not ‘not find something to do’ in this big bustling crazy city. I miss London. I really do. And I’m glad to have someone in the group who encompasses London in so many ways, I think while I munch on my Popcorn staring at the blue sesame monster hat and giggling to myself. I always admired people who could let loose and not have a care in the world. People who did not give a *** about what other people thought.
After our own individual photo sessions, I suggest to the group to take jumping photos – so there we stand for 15min trying to jump for photos. The self-timing option does not work overly well, so we ask a trekker to take a few photos of us and we capture some good shots. There is one single photo of all of us jumping (except Ben….LOL). Some of us decide to slide down a hill to the left of us and we take a few more photos lying on the floor.
Ganesh wants to take a photo of us lying in a circle – but instead of photographing from the top, he takes photos from the side which makes Ben laugh. “I don’t think that was what he meant to achieve, was it?”.
After an hour (instead of the 15 minutes Ganesh suggested) we start our descent. Naively I thought this was going to be quick. It turned out to be a 5-6 hour trek which was even worse than the ascent! Unusually there was a lot of snow and many icy patches which made it very hard for us to descend in a reasonable speed. Ben & I only wear half-ankle trekking / trail running shoes which were very slippery on the ice. We fall down a few times and yet our spirits were high the first few hours – completely oblivious of what was awaiting us.
Ben decides to sleigh down on his bum on some stretches. When I tried, I wondered how he managed to do that as my tailbone was in so much pain after a few bumps, that I decide walking would be just fine for me. After a few hours, I regrettably twist my ankle and am in quite a bit of pain. Now apprehensive of doing even more damage, I slow down my speed even more.
And after another hour my knees start to ache. I used to go to Physiotherapy in my teenage years as I had problems with my knees. Being a procrastinating teenager, I did not follow through with the exercises I was supposed to do and I am now being reminded of it – with every.single.step. My knee caps start burning and every step becomes very painful.
Holly, Edward and Raphaelle are far ahead of us and Ganesh suggests at some point to run down to order us lunch – so by the time Ben & I arrive, we would have something to eat. At that point we falsely believed the late lunch spot would be where we would stay over night. Which did not turn out to be the case. So when we arrive relieved and exhausted having trekked for 12 1/2 hours on that day with an almost empty stomach, to then find out we had another approximately half an hour to go, I just resign to the possibility of ever arriving. “I don’t believe it’s just half an hour anymore”, I say.
Ganesh replies “it is 6km from here” having changed his Spiel, noticing that any false time estimation might cause frustration. After a further 1h30 hours we finally make it to Muktinath where I was hoping for a hot shower. Ben & I end up using a bucket filled with luke-warm water to clean ourselves as the hot shower was not working properly – again – and I did not even care.
The biggest highlight today was the dinner – as the chicken on the sizzling platter was out of this world and exactly what I needed. Much to Ben’s and Ed’s disappointment who ordered a burger in the hope it would taste similarly to the Yak Burger in Munchi. Unfortunately it tasted pretty bland.
Ben, Ed and I remain seated next to the heater in the room for a while. I’m trying to dry Ben’s shoes who are completely soaked from the snow today and my socks which I end up burning a pattern into. Tonight we slept 11 hours and so deep, no amount of fluid in our bladders would ever wake us up.
What was the toughest adventure you have ever done? Can YOU vomit on command? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.