With well over 20,000 thousand stairs behind us, and 65 kilometers of full-pack hiking on our Nepal resumé, we snaked our way along the Modi Khola river with Annapurna South looming on our left and Fish Tail mountain slashing through the sky on our right.
Alert: Before you continue reading, make sure you read Anne’s account of the first four grueling days from Pokhara to Machapuchare Base Camp.
Day 5 morning:
As we climbed above 10,000 FASL (feet above sea level) the trees began to thin out, the mountain walls turned jagged and ominous, and the glaciers came out to play. This particular glacier had perfectly carved tunnels to be explored, thanks to the rivers that cascade down from Annapurna II all “summer.”
Day 5 evening:
In our final miles before reaching Annapurna Base Camp, the clouds started to come on thick, completely concealing the mountains we had been climbing to see. Having faith the Annapurnas would show their face by morning, we toasted with a Tuborg beer and set out to explore life at 13,546 feet. (Our friend and professional photographer Emily shot this great photo of us hiking the ridge between camp and Ganga Purna.)
Hundreds of sheep grazed on the rough grasses of the cold, craggy mountainside. Good thing they are wearing wool!
Annapurna is the deadliest mountain on Earth, with a 38% fatality-to-summit ratio. A stupa, layered with prayer flags, was originally built to remember the great climber Anatoli Boukreev, and since has become a place for all to remember the lives that Annapurna has claimed.
Day 6 morning:
After a chilly high-altitude slumber, we awoke to bluest sky and a full panorama of Annapurna I, South, 12 Peaks, Tent Peak, Singuchuli, Gandravachuli, and Fishtail mountains in all their glory. We cooked up some coffee and oatmeal with trailmix on Emily’s MSR stove and did a bit of modeling against a backdrop that would make Backpacker magazine proud.
As if formed by a carpenter’s chisel these beautiful powder chutes were calling to the crazy skier inside me. Then I realized that stupa didn’t need any more prayer flags.
Before beginning the four-day trek back to Pokhara, via Poon Hill, I had one more mission to accomplish…to reach HoneyTrek’s seventh proper glacier. Though this was a fairly unapproved move (by Anne and our guide, until a bit of cajoling), Dalip and I skidded our way down the 300-foot deep moraine to reach the South Annapurna Glacier…a little dicey, but worth it!
Machapuchare, aka Fishtail, is one of the few virgin mountains left in the Annapurna range, due to a combination of the insane summit routes and the fact that it is a sacred mountain to the Nepalese people. It’s already the prettiest peak in the range, and knowing that it’s untouchable only adds to its magnificence.
In order to complete our trek in 10 days, instead of the standard 12 for the ABC & Poon Hill combo, we had to tack on extra distance each day. But with views like the one I found rounding this corner, it made each extra kilometer go down a little easier.
We arrived at Ghorepani slightly worse for wear thanks to the roller-coaster of punishing hills (we wondered numerous times why the sherpas didn’t install some zip lines between those ridges!)…but with a good night sleep and dreams of the ultimate Himalaya sunrise, our muscles were “fired up and ready to go” for the 4:30am hike to Poon Hill.
After seeing nearly everyone watching sunrise from Poon Hill commemorate their achievement with either a Peace sign or the ever-popular jump pose…we had to join the fun and execute a group Jumping Peace Sign photo.
As we crossed the bridge to our final tea house, we noticed these lovely pools collecting between waterfalls. With a few Everest beers and four friends, we turned this icy mountain stream into a natural “Watering Hole Watering Hole” for the last toast of the hike.
If you enjoy trekking and fantastical mountains, you must visit Nepal–no ifs, ands, or buts! With eight out of the ten tallest peaks in the world, Nepal is the ultimate high.