11/5 I awoke with my Nepali brothers in Siri Kharka after taking on Tilicho Lake and feeling like the trek had only just begun I felt it in my heart that I needed to do something more independant and just for me! I had gone to bed the night before talking to Parash again, thinking about my time in Nepal, my time trekking and where things had taken me in the last few months. I got up out of bed and walked outside to just get a breath of fresh air and clear my mind before heading to sleep and I sat in the still cold night sitting on a rock wall in front of the hotel. The night skies in the mountains can be magical when the sky is clear and the moon and stars are so bright they illuminate the mountains in the far distance. Almost immediately upon looking up I caught a shooting star from beginning to end right where I was focused in the sky. It was a moment that I knew was just for me. I wanted clarity and I got it. I wanted to continue on the trek alone and not return back to Pokhara so soon with the guys since they were on more of a schedule with Numbish’s coming wedding and none of them were exactly stoked about trekking anymore it was time to split off.
I awoke in the morning and sought out Lomi, the female Nepali doctor we had been trekking alongside the last 2 days and asked her about my intention to go over Thorung La Pass since I was right here and so close to it – why not? She had done the pass and assured me it was well worth doing it and said she really believed it was a good idea and I would have no problem. My confidence was boosted and I knew that’s what I wanted to do so I told the guys my plan and got the map out to see what I had to do for the day’s hike. The other Nepali porters and guides we were also new friends with also indicated I could get to Thorung Phedi by the days end based on my speed and health so I walked just a mile or so with the group up until the trails split ways and we all said farewell. I stopped to take apicture of myself right after I said goodbye feeling excited, nervous and soooo free at that moment knowing I could take care of myself by meeting up with other Nepali guides and porters along the way. I hiked for a few hours coming up over the first big climb, looking out over Manang on a little out cropping. A white eagle was soaring in the wind just below me and slowly getting higher, when a second one joined and I just watched and videoed the pair circling around me until they were out of sight. I shouted out over the edge, ‘thank you God for the sign that you are with me’ I truly felt safe and reaffirmed my decision to move along on my own just me and my pack onto the next village.
The first bridge I crossed I stopped at the little tiny hut for a cup of Masala Tea – my new favorite tea. I walked in and sat down, looked up and saw a grouping of Eagle feathers bunched up in the curtain and just smiled knowing every small coincedence was more to me than just chance :) That day hiking was beautiful and I will never forget the way I felt hiking by myself for the first 8 hours. I stopped for lunch in Yak Kharka where I asked the locals how many hours to Thorung Phedi and they indicated 3-4 hours. I ate my vegetable noodle soup quicly and got on my way knowing it was getting colder and I was only going to be climbing higher. I cruised up the mountains, crossed another suspension bridge and stopped to buy a few hard candies from a woman who had her home perched on the mountainside with a little table out in front and basket of apples. It was really her little white dog in a knit sweater that made me stop but the candy turned out to be quite the right decision for later. It only took me 2 hours to get to Thorung Phedi and I was glad because it was getting cold and I needed to navigate my way into a teahouse. The first Nepali I saw wandering around the entrance of town (town is a loose term – there were only about 4 places to stay and all stacked on top of each other) I asked him about a room and he indicated he had two American clients staying above, where he pointed. I followed him up and talked to the employee in the dining room and he proceeded to show me a room that was just like all the others (two beds, big blankets and cold as hell) I took the room and headed into the dining area to get warm and order dinner of dhal bat to fit in with the locals.
It all worked out great, I talked to some tourists, the American couple was older and many other Nepali guides and porters filled the place, so I started to talk to an older Nepali guide sitting across from me. His name was Ram Rai and he was traveling with a Japanese client and his son was portering with him. I asked around about what time everyone was getting up for breakfast and made my order for 3:30am. Sitting at the table I started to chat with group of Nepali guides and porters playing cards and ended up getting in on their game which was similar to the game I learned from Shree so I fit right in! Dinner of Dhal bat and my eating with my hands with all the ohter Nepali’s further put me right at home again. It’s not very common to have a young American woman head up the pass alone so I was embraced by many of the people and felt good going to sleep that night knowing I would head out in the morning with a caravan of other trekkers.
The snow started flying that night before the sun went down and it never stopped – in the morning I got my breakfast of Phapar Roti and eggs and proceeded to head out with others into the dark snowy mountains. Before leaving the hut I noticed a porter frantically looking for something in the dark corners of the dining room. He had misplaced one of his gloves and so I offered him my knit mittens knowing I might miss them but I would make my finger gloves work. UP up up – that’s all it was for nearly 5 hours – a woman riding a horse was behind the group of 10 of us at one point. I heard the horse make a loud neigh of sorts and then the girls voice yelling, we all looked down and you could see from our headlamps lighting up the area that she was hooked by her leg and being dragged (slowly since they had control of the horse) but finally she was freed and later in the day I had a tea with she and her friend and she was afraid (for good reason) to get back on the horse. Eventually she and her friend did get back on horses and finish the summit but what an experience.
That trek up the pass was one of the hardest days I’ve had in the Himalayas. I was on my own for a few portions with people in view way up the mountain just my headlamp and I was thankful to have a blazed trail in the snow because without foot prints I would have surely been stuck not knowing where to go. Picture a white landscape in the middle of towering peaks – no trail markers and dark – the hike of a lifetime!! 3/4 of the way up I ran into Ram and his client which began my journey with them. I was thankful to have him the last stretch up the pass – I only got slightly nauseous for a brief moment before eating a snickers bar and climbing on. NO altitude sickness and feeling strong we all made it up by 10:30 if I remember right! Pictures and cup of tea and snickers bar later and we walked out of the little hut and got blasted by the strongest snowiest wind out of nowhere it had came up on the pass. The trek down was nearly as stressful and more technical than the climb. I managed to slip at least 4 times but all ended in success safely landing in Muktinath for the night staying at the same hotel as Ram and getting a nice hot shower to end the day!