Annapurna Circuit Days 9 and 10: Tilicho Base Camp to High Camp
Day 9 March 31, 2018: Tilicho Base Camp (TBC 4200m) to Churi Ledar (4200m), distance: 11.5 miles, duration: 7h 0m, elevation gain: 0m, ascended: 3198 feet, descended: 2726 feet, food: $38.85, lodging: $0.00 at Snow Land Hotel, total distance to date: 72 miles
Day 10 April 1, 2018: Churi Ledar (4200m) to Thorong High Camp (4870m), distance: 4.25 miles, duration: 3h 0m, elevation gain: 670m, ascended: 2066 feet, descended: 334 feet, food: $35.60, lodging: $3.50 at Thorong-La High Camp, total distance to date: 76.25 miles
April 1, 2018 Tilicho Base Camp to Churi Ledar
We had to cross the landslide area to Shree Kharka again, so we left early this morning while the ground and slope were still frozen. After safely crossing, we came upon an abandoned house that we had seen from a much higher vantage point two days ago...and realized we had missed a turn. A quick map check assured us that the trail we were on led to Shree Kharka. The devil was in the details.
The trail continued precariously downward all the way to the creek feeding into the Marsyangdi River on the valley floor. Two days ago, we had crossed over this creek via a suspension bridge high above! The stream was not wide, but would require a couple of assisting rocks in the middle to get across. The bank was icy and the current forceful. Together with another guy in our same predicament, we hunted for a safe path across. We settled on our route and, with a couple of Hail Marys and heavy reliance on our trekking poles for stability, we made it to the other side with dry feet. Then it was an exhausting climb back up the same hill we had just hiked down. Grrr.
From Shree Kharka, we took the left fork to Upper Khangsar high up on a ridge. What an odd place! From the distance, it looked like a village. But when we arrived, all of the homes were void of inhabitants. Even though cattle grazed in rock-walled fields, the town was deserted! We called out a "namaste" but only a metal gate creaked in response. We followed the blue-and-white trail signs on the outside of the rock wall, past scrub pine and little else. Not a creature was stirring; not even a mouse.
In the Himalayas, plateaus lead to either an imposing ascent or a knee-busting descent. The blue-and-white pointed downward. At the bottom, knees quaking, we crossed a suspension bridge and re-joined the red-and-white Annapurna Circuit trail. Our Tilicho Lake side-trek was officially over and we headed for Churi Ledar to spend the night.
April 1, 2018: Churi Ledar to High Camp
Short but strenuous 4 mile hike today, with a stretch through another active landslide area. Last night, we slept at Churi Ledar, which is the same altitude as Tilicho Base Camp. Tonight, we will sleep almost 700 meters higher at Thorong High Camp (4870m) in preparation for the Thorong-La Pass summit. Lots of people on the trail today, now that we have rejoined the main red-and-white trail route. We stopped at Thorong Phedi for a mid-morning apple pie snack and some hot tea. We entered the dining room to the beat of reggae music and found a comfortable seat among dozens of relaxed hikers. It felt like a party! Alas, we couldn't stay long. We had a hill to climb.
Because we had taken the side-trip to Tilicho Lake and had acclimatized to the 4800m elevation, High Camp would be our launch point for the Thorong-La Pass summit tomorrow morning. We hiked the very steep stretch between Thorong Phedi and High Camp today, rather than adding another two hours to our summit tomorrow.
We arrived at High Camp early in the day, snagging one of the few remaining rooms, and then spent the afternoon watching fellow hikers huff and puff into High Camp. We also climbed to the mani wall a couple hundred meters above High Camp to snap some photos.
High Camp was crowded and bitterly cold after the sun set. We pulled on multiple layers -- including our down jackets, hats, and gloves -- and burrowed into sleeping bags before pulling up the thick comforter provided by the inn. We shivered all night long. I have never been so cold.