3

ABC Day 04 - Poon Hill

ABC Index

Poon Hill


The pre-dawn darkness made it necessary to pack in the dim lights of our headlamps. We hurriedly threw together the essentials for our daypacks, and divided the contents of the first aid kit amongst us to lighten the load. We had planned to start walking an hour before sunrise (my Suunto Spartan Ultra had stated that sunrise was at 06:15), but before we did, we made our way outside the wooden lodge to heat up some potable water in the Jetboil for some much-needed coffee.

We set off down the cobbled alleyway, still in darkness, and back to the square with the signpost. It was so dark that all we could see were the cones of light in front of us. The procession made its way groggily upwards, the beams from the headlamps periodically interrupting the intensity of the constellations above us. As we made our way south-west, a battle was unfolding above us--Scorpio dominated the southern horizon and was accompanied by three of the planets: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in almost perfect alignment; whereas Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, dominated the skies to the north-west. Both constellations were seemingly trying to outshine each other as they grappled for dominion over the night skies.

The line of lights made its way up the very crowded and sinuous stairwell. Bottlenecks were everywhere so I passed people out as soon as the opportunity presented itself. We reached the Poon Hill checkpoint shortly after, and continued on into the darkness after paying the NPR50 fee. The foliage eventually gave way and the large viewing tower atop the hill made its appearance, which was then just a silhouette in the blue hour. The sun had yet to rise but the alpenglow that was reflected off the atmosphere cast a warm red glow on the Dhaulagiri massif to the west.

The peaks as seen from Poon Hill; Hovering your cursor over the image above will show you their names.

As the blue hour melted away, the silhouettes of the mountains began to appear in the twilight hue. The ambient light became brighter and brighter as the sun slowly rose and lit up the upper peaks of Dhaulagiri (elevation : 8172m), the 7th highest mountain in the world, in its warm glow. The shadow line of Dhaulagiri gradually made its way down the slopes of the mountain as time went by, shrinking in fear from the power of the sun.

As the shadows retreated and the dark tapestry was pulled away, the rest of the mountains came to life in a magnificent unveiling: first Annapurna I (elevation : 8091m) and Annapurna South (elevation : 7219m); then followed by Nilgiri (elevation : 7061m), Machapuchare (elevation : 6997m), and Hiunchuli (elevation : 6441m). The details of the mountains became clearer and clearer as the sky grew lighter and lighter, and the shadows grew shorter and shorter. The orange glow that was the sun gradually appeared above the mountain horizon and blinded everything in its brilliance.

The Dhaulagiri massif; Hovering your cursor over the image above will show you their names.

Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Hiunchuli, and Machapuchare; Hovering your cursor over the image above will show you their names.

The crowds around the peak had been absolutely ridiculous. In the darkness, those who were loud and obnoxious had bothered me and had made it close to impossible to immerse myself in the splendour of the mountains; but now that the sun had risen, I was left aghast by the roiling mass of bodies that had somehow squeezed itself onto the small peak of Poon Hill. As the sun rose however, the guides began to descend back down the trail with their groups, and the crowds slowly began to disperse. We waited for a while until there were very few people on the summit, before making our way back down the trail too.

poon hill tower

The Poon Hill (elevation : 3210m) tower; Dhaulagiri (elevation : 8172m) & Tukuche (elevation : 6920m)

poon hill primroses

Morning dew on Himalayan primroses (Primula denticulata)

Next (Day 4) : Poon Hill (Part 2)
ABC Index

Poon Hill Descent


rhododendrons of poon hill

Annapurna I (elevation : 8091m) & Annapurna South (elevation : 7219m) peeking out from gaps in the rhododendrons (Rhododendron arboreum)

descending from poon hill

Now that the sun had risen, the stairwell was clearly visible on descent

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats

mc04a

mc04b

The full page of the recorded trek can be found on my Movescount Page.

For those who also have a Suunto GPS device and would like to use the move
as a route, please click on the following link for the route:

Check the route in

Next (Day 4) : Ghorepani to Banthanti (Part 3)
ABC Index
ABC Index

Ghorepani to Banthanti


We left the lodge in Ghorepani (elevation : 2860m) soon after we were done packing our backpacks. The early morning light was lovely and soft, and the sides of the trail quickly became rhododendron-filled once again as the trail dipped right back into the forest. The incline picked up a little after that and we began trudging up the stairwell on a fairly long and sustained climb that ended in a plateau of sorts. There was a rest stop in the middle of the small field here, and the peak of Dhaulagiri (elevation : 8172m) and the backdrop of rhododendrons completely dominated the views.

Sign after poon hill

Dhaulagiri after poon hill

Rhododendrons, Dhaulagiri (elevation : 8172m) and Tukuche (elevation : 6920m) dominating the views.

About 1.2 kilometres in, the trail brought us first to a hill and then to another plateau. We had just exceeded 3000m at this point, after having climbed from 2860m at Ghorepani. Clouds whipped by above us and dark, rolling shadows were cast across the landscape, surprisingly similar to the plains that surrounded the Stirling Ridge in Australia.

poon hill rhododendrons

We passed by a hut with refreshments atop a hill not too long after (1.6km mark). The rhododendrons here now seemed to be of a different variety, and had a deeper red to them as opposed to the pinkish-magenta of the ones that we had previously come across. We continued walking on the ridge-line for a while and were accompanied by numerous eagles (Aquila sp.) that soared sublimely above us, sometimes in pairs and sometimes alone.

The trail dropped down to Deurali after a while, where we stopped for a short lunch break (macaroni and cheese, NPR500/2).

Next (Day 4) : Ghorepani to Banthanti (Part 4)
ABC Index
ABC Index

The Gorge


We left Deurali shortly after 13:00. The trail reentered the forest once again and dropped back down the hill on bamboo-lined stone steps. We crossed several bridges and waterfalls, before making a sharp descent straight down into the gorge. The descent was so steep here that the trail had to constantly switch-back down. Before we knew it, we were surrounded by high, black-streaked cliffs on both sides of us. Potential climbing lines could be seen all over the place, at least on the bare parts of the rocks that were not completely covered in long tufts of waify blades of grass. The vibrant rhododendron trees had also melted away and had been replaced by moss-covered pines (Pinus sp.).

the gorge after poon hill

After 4.5 kilometres of walking, the valley decent slowly leveled off as we arrived at a widened area of the riverbed. This section was horrendously pock-marked with cairns, or what I would call 'rock graffiti', another one of those senseless things that completely detracts from the natural landscape; and are, as one ecologist put it, “pointless reminders of human ego”. I noticed then that there was fascination amongst some of those in the group, and realised that there seemed to be a positive correlation between one's outdoor experience and one's level of distaste when seeing cairns scattered around like this.

For those who have itchy fingers and feel as if they need to add something to an existing pile of cairns, at least go through the following points first. They come directly from the 'Leave No Trace' (LNT) website:

Cairn Guidelines

1 - Do not build unauthorized cairns. When visitors create unauthorized routes or cairns they often greatly expand trampling impacts and misdirect visitors from established routes to more fragile or dangerous areas. This is especially important in the winter when trails are hidden by snow. Thus, visitor-created or “bootleg” cairns can be very misleading to hikers and should not be built.

2 - Do not tamper with cairns. Authorized cairns are designed and built for specific purposes. Tampering with or altering cairns minimizes their route marking effectiveness. Leave all cairns as they are found.

3 - Do not add stones to existing cairns. Cairns are designed to be free draining. Adding stones to cairns chinks the crevices, allowing snow to accumulate. Snow turns to ice, and the subsequent freeze-thaw cycle can reduce the cairn to a rock pile.

4 - Do not move rocks. Extracting and moving rocks make mountain soils more prone to erosion in an environment where new soil creation requires thousands of years. It also disturbs adjacent fragile alpine vegetation.

5 - Stay on trails. Protect fragile mountain vegetation by following cairns or paint blazes in order to stay on designated trails.

gorge waterfalls

A bridge crossed the river 5km in, and from there on we followed the left bank of the river instead. The water from the river was diverted into pipes, and was a good indication that villages were nearby. The rhododendron trees slowly returned once again, but they were the magenta variants this time around. Pairs of white-capped redstarts (Phoenicurus leucocephalus) flitted across boulders on the riverbed, and bobbed up and down and fanned their tails each time they stopped, a display that could possibly have been part of a mating ritual. The birds were predominantly black, but the large white patch atop their head, and their fiery-red tails made them quite striking.

Dol, the guide of the group, had been told that the lodges at Tadapani (elevation : 2630m) did not have sufficient rooms to accommodate the group, so they had instead decided to stop at Banthanti, a village that lay two hours before Tadapani. We all ended up at 'Ban Thanti Trekkers Lodge', which lay right at the end of the village on the top of the hill. It was still quite early in the day, so we amused ourselves by practicing our fire making skills whilst waiting for dinner (dhal bhat chicken curry NPR500+600/2; accommodation NPR200).

morakniv firemaking

Fiona striking a ferrocerium rod with the spine of the Morakniv Garberg

Route Playback

Suunto Movescount Stats

mc04c

mc04d

The full page of the recorded trek can be found on my Movescount Page.

For those who also have a Suunto GPS device and would like to use the move
as a route, please click on the following link for the route:

Check the route in

Expenditure

End of Day 4 Expenditure (NPR)*

Permits: 50

Transport: 0

Medical: 0

Supplies: 0

Food: 800

Accommodation: 200

TOTAL (NPR)


* Excluding the cost of the flights to and from Nepal

Total

: 8310

: 1179

: 895

: 1800

: 2810

: 1877

: 16871 

Next (Day 5) : Banthanti to Chomrong

ABC Index
Click to share thisClick to share this