ABC Day 09 - Annapurna Base Camp

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Annapurna Base Camp

I awoke with a start in the pitch darkness of the empty dorm room to the sound of the alarm on my Suunto Spartan Ultra. It took me a few seconds to get my bearings, which was unusual, and to recall why exactly I had set the alarm that early. The watch had told me when exactly sunrise was and I had given myself just enough time based on my pace the day before, but had not, for some reason, had the foresight to factor in more time for all the snow. In my pre-dawn grogginess, I also made the beginner mistake of not packing another pair of dry socks.

Fortunately, the trail was quite evident due to the footprints of those who had left earlier (some had left almost an hour before I did!), so following the trail turned out to not be an issue in the slightest. Everything was completely and utterly calm, and the silence was so heavy that it felt stifling. The only sounds that I could hear were the sounds of my own breath and the trudging of snow and the occasional cracking of ice as I continued onwards. For some reason, the prevailing silence reminded me of scuba diving.

Up above, the conspicuous constellation of Scorpio hugged the southern horizon, whereas the equally conspicuous Ursa Major hugged the northern horizon. Both of them floated just above the hills and seemed to be waging a battle against each other all over again, with me as the only spectator. Down below however, I felt as if I were walking on a field of delicate silver glitter as the light from the beam of my headlamp was reflected back to me by the snow.

Looking back towards Machapuchare (elevation : 6997 m). Hover the cursor over the image to turn on the lights!

I eventually caught up with the other groups, most of whom seemed to be struggling as they trudged slowly up the slopes. As I passed them one by one, I figured that it was a lack of one of three things: coffee, warmth, or oxygen. Maybe they were just distracted by the surreal alpenglow that was beginning to show, something that was quite easily seen from where I was, as Machapuchare Base Camp (elevation : 3700 m) was directly east of Annapurna South (elevation : 7219 m), and was in-line with the (soon to be) rising sun.

Alpenglow hitting the peak of Annapurna South (elevation : 7219 m). Hover the cursor over the image to turn on the lights!

The fresh footprints in the snow ended after I passed the last group. I was glad to see that there was still a track, but the less conspicuous footprints here were frozen over so they must have been made the night before. Soon after, the lights from Annapurna Base Camp (elevation : 4130 m) appeared in the distance, and seemed to be nestled right at the base of Annapurna South. Once I reached ABC, I made my way back up to the prayer flags on the rise and past all the crowds that had gathered, and arrived just in time to catch the sunrise lighting up the impressive mountain range that lay right in-front of my very eyes. I was left awestruck as I witnessed the rising sun gradually paint the mountains a warm golden-orange from the middle of the Annapurna sanctuary. Just as breathtaking as the mighty mountains was the massive glacier that churned slowly beneath them. I can't say which amazed me more. I tried to pick out Khangsar Kang, otherwise known as Roc Noir ("Black Rock"--so steep that it can't hold snow), that lay to the right of Annapurna I, but the cloud-cover foiled all my attempts.

The snow-covered South Annapurna Glacier

The peaks as seen from Annapurna Base Camp (elevation : 4130 m); Hover your cursor over the image to reveal their names.

Next (Day 9) : Back to MBC (Part 2)
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