ABC Day 09 - Annapurna Base Camp

Snow & Ice

I left Machapuchare Base Camp (elevation : 3700 m) just before 09:00, and began my descent back down the valley. The plan was to compress the three days I had taken to ascend from Chomrong (elevation : 2170 m) to just one day for the descent. Compressing the days it took to descend was something that I did on most of my trips at high altitude, as the risks of AMS are no longer a factor. It was quite nice to be heading downhill, even with the heavy backpack back on, and my confidence in my shoes' (reviewed here) ability to handle snow had increased significantly after that morning's little trail run.

The views of the snow-laden landscapes were absolutely spectacular. As I descended however, the snow gradually turned into ice as the terrain leveled off, and all the traction that I had earlier simply disappeared. The great run that I had had at the top had given me more confidence than I think I deserved, and the sudden appearance of ice literally took my legs right out from under me. As you would expect, my pace slowed considerably after that!

Brilliant snowscapes

The ice gradually gave way to slush, and then to mud as I reached upper Deurali (elevation : 3200 m) an hour later. The temperature had increased significantly by then and I was forced to remove some layers of clothing. I left Deurali after I had repacked my bag, and continued with the descent. Bamboo shoots began to appear soon after, and the ubiquitous brown swaths that had coloured the slopes slowly changed to green, and with that came the return of the rhododendrons and the wonderful song of birds.

Before I knew it, I had reached the hamlet of Himalaya Hotel (elevation : 2920 m). The descent from Deurali had taken just 45 minutes.

Himalayan primroses (Primula denticulata) under a layer of melting ice. The flowers
of these hardy plants generally become thicker and larger the higher the elevation

Next (Day 9) : The Descent (Part 4)
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