ACT Day 13 - Thorong La Pass

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We started hiking at 06:45, almost an hour later than we had originally planned. There had been rats in the walls of our room the night before, and they had been scratching and scampering around the entire night. My earplugs would normally render me impervious to distracting sounds like those made by the rats, but the thin wooden walls of the room seemed to nullify the efficacy of the earplugs and instead amplified each and every single sound those rats made. In hindsight however, it turned out that we had had plenty of time since we started the hike at High Camp (elevation : 4925 m) instead of Thorong Phedi (elevation : 4450 m) .

The mist had descended once again and everything was left blanketed in a complete whiteout by the time we left the lodge. This not only dropped the visibility, but also the ambient temperature. We ascended to the north end of the Thorong High Camp Hotel and approached the stupa that was located on the trail head. The trail twisted up the barren terrain in a north-westerly direction and was flanked by yellow and white posts that marked the way at various intervals. The posts were quite useful in the whiteout as their silhouettes stood out starkly against the heavy blanket of mist, and as a result made navigation much easier than in other whiteouts that I had encountered previously.

The cage-like bridge

There was a roar of a river to our right--we could hear it but could not see it. As the sun began to rise and warm up the landscape, colours were restored; over time, the mist slowly dissipated and the ghostly visage of the river began to materialise. Just shy of 5000 metres above sea level and just under a kilometre in, we arrived at a cage-like bridge that stood imposingly above the frail-looking, much older wooden bridge directly underneath it. The trail then swung right, ascended towards the ridge above, and swung left once again. Another river greeted us on the other side, and its sounds intensified just as the others' faded. Not too long after, we passed a structure that had been ruined by rockfall, and the trail continued to wind up the slopes, switch-backing ever upwards into the thickening mist.

Occelated shield bug (Cantao ocellatus)

Asiatic poppy (Meconopsis sp.)

Gentiana nubigena

Shivparvatia sp. with Saxifraga sp. in the background

Shivparvatia sp.

Mian Shen 绵参 (Eriophyton wallichii)

Saussurea sect. Eriocoryne

Whiteworm lichen (Thamnolia vermicularis)

Micranthes pseudopallida (right)

Saxifraga sect. Porphyrion

Family: Apiaceae

Roseroot 红景天 (Rhadiola prainii)

Tube Lousewort (Pedicularis siphonantha)

It was a little surreal not being able to see anything other than the path that lay right underneath our feet. It reminded me a little of scuba diving or hiking at night, where all that could be seen was what lay within the bright cone of our torches. Occasionally the mist would clear just a little, and the silhouettes of the numerous layers of hills that were stacked up along the horizon would appear, and cutting through them was the thin trail that showed us where we needed to go. The mist seemed to cling to the ground, and in the process, did not just blanket us in a layer of fine moisture, but also with a heavy layer of complete silence--which I found to be very comforting. The drizzle however was intermittent, and each and every time it stopped, I would whip off my hood. The hood completely cut-off my peripheral vision and also limited my hearing, which, somewhat counter-intuitively, did not allow me to appreciate the silence that had engulfed us.

Layers and layers of hills

Next (Day 13) : Thorong La Pass (Part 2)

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