I didn’t sleep all night as my mind was racing through many things, so I was up before our 3.20 am alarm.
Looking outside, I could see that it had not snowed overnight and the sky was clear. There was a lot of action going on at the hotel down below, so we presumed the day would go ahead as planned. We put on all our layers and opened our chocolate bars, knowing we would not be able to do this with double gloves on.
With our microspikes on over our boots, we somberly ate breakfast. Kay looked very frightened, and I tried to put on a brave face although my stomach was churning. Nerves and too much dal bhart meant I had already had three trips to the outside squat and knew there was no way I would be able to manage undressing with all the gear and gloves, let alone have the energy with the lack of oxygen. So I took 2 Diastops to bung me up. (It worked)
We left at about 4.30 am. with our head torches on, following a trail of trekkers slowly up the switch back track. I am not sure how the first party worked out where to go, but I didn’t see any sign of bodies having slid off the track. All good, keep going, Karen.
I was really puffing, and each step took a lot of energy. I wondered how I could keep it up for another 6 -8 hours. Looking down behind us, there was a steady line of torch lights crawling up the track. I am not the only mad one!
Kay (69) and I (64) are by far the eldest of the trekkers. We are always getting asked how old we are, and they all say we are such an inspiration to them. They come to us for advice on what to wear, eat, and for some motherly comfort and encouragement.
We took 1.5 hours of steep climbing to get to High Camp. The last 100 metres was hell. 8 steps then stop and try and get my breath, then another 8 steps.
We went into the cave like shelter for hot tea, and Kay used the toilet, arriving back with severe pain in her hands, having taken off her gloves. She was terrified, but Basu warmed her hands on her tea cup, and she eventually relaxed.
A young guy came in wearing a pair of Chucks boots and in awful pain. He was worried he would lose his feet to frost bite. What was he thinking? It was -15°! He asked me if I thought he could run over the pass to Mukintath in the 2 hours that he thought he had left before frost bite set in. Again, what was he thinking? I said definitely not, so off he went back down. With all the internet information around, there should be no reason to come up here so unprepared.
Ram, our Porter, was not wearing gloves when we started out. His reason was that he needed to have full use of his hands so he could help us: grab us if we fell and help with our gear. He was mountain born, and his hands seemed to function well in the freezing temperatures.
Ram was my personal dresser for the day. I felt like I was a model. Hat on, hat off, jacket zip down, not that far, jacket zip up, gloves tighter, gloves looser, sleeves over gloves, pack straps undone, pack straps done up, water bottle out and lid opened, glasses taken off and cleaned and put back on, chocolate out, unzip front bag to get camera out, take photo (no turn it around!) Poor Ram, he was my hands for the day and I was very pleased to be paying him about $20 for the day. I really didn’t care that he had bare hands at this stage.
After the High Camp, the track wasn’t so steep, but it was relentless. The increase in altitude that day was nearly 1,000 metres, up to 5,416 metres.
There were dozens of false summits. Just keep going to that flat bit, Karen. But when I get there, it is not flat at all. The track just winds up again and again.
We were both pleased to have our microspikes as these meant we did not slip at all.
We were being overtaken by groups, but they all looked as bad as us and gave us Grannies lots of encouragement. Everyone was in awe of us old ladies.
Horses can be hired at a number of places on the climb, and I was seriously contemplating getting on one except the last horse had been taken by a young Israeli girl. I had had a few conversations with her over the previous days, encouraging her to keep going as she was finding it hard going. She gave me a big wave and smile as she went past me. So the only thing I could do was keep on plodding.
Never the less I am very happy to say I made it under my own very slow steam to the top.
About 50 metres from the Summitt, I came across a young woman, kneeling in the snow, in tears. Glad for the excuse to stop, I knelt down and gave her a big cuddle and some words of encouragement. I was crying with her.
Really, I was doing it for me because that was just what I needed. I was damn near spent. Eventually, we both got to our feet and made it to the top.
We spent about half an hour there before being ushered on by Basu. The weather changes at about 2 pm, so he wanted us down off the mountain by then.
So down we went. Firstly through snow, then ice, then slush and gravel. The microspikes saved the day as I saw Basu slip many times without them. Kay was much more confident than the previous day and required Ram’s assistance rarely.
Even though we were going down, we were still at high altitude, and our lungs were struggling to give us enough oxygen. Our oxygen saturation on the summit would have been about 70%. If I was at home, I would have been in intensive care unit.
At about 2pm and 8 hours after we began, we were sitting in a little tea house ordering our lunch, with it snowing lightly outside. We really didn’t have much of an appetite, but we knew we needed to eat as we still had another hour and a half to go. Soup seemed the best idea.
We carried on to Mukintath where Basu had booked us another lovely room with inside bathroom but 2 floors up. Gosh, we moaned about those 2 flights of stairs!!!
Basu says, “Shower and get into bed, and I will bring you your dinner.” That is all we had the energy to do. We were being looked after so well.
Even though it was a hard day, it was also beautiful and a real achievement. Not many people are able to walk over a remote mountain pass like we did. I am sure that in a few days time the memory of the hardship will be gone and I will be see it as an awesome day.
I am grateful that my sense of adventure is still alive and that I am too.