Two words can sum this day up – ‘no joke’.
There are other two word phrases that fit also, perfectly adequately, but after the full day. I’d say crossing Thalong la Phedi to Muktinath is no joke.
10 hours of high altitude snow, sun, wet and cold.
The effects of UV were definitely under emphasised by every traveller, hiker, guide or source I’d come across.
You’ve got 360° reflective or direct sunlight coverage at 5,000m above sea level. At that level the UV is more than you’re going to experience anywhere on the planet.
Not something mentioned with any emphasis in Lonely Planet, my faithful guidebook. Just weak ramblings about how poorly you may be if you get AMS, how to check if you’ve got AMS. How to stop and sleep just in case may get AMS. AMS is not the only danger up there you know.
It took me 6 hours just to reach the pass.
I thank the gods for the weather, without it things would have been a lot more serious.
Ascending to the pass
All up hill.
2-4ft Snow coverage 80% of the way.
Path was clear enough to follow. There’d been enough travellers earlier on in the day. That wasn’t a problem.
Every 3 steps forward you’d take, the 4th would put your foot through the surface 3ft up to your knee in new snow. Pulling your leg out, re-balancing yourself, and carrying on.
It really was like that.
I was managing 1/2 mile in an hour on the ascent.
We’re talking 6 hours of solid up hill. At no point was this fun. You only had to take a look at the road ahead, and any sense of fun that you had dissipated.
At least when you got to the pass, you knew it was all down hill.
Thalong La Pass – 5,415 metres above sea level
That’s higher than Everest Base Camp. It’s a high place.
There was a tea shop here with a red-eyed attendant. It was nice to stop and have a tea, even though it was 4x normal price, get a warm and sit down. Had a little chat with the attendant who had very red eyes. I now know why that was.
By the time you reach this sign, it’s all down hill. You can discount the effects of altitude. You’re not going to be exerting yourself. Just gently flowing down-hill as fast as you can.
There are many more huts and shelters on the way down. Maybe because when climbers do get caught out, it’s after the peak that they find themselves in trouble.
Certainly, if you do get in trouble on the way up, you’re up shit creak. If you drag yourself up to the peak, you could hole up in one of these stinking huts and you would survive the night and long enough to alert some other travellers and get some help.
The main things that can go wrong is:-
As I say, I can only thank the Gods for the weather, which was cloudy and overcast.
The descent to Mukthinath
I can only recall the relief at seeing land ahead not covered in snow.
Snow. I really hate the stuff.
I know it’s all cute and that in the UK. Make your little snowman, throw some snowballs etc.
Out here, it’s going to be the death of you. Literally.
By the time I was past Thalong La, the cloud had moved in and I was in cloud cover. Made it cold. Pretty ideal. No more glare.
Getting legs in the snow, much less of a problem. Inertia is all downhill. All problems were lifted by the sight of a downhill slope, some land without snow and the route to it clearly marked by poles into the distance.
Although at points, I had difficulty making out the locations of the poles through the thick cloud cover.
Eventually I made it down to Muktinath in about 4 hours.
What the guy in the tea-shop said.
By the time I reached Muktinath, I didn’t feel too bad.
Tired, a little of a headache. I could feel that my skin had burned. My body seemed fine.
It was only when I’d finished my chicken enchiladas at about 7pm, two hours after arriving at the hotel and closed my eyes as I was relaxing in the dining hall, I noticed my eyes were blurring up.
My body seemed fine until then.
By the time I’d got to bed, I realised they’d taken a serious burning. A bit like my skin. Even though it was cloud cover most of the way, it was enough to cause some serious burning.
Took 2 neurofen and went to bed.
Here’s some photos from the day.