Fly to: Kathmandu, Nepal
Internal Transfer: 2 flights to Nepalgunj 1hr & Simikot 50mins
Visa required: Yes if British plus a remote access trek permit
Time Zone:+5hrs45mins GMT
Day 8, 17/06/10: Humla & Limi Valley
Last night the tent stood up well to the torrential rain and ferocious winds; kind of reminded me of a night spent wild camping in the Lake District. Now I have unwavering faith in the Hilleberg but I wasn't too convinced the Ozark would stand up to the challenge. Miraculously though it performed exceptionally well.
Up at 5am and although we had received rain it was quite clear that the higher ground had received significant snowfall. We set off in poor visibility to make the 5,000m pass; right now I feel like I'm living the script of the 'never ending story', each day a new challenge, a new initiation which leads onto the next. The first initiation, well that would be trying to walk, drink and breathe in harmony - tough stuff!
Chhewang had woken up with a pain in his calf so he rode the horse up the initial ascent, soon enough though I took over the reigns. OMG this scared the living heebie-jeebies out of me! If there's one thing scarier than riding a horse as it climbs up over steep boulders, it's a horse bumbling down steep boulders and worse still...doing this on a weary, altitude affected horse! Blimey, with so many rugs on the saddle, when the horse went up I was clinging on for dear life to prevent falling off the back & when the horse went down I was sliding over its head. Neither option particularly enjoyable.
After a rather humourous, long hard slog we made the pass and it wasn't long before we were making our descent into the next valley. The descent proved just as difficult - vertigo sufferers need not apply! In an ideal world I would have wanted crampons and an axe in case of arrest, at times the route seemed treacherous and quite exposed.
When we made it down to our camp spot one of our muleteers was looking very unwell, the colour seemed to drain from his face as he lay curled up on the ground clutching his head. Chhewang and myself had a discussion & it was quite clear he was suffering from the effects of altitude. Initially we tried him on a 400mg Ibuprofen but after close monitoring and no improvement it was decided that I would give him one of the Diamox tablets I was carrying (plus we had already reduced the altitude from 5,000m to approx 4,400m). It didn't take long before we could see a marked improvement in his condition and of course this marked improvement gave everyone else free reign to make fun of the poor lad. Jokes along the lines of 'perhaps you should've converted to Buddhism when you moved from the lowlands!' Ha the atmosphere soon perked up and watching the Nepalese banter unfold was quite amusing.
As we pitched out tents a nomad wandered up the valley, picking herbs & nettles. We offered him a bowl of hot chocolate which he gratefully accepted, his toothless grin will probably stay with me for a lifetime, such a sweet moment. Now normally during the night the horse and mules wander free but tonight, due to wild animal attack the decision has been taken to restrain them close to camp.