Most trekkers make it to Manang in a week, give or take a day or two. It is a welcome place, as I mentioned before. The above ice lake is only about 20 minutes walk away. The Mountains below are directly above the lake. Manang isn’t the highlight of the trek, but it’s probably the best mixture of civilization and great views.
Climbing ever higher, the pine forests and babbling streams are left behind and you enter an alien landscape. The high plateau is another world entirely, a vast stretching foreign realm. Or, as Kurt Cobain put it, “Many a hand has scaled the grand old face of the plateau. Some belonged to strangers, some to folks you know.”
From Manang, some where not able to go further: the height was too great. There is no real data about when AMS will strike, or whom, but it seems very consistently to go after skinny people. Marathon runners, for example, are famously prone to Altitude Sickness. Something to think about–maybe train for this trek by munching chocolate bars and drinking extra beer.
The views were great, but just as good is that at this point your body has become a walking machine. Your muscles have shifted and are now made of steel. (It’s true! Though sadly this is a temporary affect). That pack, which felt heavy the first couple days, now clings to you like a baby koala. It was cool this high in the mountains, but in the sunlight hiking in a tshirt was still fine.
Everyone was excited to cross Thorung La. A pair of consecutive afternoon thundersnow storms added to the degree of difficulty a bit, but when the day came it was bright and sunny. Two brutal hours later, after several false summits, there it was; and it was awesome. People were hugging, singing, dancing (well, I was dancing), and one german kept yelling “Day-oh.” The views from Thorung La aren’t bad, but they are by no means the highlight of the trip. It is also a bit windy up there. I celebrated with a wee bottle of Everest whisky I had bought in Kathmandu. Then it was time to hike down another 2000 meters.
The landscape had changed; it was equally pretty but remotely so. A more distanced beauty; Angelina Jolie instead of Julia Roberts. Many people stop hiking after this day, choosing to jeep or fly back to Pokhara. But in the next blog you’ll see why this is a grave mistake.