Winter in Annapurna (revised) part 1

The air was cold, as cold as I had ever experienced it. I had been told it was -45c at one point, a fantastic figure outside anything I had known before, but it was so cold you couldn’t stand outside for night for any longer than it took to pee unless you had just about every item of clothing available on so I believed it.

Me and Boz were lost, the path had disappeared from view an hour ago, so we had dug into the snow, a cave just big enough for us to crawl into and warm some of the surrounding snow over a small gas burner. We needed to find heat from somewhere, and although the thin air would not permit the water to boil, steam was now rising slowly from the surface. We poured powdered orange from a sachet into our mugs and mixed it with the tepid water. It was the best thing I’d ever tasted.

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We had started climbing at 2am, leaving our lodgings, covered in avalanche snows in the dark.   The journey to the pass was to be an enormous task both physically and mentally so we had given ourselves as much time as possible.

The first couple of hours had been spent diligently kicking holes into a steep ice sheet, a process that tore at my Achilles, sending pain shooting up both my legs as I made my way slowly upwards. Step by step we rose from the last vestige of humanity, the path taking us upwards into the unknown. A glove dropped had sped away into the dark, speeding down the polished ice, we knew a similar slip ourselves would be devastating. A climb like this would not be made again in a hurry, should we survive the fall.

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Finally, the terrain had leveled out and we were faced with a footpath through the snow, partially concealed by the recent snow falls which had covered all traces of footprints so we were relying on logic and luck more than anything. It had worked for a while, Boz had been through this pass once before and had a rough idea of where we were going, but it was dark, and the snow and rocks around them looked the same everywhere we looked. Eventually it was just too much, the strain from the thin air as we neared 18,000 ft combined with the fear that we were actually lost at the top of the Himalayas, suggested we should not just push forward, so the decision had been made to dig into the snow and wait for the sunrise. There were no other options. It was January 1998 and mobiles phones had yet to take their stranglehold on humanity. There was no help to come, if we were truly lost now, it would probably be spring before anyone found our bodies.

Our drinks had long been consumed, but finally through the small air hole left in our makeshift camp, the light began to permeate so we pushed the hard packed snow aside and stepped out into the morning air.  The sun was not fully up yet, but it reached up to us from beyond the mountains, and the land around was now visible. As I looked about and the true majesty of the scene struck me. All around the mountain tops rose, coloured purple by the early morning sun, they seemed to stretch forever in every direction, icing on a cake that was the top of the world. To the north he was looking at Tibet and China, to the west India, Pakistan and eventually Afghanistan, and here we were standing in Nepal. The uniformity of the landscape defied international borders, the Himalayas pre-dating mans attempt to control, to classify, right here there was nothing but the eternal magnificence of the world.
My companion, Boz, another crazy Englishman who I had met at Manali along the trail was scanning the landscape, looking for the lost route. I had put a lot of trust in this man, and now was where it would be justified or not.

Read on………………………Click Here!

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