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Friday, July 6, 2007

Muktinath: Failure to Summit II

Tom here... Jane's last post, so beautifully written, documents her experience on the Thorung La pass, which both of us failed to reach. Here's my version:

I was the first to turn back, maybe at about 16,500 feet, still about 2,000 feet higher than I'd ever been before. I was feeling good, taking about 30 steps and then resting, slowly making my way up the mountain, when my stomach decided that I'd gone far enough. I won't go into details, but let's just say my status went from FWC (farting with confidence, sorry mom) to NFWC, and I knew that going any higher only meant a harder trip back down. I was disappointed, but it turned out to be a good thing that i turned back down the mountain just as it started to rain.

The walk back down was much faster than the way up, but I was tiring so I stopped at an old ruin of a building on a ridge. I decided that it would be a good place to hang the prayer flags I'd been carrying in hopes of leaving them at the top of the pass, and decided to sit on a stone bench and say a little prayer for the safety of my family. I bowed my head for a few minutes and then heard a bell signaling the approach of someone or something behind me. I looked up to see a kind yak herder and his two pack horses. He said, "No English" and I said, "No Nepali or Tibetan" and we looked at each other for a moment. I could tell that he was a little concerned about a westerner being alone on this ridge as the fog closed in on the trail. I stayed for a few minutes more before opening my pack and tying the flags between the ruin and a pile of rocks nearby.

When I started down the hill again I noticed that the herder waited behind me and made sure that I was between him and two guys who were with him, guiding the yaks down the mountain. I felt extra safe on the slippery switchbacks knowing that they were there. When I cleared the trickiest part, they aimed themselves and the herd straight down the ridge, bypassing the switchbacks, and left me by myself on the mountain in a gentle rain, picking my way down the trail. I was being watched by an orange billed crow, and could hear marmots and other critters skittering and chattering on the trail.

About 3:30 I made it back to the Mona Lisa Hotel and took a shower and ordered a hot tea. Around 4:00 a shivering Jane arrived, hypothermic. I was glad i was there to take care of her, and turned on the shower for her and got her some of Sherrie's clothes, as Reba had Jane's room key. When Jane came down to the dining room she was still shivering and not quite as coherent as usual, but after two hot bowls of garlic tomato noodle soup and a small pot of masala chai she crawled into Sherrie's sleeping bag to warm up. By the time Jason arrived from the summit at 4:40 Jane was making sense again.

Jenna was next in the door, then Diane, who had reached the top just behind Jason, and finally Reba and Sherrie. The climb took a lot out of everyone... almost 5,000 vertical feet in one day. Last night at the guest house I read in a book about Mt. Everest that most alpine expeditions only ascend about 1,000 vertical feet a day in order to acclimatize, so even almost making it to the top is quite an accomplishment. Next time I want to come from the other side of the mountain, from Manang, where the climb is less steep.
Love to all,
Tom

6 comments:

Garland said...

Tom, it's always diasppointing not to get to do something on a trip such as this. I presume there were no "backfires" as you coasted down the steep grade, you didn't say. But considering what happened to Jane, was it "Providential" that you preceded her and was able to help her recover, something perhaps far more important than your reaching the summit?

Anyhow, we thank you for the assistance you rendered her and are glad everyone made it back to recover from whatever ordeal it was to themselves. I was a bit surprised Jason was not far behind Jane and the others not far behind him.

Here again, an experience unique to each of you perhaps impossible to fully explain to anyone else, yet yours forever. But we'll appreciate whatever attempt you make to share it with us.

Thanks, With Love Always

beth macy said...

tom, that's a great picture of Ambien. He's yawning in the picture due to the Ambien you stole from ME to give to HIM!

we can't wait to see you on Thursday and hear all the stories firsthand...
xoxoxo beth

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