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Annapurna Trek, Day Six: Thin Captain Crackers

Day six, it was the day we would reach our main destination, Annapurna Base Camp at 4130m. But to get there we would have to climb over 1200m through bear-infested forests, life-threatening avalanche routes and cloud so think you couldn’t see the glasses on your nose.

Ok, so I exxagerate a little, but we did climb over 1200m and it was bloody hard work.

We left the Himalaya Hotel, our previous night’s accommodation, at 7am and continued up the valley through the forest. Babu ointed out the tracks of a black bear. It had left a trail of chomped-off stalks; having eaten the leaves off an abundant vegetable growing along the trail.

“These are fresh, perhaps from last ight or this morning.” Babu informed us.


As the trail continued to climb, over bulders, rocks and tree roots strewn across its path, we left the forest behind us. The lanscape became more barren. The mountain leading up to the ridge to our left became ever more vertical. And the mighty Mhodi Khola that crashed through the valley below us finally came into clear view, having previously just teased us with the odd glimpse through the forest, and haunted us with its wave of noise.

Waterfalls rushed silently down the cliff above us, turning into bubbling streams that fed into the Mhodi. We jumped from rock to rock to cross them. As we continued to climb, we crossed mini glaciers: packed ice that covered the streams below.

Babu stopped: “Five yeras ago, an Australian family, and an Israeli trekker died at this spot in an avalanche. They were trekking in the winter and their guide took the wrong path. People searched for ten days through the snow but their bodies weren’t found until the snow melted in the summer.”


But we were in good spirits, the four of us laughing and joking as we went.

Almost four hours in, we reached the base camp of Machhapuchhre, the 7000m tall mountian we’d seen the sun rise over each of the previous few mornings. It is more commonly known as the Fishtail mountain, due to its gorgeous double-peaked top (keep an eye on my flickr account over the next week to see what I mean).

It was about now that the clouds, which had treatened us all day, chasing us up the valley, finally caught up and engulfed us. After a short break for an early lunch, we started the final one-and-a-half hour ascent, but the clouds meant the spectacular views were hidden away.

The trail disappeared below more acks of snow and ice, and we carefully and ever so slowly put one foot in front of the other (as you do when you walk), with eyes down. It was pointless to look up anyway. The clouds had visibility down to around twenty-five metres: white clouds melting into white snow and ice. It was difficult to discern where the ground stopped and the sky began.

Then, as the cloud lifted a little, Annapurna Base Camp came into view; a collection of three or four stone buildings resting at the end of the valley, surrounded by a collection of seven and eight thousand metre high mountains. We saw them a few hours after arriving, as the sky cleared just enough to tease us with glimpses of snow-capped peaks.

I couldn’t brave another cold shower, and splashed out a few dollars for a bucket of hot water. A few games of chess followed, one person contemplating a move whilst the other stared at the muntains in wonderment. Peaceful does not even come close.

That was, until my headache kicked in. Acute Mountain Sickness, or altitude sickness, can affect people from about 3500 metres up, so at 4130m, I was in some slight trouble I’d ben fine when we arrived a little after 1pm, but by 6pm my head throbbed and was in for an early night, hopeful that tomorrow would bring not only a clearer head, but clearer skies.

Song of the day: Augie March – Thin Captain Crackers.

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