Hike to a Himalayan View

Hopefully you’ve read the approach to this point. In order to get here, to the photos you are about to see, I flew to Kathmandu from Seattle, then flew to Chitwan (a detour for sure, but in my plan) then took a 6-hour bus from Chitwan to Pokhara, which is a gorgeous little tourist town in the Himalayan foothills, then took a cab (yes, really) to the beginning of the trek that is required to see this view. While not a long trek, it goes up from 3317 feet to 10,500 in just a couple days. My recount of that loveliness is here.

On the third day I woke before my alarm at 4 am, excited to get to the view. We dressed and hiked by headlamps for an hour, until we reached the top of Poon Hill. It was still dark, but I knew there were giant mountains waiting for first light. Hundreds of other people had left Ghorepani before dawn to do the same thing. It was 1100 feet to the top of Poon Hill to see sunrise. Our final elevation there was 10,500 feet, or about the same elevation as Mt Rainier’s base camp. But what we saw as dawn approached was amazing…

The sun kissed the top of Annapurna, elevation 26,545. Here’s a close up.

If you’ve read Ed Viesteurs, Reinhold Messner, or Maurice Herzog, you’re familiar with Annapurna. I’ve always wanted to see it, never wanted to climb it. It’s often hailed as the deadliest mountain among climbers. 41% of attempts lead to death – more than K2. But it sure is pretty to look at! And I did it this trip!

The sky had turned golden just before.

Dhalughiri is the 7th tallest mountain in the world at 26,795 feet. I watched the sun crawl down it’s flank. The masses of hikers and sightseers had become bored by this time and were taking jumping selfies, doing yoga with mountain backdrops, and daring each other to jump off of ledges. I stood still and watched the light inch down the huge snowy face.

Machupuchore is also called Fishtail Peak. It looks like a pyramid from Pokhara, but up here you can see it’s aptly named. The sun came up behind it though, so I caught it mostly backlit. Annapurna 2 is peeking over its shoulder on the right.

I took this opportunity to test out the panorama feature of my Fuji camera. Not bad. Dhalughiri on the left, Annapurna South on the right, Annapurna 1 (highest of the Annapurnas – 8091 meters or 26, 545 feet) is just to its left, and looks shorter because it’s set back on the range from this view point.

The immensity of these mountains cannot be overstated. You are looking at the 7th and 10th highest mountains in the world. They are both above 8000 meters (which is a marker many climbers use). Mt Rainier and Colorado’s “fourteeners” are roughly half the height of these guys. The next highest mountain range is the Andes, and its highest peak, Aconcagua is 22,841, which is 4000 feet below these here. The entire north border of Nepal runs along the spine of the Himalayas, and 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world reside here. Nothing reduces their scale, and photos do them no justice. Standing in their presence, even across such a great distance is awe inspiring.

There were probably 300 people up there with us, but they started filtering off once the scene became static.

I waited for the light to change again, and it did.

And then guess what! I ran into Kate! I ran into the two ladies from NYC as well. Everyone was up there!

Then, just as my fingers were about to freeze (it’s cold at 10,500 feet) my Sherpa guide and porter handed me a cup of tea from the thermos they had brought up. And they took photos of me before we pointed ourselves toward the lodge in Ghorepani.

We slowly moseyed off the mountain top and began the long slog all the way down to Tikhedhunga. We were scheduled to stay another night along the way, but rain was coming, and it would have made for a lot of hanging around. I wanted to see Pokhara again. So we skipped our planned lodge that evening and hiked down more than 7300 feet in that day. With spent legs and a full camera, I was back in Pokhara for dinner that night. I’m pretty sure I earned my thukpa (Sherpa noodle soup) and Sherpa beer.