18 May Updated!! Joe & Chris' Journal from Nepal
Wow, it’s been almost 3 weeks since Joe left for Nepal to meet up with his Dad, Chris and the other Bonington Treks team members heading off to trek the Annapurna region.
Joe may be in the middle of the Himalayas but don’t think that’s stopped him being in regular ‘text’ contact with us here at the Joe Bonington office providing some great updates (and not to mention some cheeky ones!) of the teams adventures – the wonders of technology!!!
Here’s a journal of what we’ve received so far, you can also follow these updates live on the Joe Bonington – Prepare for Life’s Adventures and Bonington Treks via Facebook and Twitter.
“Hard at work sitting in the Kathmandu Guest House courtyard sipping Masala Tea whilst going over our proposed route through the Annapurna.”
“Maoists have called off their agitation, Kathmandu was locked down. All good now. On bus heading for Beshi Shahar. Good to see old friends, Ram our Sirdar and his son Khudam and our cook Ratnaman. All of whom I’ve worked with since Danga II in 2000. Glad to be moving. It’s been a very tense few days.”
“First night on the trail at Bhulbule (840m). Spirits are high. Down in the Marsyangdi Nadi valley, camped next to a river.”
“Now deep in the Marsyangdi Nadi valley. In the village of Chame (2670m), cultural centre for the Ghurung people, much like Namche is for the Sherpas. Is is also deep in the Maoist heartland as one of the leaders of the Maoist party was raised here. Got our first views of Annapurna II. Today we had a very emotional/touching moment for Malcom Grant who’s Dad was on the original expedition with my Dad, Chris. Malcolm’s Dad died when Malcolm was a young man therefore they never had a chance to do these things together. So Malcom is doing this trek with his son, Andrew.”
“Have had one days rest at Lower Pisang (3249m). Walked up from Chame through beautiful pine forests, through a gorge and into more open country. Above camp is a perfect view of Annapurna II and traditional Tibetan style villages. The terrain is very different to the Khumbu (Everest) region. Tomorrow we will gain height to 4700m and come back down to help acclimatise. Before heading for Humde, camping at the Mountaineering School and then up to Annapurna II Base Camp before heading to Tilicho.”
“Sitting in a Pine Tree glade as I write this, surrounded by Dog Roses with a pale yellow flower. Today we got up at 3.30am and set off with head torches to get high on the ridge of Pisang Ridge (6091m) for our first acclimatisation walk. Snowed last night so we walked through pine forests covered in snow to above the tree line then had a hard ascent up to a line of prayer flags on the ridge. Views back over Annapurna II (7937m), III (7555m) and IV (7525m), Gangapurna (7454m), Makalu (8463m), the Grande Barriere and our destination, Tilicho Pass (5100m). We kept climbing until we reached 4000m then turned around. Very happy with how the group is acclimatising. Weather patterns are hot sun in the mornings, snow and rain in the afternoons. All low lying snow is burnt off daily.”
“It’s great to know that at 3600m and whilst travelling with three Australians, it’s great to hear a good cricket result. Me thinks the Aussies will be walking at the back or out the front to avoid the banter :-)”
“Back down from A2 basecamp 3870m. Away from anybody, we saw nobody for 3 days. An emotional time for Malcolm grant who’s father was in my dads first expedition in 1960. The team walked up the edge of a glacier whilst I took Jeremy Larkins ( our strongest team member ) up to recce Longydande. We had a fantastic adventure that turned into scrambling and scree running but came to the conclusion thy it was a bit wild for the main group. Got to a height of 4552m before descending. Now on way to manang. Slaughtered a goat this morning for dinner … Maybe shouldn’t have told clients the goats name was Kevin the kid!”
“Several days since last update, no reception so unable to send updates. As I text this I am sitting in Jomsom waiting for a flight to Pokhara, everybody is down off the mountain, safe & well. The last week has been very very exciting. After A2 Base Camp we walked to Manang, the largest town in the valley. Two of the team walked into a local gompa (monestary) and were welcomed into the funeral of a Llama and invited to partake in Yak butter salted tea. From there we had a hair raising trip through rock falls and landslides to Tilicho Base Camp. With rock falls slowing our progress … that got adrenalin going!
We rested for 1 day to acclimatise and then did our highest height gain of 900m to Tilicho High Camp, a hard walk and scramble up to Tilicho Lake. Altitude really taking effect with most people having to stop to catch breath every few meters. We had to climb a pretty exposed ridge but the view of the worlds highest Lake was amazing! We camped at High Camp at a height of 5200m, restless night at altitude. Early 3.30am start to cross the Eastern Pass. This is a moonscape and would be very hard to navigate in bad weather. The weather is very changeable so have got here a day early to allow for bad conditions. One of our porters fell during a river crossing, his OK but wet!
Lots of mounds of Morraine that all look exactly the same. Long hard days walk. The views from the pass are phenominal and we reach a height of 5477m. The weather closed in and we had to cut ice steps and use a fixed rope to negotiate certain parts. All very tired but still 2 hours to camp. We decide that the proper camp at the treeline is too far away so we make impromptu camp in a steep gorge. We all sleep very well!!
Next day we walk down to Jomsom. Everybody moving very swiftly and the mood is bubbly. The walk is stunning and we come across more examples of traditional architecture in the form of huts carved into hillsides high in the valleys. Arrive in windy Jomsom, High winds rattle down the valley from 10am to 10pm every day. Dusty and dry but after all that time in the hills a great place to finish.
We have a celebration with Sukatee (dried Yak meat), Chang (rice beer) and Rakshi (millet spirit), everybody gets very very drunk and we are all shabby in the morning. Following night we say Thankyou to our porters with tips and raffle gear we don’t want. Beer & whiskey flows a plenty and before long we are all dancing to Nepali folk songs as they sing, dance and play a Djembe drum.
It’s sad as we fly out with our last glimpses of the mountains.”
‘Back in the luxury of the Hotel Dwarika . We have stuffed ourselves with a 12 course Newari banquet and the team is splitting up and travelling it’s different ways. Dr John Mccall has left for Canada and Paulette ” Poppy” has left for Aberdeen . Today most of my guests and my father depart at various times of the day. The end of a trip is an emotionally mixed time. You miss your family and want to get back. But there is also a sense of losing something, I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it’s the mixture of the bonds formed, the task complete, the journey , the hardships of the trail and the dangers. Anyway I’ll be back in November but I’ll still miss this amazing country and it’s beautiful people…. Till then. Hope to see some of you soon upon my return to Sydney. Cheers Joe.”