Day 6 – Oct 15 – Around Phoksumdo

There was some cloud cover in the night, but the day dawned bright and clear, with only some fog in the valley at the end of the lake. It was so beautiful that I ran back to the monastery to take some photos of Kanjiroba, which had been shrouded in mountain clouds the night before.

The morning’s trail began with a two-kilometer stretch cut into the rock above the lake. Marcia had been dreading this because early books all talk about it being very exposed and scary, but it really was not bad. Even so, a dead horse at the bottom of one slope was a grim reminder of what can happen if you’re not careful. Our mule men had enough respect for this stretch to carry the loads across themselves and then lead the mules across unladen.

The real work was the next stretch, which climbed 500 meters over a ridge to avoid a much longer and steeper cliff. The views from the top were spectacular, but the wind was also very strong – so strong that it blew my magnetic clip-on sunglasses off my face, never to be seen again. By the time we got down the other side to our lunch spot it was 2pm.

The afternoon was mercifully short, only a couple hours up a glacial valley behind Kanjiroba. Just before camp, however, we had to cross a rushing glacial river where a bridge had washed out. Our guide Kinna and our cook Sonam insisted on helping us across the foot-deep cold rushing water. They were so strong it was like holding on to trees. Kinna told me later about a trip in Tibet where he had needed to carry a group of German tourists one by one on his back because they refused to walk through a waist-high stream that they needed to cross repeatedly. The only mishap involved a woman who weighed 130 kg (280 pounds). On the last trip, her pants split, and her fellow travelers had a grand time taking pictures. It’s astonishing to think of this mild-mannered short man carrying 130 kg across a river.

Just across the river from our camp are three hanging glaciers, which creak and break from time to time. In the night, however, the main sound is the faint, rhythmic sound of bells attached to yaks chewing their cud while they sleep.

This camp is at 3700 meters (13,000 feet), the same elevation as Lhasa and the top of Mount Fuji. This will be the lowest point of our next two and a half weeks until our final descent to Jomsom.

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