Mountain Monday – The Thorong La Pass

The sound of my alarm wakes us (Emily, my wife, and I). It is still dark outside and there is ice on the inside of our small room. Today is the day we go over the Thorong La Pass.  At 5,416m this is no walk in the park but it is what the previous 10 days has been leading up to and we were raring to go.
Before the end of the day there would be tears, tantrums and triumph, but how did we get to this point?

​Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Everest Base Camp is without doubt the most famous hike in Nepal, if not the entire world.  But how many people know about the other world class hikes on offer within Nepal?

Regions such as Annapurna have a variety of hikes on offer, from a 3 week adventure completing the entire Annapurna Circuit, 1 week summits to Annapurna Base Camp and 5 day expeditions to Poon Hill. Add to that the Mustang and Langtang regions and the choices are almost endless.

For those willing to explore further than the Everest region, you will find equally stunning scenery and friendly locals but potentially share it with fewer hikers.

We opted for the Annapurna Circuit, drawn by the Thorong La Pass, and the chance to go to an even higher altitude than that of Everest Base Camp.

 

​The Annapurna Circuit

​With our decision made we took a local bus from Kathmandu to Besisahar, the start of the circuit. After an 8 hour bone jarring trip, we were keen to avoid any further transport and decided to hike the entire length. It is possible to get a jeep to bypass any sections of the trail you do not want to walk, which is great for those short on time.

One of biggest benefits of hiking in Nepal is that the established routes go from village to village and each night you stay with a local family at a tea house. This has three huge advantages:

1.Travel lighter – no need for a tent, roll mat and far fewer provisions because you can purchase all meals on the trail from the various tea houses.
2.Insight into local culture – how many hikes have you been on where you have received a religious blessing to protect you on the mountains? This was my first time as well but it wouldn’t have happened if I was staying in a tent.
3.Invest in the local economy – your tourist dollars are going straight into the hands of local families.

The climb

By the day of the pass we had done everything right, undertaking several acclimatisation hikes, eating well and sticking to an itinerary which gained just 300m a day once we got past 2,800m above sea level. It was now in the hands of the mountain gods as to how well we would deal with crossing the Thorong La Pass. With our breath fogging the air in-front of us and our head torches on, we set off.  Our spirits where high.

This lasted a mere 10 minutes.

With only a few hundred metres hiked and less than 50m of elevation gained out of the 1,000m required, the enormity of the task hit Emily. The promised tears and tantrums commenced. Sitting on our packs, breathless, we took a minute and watched the sun rise. The beauty of our surroundings restored our faith, drive and ambition.

I half heartedly offered Emily the chance to turn around and hike 10 days out.  She contemplated it longer than I thought she would, but I know what her answer will be. We were going over the top.

Each step was an effort, but after 2 hours our determination was rewarded and we made it to the top and our long awaited triumph. You could almost feel the emotion in the thin, thin air. Every hiker who has made it is involved in a high five, hug or selfie. Shedding our packs along with any thoughts of tired legs or altitude sickness we throw ourselves into the celebration. This is without doubt the hardest 2 hours of hiking we have ever done but also the most rewarding.

Summary

Conquering challenges is one of the reasons we all love the outdoors, pitting ourselves against nature is what it is all about. The mountainous region of Nepal makes the perfect arena, but it must be respected.

Ensure you have a clear understanding of AMS, appropriate travel insurance (covers evacuation for illness and natural disasters when hiking up to 6,000m) and most importantly, be prepared to turn around. People die most seasons on the Thorong La Pass, if it doesn’t feel right then do not go ahead.

Click here for more information on hiking the Annapurna Circuit.

Have you conquered the Thorong La Pass, how did you find it?


This week’s guest post is by Terry Hammond from Drive and Hike about their experiences hiking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal.

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0 thoughts on “Mountain Monday – The Thorong La Pass”

  1. Thank you for having us Kate, it really is an awesome series. If anyone has any questions, opinions please fire away I will be hanging around in the comments section 🙂

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