Any day when you start walking at 4am at 4500m and finish at 3pm at 3700m is usually pretty tough. This is exacerbated (it means ‘to make things worse’) when inbetween you climb to 5416m.
Thorong La is one of the biggest passes in the world in terms of vertical ascent/descent and overall height. The early rise was totally worth it as we got our first real view of stars in the mountains – up to now every evening and night have been cloudy. Watching a crescent moon rise over the mountains was genuinely breath-taking.
The climb up was tough, but not as bad as I feared. We kept up a steady pace and kept racking up the metres. The scenery was stunning and alien, utterly barren but for rocks, dust and frost. Surprisingly, given the ridiculous height there was almost no snow at the levels we reached – only up above 6000m. The dryness in the Himalayas is very curious – it has rained almost every day at some point (we’re at the tail end of the monsoon season), but the moisture runs away as rapidly as it can.
We made steady progress and by 9am were approaching the top of the pass. Up to now the only effects of altitude sickness I’d felt were my usual bunged nose and an occasional pressure headache. The last 10-15 mins of the climb were really tough though, I started staggering and feeling dizzy. Amy was also beginning to struggle. This meant that by the time we reached the top, we were really just looking forward to losing height as soon as we could. Still, we paused for some pics – it was comfortably the highest either of us had been that wasn’t in an airplane.
Descending wasn’t anything like as fun, sadly the clouds closed in and we spent most of the trip down being condensed upon. This made some of the rocky paths quite treacherous and slippy. We were also short of food – the packed lunch options were a) Bread roll, b) Cinnamon Roll, c) hunk of cheese. This, combined with the earlier effects of altitude made us a touch grumpy, and we were very grateful to roll into our hotel for the night in Muktinath.