Where We Be
This was a good moment in our lives!
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal (Days 10-12)
We made it!!! We managed to cross Thorung-La
Pass (elev. 5416 m / 17,873 ft). It was a very hard
day, with 3000 feet of elevation gain up and 5000
feet of elevation loss down. The hiking was very
slow uphill because of the high elevation. It was
made even harder because we were carrying our
own packs and battling the wind and the cold for
much of the way both up and down. We started
hiking at 5:30 am and finished at 2 pm. It’s one of
the most physically demanding things we’ve ever
done. That said, the views were amazing, and it
really did feel like the rooftop of the world.

Thorung-La Pass is actually slightly HIGHER than
Everest Base Camp. Unless we decide to climb
Mt. Kilimanjaro someday, it's probably the highest
we'll ever be, outside of an airplane.

Breathing was definitely the key challenge of the
ascent. Offsetting the hard climb were some truly
spectacular views. We had another beautiful blue-
sky day, and the Himalayas did not disappoint. We
both drew a lot of inspiration from the incredible
snow scene all around us. We found ourselves in
a pocket of relative isolation, with no other hikers
immediately behind or above us, so it felt like we
had the whole Himalayas to ourselves.

By 9:45 am we reached a set of prayer flags and
knew that Thorung-La Pass was only 15 minutes
beyond. What a relief to see the much greater
profusion of prayer flags at Thorung-La itself. We
reached the top, putting our hands up in the air in
genuine relief and happiness. People already
there clapped and congratulated us. Hooray!!!

The top of the pass was incredibly windy and cold.
The sun was shining but that was small potatoes
compared to the biting wind. As hard as it is to
believe, there is a tea shop at the pass itself. The
stone building offered a wind break, which was a
huge help as we drank our masala tea. We didn’t
linger long at the top before beginning the very
long descent, knowing each step was bringing us
lower in altitude and to warmer temperatures.
Yak Kharka means "yak pasture" in Nepali, and here indeed is where we found these big animals grazing
No heat at 14,000 feet but plenty of extra-thick blankets and solidly built walls to keep out the wind. Most bathrooms on the trek were Nepali-style as shown above.
The spectacular view from Thorung Phedi -- it's hard to tell where the mountains end and the clouds begin!
This festive mass of prayer flags marks the top
I still can't believe there's a teahouse at 17,873 feet! Can you picture coming to work each day to this freezing-cold wind tunnel of a pass, like this fellow does?!
Prayer flags whip in the wind at the top of Thorung-La Pass
Standoff with a yak!
Kali Gandaki Valley on the western side of the pass is much more desolate than the Marsyangdi Valley to the east
Now the fun begins! 5,000 feet of descent -- that's a lot of down after a hard climb up!
Perhaps it's hard to tell from the photo but there are huge volumes of snow precariously perched over these mountains
This was the view as we crossed the summit and began to descend the other side. The wind was howling and bitter.
I placed a small rock on the cairn at the top of the summit, adding another inch to its height
So it's two days prior to the summit here as we hike to the high encampment at Yak Karka (4230 m / 13,959 ft)
We saw and heard four snow avalanches that morning, all near Gangapurna Glacier
We kept up our strength with seabuckthorn juice -- not to mention drinking in those amazing views
We felt lucky to have such a perfect blue morning for hiking
We crossed this landslide area the next morning hiking from Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi
I may look a bit weary but we made great time hiking up to Thorung Phedi (4540 m / 14,982 ft)
This was our highest lodge at nearly 15,000 feet, and without heat it was a cold night indeed! We had no sleeping bags but stayed warm under four thick blankets.
Okay, here we go! Hiking before sunrise on our way to the top of Thorung-La Pass.
That first climb of the morning was a doozy -- very steep between Thorung Phedi and "High Base Camp"
At least the spectacular views compensated for all the hard work!
That's Robin making her way up the next steep climb after a much-needed teahouse stop
We were pretty much all bundled up at this point -- it was colder than it looks!
Simple scene showing the trail still ascending but at a less steep grade now (thank goodness!)
When we reached this first outpost of fluttering prayer flags, we knew we only had another 15 minutes to the top
Our first glimpse of the "summit" of Thorung-La Pass
We took shelter out of the bitter wind and drank hot masala tea at the top of the world (or as close as we'll ever get!)