March 30th, 2010 – Me and my Doppelganger. Just to insure my trip across the Cho La wasn't entirely too easy Mother Nature decided to poop out a couple of inches of snow on the path. Muchas gracias, senorita! Luckily, for this portion of The Three Passes Trek I would have a compadre, a German gentleman named Richard. Two Richards are better than one…..probably. We did have the benefit of speaking with three Americans that had come across the pass the previous day (sans snowfall of course).
Not the friendliest of folks but one of them did tell me that the trail was fairly easy to follow……..at least before the snow fell. I was also told that crossing the glacier from Tagnag to Gokyo could be tricky as the trail changes due to the shifting terrain and that guides sometimes kick over a few markers here and there to ensure their livelihood. Although I did appreciate the advice it was given with that 'I am giving you this warning sort of to help you but almost hoping you get screwed' tone that one often confronts with people getting a little too much satisfaction out of giving advice.
The beginning was not so auspicious for Double Rich. As a result of the snow we deviated from the trail a couple of times. As we were in a valley that narrows on one end it was not so much of a big deal as we were forced (eventually) in the right direction. Had we read the guidebook a little more closely we would have avoided wasting valuable energy. But hey, thems the breaks, right? It was nice to have a partner in ineptitude for a change. Instead of me worrying about finding the right path and about ice and snow on the steep section of the trail I had the Other Rich to take care of it. The weather was beautiful, the scenery epic, and I was secure in the knowledge that should something go wrong we had each other. Lovely.
The Other Rich was a decent guy as well as extremely nice and personable. Unfortunately, he was about as exciting as a dry donut. I think exhaustion and dehydration may have dampened his mood considerably. Can't really blame him for that but it would have been nice to have someone as excited as I was to be gazing at the natural marvel before us.
After getting on the right track we still had the little matter of the pass to worry about. Fresh snow plus mountain pass equals hardship. It was possible that the previous day's tracks would be covered and we'd be wandering around the pass like scared toddlers in a house of mirrors. But again, worse case scenario: We turn around and go back to Dzonglha. Yippy-skippy.
But as luck would have it I saw a lone porter sitting on the rocks above (and just below the pass) resting in the morning sun. A porter signifies trekkers. Trekkers from the other direction mean there would be a trail to follow. That made me happier than a pig in shit, so to speak. He spoke almost no English so I got nothing as I passed him but not long after reaching the start of what was to be the pass I encountered two more Germans and their guide. Halleluiah! It was a couple whose combined ages may have topped 150. Impressive. Very impressive. If I am trekking the Cho La into my golden years I will consider myself fortunate indeed. I think the Other Rich was a tad disheartened by the encounter as he was a bit wiped and those two were skipping along like lovers in the park.
As with the Kongma La the initial descent was less than ideal. Scree, small boulders, and ice were conspiring against us but with slow determination we got through the worst of it. Once we found ourselves on more even ground we took an extended rest, falsely assuming we were close to the village (as in a group of guesthouses built specifically for those crossing the pass). Unfortunately, we still had another hour and a half or so before we reached it. Although exasperating I fared much better than my clone. He lagged a bit behind and looked as if he might pass out when we reached the lodge. I was a bit shattered myself but it was nothing a mini-banquet and there cups of coffee could not cure.
Although it was tempting to call it a day and hunker down in Tagnag it was still relatively early so I decided to continue on to Gokyo. I figured it was just a hop, skip, and a jump across a glacier (the Ngozumpa Glacier to be exact). After speaking with a few guides I discovered that the trail across the moraine was well traveled and well marked so I would have no problem finding my way. And, surprisingly, the Other Rich decided to give it a shot also. His motivation took a serious nosedive when he saw the glacier and the hilly, rock strewn terrain awaiting us. Too much for one day. He decided to turn around and head back to Tagnag. I was undeterred and decided to press on. It turned out to be a wise move as there was considerable snowfall that evening.
I found myself crossing a glacial moraine under a misty sky, diminished light, and gentle snowfall. There was nobody around. All groups had already made their crossings for the day. I found the walk to be most splendiferous. It really did feel like I was trekking across the surface of the moon or some sort of ancient crash site or the site of a nuclear holocaust. Only me. Just me and the relentless hum of eternity in the background. Ahhhhhhhh……
At times like these my head is filled with all kinds of nonsense, funny nonsense (or so I like to believe). As I trotted along I came up with Ploomer's Guide to the Himalayas. Now you have to imagine a tall lanky long-faced American sitting across the table from you speaking in an exaggerated 'American' voice (Americans are a bit nasal when it comes to speech so you have to envision a man speaking almost directly through his nose) wearing a countenance as serious as a heart attack. Yeah, that serious. It would go a little something like this:
"So you want to go to the Himalayas? Excellent. I have two words for ya: Gore and Tex. Absolutely essential. The only thing more important than Gore-tex is water, but only slightly so. And the Gore-tex should be windproof, waterproof, bulletproof, asteroid proof, etc. Can't have too much. Ever.
I have another word for ya: down. Again, can't have enough. And it better damn well be goose down. Goose? Geese? Gooses? Whatever. Get some. In your jacket. In your sleeping bag, In your ass. Pack it in there. Hard. 2000 fill or more. Don't f**k around! It's the Himalayas for the love of God!!
After years of painstaking research I've discovered the perfect Down to Gore-tex ratio: 1 to 1.5. Memorize it. It is your code. Eat it. Breath it. Be it. Some folks like to go 1:1. Yeah, you could do that. You could also paint yourself blue and tell everyone you're the last surviving smurf. Don't f**k around. Go with 1 to 1.5.
Now look, it is very important that you spend as much money as possible. Everything has to be new. Brand spanking new. If you spend less than $500 on a Gore-tex jacket than you just don't belong anywhere near the mountains. It's not amateur hour up there. This is real. For keeps. What about your boots? New. Don't even think about removing the tag until you get to Lukla. And make sure upon returning home you stuff all of your shit deep inside your closet never to be seen or used again. Very important.
You're gonna need to get yourself some trekking poles. And nothing short of titanium will do. Trust me. I've seen some shit. Bad shit. Be prepared. Your poles should pass the 400lb fat woman test. That is you should be able to balance two 400 lb women on each end the pole with not so much as a kink. Not a kink! Don't be one of these a-holes that somehow think they can get by with just two poles. Bring three. Trust me. It is the safe way to go. You get in a bind you can always fashion a titanium triangle. Can't tell you how many times that triangle saved my ass in a pinch. Don't f**k around! Three poles. Trifecta. Do it.
Now assuming you have followed my instructions perfectly (correct Gore-tex to down ratio, new equipment, titanium poles, etc.) then you should have absolutely no problem. None. Altitude sickness? No prob. Go as high as you want as fast as you want. Acclimatization is for your grandmother. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is just some bullshit phenomenon cooked up by a crafty Diamox salesman to augment drug sales. It is all crap. All of it. Crap. Don't be fooled. Altitude-smaltitude! Anything under 7000 meters is a joke. Haaa!
Now if for some reason you fail to follow my advice (don't be that guy!) don't despair. You simply need to get yourself a Sherpa. Sherpas can do anything. I am not going to say I believe in magic but I've seen some serious shit. Real serious. If you get into trouble simply touch your Sherpa. Bada-boom bada-bing your golden. Shortness of breath? Headache? Fatigue? Hold your Sherpa's hand. Don't f@#$ around! Touch your Sherpa.
It is also imperative that you get yourself a porter so that you can bring everything with you. Everything. TV, bowling ball, your favorite rock, books (you'll need something to read while the rest of the pussies in your group are 'acclimatizing'), bow staff, numchucks, globe, solar panels, short wave radio, etc. If you think you might use it, then bring it. Your porter doesn't mind. They love it. They love carrying enormous loads. I've seen them skipping around with glee after carrying 60 kilos for 8 hours. 60 kilos? That's for toddlers. If your porter is carrying anything less than 200 kilos they don't deserve to be called a Sherpa. Don't even tip them. They won't mind.
So there it is. Any questions?
I arrived in Gokyo a little after 4 pm, tired and hungry. I was more than happy to get to a lodge, throw down a meal(s) and hit the sack for my standard 10 hour nap. A good day. A very good day. Two passes down. One to go.
"Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever."
— Walt Disney Company
i have no words. i am without speech. (george costanza)ReplyDelete