Sunday, April 29, 2007

Annapurna Sanctuary

I would like to thank my good friend and brother, Dilli, for accompanying me on the Circuit and Sanctuary treks. I cannot imagine how my adventure would have been without you, Dilli. You are simply an amazing person, and I can't wait to see you again soon!

I would also like to thank all of my friends that I made along the Sanctuary trail. Our group was one of the finest that I have ever had the privilege to travel with. I will never forget our wonderful moments together along the way, and I sincerely hope that we will have the opportunity to travel together again soon. (Even if it's just a person or two.)

(I need to especially thank Alexis for lugging my three-month old broken boots and like-new sleeping bag home for me! You are 'da bomb, girl! I will never forget you for you efforts, and I can't wait to hang out with you in Chi-town this summer!)

After a tremendous adventure on the Annapurna Circuit with Ryan, Craig and Jules, I decided to extend my trekking a few days further and set off for Ghorepani with Dilli a day after relaxing in Tatopani and its hot spring.

The trek to Ghorepani was one of the most difficult I could have imagined. Ascending 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) during the course of more than six hours. I could only imagine how difficult the ascend to the Thorong La would have been from Muktinath, especially given the altitude.

An exhausted Dilli and I arrived in Ghorepani around two o'clock and took in some food. We rested the remainder of the day, as we knew that another 300 meter climb awaited us early the next morning.

The steep climb to Poon Hill in the early morning hours the next day was not a difficult one, but with our legs be still tired from the day before, the 300 meter climb seemed more like 500 meters.

At last, we arrived on the scene, along with the hundreds of other tourists. The sky was absolutely clear as the sun rose to greet the magnificent mountains. Dilli and I climbed the tower to get a better view of the action.

Looking around, I could see many people that I had met along the way during our Circuit trek. I went down to greet a few when suddenly I ran into Nick, my good friend from Mukinath, who I, incidentally, had a difficult time placing where we had met, due to my intoxication and exhaustion after ascending, then descending the Thorong La to Muktinath.

Nick was planning to trek the Sanctuary trail as well, so I decided to join his entourage (he had a porter and a guide) and set off around 9am for Tadapani. (We tried to convince our friend Caroline to join us, but the trek from Tatopani to Ghorepani ended her attempt early.)

I had planned on taking over my bag again in Ghorepani, but I couldn't leave Dilli behind. He and I had had a absolutely fantastic time together on the Circuit and had become brothers. The journey to ABC had begun.

During the next few days, Nick and I would meet Alexis (from Chicago) and her guide Raj, a group of Israelis who had met in Pokhara and began traveling together, as well as J.P. and his wife, Natalie, from Quebec, Canada. Apart from Alexis, who Nick and I met on our first night on the trek in Tadapani, we met the others in Sinawa on day two and quickly became good friends, meeting up every night of our journey to spend quality time together. (We later met Tomer and Yuval, also from Israel, who, like the others, quickly became good friends of ours.)

Our journey from Sinawa took us from the subtropical regions of the valley and into some of the most scenic places in the world.

Words cannot possibly describe the feeling of being at Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC) with your friends and knowing the amazing views that await you when you wake... Only to be completely blown away by the scenery, even after you have spent the entire night envisioning the most beautiful place on earth you could imagine.

Being in the middle of Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), completely surrounded by the 6000, 7000, and 8000 meter peaks is simply indescribable. I can only say that I would wish everyone I know (and don't know) to be able to visit such a place. The view at sunrise is simply a breath- taking and humbling experience. Man can only help to feel irrelevant in such a place, knowing full well that nature is the supreme being.

I hope that you enjoy the photos below. I hope to include a more detailed description of my fantastic experience while on the Sanctuary trek in the near future.

Looking across the Kali Gandaki toward Tatopani and its famous hot spring.

Climbing up to Ghorepani from Tatopani...

The journey, a 1,600 meter (5,250 feet) ascend, makes for a very long day... and is quite possibly more exhausting than the Thorung La day.

Dilli and I started around 7am from Tatopani and reached Ghorepani more than six hours later, having not stopped for lunch along the way. I would challenge anyone to count the number of stairs on the trail. I think Dilli and I saw stairs in our dreams for the next few nights.

To his credit, the only complaining that heard from Dilli was a minor "Oh, my God!" as he reached a false summit to Ghorepani, only to find more stairs. He wasn't the only one remarking the same. Talk about a tough day!

A huge water buffalo gives us reason to stop on the way to Ghorepani.

Women reaping the wheat fields.

Sunrise at Poon Hill, a fantastic viewpoint for some of the world's tallest peaks, and a 300 meter (1,000 feet) and forty-five minute climb above Ghorepani.

Here Dhaulagari, the 7th highest peak in the world at 8,167 meters (26,795 feet) is pictured.

(A panoramic sequence follows.)

Needless to say, both Dilli and I were still sore from the trek the day before from Tatopani, but the sunrise on the mountains made the trip worthwhile!

(L-R): Annapurna I, the world's 10th highest peak at 8,091 meters (26,545 feet) and Annapurna South, 7,219 meters (23,684 feet).

(Annapurna South is closer to Poon Hill and, thus, it looks higher than Annapurna I.)

The suns rises over the sacred Machapuchare "The Fish Tail," and its 6,993 meters (22,943 feet) peak.

Machapuchare (far left).

The scene from the tower at Poon Hill lookig toward Dhaulagari.

Dilli and I in the tower for sunrise.

Scoping out the scene below.

The scene back on the ground.

(Dhaulagari in the background.)

Nick, Caroline, and I comin' at 'cha from 'da hill... "Waaahhh, look all ya'll this is sabotage..."

(Nick and I had "Sabotage" from the Beastie Boys in our heads before this photo was taken.)

(Incidentally, this is the same Nick that I met in Muktinath just a week prior on the Circuit. Also, I met Caroline briefly in Thorung Phedi-- she stayed at the same lodge as us.)

Dhaulagari coming down from Poon Hill.

Me and my little friend (who didn't want to hold still) in a small village in between Ghorepani and Tadapani.

Rhododenron trees were plentiful on the way.

Moving through the valley.

The spectacular view of Annapurna South from our patio in Tadapani.

A close-up is peak.

Sitting at breakfast and watching the sun rise over Annapurna South in Tadapani, we noticed that Grey Langur monkeys were playing nearby.

I had seen Grey Langurs for the first time while climbing above Bagarchhap on the Circuit, but I was unable to photograph them, as they left the scene in a hurry after we arrived. I was worried that I would never have that chance again... then this whole family played for us during breakfast. I wonderful way to start Day Two of our trek!

Up-close and personal with our bearded friend.

Our first full view of Machapuchare... Getting closer!

Looking back toward Tadapani as we move closer to Chomrong. You can see our guest house in Tadapani in the upper right hand corner of the photo...

The view from our balcony in Sinawa.

Our guest house had beautiful flowers in it garden. Here is a magnificent orchid!

The sun shines from the heavens near Bamboo.

A waterfall near Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC).

The dew settles on a fuzzy little plant near MBC...

... While violet flowers blossom.

My first view of MBC (3,720 meters or 12,205 feet).

Yael and I in the MBC dining room.

Dawn at MBC.

I took this photo from directly in front of my room. Nick and I decided to wake up and eat at 4:30 am, while our Israeli friends decided to sleep in.

As I woke up, I was beyond excited, as I could tell when I woke up that the weather was clear. How? It was much colder than when we went to bed. As I opened the door, I nearly lost all control of my body. The view from our guest house was simply incredible and absolutely beyond describable.

Dilli came to me within minutes with a HUGE smile on his face. Like me, he was beyond excited-- and I was SOOO happy to have him with me on our trek to ABC!

Panoramic (moving toward the left or from South to East).

Moving toward ABC as the sun begins to rise.

Me and Nick on the way with Fang and Annapurna I behind us.

The view back down toward Machapuchare. Absolutely stunning.

One of our first glimpses of Annapurna I up-close, its face already beginning to be covered in clouds.

Another photo of Machapuchare. (It is hard not to take photographs when the scenery is this spectacular!)

Sun rise on the Annapurnas.

Me and Machapuchare.

A happy Dilli.

The full view of Machapuchare.

The spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), affectionately referred to by me as "heaven on earth." There are absolutely no words that can describe the feeling or the scenery of being completely surrounded by some of the most majestic mountains in the world.

After having a quick breakfast/lunch at 8 am, Nick and I decided to climb one of the adjacent mountains to get a bird's eye view of ABC. (And also to go mountain sledding-- HIGHLY recommended!)

Here is a view of
Machapuchare from mountain.

Looking down at ABC from roughly 4,500 meters (14,765 feet).

I cannot describe how much I LOVE ABC!!!

As we climbed, the clouds started to roll in... I decided to stop and enjoy the moment.

Being higher than the clouds is a wonderful feeling...

Looking toward Machapuchare.

Back at ABC with Machapuchare in the background.

(The snowman was built by some boys we met in Tadapani.)

Enjoying our location.

During the Annapurna Circuit, I read a book entitled "The Climb" by Anatoli Boukreev, which describes the story an he events leading up to one of the deadliest accidents in Mount Everest history in 1996. Boukreev is credited with saving the lives of many of his and other expeditions and his efforts are considered to be one of the bravest in climbing history.

Boukreev died on Christmas Day, 1997 while attempting to climb Annapurna I.

Here is the memorial to him, one of the greatest climbers of his generation.

The gang relaxing in our dining room/living room and enjoying the propane heater underneath the table.

In the mountains, the guest houses have propane heaters (with live, open flame!) underneath the tables to keep everyone warm in the dining room. The tables come equipped with long blankets, which one uses to place over one's lap so that the heat warms one's legs. This table also came equipped with a laundry line so that people could dry their clothes as well!

An exhausted Alexis (after a long trek around ABC), a concentrated Nick, and a joyous Zelda.

We enjoyed the afternoon with whiskey and sugary tea! Yummy!

"What are we playing again?"

Guy from Israel.

"Is it dinner time yet?"

"Good morning, Dilli!"

"How do I make myself wake up?"



Liron planning her next trip.

Up-close and personal with yours truly. (photo provided by Yael Pesotchinski)

Multi-tasking at its finest. (Yael Pesotchinski)

"Maybe if I play my flute dinner time will come faster.." (Yael Pesotchinski)

"Ahh... Guy's playing the flute, and dinner time is just around the corner..." (Yael Pesotchinski)

Still thinking...

Getting ready for an early nap. (Yael Pesotchinski)

Night at ABC.

I took this photograph right before bed (8 pm). The sky had cleared after an afternoon storm, and allowed us to see the mountains via the moonlight as well as thousands of stars...

An absolutely gorgeous view.

Dawn at ABC.

A clear view of Annapurna I.

Sunrise on Annapurna I.

A close-up of its face.

Dilli at sunrise.

My second favorite (after our trek from MBC to ABC) moment came on sunrise at ABC. Dilli was like a kid in a candy store as his eyes set themselves on the spectacular mountains surrounding us. He could hardly wait to climb the mountain high above ABC. Neither could I-- my friends were awaiting us!

Sunrise behind Machapuchare.

Climbing higher...

A very happy Dilli.

The heavens open up behind Machapuchare.

Me and Guy enjoying the amazing view and each other's company at the overlook point.

The dynamic duo at the overlook point and showing love for each other.

I consider Dilli family after our fantastic three-week journey together. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest men I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

The spectacular panoramic view from the vantage point above ABC at sunrise.

Me and Yael.

Me and J.P. (from Quebec).

I met J.P. and his wife, Natalie, after Sinawa underway on the trek. A lengthy and wonderful conversation ensued and from it, hopefully, a long friendship.

J.P. and his wife are amazingly special people. It was astounding to me just how instantaneously our friendship started. It is rare to find such a connection while traveling, and I feel so blessed to have found it with J.P. and Natalie.

I plan on seeing them in July during my long layover in Montreal.

Do I really have to come down?

A few last shots before leaving our wonderful view point.

Back at ABC...

A view of Machapuchare from the small pond next to guest house.

The view of Annapurna I from our guest house.

It's really hard to believe that a place like this exists on earth... even when you are there.

A last photo of Nick and I at ABC.

Our guest house owner-- the absolute best on the trek-- and I.

Final photos of ABC while heading back down to reality and MBC.

A fantastic sign in Deurali, just below MBC.

A waterfall near Bamboo.
Dilli after he and I raced up a long flight of stairs (and he a makeshift path) near Bamboo.

He won... even with my 20 kg (45 lb) pack!

Yael looking good on the way to Bamboo.

Looking back toward MBC as we move closer to Sinawa.

Our group at Sinawa after a long journey from ABC.

It felt SOOO good to have everyone together again. It is very rare to have group that feels as much like family as did for such a short period of time while traveling.

Our group relaxing outside after a nice, hot shower. (Yael Pesotchinski)

(L-R): Nick, Alexis, Guy, Tomer, Yuval, Me, Yael, and Liron

After our last dinner together on the trek. (Yael Pesotchinski)

(L-R): Alexis, Liron, Guy, Avi, Nick, Me, Yael, Yuval, and Tomer

Me enjoying the river (and a rest) in Chomrong.

In between Chomrong and Jhinu.

A fantastic view of the valley coming from Chomrong on the way to Jhinu and its hot spring.

Me enjoying the ice cold water of the Modi Khola in Jhinu.

Definition of a farmer tan...

...On a happy farmer enjoying the warmth of the hot spring!

The fantastic view of the Modi Khola and mountains close to Kimche.

Yours truly.

The landscape in Kimche.

A school in between Kimche and Birethanti.

Dilli morphed into Yul Brynner in the Ten Commandments on the last day of our trek.

(By the way, that is very old and miscolored U.S. flag on his head.)

Getting close to Birethanti, the last town on the trek.

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