Doug Bruns

Thorong La Pass

In Adventure, Travel, Writing on May 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm

May 14, 2012
Thorang High Camp (el. 15, 700)
4:00 am

Trekkers begin to converge in the high camp great room. It is still dark and we wear headlamps. There is a young man from Israel, a couple from the UK, a couple from Italy, via Seattle, a couple from France, a gentleman from Germany, and the three of us. There are also two guides and four porters.

Tim is still in his room. I checked on him first thing. He is up and about, getting ready for the morning climb, but still not in top form. Someone in the room asks after him. I say he’s better, but not one hundred percent. A guide looks at me, smiles, and says, “No one is one hundred percent at altitude.”

The snow storm left a half foot of fresh powder. We assume it will be deeper as we climb. The sun is not yet up, but I can see stars and know the sky is going to be clear above us. Excitement fills the room.

At 5:30 we gather outside and Nat from London breaks trail. We are all grateful for this. It is hard enough to climb, harder in fresh snow, most difficult to break the trail. We stretch out behind him and begin.

It is bitter cold. Within minutes my fingers are numb. I see people adjusting their gear and clothing for warmth. I think the pace brisk but welcome it, as it helps us warm. The sky to the east is growing pink above the mountain and I know that once the sun comes up we will be fine. I look back and check Tim. His head is down and he is moving in lockstep with the group. I know he is working harder than normal. Scott is immediately behind me and says he is terrifically cold but fine.

In an hour or so I reach back for my water bottle. The water is laced with ice and I have to hit the side to break it up.

The sun is up and we are now comfortable, except for the work we’re doing. I feel my eyes grow misty. I become emotional. I am climbing a mountain in Nepal with my son and my nephew. It is a beautiful morning. We move through a white crystal expanse. My lungs burn and my legs churn like powerful pistons. I am overwhelmed by a love of life. A deep and powerful sense of existence fills me.

An hour later and we embrace on top of the pass, 17,700 feet above my home in Portland, Maine. We celebrate and take pictures. After fifteen minutes we begin the downclimb. The next six hours will be for me the most painful of the entire trip. My old joints resist downclimbs with a singular determination. But for now we are full of ourselves and of each other and of the stuff of life.

  1. […] about the snow, the high camp and the Lorong La, in the last two posts, Thorong High Camp, and Thorong La. Ponies in the snow at high camp. Ram, our guide, and the morning approach to Lorong La. Uphill […]

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