07 January 2010

Dhaulagiri Circuit Oct 2006, Days 15-16

Scampering down the Kali Gandaki

We hadn't planned on this. Our plane had been cancelled, and in Nepal, they put you to the back of the queue when this happens. So there was nothing left for it but to try and get back to Pokhara by land before that plane left, otherwise Glen and Siobhan would miss there flights back to England. So we decided we'd try and get down the Kali Gandaki valley in two days, a trip that normally takes four...

On the doubleSo we had to get from Jomosom to Pokhara in two days, and it was already noon. And the walk normally takes three (for Nepalis) or four days.
We managed to convince a tractor driver and trailer to cart us to Lete. It travelled at about three times walking pace. Pretty good considering the condition of the road. We were tossed about in the trailer like salad ingredients.
Below Tukuche

Rupse Chhahara, Kali Gandaki Valley, Dhawalagiri Zone, Nepal.
I think Helen took these.
The Sweeping Man

Kali Gandaki valley (below Rupse Chhahara)

An example of the incredible force of erosion created by the Kali Gandaki plunging some thousand metres through the Himalaya.Kali Gandaki valley

WHERE did you want your fridge?Where did you want your fridge?
I thought it cute that this porter was advertising his food source.
Porters in Nepal generally work as labour-for-hire, as there are many "roads" that are for foot-traffic (including mules and yaks) only.

But there are places on the track down the Kali Gandaki valley (tunnels, low overhangs, that sort of thing) where this fridge won't go.
I wish him luck, and I'm somehow certain that he'll find a way.


Donkeys are the pack animal of choice in the Dhawalagiri area.
Helen took nearly all of these pics.
Kali Gandaki Donkey

There were 17 in the bed and the little one said...There were 17 in the bed and the little one said...
From Tiplyang (Tipling), we were able to catch a 4WD to Ghaleshwar, where we could then catch a 4WD bus to Pokhara.
Imagine the surprise of our sherpas and kitchen crew, who left (entirely by foot) a day and a half before us, to be caught up by us at Tiplyang just as they were to get on this 4WD to head home. Imagine the anguish on the driver's face when he realised this meant 17 people were to be somehow crammed into his 4WD (there were others who wanted to travel as well). With two on top, four in the front, five in the middle and seven in the back, we managed. Tahnkfully the trip wasn't very far before we changed jeeps (to walk around a rockfall that was not navigable by motor transport).

And so we made it at last to Pokhara airport.
In that time, the odds of us making it onto a Jomosom-Pokhara resheduled flight were pretty small. Even though we were scheduled on the first flight of the day on the day our flight was cancelled, rescheduled flights move to the end of the subsequent day (about flight five or six). This minimises rescheduling other flights. The first day after the cancelled flights, we counted only three flights overhead. The next day we were in Pokhara anyway. And now we were off back to Kathmandu.

Pokhara Airport
A plane at last!

Family Photo #512Andrew, Helen, Jose and Glen in front of Dhaulagiri I (8167m). Taken at French Pass (5300m).
This was taken by our guide, Thakur, whom Helen and Andrew look forward to joining again in 2010 for a trek around Manaslu...

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

06 January 2010

Dhaulagiri Circuit Oct 2006, Days 12-14


We dropped 800m one day and 1500m the next, from Hidden Valley (5011m) to Marpha (2667m) and then went upstream to Jomosom (expecting to fly out).

Scintillating SnowThe sunlight on the snow gave some really sparkly effects.
Climbing towards Dhampus Pass.
Hidden Valley, Dhawalagiri Region, Nepal

Glen and Joseph chairing Thakur "off the field". Tukuche Peak in the background.
Taken at Dhampus Pass (5270m), the "exit" of the Dhaulagiri Trek from Hidden Valley, which begins our descent (eventually - you feel like you are walking in the sky for a few hours before you really start descending).
Chairs, mate!

.Frequently, Helen will spontaneously take the most amazing photos.
This was descending from Dhampus Pass towards Marpha.
Mountain cloud had enveloped us, and the scene looked like something out of "Kurosawa's Dreams". Windy, foggy, and desolate.

Demoiselle Cranes (anthropoides virgo) .
Some of the porters, when they heard them but could not see them, hurried down the hillside in fear of witches!
Above Marpha.
Demoiselle Cranes

Glen and Nilgiri
Taken from Yak Kharka above Marpha, Kali Gandaki valley, Nepal
Mustang on the left, Glen in the middle, Nilgiri on the right, Kali Gandaki 1500m below.

Above Marpha, Mustang Region, NepalUntitled

Step LadderMarpha, Mustang Region, Nepal
One of the few that I actually took.
btw: on the opposite side of this rustic looking roof was a dish for satellite television!


And thus we got ourselves down to Marpha and then Jomosom. The next day we spent wandering about waiting for our plane to come in, but the Kali Gandaki valley, up which the flights come, carves itself between two of the ten highest mountains in the world, meaning that the weather can be a little unpredictable. This time, just lots of low cloud. You can't fly through cloud with great confidence in Nepal, as the clouds have rocks in them! Once we realised our plane was not going to come in that day, we decided there was only one thing to do... march back to Pokhara (well... with some motorised assistance where there were roads...)

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

05 January 2010

Dhaulagiri Circuit Oct 2006, Days 9-11

Chhonbarang Glacier

The next three days were spent picking our way up the Chhonbarang Glacier, past various Dhaulagiri Base Camps. We camped at Japanese Base Camp, Dhaulagiri Base Camp and Hidden Valley.

Heading up the Myagdi Khola towards Japanese Base Camp.

Japanese Base Camp (4168m)The first of several days on the Chhondarban Glacier. We even slept on it...
Japanese Base Camp (4168m)

The Chhondarban Glacier had some tricky sections that needed some care and some step cutting to get over. In this section, our guide - Thakur - and one of his sherpas - Galgeon - were scouting the ridges to find a safe route. Our other sherpa - Khaji - was taking the rest of the porters through an alternate route.
Check out the stunning geology of this region!
Chhondarban Glacier
Our Guides

Sunrise from Dhaulagiri Base Camp
Sunrise from Dhaulagiri Base Camp (4760m).
The two obvious "peaks" are unnamed foothills of Dhaulagiri I, lurking behind at 8167m.

Family Snap #498Family Snap #498
With Dhaulagiri I (7th highest mountain in the world) in the background

Just coming off the lateral moraine below French Col at the top of the Chhondarban GlacierView to French Pass

Dhaulagiri IView south from below French Pass

Tukuche and Dhaulagiri I from lateral moraine just below French Pass
180° Panorama showing lateral moraine ahead (left) and behind (right) at the upper reaches of the Chhonbaran Glacier
We're at about 5100m. Tukuche (centre) is 6920m, Dhaulagiri I (8167m) is to the right, slipping away down the valley.

View from French Pass
Taken: 8th October 2006 Stitched from 12 shots with ptgui
LtoR: Tukuche Peak, Dhaulagiri I, Sita Chuchura, Hongde Himal (west of Hidden Valley)
Joseph, a porter, Siobhan, Andrew with GPS, unknown, Glen peeing
Helen took the photos, I stitched them.

UntitledTaken from French Pass (5374m) looking back towards Dhaulagiri I (8167m)

Stunning toilet view
Tukuche Peak and our Toilet Tent by the light of the setting moon and approaching sun

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

03 January 2010

Dhaulagiri Circuit Oct 2006, Days 7-8

Conifer forest and subalpine (3000m-3500m)

The next two days were spent climbing another 500m to 3500m and then acclimatising for one day in the sub-alpine area (come to think of it, it's probably alpine!) known to us as Italian base-camp.

Climbing towards "Italian" Base Camp. We could see white stuff again, but that wasn't Dhaulagiri I.

Taken from Italian Base CampUntitled

Dhaulagiri Himal
The Dhaulagiri Himal, from above Italian Base Camp.
LtoR: Tsaurabong, Dhaulagiris V, III and II.
LtoR: Galgeon, Thakur and Helen

You can Lean on MeGalgeon, Thakur and Helen. Acclimatising day walk above Italian Base Camp.

Hard to photograph, as you normally hear them before you see them.
There are sections of the trek further up that are exposed to avalanches, but we had no trouble, as there was very little snow around.
Near Italian Base Camp

After resting for a day, it was time to press onwards and upwards. The next few days, we'd be travelling along the Chhonbarang Glacier, past Base Camp and towards French Col and Hidden Valley.

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

02 January 2010

Dhaulagiri Circuit Oct 2006, Days 5-6

Jungle (2000m-3000m)

The next two days were less up and down, and more just up, as we continued alongside the Myagdi Khola from Bagara up to Sallagheri, through jungle. This was cooler and at times wetter than the lowlands.

The Nepali people are remarkably inventive in creating things out of what's at hand.
Here, a bridge over a rockfall is created out of logs, branches, and leaves...
Between Bagara and Dobang

Are those branches safe?

UntitledBuffalo grazing in the jungle.
Near Lapche Kharka

The jungle before Dobang is beautiful, with bamboo groves all through.
We wasted a lot of time looking for bamboo shoots to pick for dinner (they were very very chewy...), but it became a great game for Glen and Thakur.
Near Dobang
Bamboo Heaven

LakshmiHelping out her aunt who ran the last hotel before Marpha ("last beer for eight days" was written somewhere...) was this photogenic girl, Lakshmi.
The kids learn to work hard in the villages. Lakshmi and her aunt had walked with us from Bagara, and even offerred to carry some fuel for us. What was remarkable was how beautifully dressed they were. And they didn't get dirty walking through the mud like we did. Some people just leave light footprints on the earth, I guess.

Fresh raspberries slowed us down a lot on the way to Salagari.
Myagdi Khola, above Dobang

Bridge #37
This one wasn't very "loggy", and was in fact a little rickety.
One of the porters stumbled on it, and we lost our sugar bowl amongst other things.
The porter was fine.
Upper Myagdi Khola, near Choriban/Salagari

Another testimony to Nepali pragmatism. This ladder over a rockfall was a beauty.
Near Choriban/Salagari
Stairway to Heaven

UntitledWhen it's raining, there is nothing more cheerful than a fire to help you get warm and dry out. Our guide Thakur found some old porter's baskets which helped get the fire going.

By the end of day 6, we had climbed to about 3000m, and were just about to leave behind not only market gardens but also the jungle.

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.

01 January 2010

Dhaulagiri Circuit Oct 2006, Days 1-4


Shiva Temple, Pokhara Lake, Nepal
Shiva Temple on the banks of Pokhara Lake.
We were here for quite a while waiting for our bus from Kathmandu, which had got caught behind a bus crash earlier that morning, and was delayed by five hours.

Our bus lost its headlights about an hour before we got into Beni. This was very capably dealt with by one of the guides, who climbed onto the roof of the bus and lit the way with his headlamp. It was slow going, and we finally got into Beni around midnight. We were very tired by then.

Police Line Up, Beni, Nepal

Myagdi Khola valley near Beni

Rice paddies on the Myagdi Khola just upstream from Beni

Ram Babhu, one of our kitchen hands, carrying everything including the kitchen sink.

Have kitchen, will travel


Maize is a big staple in this area. It is often used for popcorn, but also pounded into cornmeal. At the time of our trek (September/October), lots of maize was being harvested and dried.
Near Ratodhunga

The first bit of white we'd seen from the ground (since Macchupuchare seen from Pokhara). After two and a half days of walking, we finally saw some of our destination range as the Myagdi Khola valley took a right turn and headed north.

First glimpse

High point
Yes. It's a long way down to the Myagdi Khola. The track had a nasty habit of climbing up and down, rather than sticking with the river. In the heat of the afternoon, this got pretty hard.
Siobhan, Glen, Jose, Helen, Thakur (guide) and Galgeon (sherpa), having a break after a particularly taxing climb.
Near Chibang.

We pressed on this long day and made it to Jugapani (lit. "leech water"), where we waited and waited for our tents. Fortunately, the kitchen was with us, and we bought some ingredients from the locals and had a delicious dinner. The porters had been very slow on this long day, and most didn't make camp that night, but the tents eventually arrived and we put them up in the rain. The locals made us welcome and let us eat our dinner one of their huts.
Jugapani (often indicated as Naura Bhir)
Romantic dinner for leeches?

More climbing...
Whilst our sleeping places weren't gaining much altitude, we could still go up and down up to 800 metres in one day. Thakur told us that last time he was through here, they had just burnt all the grass. It was a beautiful though exhausting climb up through the meadows this time. That is still the Myagdi Khola in the background.
Near Bagara (Bhogara).

Local women pounding grain (probably maize or millet).
Bagara (Boghara)
Grinding grain

Happy Dashain

Dashain is culturally a bit like Christmas, in that all over Nepal, families get together and feast. Though religiously, it's a fifteen day Hindu festival celebrating the goddess Durga. On the tenth day, tikka is applied to the forehead by the elders. These kids have white tikkas (more commonly you will see red ones) with lots of rice (for prosperity).
We celebrated Dashimi (tenth day of Dashain) in Bagara in the morning with a big donation to the local school fund, and aiding an older woman who had a very nasty infection on her leg (bathing it in Betadine, and administering erythromycin). Up in these regions, people die from infections like this, so it was a really good feeling to see her so markedly improved the next morning. I just hope she finished the full course of antibiotics that we gave her.
Bagara (Boghara).

So after four days of walking from Beni, we were now at Bagara, at 2080m, which brought to an end our "lowland" section of the walk. Whilst each night saw little gain in height as we followed the Myagdi Khola, we often had to climb high over steep ridges to avoid landslips or cliffs. Often hot and sticky, as we were post-monsoon, the area was rich with market gardens.

As seen on Andrew Purdam's Bushwalking Treasure Box blog.