Day 13: Lost
Route: Tagnag (4465 meters) ➔ Portse (3667 meters)
Distance: 32.4 km
Total Distance: 97.08 km
Time: 10+ hours
The day of hell. With the snow still hammering down (it kinda stopped in the morning), we decided to get out while we can.
The first hour and half was all snow, sometimes up to our knees, before we hit lower elevations.
Frustrated at a dead end, I climbed a wall in a creepy vacant village and got ahead of Steve. I waited and walked slow for for about 25 minutes while he caught up, looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame with a big parka covering him with pack and two trekking pole moving mechanically. The last words I hear him say are to the effect of, ‘I’m gonna get the hell outta here’ as he charges off.
Shortly after, the trail divides into a low and high route. Porters coming up behind us whistle at me since Steve and I are taking the low path and they the high. Though I can see Steve, he does not hear me yell repeatedly as we should probably be following the locals.
The bottom path was disastrous. Most of the way there was no path and making my way across the steep mountain proved very slow. At this point I am completely alone, just me and the mountain. I begin to work my way higher. The path was ridiculously steep, perpendicularly to my route, and several times I was forced to make leaps from one small mound of earth to another. It was doubtful they would even hold.
As I stared at one such leap, huge backpack on, I looked up to see a figure silhouetted in the mist on a rather picturesque mountain crag. Steve! Watching me make this jump! I gather my boldness and jump, clinging to the side as I land. I made it. Looking up with arms raised in victory, I instead find a mountain goat of some sort with big horns starring at me. He has now sat down on his belly and watches watches the show. What the hell? I really thought I was having mental problems because I was sure I saw Steve. I screamed in anger aloud a few times and just sat for a few minutes. The goat impassively gaped.
The terrain got worse and I had to backtrack several times. I crossed very steep sides with moist, loose soil. I crossed avalanche area with boulders stacked up the size of small cars. Worst of all, I crossed other avalanche areas composed of very fine and lose glacier gravel. My foot would slide as soon as pressure was laid upon it. The best option was to sprint as fast as possible, with 30 kilos on my back, often planning stops at areas that looked safe.
Eventually I realized the danger of all this. At the next loose gravel area, I sat on my ass, put my pole in front of me, and gravel skied lower until the path forward looked good. I began to get very dirty. My waterproof pants began to rip on my butt.
I really felt my life was in danger. One misstep and I could roll with out stopping for a couple hundred meters. Break a leg and who knows how long before I could get out.
At one point, before I crossed another avalanche slide, I took my path off to take a rest. Before my eyes loose rock began to tumble down the slide, some as big as my head. If I had not stopped for a rest, I surely would be in the middle of that.
Luckily, going down towards the river revealed yak paths. They often disappeared but would pick up again at some point. And since we were following a valley with a river, the direction to go was never in doubt, it was just how to get there.
When I finally hit stable path, I had to wearily climb in elevation substantially to reach Portse.
In all it was a 10+ hour climb (though on my video I say 8). I had no food and had to fill my water bottle from mountain trickles. I only drank about 2 liters the whole day, which is much less than I require. I was extremely angry at Steve, who was nowhere to be found. He was certainly wrong to charge off, but a lot of the anger was also at myself and he made a convenient target.
I arrived dirty, torn, sweaty and soaked at a lodge with no vacancies. The amazing owner at the Sonam Lodge, Passang Sherpa, let me sleep in the room downstairs by the kitchen he sleeps in. I was too tired to look for Steve or even eat, though I did force down some Dal Bhat.
Somehow I walked over 30 km according my my GPS. This is a testament to how much up, down, and backtracking I had to do, despite it only being an 11 km hike.
I collapsed just wanting to forget this day.
Note: Route times, elevations, and distances covered above are as measured by my GPS. Some measurements are estimated, that is I didn’t use the GPS that day, and will be noted as such.