Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

March 7

March 10th, 2016

March 7 Day 7 Tilicho Base Camp up to Tilicho Lake then to Blue Sheep Hotel


The room in the Hotel Moonlight was very cold, but they had huge blankets which, along with my down bag, kept everything but my nose warm. When I went to bed, it was fully misted over and the snow was coming down. In the middle of the night, I went outside to piss. The weather had cleared and the stars were innumerable. In the morning, I got up with Kyle and Will, had “rice pudding” for breakfast (rice, milk, sugar), and off we set, going from 4150 m to 5200 m on our way up to Tilicho Lake (one of the highest lakes in the world). Down where we started there was about an inch of snow and the flowing stream was partially frozen. Right away we were climbing hard– it was one of those crystalline days much like I had in the Richmond Range in New Zealand. The snow had cleared all the dust and moisture from the air, so the ridges, rocks, glaciers all stood out with stark shadows. It took almost three hours to reach the lake even though it was only about 5 km. We were walking slowly because of altitude gain but also because we were trekking into high mountains with blue-green glaciers — more blue than green– and occasionally a piece would break off and the avalanche would start. Near the top, a large chunk rumbled and soon a river of snow flowed and spread down the mountainside, hitting the valley and bursting into a cloud which swept across the trail. Some people in front of us started running back. Even though there was a large valley between us, it seemed as if it would come all the way to our ridge. The last kilometer was through a flat area with the snow about 8 inches, though the trail was packed tight. The avalanche cloud crossed and recrossed the valley, so when we got to the lake turning point, a sudden rush of snow and mist enveloped and soaked us (it melted on contact). I was glad I had on my wind shell–quickly pulled up my hood and ducked against the wind. It soon settled, and I took in the view, remembering Maurice Herzog’s description of leading the 1950 expedition across this frozen lake on their way to the summit of Annapurna. The hike down was fast, and by lunchtime we were back at base camp having Dal Bhat. The camp is an odd spot as it is completely isolated– no roads in–and, unlike the previous villages, there is no indigenous economy–no gardens or animals. In many ways, it resembles an outpost in a Star Wars movie. Isolated but full of people. After lunch we made our way across many scree fields back the trail to the Blue Sheep Hotel which put us in a good position to get back onto the Annapurna circuit in prep for the Thorung Pass. Another cold evening huddled around the wood stove with the hotel dining area and an early night to sleep.

T. Hugh Crawford