Day 8: Manang to Shree Kharka
The river is a diminished current now, meandering across a stony flood plain that the monsoon rains pulsing down relentlessly from above submerge in their annual flood. The next lodge at Shree Kharka is above 4000m, so the altitude is starting to bite. And in the distance further above we can see the trail clearly as it crosses a huge scree slope on the way over to Tilicho Peak Base Camp, where we´ll stay tomorrow night.
But no room at the inn! Suddenly the trail to Tilicho Lake has become popular with Nepali trekkers, as a romantic music video was made on its frigid shores, so the lodge is packed by the time we arrive. However, Madhu negotiates a space in the dining room. The afternoon sun makes the room very warm, but after 4.00pm the temperature drops suddenly when the sun goes behind the peaks.
It´s still difficult to sleep at night. The brain keeps us awake, worried that the entity might not survive on the lesser supply of oxygen. The nights are long, since people retire at 8.00pm, getting up at 6.00am at the earliest. This night, sometime around 4.00am I have a session of wild hypnagogic imagery, quite unlike anything experienced in other altered states! Not entirely comfortable, but too interesting to stop – another effect of the partially reduced oxygen supply.
Day 9: Shree Kharka to Tilicho Peak Base Camp
Finally we are going into the mountain fastness, remote, only accessible to the dedicated ones. As we approach the great scree slopes, the path looks precarious, the angle impossibly steep, the towering gravel heap potentially unstable. But, reassured by some returning trekkers, we pace on over a ravine.
But the path turns out to be remarkable firm and stable, and persistently interesting to walk on, as it winds through rock formations rather like the portal to Mordor. The Himalayas seem to be eroding on all fronts. How fast the ramparts crumble! Rivers, rain, glaciers, ice, snow, sun, wind and dust all do their work.
We have arrived at the lodges, and all are full. I´m crushed into a very small dormitory which feels claustrophobic. Huge pressure on the lodges due to the sudden popularity of the trek, but no one is turned away.
Day 10: Tilicho Peak Base Camp to Tilicho Lake, and return to Shree Kharka
An early start at 6.00am. Sun soon warms our backs. Beautiful consistent gradient, until a series of sharp switchbacks takes us to a higher level. The hill is only undercut in one place by an incipient ravine.
Heavily laden porters, part of a tent trek, come up to the lake. Their trail winds over to Jomsom through a high pass. That is some adventure, in bleak, empty, pristine lands.
Statues of Shiva and Buddha side by side, garlanded; presiding over this domain.
A few dizzy spells now at this height. Back down for lunch in the lodge, and onward to Shree Kharka. Going up here has at least helped acclimatization.