Langtang in Winter Day 4: Sunday 16th February 2020

A high wind in the night, then stillness. Sleep came with difficulty in the mountain air. Then a bright morning with no wind; warm in the sun. The valley opened out to a Scottish highland glen, with its boulders, its rushing river, its small hydroelectric scheme with insulated pipe. A majestic stupa crowned a rise.

The highland valley, with stupa just visible in the middle distance.

Kyanjin Gompa had undergone a building boom of new lodges for the trekkers, with some having three levels, many in the bright colours Nepalis like, all jumbled together and overshadowing their neighbours. But the crowding was due to a prohibition on building on the grazing land, so it had logic. The trekkers congregated at the one lodge that was open. Sunlight warmed the common area.

Jumble of new buildings at Kyanjin Gompa, crushed together to preserve grazing land

In the afternoon we climbed up on the approach to Tsergo Ri, a time-honoured ritual of acclimatisation: go high, sleep low. Even another 300m up from Kyanjin Gompa would help the lungs manage the real climb the following day. The path was clear. Bishnu kept going up just a bit more, to make sure the effort didn’t stop short of the required pain. From this vantage point, you could see the familiar peaks and glaciers from a different perspective, including the twice-ascended Kyanjin Ri.

Looking down to Kyanjin Gompa, a layer of pollution visible below. Look how far we had to come to escape it!

We met a well-muffled Greek trekker who had reached the summit. He reported that after 2.00 pm the wind got up. He congratulated me on the mere presence of such an aged spirit at this height. We eschewed a handshake for the protocol of elbow bumps. We fed the local crows biscuits. The one which pecked aggressively also had the biggest head … the male of the species?

Bishnu and the crows

Two high passes cross from Helambu to Langtang, the Ganja La and Tilman’s pass. We thought we could see two entrances to the Ganja La on the opposite slopes of the valley. These passes with their steep snowfields at the top are only for autumn, perhaps springtime. It is a bit late in life for more adventurous trekking, so these peaks and passes have to be considered carefully, but for the embodied spirit a dream still beckons.

The frozen slopes of the upper valley in brilliant sunshine

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