Nice weather for Yeti

“Sat at around 3,000 m.a.s.l. it feels like a weary end to a long day.  Thunder rumbles deeply around me and only now can I fathom the creation of unhappy mountain Gods.  Apparently there are 200 hikers at this tiny hamlet tonight and most of them are brassy school children living up a bit of parent-free time.  Despite the energy and noise of the kids, it’s strangely uncrowded.  We’re sat atop a rolling green mountain sloped with pine forests and lush grazing for goats, cows, sheep and mules.  Raven or jackdaw like birds circle in large flocks above our heads.  This spot represents the last of the Himalayan foothills, with no further civilisation in sight.  There are rugged, baron mountains covered in glaciers and early snowfall as far as the eye can see.  The passes between them reach 4,500 m.a.s.l. so I’m struggling to comprehend how big the actual peaks are.  This is the real beginnings of the formidable Himalayas.”

An excerpt from my notebook on Thursday 21st October 2010
Rugged mountain range capped in snowfall and glaciers

The view beyond Triund and the last of the grassy foothills

What I omitted from the entry above was that both Tom & I had misgivings about our guide and porter.  Both of us shared the same sense that there was some trouble or malcontent coming from them.  Maybe they’d had bad experiences with tourists before?  After all it can be a delicate relationship.  Maybe they didn’t want to be working?  Maybe they weren’t particularly nice or sociable people?  Who knows!  At times you could cut the atmosphere with a knife and the feeling we were being abused in a language we couldn’t understand was hard to ignore.  Steely looks and vacant responses to questions didn’t do much to further our confidence.  I tried to find reassurance in the knowledge that it can be hard to forge a trusty connection between tourist and local, and that, as their employers, maybe they just wanted to get the job done without an interest in friendship.  It didn’t go far though, that night Tom slept with his Leatherman in his pocket and I hardly slept at all.  The bad atmosphere was hard to ignore.

Dark skies disperse the sunshine

Storm clouds rolling in to darken the afternoon sun

Next day it was planned to ascend into the rugged mountains pictured above, with an overnight stay in some enormous caves.  From the ground this sounded amazing, a true adventure!  However, in the hands of men with questionable trustworthiness, storm clouds rolling around above, early signs of altitude sickness, and a hole in the back of my heel from badly chosen climbing shoes, it didn’t seem so wise after all.  Though there were many trekkers at the hill station, almost all were overnighters returning to base the next day.  It was completely plausible that there would only be four people sleeping in the caves the following evening; Tom, me, the guide and the porter.  With what felt like the odds stacked against us, we made a difficult decision to abandon ship and end the trek 2 days early.

Rugged mountains peaks in beautiful sunshine with Tibetan flags flying in front

Glorious mountains seen from the safety of the ground on a sunny day

Breaking the news to our guide and porter, their reaction was bizarre.  It was as if they’d expected us to decide to descend and had just been waiting for the revelation.  New information started to come out; a group on the previous day had attempted the next stage but returned after only an hour and a half due to treacherous weather and the guide admitted he was ill-equipped because he didn’t have any ice kit with him.  Everyone agreed that the weather was continuing to worsen.

Beneath sky that promised a full day of thunder storms, Tom and I set out early leaving our trekking colleagues to pack up the kit above.  The track down was well-made and, despite heavy rainfall, we both felt confident, relieved to escape bad company and determined to enjoy what was left of the adventure.  Nature did not disappoint.  Thunder and lightning were all around us – not above as usual – we were in the storm cloud!  Half an hour into the hike, fierce hail stones erupted from the sky, pelting our skin through our clothes.

Dog looks over a metal roof against an alpine mountain backdrop

Day 1 - Gorgeous pup spootted hanging out on a metal roof with the alpine covered mountains in the background

Carefully watching our step over the wet and icy stone footpath, we met a mountain herder with five terrified cows.  Tom held the farmer’s neon umbrella so that he could put on a raincoat, giving him time to explain that if one of his cows bolted she would break her leg for sure.  Winter was coming in unpredictably quickly this year and it wouldn’t be the first time he had to descend the mountain with injured animals.  He explained in clear English that he was taking the herd ‘downside’ as soon as possible to keep them safe.

Meeting the cow herder bolstered our spirits, reminding us of the comparatively easy situation we were faced with and also encouraging us that standing in a thunder cloud couldn’t be too dangerous if there was time to stop and chat.  Soaked to our underwear, passports and the last rupee, we made it down in a bit under four hours, shivering, but full of adventure and a strange pride for listening to our hearts, keeping safe and accepting that our long sought after trip would have to be postponed for another day.

The adventure happened on the way down but the beautiful snaps were caught on the way up, so here’s a few for your enjoyment!

  • Grey mountain goat perched on wood pile

    Grey mountain goat perched on wood pile

  • Lovely mountain views

    Lovely views

  • Sunlight stone path through an alpine forest

    Alpine forest path

  • Inside a mud hut drying off and eagerly awaiting a lunch of spicy chilli noodles

    Drying off in a mud hut

  • Bunch of school kids with Tor standing with them

    "Mr Thomas, take one picture!"

  • View down the whole valley with a dog in the foreground

    A view along the whole valley

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mooma on October 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Thank you both for listening to your heads and making the tough decision to abandon ship! It does though sound like an adventure even if a shortened one!
    Stay safe. XXXX

    Reply

  2. Posted by Henry on October 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Hey! Nice entry, you write well and I got drawn very quickly into reading the whole thing! Keep the updates coming! Think about you both most days! Take care! H 🙂

    Reply

  3. Posted by sarah j on October 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    What a fantastic story/adventure!!! weldone for listening to your hearts/brains – which ever one it was – sounds like they were right!

    I love the pictures also – especially the picture of the pup – how cute – can u pack one and send it home to me!!!! hehe!!

    Sounds amazing guys – keep up the fun times!!! Love you both lots – miss you x x

    Reply

  4. Posted by Steph (Mumsicles) on October 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I would like to thank you both also for listening to your heads! It sounds like, even tho the adventure was cut short it was never the less one to remember!

    Tor, keep writing, we are living it through your blogs with you, I know I am biased but I love um!

    Thank you for the card, it arrived today! I am counting down the days til my visit, Laelia is coming down in a couple of weeks and hopefully we will book then.

    Love and hugs to both,

    Stay safe

    Love from Mooma XXXXXXXXX

    Reply

  5. Posted by Dad on October 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Great words Tor but don’t mention me, I haven’t been to anywhere that wasn’t in a brochure! And a Johnson’s one at that! Probably not a good idea to say what I think about the listening to your head, sadly over rated, that’s why you & Tom are there & we are here. Anyway sounds like you only met a couple of ex-stagecoach drivers with attitude, you didn’t try & talk to them about Fish in Seattle! Good job your instincts did you both proud, keep living with hairs on the back of your neck in tune with your surroundings, it won’t stop you doing great stuff. Keep listening to your hearts as well though because those feelings made you both have a go at this brilliant adventure. Enjoyed every word & picture so far, keep at it & yes I am jealous! Stay tuned.
    Love Dad.

    Reply

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