Reflections and images from my travels

Archive for the ‘Elevation Data’ Category

Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Here it is January 14 2015 and it is time for another adventure in Rogers Pass. I am feeling somewhat spent (I did ski too much at Lake Louise prior to coming out) and I did develop a blister on the right heel so I hope I am up for this. After a quick breakfast in Golden at a local bakery that Mark insists is the only place here that can make a decent espresso (he’s right), he asks me if I am capable of doing a similar or longer duration tour compared to yesterday. Without thinking I say yes. Thinking is overrated. He suggests Lookout Col and I agree having no idea what I am agreeing to. Where Mark leads I will follow- I trust him.

We leave trailhead and set a reasonable pace to get warmed up and enter the llecillewaet Valley as we approach the moraine of the Col. I appreciate that Mark often takes us off the up track for teaching moments. The weather is perfect, warmer than yesterday, and there is little wind. I have applied moleskin to the right heel. I feel it a bit but it is not too bad. As we clear the trees the valley opens up and we get a great view of Mount Sir Donald as it’s peak pokes through the clouds. Brilliant.

Mark Klassen as we enter the llecillewaet Valley, Rogers Pass

Mark Klassen as we enter the llecillewaet Valley, Rogers Pass

Panorama- llecillewaet Valley

Panorama- llecillewaet Valley

llecillewaet Valley, Rogers Pass- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

llecillewaet Valley, Rogers Pass- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

 

Mount Sir Donald peaks through the cloud llecillewaet Valley, Rogers Pass- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

Mount Sir Donald peaks through the cloud llecillewaet Valley, Rogers Pass- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

It is tougher going through the moraine and all I can wonder is how do we ski back down through this stuff? Then the climbing starts and I quickly learn that I am working way too hard and slipping too much. Mark notices my distress and gives me a quick lesson in skinning up steep icy slopes. It works and I get it. On site teaching! Mark chooses a great up track through complex avalanche terrain that I would never tackle on my own. Guide…. good! This area is much quieter than Balu pass and we seem to have the place to ourselves. Two other skiers pass us from Finland and we have a nice little chat with them before heading up again.

Skinning up towards Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Skinning up towards Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Near the top of the Col Mark digs a snow pit and does a compression test. I ask him what he has gleaned from this and he says “it’s confusing and surprising”. Okay… I keep skinning up. Three other skiers are coming up the same slope behind us so I take a few pictures for perspective.

Another beautiful view- Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Another beautiful view- Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Skiers skinning up Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Skiers skinning up Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Skiers skinning up towards Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Skiers skinning up towards Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

We reach the top of the Col and take a breather and have a bite as we transition. It has been a long climb but I feel great. I look at my watch and cannot believe it is already after 3 PM. Yikes, we will need to get down soon. Will we make it before we lose light? The views are spectacular! The sun breaks through and lights up the rim of a mountain on the opposite side of the Col. “Just breathe…..again”.

Lookout Col top, Rogers Pass as the sun comes out- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

Lookout Col top, Rogers Pass as the sun comes out- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

Our Transition Point- Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

Our Transition Point- Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

The sun breaks through- Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

The sun breaks through- Lookout Col, Rogers Pass

We are set to ski! What a feeling. We are able to find virgin lines on the way down but I am happy that Mark is leading because the way down has no correlation to the way up. At one point Mark says follow closely here and stay away from the right as there is a cliff drop off. It is good practice to stop and look where you are as the ski down is so much fun. I can see it would be quite easy to lose perspective and ski off a cliff. Mind you, you would be smiling initially as you met your demise! We are approaching the moraine and this is the part that I fear. Mark calmly says “oh we will just head off on skier’s left and join the summer hiking trail that completely bypasses the moraine” that I did not see at all as we were skinning up. Yes!

The remaining ski out is fun as we get thrown from corner to corner of the icy down track. It is like luge or bobsleigh sledding. Too much fun. We also pass a snow topped rock feature that you swear houses hobbits. We finish the tour and I am ecstatic. I feel strong and confident. What a great tour to accomplish. It’s all thanks to Mark as he points out we are back down in just less than a hour. We climbed over 1000 m and travelled 15.4 km.

Lookout Col, Elevation Graph

Lookout Col, Elevation Graph

 

We drive back to Golden and I drop off Mark as he drives back to Banff (his home) in his own vehicle. What a fantastic guide! I know I will be back to tour with him again. He is so knowledgeable- he taught and I learned. My skill set improved dramatically in two days and I know what I need to work on for future tours. I was able to get into terrain that I otherwise would never have been able to do safely. This was exactly what I was looking for in hiring a guide.

I am driving back to Calgary tired but enthralled with the experience I have just had. It is so important to push yourself in new directions even though it would be easier not to and to give in to your anxieties and perceived limitations. We live in an amazing part of the world and I continue to be enriched by venturing into the mountains that I love.

Until next time.

Balu Pass Adventure, Rogers Pass

Here it is Day 2, January 13 2015 of my alpine touring adventure. I was feeling a little stiff this morning- mainly the quadriceps- after my rather enthusiastic day of resort skiing at Lake Louise yesterday. I certainly don’t remember feeling this stiff as well as all of this aching in my younger years! Ah….the ravages of time.

Our destination today was Balu Pass. It is a popular area and a great introduction to the Rogers Pass backcountry skiing experience. It involves mostly skinning but there are several nice descents on the way down. Mark chose the perfect place to get me acquainted with my new equipment as well as to assess my capabilities. It was an awe-inspiring journey cradled between Mount Cheops on the left and Ursus Major and Ursus Minor on the right. Mark also pointed out the exact spot where the Strathcona school tragedy happened. Very sad and sobering! Our avalanche risk today was quite low. The temperature was nice and there was little wind. It was a great climb. I thought I had forgotten my camera as I could not find it at trailhead when we departed. I had to rely on Mark to take a few cell phone shots to document our day. I had a cell phone as well but when I took it out it was out of charge. The gods of photography were against me today.

Me skinning up Balu Pass, Rogers Pass- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

Me skinning up Balu Pass, Rogers Pass- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

As we approached the top of the pass, the sun shone strongly and lit up snow covered trees and surface hoar on pristine snow which twinkled like diamonds. Mark was ahead leading and I just had to stop and watch as he broke trail through this magical snowfield approaching the crest of the ridge as the sun shone as a brilliant orb in front of us. I had to “just breathe”- as the Alberta Tourism ad says- and soak it all in. Breathtaking!

Beautiful Balu Pass as the sun shines- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

Beautiful Balu Pass as the sun shines- photo courtesy of Mark Klassen

After a quick bite and transition (like triathlon, just with ski bindings/boots), it was time to head down. Mark chose a nice line and went first. He waited at the bottom of the first pitch for me. I am not sure why backcountry skiing is different to me psychologically compared to resort skiing but it is. The mind can play tricks on you. To my surprise I did fine. What a feeling floating through snow surrounded by all of this beauty. More….”just breathing”. Mark had great pointers to improve my ski technique but there was no drama on the way down.

The descent itself is a very long ski out on the slick up track that transforms into a Hot Wheels track on the down track. Taking it slow and cautious is the key. We got out earlier than expected. Our total elevation gain was 802 m and total distance travelled was 11.1 km. Not bad! I had aching quadriceps and cramping thigh adductors as well as a hot spot on my right heel. All in all only minor issues! Mark was a fantastic guide. I learned a lot in terms of what to do in an avalanche, practicing beacon search skills, equipment tips/tricks and especially skiing technique. A great guy and so knowledgeable. His experience comes through in aptly demonstrated confidence and reasoned counsel. This was exactly what I was looking for in hiring a guide.

Balu Pass, Rogers Pass elevation graph January 13 2015

Balu Pass, Rogers Pass elevation graph January 13 2015

We drove back to Golden and upon our return I promptly found my camera on the “other” bottom of my pack (ohhhh! as Homer would say). We had a great dinner at a local restaurant. Then it was back to the motel for a soak in the hot tub. Simply put, I am finding the hot tub a necessity, not just a passing fancy….I may have to get one for that new backyard of mine! Stuff always leads to more stuff.

Tomorrow’s adventure is a surprise as Mark has not yet decided where we will be going in Rogers Pass. Like Christmas Day, I will have to wait for my present in anxious anticipation. You will have to stay tuned. I know, it’s like one of those cliffhanger episodes on TV. Okay, now I am being a little dramatic. Time to sign off. Until next time.

Odds, Ends and Stats!

So many little things to tell you about! It has been about a week since I returned from my journey. Plenty of time to reflect.

I felt I packed just about right. As it turned out, I didn’t need the rain gear or the warm gloves because the weather was so spectacular. However, one must always be prepared. The Arkel panniers did their job admirably. It is amazing how much they can hold. Everything inside the packs is also weather protected with a rain proof lining that can be unfurled when needed and then packed away when not needed.

I have already extolled the virtues of my ride, a Co-motion Americano touring bike. I absolutely love this thing. Completely reliable and solid and it didn’t break a sweat with the kilograms of gear in panniers attached to its frame. It was stable at high speed on the mountain road descents and on the flats it ran like a thoroughbred. I think this is going to be a long and meaningful relationship!

My small ultralight tent, the Easton 1 Kilo, was a comfortable home away from home. It is amazing how light it is and how small it can be packed. It didn’t really rain so I did not have a chance to really test out its foul weather capabilities. A comfortable bed is very important and the combination of my Western Mountaineering Versalight sleeping bag and the Xped down sleeping pad allowed for a restful slumber.

The MSR Reactor stove did a great job of heating food/hot drink up very quickly. I basically brought food for breakfast and dinner. I also had numerous snacks as I was biking during the day. Beef jerky, raw almonds, dried apricots, dates as well as protein power bars supplied energy along the way. I tried to purchase lunch, if it was available, along each day’s route. The dehydrated food was adequate for dinner. I have purchased a dehydrator and will try to prepare my own dry foods for my next adventure. It is my hope that this will be healthier and taste better.

The campgrounds along the way were great. Each provided hot showers and heated bathrooms. This really does make a difference when you are out on the road day after day. Each of the campgrounds were well landscaped and very well-managed. They were very quiet for the most part [except for the nearby trains].

The technology [yes, I always have to talk about the technology] allowed me to stay in contact with my family, blog along the way, stay “energized” and provided the photographs you are hopefully enjoying in the blog. I brought the Olympus Stylus 1 along because it is a compact camera. It produces great photographs and has a great focal length range from 28-200 mm at maximum F2 .8 aperture. It also has an extremely long battery life. I never needed to charge it for the entire week. The Delorme SE satellite beacon provided tracking capabilities as well as the ability to communicate with my family and also allowed them to track me [stalkers]. The Garmin GPS provided me with digital maps as well as data regarding the trip and a GPX file which is always helpful for future journeys. A Brunton Lithium Ion battery pack provided me with mobile energy to power all of my USB devices. It did not have to be recharged for the entire trip. Quite efficient!. In fact, at the end of the trip it still had 80% retained charge.

And now, the stats! I really do not spend any time thinking about the technology/stats when I am out on these adventures. However, at the end it is always interesting to quantify what one has done. It certainly adds to the satisfaction and continues to augment my opinion of how amazing the human body is. Without further adieu:

Total distance traveled- 688.4 km

Golden Triangle Cycle Tour October 2014

Golden Triangle Cycle Tour October 2014

Time in the saddle- 43 hours 20 min.

Elevation graph-

Golden Triangle Elevation Graph October 2014

Golden Triangle Elevation Graph October 2014

Total calories burned- 16,645 kcal

Average heart rate = 114

Maximum heart rate = 147

Average speed during the tour- 16.2 km/h

Maximum speed- 59 km/h [downhill, of course]

Total ascent- 6898.7 m [yikes, almost into the death zone of 8000 m]

Total weight lost during the tour = 3 kg

Total joy quotient = immeasurable!

That’s about it for now. I certainly encourage everyone to cycle. It is an amazing way to get exercise and a great way to experience the environment you are cycling through. As I said previously, I certainly plan to do more cycle tours- alongside my other activities- over the next several years. Here’s looking forward to the next one. Until next time.

 

Amazing Hong Kong

As I write this post, it is December 3, 2011. I arrived in Hong Kong yesterday early in the morning. What a difference compared to Kathmandu. Kathmandu has many challenges but over time I grew to appreciate some of it’s charms. In contrast, I immediately loved Hong Kong. So much action, activity, polite people and despite its size an extremely clean city. I am amazed at the number of cleaners they have out for example in Kowloon Park continually sprucing up the place. If you love shopping (I do not personally) this is surely heaven. The number of stores is overwhelming. Everything from inexpensive bakeries all the way up to extremely high-end shops selling the most exclusive goods. Even though there are many people you hardly ever hear any car horns unlike Kathmandu. Everything is orderly and everything works. This is another distinct difference compared to Kathmandu. There was an underlying sense of brokenness and decay in Kathmandu. Hong Kong exudes energy and enthusiasm. The other thing that became immediately obvious was that it was Xmas shopping season. Decorations and Xmas music blaring out everywhere. I left Canada mid-October so I guess Xmas is a coming and mighty soon.

I arrived yesterday, as mentioned, quite early and could not check into my room until 2 PM. This afforded me the perfect opportunity to cruise downtown Kowloon on foot since I had so much practice walking over the previous six weeks. Everyone in Kathmandu is trying to sell you all manner of goods. In Hong Kong the only people who try to sell you goods in the streets are the tailors. There must be thousands of tailors in Hong Kong. It seems everyone wanted to sell me a new custom-made suit. During my morning I visited the beautiful centrally located Kowloon Park. What a mecca of peacefulness in the centre of this busy city. It had a wonderful aviary, beautiful sculptures and many people practicing tai chi, martial arts and swordsmanship. The weather was warm (about 23 C) and beautiful with blue skies. It is amazing how cheaply one can eat in Hong Kong. Taxis are always available to take you anywhere you want to go for a reasonable price. It seems the only type of taxi available is a Toyota Crown Custom LPG automobile (in Kathmandu it was broken down and barely legal Suzuki Maruti’s). Not all of the taxi drivers have a good command of English so it is a good idea to be aware of major landmarks around where you want to go or where you are coming from. As an example, on December 3 traveling back from a hike on Dragon’s Back I asked the taxi driver to take me to the YMCA on Salisbury Road. After driving through the expensive districts of Refuse Bay and Stanley (both lovely by the way) he happily stopped and wanted to drop me off at South Gate Way. After a lot of confusion, I decided it was best he just drop me off at the Star Ferry near Kowloon which he seemed to understand. In his broken English he was very apologetic.

After getting back to my hotel at 2 PM, I was informed that because the hotel was so booked with an open house they were having the next day that they were upgrading my room. Excellent. The room was absolutely palatial compared to what I had experienced over the previous six weeks. The upgraded room had a separate suite and a beautiful view over the downtown area. It was extremely comfortable. Needless to say I had a wonderful sleep to make up for the lack of sleep the previous night on the flight over.

I actually slept in on December 3 and finally got out of bed at 10:30 AM! Wow I guess I needed that sleep. I then had a quick breakfast and took a taxi drive out to the Dragon’s Back Trail. This is a wonderful hike if you find you have time and are in Hong Kong. Within 25 to 30 minutes it’s like you have left the city. It is so quiet and the views are panoramic. The weather was perfect. Certainly all my high altitude hiking helped over the previous six weeks as this hike seemed very easy. You basically get up to a high point of approximately 284 m over undulating hiking trail hence the name of Dragon’s “Back”. I have attached the elevation profile because I have finally figured out how to do this from my GPS!  One must do something with the data from these tech-toys!

Dragon’s Back Elevation Profile

When I completed half of the hike I decided to completely descend to a lovely village on the beach which was very quiet and a great place just to reflect on the experiences I have had over the previous six weeks. I then double-backed on the same trail and along the way watched a paraglider take off from the slopes and gently ride the thermals and when I got back to the start point I took a cab back to my hotel. Overall, a nice little hike- total distance 11.6 km and total ascent cumulative 542 m. I had a fantastic dinner and will go out to walk around downtown to simply soak the ambience of this fantastic city this evening. My plan tomorrow morning is to get up early and to do a run along the nearby promenade. I try to do a long-distance run in every city that I visit. The mornings are generally very quiet and it is a wonderful way to explore a city. I regret to say I did not do this in Kathmandu. It just didn’t seem like it was a safe , healthy or particularly pleasurable thing to do in that particular city.

After my run I plan to have a leisurely breakfast and again simply walk along the promenade enjoying my final hours in the city. I fly out of Hong Kong International at about 4:30 PM December 4 and will arrive back in Calgary December 4 as well late afternoon.

What a fantastic trip this has been. So many wonderful experiences and wonderful people. I hope this blog was able to communicate to you some of the experiences that I had on this wonderful journey. I hope you enjoyed the photographs and also the narrative. I tried to be as entertaining and brief as I could. Certainly with many of you I will further expand on my experiences when I am back in Calgary. Who knows where the next adventure will take me. Certainly Patagonia in Chile is one place that I really want to visit, hike and camp in. Perhaps that will be where you will next find me. For now I sign off, however, I plan to keep the blog active even for some of my local adventures so check back often. Goodbye for now. As always, a few pictures for you to enjoy.

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Langtang Trek- Part 4

We left Thadepati Pass November 25, 2011 and had a steep descent down a beautiful forest trail under brilliant blue skies and then crossed a suspension bridge over a river and climbed up to Melamchigaon, 2530 m. We had a quick water break and then proceeded onwards to Tarkeghyang at 2600 m. At times we crossed a road which was the first evidence of a return to civilization. The guesthouse at Tarkeghyang was quite large. It was also very busy. We arrived in the early afternoon and the sun was very warm and I enjoyed a lovely afternoon chatting with Anna, a lovely German woman who was trekking on her own but had been to Nepal 30 years previously. She was revisiting some of the areas she had seen before. She was most interesting to talk to. Before we arrived at Tarkeghyang there was an absolutely beautiful Buddhist monastery and temple that we visited. It was in a beautiful location and very peaceful. I had a relatively early evening in order to continue the therapeutic process of improving my cough. It was starting to settle.

November 26, 2011 was a relatively easy day traveling to Sermathang, 2590 m. It was nice not to have massive elevation gains or losses. I think I had reached my fill of trekking and was looking forward to winding down. We arrived quite early in Sermathang and again stayed at a wonderful guesthouse. At this guesthouse I met Julie, a retired British schoolteacher who was doing volunteer work at the local school. To my delight Anna also showed up at the same guesthouse later that afternoon which made for a wonderful evening full of conversation and fantastic kitchen dining. The food was superb. The remainder of that afternoon I spent walking around the village and just enjoying myself and taking a few photographs. It was a very relaxing day.

November 27, 2011 we had the final leg of the Langtang trek. Our destination was Melamchi a relatively large town at 870 m. This final day did involve quite a bit of trekking on a road which seemed shocking after all of the trail we had been on. I perhaps would’ve chosen a different route down which did not involve this stretch but I think my tour organizer wanted to add distance and increase days to match the duration of the missed Everest trek. It was very hot on the descent and I was happy to reach Melamchi. I swear I was the only Caucasian tourist in this particular town. We stayed at a relatively comfortable hotel that was advertised as a beachfront hotel. I am not sure why they did this because all we had for views was a large construction area surrounding the hotel and a distant view of the Melamchi Khola. I enjoyed another wonderful Nepalese lunch meal eaten with my hands with the guide and the porter of Dal Bhat. I then walked around the town and enjoyed an afternoon exploring and taking a few photographs. At the river I was enthralled with two homeless men fishing for their dinner. That evening we had a quiet dinner and then settled into a peaceful slumber. The Langtang trek, and in fact all of my trekking, was completed. What a rewarding experience overall. This was a much quieter, more remote and in many ways more rewarding trek than Annapurna. The trek was approximately 187 km in duration with a total ascent of 12,417 m (yes, that is correct!) and a total descent of 14,059 m!  It was was a lot longer than Annapurna and more challenging.

Langtang Trek Elevation Profile

We got up early November 28, 2011 and after a simple breakfast proceeded to the bus stop and took the local bus back to Kathmandu. There were no tourist buses in this area due to its more remote location. If I thought the tourist bus from Pokhara was bad it was nothing compared to the local bus. This trip was actual torture. The bus was very old, eventually absolutely packed with people to unsafe levels and in it’s condition should have been condemned. Most of the seats were ripped and had no cushioning. The ride was bone jarring again. It took approximately 4 hours to get back to Kathmandu. I was never as happy to get off a bus as I was on this occasion. Through six weeks of trekking with massive elevation gains and losses I had no pain or discomfort. However, after this bus ride I had an extremely painful right shoulder and right lower back pain. 4 hours on this bus accomplished what six weeks of trekking could not do. Thank God for anti-inflammatories. I arrived back in Kathmandu and stayed at my original hotel The Eco-Resort in Thamel. it was a wonderful experience to have a hot shower, get a haircut and shave and sleep in a comfortable bed that evening. Ah… we do like our creature comforts!

My final tour in Kathmandu was on November 29, 2011 when I visited the local tertiary Kanti Children’s Hospital for approximately 3 1/2 hours. I spent so much time there I was unable to make it to the leprosy clinic afterwards. It was a fascinating experience and I met some very committed and wonderful Nepalese physicians who were able to speak to me about their experiences trying to provide care. A relatively fascinating individual was the head oncologist who had trained in Los Angeles between 2007-2010 but had returned to Nepal to provide oncology care for the local children. He was having a direct positive impact with relatively good outcomes despite having very poor financial support and limited pathology support including blood cultures. With induction chemotherapy he often had to guess what was producing fever because certain cultures for common organisms fungal and otherwise were not available. I also had the opportunity to meet with a British nurse who was here providing volunteer training on central venous line placement for chemotherapy. This would make a big difference to the comfort of the children during their treatment protocols. The sanitation and infection control in the hospital were challenging issues. It was an eye-opening experience and again I am so thankful to be living in Canada. It would be interesting to come back and provide some volunteer medical time in the hospital teaching or providing service. I will have to consider this in the future. The need is so great here.

The evening of November 29, 2011, the entire day of November 30, 2011 and December 1, 2011 were spent relaxing, touring the tourist areas of Thamel and catching up on the blog. I am now relatively caught up- yeah! As I dictate today it is December 1, 2011 and I leave Kathmandu at 11:30 PM this evening to fly to Hong Kong and will arrive December 2, 2011 at approximately 6 AM in the morning. I will spend a few days in Hong Kong before I return back to Canada. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time both in Bhutan as well as Nepal. I grew to enjoy in Nepal after my initial reservations and I must say that the people of Nepal are extremely generous, warm and very gentle. I am so impressed with them. They are passionate about their children and providing education and adequate health care to them. However the government does not really support them in this regard. There are so many challenges in Nepal. Many of the Nepalese also have a passion to learn English as they realize this provides a gateway to better paying jobs usually in the tourist industry. I will continue to add a few more blogs about Nepal while I am in Hong Kong. For now I will say “Namaste” packing awaits.

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Annapurna Sanctuary Base Camp- Part 3

Remembrance Day November 11, 2011 was spent descending from Sinuwa, 2360 m down more stone steps, crossing the river and then ascending another couple of thousand stone steps back up to Chhomrong. Of course, we had to stop again at the bakery to pick up some more chocolate rolls and enjoyed the wonderful sunshine. From Chhomrong, another steep descent involving rocky steps brought us to the beautiful village of Jhinudanda, 1780 m. The trek only took about three hours. Heaven. This village had a resort feel to it and the guesthouse was palatial compared to the ones that we had stayed in over the last several days. I was also back to having my own room which was worth its weight in gold. There were a lot more flowers and vegetation at the lower altitude. The weather continued to be warm and sunny. What a wonderful place.

After lunch, we descended several hundred meters from our guesthouse to the Modi Khola and enjoyed a wonderful soak in the hot springs for three hours for medicinal purposes you understand. What a great prescription! There were two separate pools the upper and lower and the water was quite warm and felt wonderful after so many days of trekking. There were quite a few people however this did not detract from the experience. The guide and porter really seemed to have been looking forward to this particular experience. They really seemed to enjoy themselves. After soaking for about 30 minutes I informed some of the bathers in the lower pool of the virtues of going into cold water like a true Canadian. They were shocked when I hopped out of the pool and carefully stepped down the stones and immersed myself into the cold rushing nearby river. I then quickly climbed back into the hot pool to experience that wonderful tingle. Soon everybody was trying it. We all had a good laugh over this folly. I also met up with Barbara and Paul from Okotoks again. We ascended back to the guesthouse afterwards. After a wonderful dinner a wonderful sleep was had.

November 12, 2011, the next morning, we left Jhinudanda and crossed New Bridge and arrived at Landruk, 1565 m, well ahead of schedule. Because we arrived so early I really felt we should go onwards to Dhampus. The guide agreed. The hike was lovely and there was little ascent and no significant stone steps. Yes! There was a more formal trail and beautiful small villages along this route. It was a wonderful hike. I think in retrospect this would have been a much better route to ascend to ABC as opposed to the Nayapul ascent as it would have bypassed a lot of the stone steps which are not particularly enjoyable to do. The evening was spent at a reasonable guesthouse where I met two lovely young women doing some volunteer work and trekking as well. Krishna and I played cards with them into the evening. The weather that day had started to cloud over but it did not really matter with the trek coming to an end. That evening we had a return of mist and fog and it certainly created a ghostly feel to the evening.

November 13, 2011 was a very short descent hike from Dhampus to Phedi, 1130 m. It was extremely humid from the night before and we had a very steep descent on rocky steps. With my hiking boots and Vibram soles it was practically treacherous. I almost fell several times and we really had to slow down in order to avoid an injury or fall. We arrived back at the highway at 0845 hrs which officially ended the ABC trek. It was a relatively gruelling trek and we finished a day early. We had covered approximately 125 km and probably climbed close to 10,000 stone steps, total elevation gained was 8065 m and total elevation descent was 7641 m.  The total caloric output was huge probably in the range of 18,000 kcal. There is no way you can eat enough food to keep up. Hence, weight loss occurs. Overall, it was a great experience despite some of the challenges I have listed. Certainly, it whetted my appetite for Everest base camp.

Annapurna Base Camp Elevation Profile

A taxi picked us up and drove us back to Pokhara. After a nice lunch and probably the best Nepalese Dal Bhat I have had (and I am proud to say that I ate it with my hands- no cutlery- in the true Nepalese style) we had a free afternoon. We decided to rent a boat and had a leisurely paddle on the Phewa Tal to a small island to visit a Hindu temple and then onwards to be dropped off on the opposite shore of the lake to climb up several hundred meters of stone steps (I never seem to tire of this) to a beautiful Peace Pagoda with wonderful views of Pokhara. It was a wonderful afternoon. We took several pictures up at the pagoda. Another wonderful experience was having Ganesh and Krishna sing a local song about Pokhara while we were paddling on the lake. I used my camera to video Krishna singing and will include this in this post for you to enjoy as well.

Almost every Nepali seems to be able to sing well. It is obvious singing brings them a lot of joy. That evening in Pokhara we had a wonderful meal at a beautiful restaurant and enjoyed each other’s company. The next day Krishna would be leaving us and we would have a different porter for the next trek.

November 14, 2011 we took the tourist bus back early in the morning to Kathmandu. I so wished I would have paid to have another private hire taxi ride instead. The bus was in poor condition with absolutely no suspension, very noisy with a bone jarring ride. It was a truly horrible experience. However it is a relatively inexpensive way to get back. Believe it or not it took approximately 7 hours to get back to Kathmandu. The roads were congested and along the way there was a major crash which completely plugged up the road between a bus and a truck. This is a common occurrence. We did have a lunch stop along the way. I also gave Krishna my camera to play with during the journey and to take pictures which he seemed to thoroughly enjoy. When we arrived in Kathmandu we took a taxi to a different hotel where I said goodbye to Krishna and gave him a big hug. I really grew to like this fellow. Even though his English was limited his bubbly personality came through and he had a real joyous nature. He seemed to warm up over the 10 days and was much more interactive with me compared to initially. I think that porters are often discouraged from interacting too much with clients. I am so glad I did not ascribe to this policy. I tipped him well and said farewell. I would continue to have Ganesh as my guide for the next trek. Everest base camp had not worked out due to poor weather in early November. Would I be successful in getting there on this second attempt?

Day 8-Tiger’s Nest and Paro

This was our final full day in Bhutan. After a heavenly sleep and excellent breakfast we proceeded into Paro. Three of us would not be going to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Gerry elected to continue to recover at the resort, Lorraine and Terry decided after going up to the parking lot of the Tiger’s Nest to return to Paro to shop and then return to the resort for a massage. The rest of us proceeded up approximately 400 m to the monastery. It is a popular destination and there were quite a few people. It was a good climb and we enjoyed the visit to the monastery. It really is in a dramatic location and very photogenic.

Tiger’s Nest Elevation

Afterwards we had lunch in Paro and then a free afternoon just to wander around town. I was able to purchase an original oil painting of prayer flags which was one of my intended purchases. I also took a few casual photographs walking around town. We then returned to the resort and had a final dinner with Krishna and Phuntsho finally joining us so we could all eat together a final time. It was a nice way to end the day and trek. We returned to our respective rooms and slept well.

The next morning we had breakfast and on our way to the airport stopped to watch some archery which is the national sport of Bhutan. The accuracy and animation of the archers was a sight to behold. We then continued to the airport where I would be flying onwards to Nepal to continue my trekking departing from the group. They would all continue to Bangkok and then go their respective ways. I was sorry to see the group go. They were a great group of people to experience Bhutan with. We promised later in the year to get together to reminisce and review our pictures. I promised to complete the blog and share it with the others. Promise kept!

Overall, trekking in Bhutan was an amazing experience. Remote, wild and unspoiled surroundings. We really felt like we were apart from the world free to enjoy the sensory and visual experiences the countryside had to offer. The trekking was difficult but very rewarding knowing we could truly climb mountains and achieve our dreams of visiting Shangri-La. Regarding statistics- including the hike up to the initial village as well as Tiger’s Nest- the total distance travelled was 60 km, 3940 m elevation ascent and 4692 m descent. For now, it was now onwards to Nepal. How would it stack up relative to Bhutan? Time would tell.

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