AMBASSADOR'S

Crossing The Himalayas #5 / トラウマの大ヒマラヤ山脈横断記#5

2015.06.12
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Crossing The Himalayas – Nepal GHT #5: By  Justin “Trauma” Lichter

We flew back to Jomson with loaded packs and headed into the Upper Dolpa region of Nepal. A remote and little visited area that only opened to foreigners within the last five years; hence the steep permit fee of $500 for seven days.

We ascended steadily out of town to cross three saddles. From the first saddle we had sweeping views with the arid and remote Mustang region and its orange, pink, and red hues to the north, and east towards the Annapurna massif and southwest towards Dhaulagiri, both 8000-meter peaks. The contrast in landscapes was amazing. It was like looking at Southern Utah on one side with the most towering, snowy peaks on the other side and a wide, steep river valley forming a divide between the 8000-meter peaks just to provide a scope of the enormous elevation differences.

We crossed the saddles and descended slightly to the small town of Santa right before dark. The town surroundings were dry and the water source was far down into the bottom of the valley. The small cluster of houses was built with thatch and adobe and it was apparent that the people were poor, in stark contrast to the Nepali people thriving on tourism on the main treks we had just passed through. We got permission to sleep on the flat roof of one of the houses. We cooked dinner and went to sleep under the full moon with the prayer flags blowing in the strong breeze.

The challenge began in earnest the next day. It wasn’t as if the rest of Nepal was easy, but this was the crux. The 10 day stretch through Dolpa was probably the most difficult stretch of hiking I have ever done. It included eight passes over 5000 meters and 10 passes in 10 days, with countless hours of post holing, numerous climbs over 3000 meters daily, uncooperative weather, and utterly amazing scenery. At times, we were post holing through rotten snow at over 5000 meters in elevation.

Sometimes it would take us an hour or two just to travel 100 meters. It was grueling and frustrating, and we only had a limited amount of food with us since our packs were heavy with food for the stretch anyway. It seemed that almost every night we got between 2 and 8 centimeters of fresh snow, which only added to the difficulty. We only passed through a few small towns in 10 days and all were very poor and had trouble enough with their own sustenance. We didn’t feel right asking to purchase any meals from them.

On the third to last day of the section we had an unbelievable experience. We were ascending the second major pass of the day and nearing our daily 3000 meters of elevation gain. We turned and climbed out of the main valley to ascend into a hanging valley. We climbed steeply and then leveled off once we topped out into the side valley. We then ascended more gradually but the terrain became snow covered. We began to posthole on some of the snow patches. The clouds came in and it began to snow lightly.

We then saw snow leopard footprints in the snow. They headed in the same direction we were going and seemed to be going to the pass also. Every time we followed the snow leopard footprints we wouldn’t posthole. With it snowing softly, we would occasionally lose the tracks in the accumulating snowfall. Every time we couldn’t follow them we would frustratingly break through the snow and posthole.A little while later we would stop post holing and realize that we were again walking on the snow leopard’s path.

I am still in awe that somehow the snow leopard had an uncanny ability to know the snowpack and know where it would not punch through the snow. We did not see a snow leopard track punch through the rotten snowpack the entire time we were following the tracks!  We could finally see the pass and all we had to do was contour across a 100-meter long snow slope to reach the pass.

We lost the snow leopard prints and began to posthole up to our chest at over 5200 meters elevation. We were exhausted and out of breathe. The accumulation of seven grueling days was weighing on us. It took us nearly 2 hours to traverse the 100 meters to the pass!

The trail has highs and lows, literally and metaphorically. Without the lows, the highs would not be as rewarding. The scenery was amazing throughout the section and it was by far the highlight of the entire trip.

It was a challenge and was as rewarding as any other place I have hiked. After cresting the final pass of the stretch, there was an overwhelmingly unbelievable and joyous feeling like I have only experienced a few times while hiking.

We glissaded down from the pass dropping roughly 500 meters in less than a minute. There was a hop in our step. This last pass was followed by a 50-kilometer descent to the town with our final resupply in Nepal. We knew we had made it through and would finish the trek – it would just take three more days of relatively uninspiring trekking to get to the border between Nepal and India.

However Nepal wasn’t going to let us out easy. We had a bunch of steep and long climbs in the hot and humid conditions. We were hoping for some cruiser miles to the border, but that wasn’t ever going to happen.

About a half a day from the end we crossed a rickety suspension bridge. Pepper was a few minutes ahead of me. I crossed the bridge and was catching up to an old lady ahead of me carrying a heavy bag of flour. I looked up from the wooden-plank bridge for a split second and WHAM! The next thing I knew I was dangling through the bridge holding on with my elbows. The only thing holding me from falling into the raging river 40 feet below were two precarious planks beside me.

The board I had been standing on was teetering and standing vertical. My vision was blurry and I could barely see. Adrenaline pumping I scrambled onto my stomach onto the board beside me and stood up. My knees were shaking and I put my hands up to my face. I pulled them away wet and warm with blood.

My sunglasses were perched precariously on my knees seemingly about to fall off but also gripping to hold on instead of plunge into the river. I stumbled to the opposite end of the bridge with my hands covering my face. Blood was dripping down through my hands and leaving a trail behind me. I felt my face and tried to pull off my sunglasses. They were attached to my eyebrow so I couldn’t remove them. I poured some water over my face and pulled again at my sunglasses. They still wouldn’t budge.

A local ran over to me in excitement after seeing what happened. He didn’t speak English so I made hand gestures for a mirror. He brought over a bowl of water and a mirror. I could tell that my eyebrow was protruding between my lens and the frame of my sunglasses. The wooden board had slammed me in the face as I was falling through the bridge. With my face bloody and bleeding profusely, I separated the lens from the frame and pried them off my face. I quickly taped over the gaping wound and washed off. I sat for a few minutes collecting myself and then dizzy and nauseous headed on to catch Pepper. After another 6 hours of hiking we reached the end of Nepal.

The last 13 days through Nepal were the toughest of our trip. We had a 10-day stretch through the remote area of Dolpa followed by a quick resupply in the town of Gamghadi before ending in a 3-day dash to the Nepali-Indian border. We couldn’t get enough calorie dense food to keep our weight on. The typical Nepali cuisine is dhal baht, which is rice and lentils, and they eat that twice a day and that’s basically all they eat. We tried to avoid the dhal baht as much as we could because we came to the conclusion that we were probably having a net deficit in calories with how our stomachs would feel the next day.

I don’t have much extra weight to lose anyway and I probably hit 145 pounds, a weight I haven’t seen since middle school. We joked that if Pepper could see my heart beating through my back and glowing like E.T. that we had to reevaluate the situation.

It was a grueling, tough trip. I lost more weight than on any other hike. I met some genuine and amazing people that would have given me the one shirt that they owned right off of their back. I experienced selflessness, resourcefulness and simplicity. I also experienced rudeness and ogling. I am humbled and grateful and feel a strong sense of accomplishment; but more than anything, I am speechless. I wish I had seen the Yeti too.

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JustinLichter

JustinLichter

1980年、ニューヨーク州生まれ。現在はカリフォルニア州レイク・タホ近くの山中に住み、スキーパトロールやグラナイトギアのパックテスター兼アドバイザーをしながら世界中のトレイルを歩いている。2006に約1年間(356日)で約16,000kmを歩くトリプルクラウンを達成。2007年に南アルプス、及びニュージーランドのサウスアイランドを、2009年にはアフリカ大陸をサポート無しで約2,900km歩く。最近では2011年のヒマラヤレンジ約3,200kmや、2013年メキシコのコッパーキャニオン約800kmをハイクトリップ。2002年以降、約56,000kmを超える距離をハイキングした世界中から注目を集めるハイカー。著書 『TRAIL TESTED』詳しくは、2014.01.31に掲載されたTRAIL TALK #001を参照。

http://www.justinlichter.com/

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