Our last morning in Thame we woke up to a beautiful white landscape after a heavy snowfall the night before. The porters played football in the snow covered field next to the tea house while we ate our breakfast and got ready to leave.
We climbed a small hill and then peeled down into the next valley which will eventually take us to the ‘Renjo La Pass’. One the way we stopped at a local artists house. He invited us in and we all sat inside drinking tea while he showed us his unique works of art which detailed the region, mountain and villages. The most amazing part of this visit was the artist himself. 64 year old Passang Nuru had no fingers or thumbs. He lost them to frost bite 30 years ago while crossing the 6000m Nangpa La pass from Tibet into Nepal with his brother and friends. Passang, his brother and friends were caught in a storm and they hunkered down to wait it out but it did not dissipate. Passang and his brother made the decision to brave the blizzard and continue on into Nepal as waiting in this exposed pass for a break in the weather was futile. Passang and his brother made finally it back home but both with severe frostbite which cost them all their fingers and thumbs. Their friends were not so lucky and died in the storm.
After saying goodbye to Passang and his wonderful family we trekked up the valley to a town called Marylung. As we were leaving one of our trekkers – Stephen – a professional photographer got some great shots of Passang and his paintings outside his home. I am not sure if I can get a copy of the photos but if I can I will add them to this post.
The rest of the trek to Marylung was pretty standard and easy. When we arrived at our lodging for the night – Riverview Lodge – we were greeted by Ang Phurba Sherpa the proprietor and father of Ang Chhutin the owner of the lodge we stopped at in Thamo. Ang Phurba owns a very basic lodge. Very basic! There was no electricity, no running water and the small room we ate in was usually filled with a decent amount of smoke which came from the stove in the centre of the room which burned my favourite fuel source – dried yak dung.
The next morning, we woke up after a pretty good sleep, had breakfast, readied our packs and then made the move up to a nearby 5000m peak which would be our acclimatisation trek for the day.
As Riverview Lodge was at an altitude of 4150m, the trek up to the 5000m was challenging. We all made it up but on the higher reaches I was huffing and puffing and struggling to get enough oxygen out of the thinner air. Finally, the altitude had started to have its effect.
On the summit, there were awesome views over to Tibet with Cho Oyo standing tall amongst its neighbours. We took the obligatory photos, leaned over the edge in awe of the massive drop below and got a sneak peak of a portion of our journey in two days’ time, the crossing of the Renjo La Pass.
The team came down at different speeds and some of us got back to Riverview fairly quickly which allowed us to bask in the afternoon sunshine while watching the rest of the team tumble down their chosen paths to the lodge.
Although challenging I got to the top and back down fairly quickly and felt good that afternoon. That evening however was a different story. The headaches began, the nausea kicked in and I was feeling a bit out of it. It was time for me to start a small daily dose of Diamox. This is the usual altitude (around 4600m) where I start taking Diamox. This is a simple ‘water pill’ (diuretic) medication which is used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Some people use it, some don’t. After years of trial and error I have found I need it after 4600m. It helped immediately and I slept well that night (apart from the side effect of Diamox which is having to expel 3 litres a night!).
The next morning, we woke up at a leisurely 8am and left for Lungden at 8:30am. This day is the easiest day of the whole trip. 1.5 hours and 200 vertical metres up the hill. The reason for this small move was simply to put ourselves in a better position for the 4am start the next day which would take us over the Renjo La Pass, a 5350m pass between the Thame valley and Gokyo valley. The Lungden View Lodge was very nice compared to the rustic (but charming) Riverview lodge lower down the valley.
With Diamox helping me acclimatise I was feeling great and ready for what was ahead.