Friday 22nd December 2017.
Another short day today. It is advisable not to gain more than 500m of height when acclimatizing due to the lower air pressure and oxygen so today was short and walking was slow and an easy pace.
I found a website that calculates that at 4500m, the standard barometric pressure is 60 kPa (447 mmHg). This means that there is 59% of the oxygen available at sea level and at 5416m, the standard barometric pressure is 53 kPa (398 mmHg). This means that there is 52% of the oxygen available at sea level. Source: Altitude air pressure calculator
Fascinating! I found I was taking two breaths every step, rather than the usual one, but this didn’t seem to affect my walking at all, I just had to breathe more and keep going!
As always, remember to look back at the view when you’re walking (and that photos)! This picture shows the view looking back from Yak Kharka with the Annapurna range in the background – it was stunning. The peak on the right is Gangapurna (7,455 m/24,457 ft), with Annapurna III (7,555m/24,787 ft) in the centre.
The view looking forwards from Yak Kharka wasn’t as nice to begin with…
… but it got more impressive! The trail to Thorung Phedi: crossing the Jarsang Khola river and climbing steeply up to a small shop selling tea…
…but still, the view behind… wow.
I’m not a fan of photos of myself but I like this one. I felt fit and healthy and excited for the next day’s adventure to the pass. It’s at times like this that I truly feel alive and grateful for these opportunities.
We had a tea stop at this tea place randomly on the side of the trail – they just appear at the most unexpected places – before continuing and viewing ahead of us, the Purkung Range mountains.
Our guides informed us of a landslide area which in recent years had been problematic and instructed not to dawdle and take pictures; which was just as well because a blue sheep kicked rocks down from about and two group members had to move quickly to the side to avoid being hit!
After trekking along the undulating trail, we eventually reached our destination of Thorong Phedi (4,420m). Signs on our arrival greet us with information about acute mountain sickness and what symptoms to look out for. At this point I had no worries but that all changed later on!
So after settling into our rooms, donning on the down jacket to keep warm, avoiding the ice on the ground and heading inside for a hearty lunch I stepped outside the building and suddenly, without any indication it was going to happen, I had an intense, strong headache that really hurt.
I’ve been fortunate enough to never have had issues with headaches (or hangovers) so the intensity of this one felt unnatural and highly uncomfortable. I told our guide how I was feeling as we were due to go on an acclimation walk to Thorong High Camp in the afternoon – I just couldn’t manage it, I was nearly in tears at the pain and couldn’t move normally – so decided to stay behind.
Bikash decided that I should take a full Diamox and rest, but not sleep. I just had the headache so the thought of it being altitude sickness was not considered at this stage.
So, I stayed at the camp whilst the others went up to high camp and got talking to two Americans who had exactly the same sensation – they’d been fine all along the route then suddenly felt intense headaches at the guest house. They decided to sleep it off and seemed fine later in the evening – I’m not sure if they ever made the pass or not, I never saw them on the trail after this day but I like to think they managed to complete the circuit.
After resting all afternoon with my shades on (the light was hurting my eyes), allowing the pill to take effect, drinking lots of water and eating I felt better but the headache was still slightly there, albeit with a lot less intensity. I took paracetamol and retired to bed.
The blankets were needed on top of our sleeping bags on this night! We had to be prepared for a 3am wake up call for breakfast and trekking out, so I laid out my clothes ready for the early start and decided to turn in for an early night.
The view from the guest house. I had to take one last long look before preparing for the next day ahead – it was going to be a long and tiring one but I was really looking forward to it!