I’ll continue where I left with the previous post, which depicted the first trekking leg up to Chutang. Next, the route will go over Zetra La and then up the Hinku Valley on the other side.
The next few days will not provide much thrills other than crossing the Zetra La (or Zatrwa La) – which is the high point of the trek until Khare at the end of the Hinku valley – and the first glimpses of the Mera Peak. Having written that out, it actually doesn’t sound that lame after all 😀
From Chutang, the route climbs steadily to the first pass Zetra La at a bit over 4500m and then climbs to the second Zetra La pass at 4600m. From there you can see multiple 6000m peaks to the North. Surprisingly, you can even see all the way to the Tibetan passes in the North-East by looking over Lukla and Namche Bazaar, if you know where to look. After the great vantage point the route descends to the village of Tuli Kharka on the other side of the pass. It will still be at elevation of 4200m and the elevation gain will then be over 700m from Chutang. This section is not too long, but crossing the pass will be the most demanding task so far. Tuli Kharka is, again, a tiny Tea House/village with just a few houses making the whole lot.
The route from Tuli Kharka starts with an almost 1000m drop to the Hinku Valley floor. At the same time you’ll come into more vegetative grounds again, not that the previous section would be just plain rock on top of another, but the vegetation is much more scarse higher up. After the descend the route will follow the Hinku Valley up for some time until you reach a village called Khotey at 3500m. This section is a bit longer than the previous ones, as almost half of it will be on relatively level terrain, at least compared to the slopes that have just been left behind. Still, it is not an overly lengthy bit, but descends are always hard for your joints especially when carrying heavy burdens.
Khotey is, surprisingly, a somewhat more developed spot. The reason could be that it is here that you officially enter the Makalu Barun National Park and you have to clear your permit for the area here. So, some officials must reside here to do that, which usually means that there has to be more “luxuries” too. From Khotey you can also see the Mera Peak for the first time, but only its South Face, which you don’t see on the way to the top actually.
From Khotey the route follows the Hinku Valley steadily ascending from Khtotey’s elevation of 3500m to Thangnag at 4300m. The valley floor does not rise very steeply, but this section is longer than the previous ones with about 9km to trek.
On the way you have an odd shrine here and there, and even some fauna to spot. The most dominating scene will be the Kyashar – or Peak 43 as it was earlier known – towering at the end of the valley. I recall reading somewhere that the first expedition for the Peak 43 was a long time ago, but they accidentally climbed Mera Peak instead. At some point they must have turned towards the wrong side of the valley. But I cannot confirm this, as I’m not able to find the same information again, so odds are I’m mistaken. The first climb of the Kyashar was, anyway, done as late as 2003 by a Swiss (?) team. I’ve understood that it is still unrepeated, even though there has been multiple attempts.
Thangang sits in the Hinku Valley just between Kyashar and Mera Peak, both rising right from the valley on opposite sides. You cannot see the true summit of Mera Peak from here, but only the west face and the western summit. Thangnag is again rather rustic in terms compared to the Khotey complex. Here we will spent the first rest and acclimatization day of the trip.
Next, the route will follow the Hinku Valley up and over the Mera La.
To catch up with a few words about my ankle’s healing process: it feels better now. I at least believe so as I ditched the ankle brace/air cast yesterday (or the evening before, really). Yesterday we also went to Nuuksio for some mushroom picking and the leg seemed to cope. It wasn’t painless by no means, although I had put my sturdy trekking boots on to provide more support, and it did get more and more sore during the trip, but for the first two hours it seemed relatively ok-ish. This morning we (me and my wife) went to the ashtanga-yoga course which was held by our “guru” Hanne. It is actually an intensive exercise course which means that you go there for every weekday morning and do the poses you know in your own pace and the instructor will come and help or coach where needed. This time there’s two weeks in a row, which means still 9 more 4:45am wake up calls for us 😀
For those that do not know, we have been practicing ashtanga-yoga for several years now and Hanne has been our main and almost sole teacher for the whole time. We usually practice just at home (not as often as we should) and go for her course whenever there is one to get a good beating about what we are doing wrong or what we should do better… and if we are lucky and good enough she’ll teach us a new pose or two.
Today’s session was bit different from the previous ones as I haven’t been able to do yoga for weeks now (not to mention walking) and my leg is still a bit swollen and aching so I had to skip a few poses, but actually surprisingly few. I was pretty surprised how strong and good it felt and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do the jump back at least a few times next week. I’m still scared of jumping onto my feet and have to skip that for a while longer. Also some poses which I thought would be really, really hard after the break from yoga, were unexpectedly easy. Maybe the climbing and walking on the crutches around Rome has done something 😀
By accident, I bumped into a blog written by a 44-year Belgian Stef who has whipped up a dream to climb the seven summits, but is apparently going for Baruntse in between. So one of the other 15 members of our Baruntse group has been identified. In a short while I’l meet this fellow climber also in person. What more, he has a Dutch friend who is also coming there. Stef also mentioned on his blog that there would be 1 UK and 2 US climbers coming, but this was at the time when only 6 members had signed up. Don’t know where he got that information, but don’t either who the other 9 members are. Maybe a large group? We’ll see.
Also you might find interesting the Arnold Coster’s site who is the leader of our expedition.