The Big Climb, The Experience and The View
I spent 2 nights camping at about 4100m altitude, having a good time acclimatizing and getting used to the thinner air. I started to feel dizzy at first, slightly lack of appetite but watching my Bhutanese friends eat, it motivates me to eat as much as I can. I just couldnt believe watching them eat, how does such a small tummy store too much food. I had difficulty sleeping on the first night, I slept as early as 9 but woke up in the middle of the night and couldnt sleep for hours, spending my time alone in the total darkness inside my small tent letting my mind flying wild in the world of imagination.
I woke up the next day watching the sun shining through my tent. The sky was blue and there were not much clouds blocking the shining sun. The snow has melted and everything turned green and brown again. After early breakfast, I spent a few hours in our campsite writing, transforming my thoughts on a paper so I wont lose it. I dont write often because its hard to get the mood for it. But once I get it, its magic, I can just keep writing, the ideas kept coming inside my mind from an unknown mysterious source and all I need to do is to write it down on a piece of paper. After we had our lunch, Lhawang and me walked down to a nearby village that we passed earlier. We wanted to see the villagers there practicing their skills in archery. Once we started walking, we came across nomads, travelling with their goods and horses probably crossing from near the Tibetan border through the high mountains. The view was spectacular watching these nomadic people moving slowly with all their belongings through the difficult path on their difficult journey.
It was a short walk towards the village, probably about 20 minutes walk from our campsite. Once we reached the village, Lhawang seems to know a few of the villagers. They were greeting each other and having conversation like old friends. I just kept myself busy watching and photographing the archers practicing their skills. These guys are really good. They can shoot right at their target from the distance at about 145 meters. They have flags next to the target, to indicate how strong and the direction of the wind. When the opponent shoot his arrow and hit the target, they will celebrate it by dancing and singing in their traditional way to encourage and motivate their opponent. Such a spectacular view…
After a good day rest, we then continued our trek towards the highest point of our trek which is close to 5000m altitude. It was quite a tough climb, very steep but at least we had good weather during the big climb. While having difficulty during the big climb, I stopped a while and stunned by the beauty of the landscape, watching the spectacular Mt Jumolhari (7326m) the second highest peak in Bhutan. The peak looks very sharp like an arrow pointing upwards. No one is allowed to climb the mountain now because all high mountains in Bhutan are considered sacred. I took a little rest once I reached the top, waiting for Lhawang and the other guide who were still on the climb. We then walked together, climbing a little higher until we reached a stunning lake, a small lake made by the melting glaciers only some few years ago. The lake has an altitude at about 4500m and we took almost an hour rest there watching its beauty and filming some timelapse there on the lake. When we kept walking, the weather changed, dark clouds started coming in and the wind started to blow strong. We took a quick lunch and quickly pressing to almost 5000m altitude. It was quite difficult even to breath not because of the thin air at 5000m but mainly because of the strong wind. I kept looking down, concentrating on my breathing and putting my small steps slowly, climbing higher. When I reached the top of the pass, I didnt stay too long because of the strong and cold wind… very cold. The Bhutanese prayerflags which decorate the mountainpass are waving wildly, showing that the wind was very strong.
Only less than 2 minutes, I quickly descended to the other side of the mountain, moving fast since it was all downhill and wanted to lose the elevation. Some parts were quite steep and we spent more than an hour descending downhill and I even felt the pain on my knees. There were no more blue sky, it was totally covered by thick clouds all the way. We reached our campsite at below 4000m where the tree lines are. I fell too tired and went to sleep very early that day under the cloudy sky. The next day we did one more big climb at about 4800m before it was all going down under the cloudy day. The wind blew really strong and the snow finally came, quickly turned the rocky tundra landscape into a pure white, arctic like landscape. It was basically the beginning of summer here but in the high mountains, the season can get confused. It could be peaceful summer early morning and deep winter in the evening. So we quickly pitched our tent and seek refuge inside our tents from the strong wind and thick snow. The last day of our trek, Lhawang took me to a nearby yak herders to photograph and film the herders living high in the mountains. Looking at them, it reminds me of my days in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, they look exactly the same, their style, their smell, their way of life, the hardship, everything… except the language sounds strange here.
After about an hour watching the yak herders, we had a quick late breakfast and started late to trek down back to where we started. The snow was already quite thick and we had to do one last climb before walking along the summit while it was snowing. We climbed and walked slower since it was steep and slippery, the path were all already covered with snow. It was pretty safe, if any of us fall we wont get serious injury since because of the thick snow but to climb back up is a problem, as we were all already quite exhausted. After we descended at some point, the snow level disappeared and we were all fast again, descending down all the way back to about 2200m altitude at the speed at mountain goats…