Annapurna is the deadliest of the world’s big mountains. One climber dies for every two that make it to the summit. Avalanches scour the entire standard route. Ed Viesturs, America’s premier high altitude climber and six time Everest summiter, spent 18 hours in the death zone climbing across a nearly flat ridge to avoid this route (which some would say is equally suicidal). We simply wanted an up close look at the mountain which luckily involves little danger.
Most climbing parties don’t start at “Annapurna Base Camp” but it sounds good and it stuck. We befriended a French climbing guide, Dorian, and his equally physically fit girlfriend, Audrey, along the way. Luckily we had previously resolved to haul ass and thus matched their usual pace. Just three days after leaving Poon Hill we arrived at Base Camp. The imposing South face greeted us, followed briefly by a well-deserved pizza and beer.
The sunset was again robbed from us by evening clouds but they began to part as night fell. I remained outside, taking pictures as long as I could bare the cold, returning at 3:00am for a second round. Watching the stars above the Himalayas invoked a profound feeling of timelessness. Skyward I saw a millions of years into past, forward a mountain that would endure the ages, and down my shadow blocking the moonlight for only the briefest instant. The past, present, and future converged. I reflected on my own impermanence, pressed the shutter release, and shivered.
The sunrise was glorious but afternoon clouds were already rolling in. We raced down in two days and suddenly back in Pokhara eating street food. Our last week had been a tour de force.
In all we spent 58 days trekking in the Nepal Himalaya covering roughly 400km – 250 miles of ground. It was a dream fulfilled for me. We stood amongst giants.