Olangchun Gola-Last Plateau Before Lumbha Sambha Pass
Distance: ~8.5mi/13.7km* (mileages likely +10% underestimated)
Trip Total: ~96mi/154km
Campsite Elevation: 15,228ft/4641m
Oh man, last night was unbelievable. We went to bed at 8pm, right when the home across from us started playing dance techno music SO LOUD. It was so crazy. The whole village was dark except this one building with a big bright light and music so loud that it was like a concert in our front yard. Totally unexpected in the far reaches of Nepal. We couldn’t see anyone, but there was tons of yelling and hooting. So random for a Wednesday night too. Thankfully, we both have a white noise option to play on our phone or MP3 player. The techno music went until midnight, and somehow our white noise was enough to mostly sleep through it, whew.
Fortunately, it was clear this morning. We were so glad we waited out yesterday’s weather. We got going at 6:30am this morning for two reasons. One was that we knew we were camping very high and exposed. Our goal was to get as high as we felt comfortable going before Lumbha Sambha Pass, and get our tents up before the afternoon rain/snow came in. I swear it seems to be like clockwork around 1-2pm that precipitation comes in some form on and off in the afternoon this time of year. It’s annoying because we wake really early to hike to avoid it, and then complete our miles early and have the rest of the day to lounge.
The second reason we got up early is that the final checkpoint for permits and a guide in the Kanchenjunga area is at the end of the village of Olangchun Gola. Kishor checked us in the other night and got our permits stamped. He is technically supposed to walk with us two days to the top of the pass, but since this is the final checkpoint, the plan was to walk through with him and then he’d walk back once we were ok. Since we took a weather zero yesterday, he had to leave, so we walked through early when there would be less of a chance of being hassled about it. We are officially on our own now!
We had notes that the first half of the hiking today might be time consuming with difficult trail to follow. The notes we have are from hikers who did the GHT a few years back. It’s pretty cool how quickly things develop. We were surprised that the first couple of hours of the day were on a dirt road. We know this area is known for its trading with Tibet via foot. We don’t know if actual vehicles drive the road. Actually, I’m not even sure I could say the last time we saw a vehicle. It was nice to follow, but still lots of tiring ups and downs.
These piles of wood are outside all villages. Just very communal to see how it’s cut and belongs to everyone.
We took a morning break a couple hours into the day where we crossed a bridge to head up a different valley. I’m still having that pulled muscle strain on the upper inner thigh above my knee. It’s annoying, and isn’t new for me to have something like this as I’m adjusting to hiking again. I’ve noticed this sort of thing happens when I hike with someone that likes breaks. My muscles are more long distance running muscles. They tend to react best to a consistent regular pace and few breaks. They cramp up when I take a break sometimes. Especially when there are steep ups and downs. It’s been an adjustment and I do enjoy taking the breaks, but there is a significant tightness afterward. I’m trying to stretch more and be aware of how I sit at the breaks, and just hope my legs will eventually clue into what’s going on and fall in line. They better. This hurts!
We climbed from 10,506ft/3202m to 15,228ft/4641m today. Both of us have taken Diamox for these higher elevation days. Better safe than sorry is the theory. My prescription has me taking half as much as Buck-30, which I’m happy about since it’s a diuretic. However, he is having a lot less trouble with the climbs. He says he wouldn’t go much faster, but he’s definitely more energized. My body just feels heavy and is slow to move when we are at the higher elevations. I’m just waiting for the day my trail legs kick in. It will likely be a couple more weeks. I just feel like a slug at times.
We are right on the pace that others have done, and it’s still early in the hike, so we know just to be patient. This is a different kind of hike. We can’t hike 10-12 hr days like we would in the US because of the elevations. It’s just a slower pace, and there are often times we need to stop to be in good position for the following day. Like tomorrow, we will go over Lumbha Sambha Pass. We want to be in position to do it in the morning when the snow is firmer, and it’s more likely to have good weather.
Our original plan was to camp at the first lower plateau before the pass, but it was just after noon when we got there. We had time, energy, and ok weather, so we decided to go on for the higher plateau. We were very happy to get the climb out of the way today, and to get that much closer to the top of the pass for tomorrow. However, when we crested the top of the climb, we found that we had gone up so high that we would be camping in snow. We seem to have climbed up a bit high and had to drop down a bit to be in the plateau. I chose the butt slide method once the snow got too deep for me. Buck-30 chose to walk down.
We went as far as we could to where we could still have water and the snow wasn’t too deep. We cleared an area and were all pitched by 2:30pm. I know that seems early, but somehow time passes. It takes me forever to get situated in the new tent since this is only our second night tenting on the GHT. In the cold, everything is slow. There are pros and cons to the Tarptent Notch Li that we each have, but it is serving its main purpose of being insulated and protected. We were shocked at how warm we were right when we got in the tents. It has to be below freezing outside now that it’s nighttime, and it’s about 40F/4.4C in the tent. I’m sure it will get colder over night, but it is comfortable in here.
Looking back where we came from.
After napping, snacking, messaging on my inReach, writing today’s journal entry, figuring out how to pee in a Ziploc in such a small tent when it’s snowing, and having dinner, it was 8pm and time for bed. I will mention that we brought 7-8 days of food. I am so far happy with that estimate for this first leg because I’m a picky eater. Buck-30 will write about logistics in his journal, but he thinks just about 5 days is enough if you don’t mind buying whatever random stuff there might be at a teahouse. We are eating stoveless until we get our stoves and fuel in Lukla in a couple weeks. I’ve been ok with cold mashed potatoes, tuna, and Uncle Ben’s premade rice packets, but miss warm dinners when we tent. We knew this first few weeks would be mostly teahouses. Ok, time for bed. We’ve been socked in and snowed on here and there since we arrived. There was a clearing a bit at one point, and I was able to get shots of the surrounding scenery. We are hoping for a clear morning.
The view ahead to where we will go tomorrow.