During breakfast on Day 5 with our friends from the night before, we almost changed our minds about heading down. Carlos and I discussed again for almost another hour, going back and forth, but decided to keep our decision. It was time to end the uncertainty once and for all. We packed our bags and said goodbye to our friends, wishing them luck on their journey onwards. While we were turning back, I genuinely hoped all our friends would stay safe and make it across like they all really wanted to. We tried not to feel like quitters, but we really did feel like quitters.
On the way down, we wanted to take the upper route that we had missed the day before, but Upper Pisang was confusing for us. We had stumbled our way into it yesterday, and we stumbled out just as gracelessly. Following what we thought was a trail, it ended on a ridge overlooking a massive avalanche site. Well, that was a dead end. We roamed around lost for a while on the hills of Upper Pisang before joining the main trail again. It was a bad way to start the already upsetting day.
We did take the time roaming around to take some final pictures with Annapurna II, Heaven’s Door, and the picturesque valley that we were not headed towards. It was a bit heartbreaking to leave this all behind. The Himalayas were beyond beautiful, beyond magnificent. They’re in a league of their own. Having grown up near the Rockies in Canada, I thought I had seen my fair share of mountain scenery. There, each mountain is viewed on its own. Here, the panorama of the entire range (in this case, the Annapurna Himalayan range) is what makes it so spectacular.
As we walked down towards Heaven’s Door once again, we noticed quite a few more dark lines marring the white surface. Each line was its own avalanche. So more lines meant that more avalanches had happened since we passed it two days ago. Yikes. After an initial freak out, we looked back at some of our pictures and realised that all those lines had been there, minus a few minor ones. Phew, the trail was probably safe to walk on.
When we initially left Upper Pisang in the morning, the skies were as clear as they had ever been. But just an hour or two later, strong winds had blown thick clouds up the valley that were already covering Annapurna II. More were coming in the horizon. The forecasted snow in a few days was already approaching. This gave us more confidence in our decision because with more bad weather, the uncertainties would become even more uncertain.
Going down the mountain turned out to be a bit faster than going up, if only because we didn’t need as many breaks. The upper route was indeed better and not so snowy, and soon we passed Dhikur Pokhari and entered the dense pinetree forest again. This time, we had the benefit of going downhill. Quite a bit of the snow that was covering it on our way up had melted, but the path was still slippery – the snow cushioned a few slips here and there. Conditions were definitely better though. We even saw a local selling souvenirs at one of the makeshift rest stops with wooden benches – he certainly wasn’t there two days ago!
Throughout the way down, we passed many trekkers making their way up. A few stopped to chat with us and ask about the conditions. Just like many trekkers had done for us before, we passed on whatever information we knew. We were happy we could at least help out others with their journey even though ours was ending. Since ACAP could not be depended upon for reliable information, it was up to each and every trekker to spread the news.
Across the same suspension bridge to the avalanche site that almost stopped us on Day 3, we could barely recognize it. It looked very different. The path was clear! Well, the snow wasn’t completely gone, but the backhoe had evidently gone through and cleared out a road. The 3m wall of snow on the sides was what remained of that eventful avalanche crossing. From there on the rest of the road back to Chame was completely clear.
We made it to Chame and settled in a teahouse just in time before the rain started. By the afternoon, the skies looked ominous and the sun was no longer visible. We hoped for the sake of our friends continuing on that rain in Chame did not equate to snow up there. That night was our last in a teahouse in the mountains socializing with other trekkers.
Continue to read Trekking Annapurna Day 6: Final Descent…
For more pictures from our way down to Chame, please visit the gallery!