Live aus dem Himalaya (5): Thorung La – the greatest pass in the world
© Trail Angels
Zugegeben: Bisher habe ich auf meinen Nepal Touren den Thorung La gemieden. Für mich folgen einfach zu viele Trekker dem Ruf des “Greatest pass in the world”. Dieses Mal hatte ich keine andere Wahl – ein Erfahrungsbericht.
I admit it: So far, I have avoided the Thorung La on my Nepal tours. For me too many trekkers follow the call of the “Greatest pass in the world”. This time I had no other choice – a review about my experiences.
The plan was different: After my exploration with Tashi Ghale for the Snow Leopard Trail I wanted to hike with my small team, consisting of guide Pemba and carrier Dhami over Tilicho Lake and Mesukantu Pass to Mustang. My goal was to check if this route would be suitable as an extension to the Snow Leopard Trail. The constantly changing weather and the massive snowfalls at the end of March proved my intention to be simply impossible right at the beginning of my trip.
So I had no choice but to cross the Thorong La to Muktinath. The Thorung La is with 5.420m 100m higher than the Mesukantu Pass. Due to its northern exposure in the direction of Tibet, it has got less snow and is most of all frequented a lot by trekkers.
The Thorung La High Camp (4.925m): Starting point for the last stage over the pass © Trail Angels
True to my tried and tested rule of thumb “Climb high, sleep low” I ascended in the afternoon in the beginning snowfall about 300 m in altitude towards Chulu West Base Camp. While I was still wondering why not a single trekker did the same, I met a couple from Denmark in the snow drift. They both had a good reason for the trip: They are mountaineers and want to climb the Chulu West (6.420m). The next morning brought the expected after a deep sleep for me: Several trekkers had become altitude ill overnight and had to turn back. Whereby a seemingly well-trained American could no longer keep on his feet. The arm was strapped on a mule to get into deeper regions, because the helicopter could not start because of the weather.
Meanwhile, we wandered on at our own leisurely pace. The weather cleared up, but we still plunged more and more into a winter landscape. A foretaste of tomorrow’s crossing of the pass. The path did not change its less strenuous character until Thorung Phedi (4.525m), but we kept on overtaking trekkers who obviously had to struggle with the altitude.
Getreu meiner vielfach erprobten Faustregel “Climb high, sleep low” stieg ich am Nachmittag im einsetzenden Schneefall ca. 300 Höhenmeter in Richtung Chulu West Base Camp auf. Während ich mich noch wunderte, warum nicht ein einziger Trekker auf es mir gleichtat, traf ich im Schneetreiben ein Paar aus Dänemark. Die beiden hatten für den Ausflug einen guten Grund: Sie sind Bergsteiger und wollen den Chulu West (6.420m) erklimmen. Der nächste Morgen brachte nach einem für mich tiefen Schlaf das Erwartete: Gleich mehrere Trekker waren über Nacht höhenkrank geworden und mussten umkehren. Wobei ein austrainiert wirkender Amerikaner sich nicht mehr auf den Beinen halten konnte. Der Arme wurde auf ein Maultier geschnallt, um in tiefere Gefilde zu gelangen, denn der Hubschrauber konnte wegen des Wetters nicht starten.
Wir wanderten indes mit unserem eigenen gemächlichen Tempo weiter. Das Wetter klarte zwar auf, dennoch tauchten wir immer mehr in eine Winterlandschaft ein. Ein Vorgeschmack auf die morgige Passüberschreitung. Der Weg änderte bis Thorung Phedi (4.525m) seinen wenig anstrengenden Charakter nicht, dennoch überholten wir laufend Trekker die offensichtlich mit der Höhe zu kämpfen hatten.
We start at dawn! Trekkers cross the first snow-covered slopes above High Camp © Trail Angels
A young exhausted Israeli with a Rasta hairstyle asked me, probably because of my relaxed state: “Please give me these pills”. Only with difficulty could I explain to him that there are no miracle pills against altitude sickness. As much as I liked the young, colourful trekking people, their naivety and lack of knowledge about the planned undertaking was often hair-raising. So I had taken my crampon-proof, heavy mountain boots with me, while many trekkers were on their way with ankle-free, light trekking shoes. More than 30 came towards us on this day, because they had given up their dream. Even if they’re disappointed: They are the wise ones, because at five and a half thousand meters the fun quickly stops. Today Thorung Phedi is called Base Camp. Since we reached it already at 10h30, we went straight on to Thorung High Camp at 4.925m. This way is now really steep! Accordingly we climbed up the snow flank and reached the High Camp, it is one big lodge with room for up to 200 people, around noon. I repeated an acclimatization march from the day before, which was followed by several trekkers this time. In the evening, it cleared up after some snowfall, a helicopter suddenly rattled up. Two women from India were seriously ill at altitude and had to be transported before nightfall. The restaurant was well filled and reminded me of the Adlersruhe in my home country. Everybody was excited and after a short, cold night the first ones already started at 4am with a starry sky. We then followed at 5h30 to avoid walking with the headlamps in the first morning light. The day began with a cloudless sky and a freezing cold south wind. Carefully and still a bit clumsily we tapped the icy slopes higher and were glad when after one and a half hours the sun finally rose behind the Chulu range. Time for a break and to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Annapurna range.
It is a very special feeling to enter the Himalayas at great heights. Each time a very special emotion takes possession of me and the certainty of its own tinyness on this unique planet. At least now, in the minutes of sunrise, I was happy to have made the decision to climb Thorung La and share this experience with such special people as Pemba and Dhami. From approx. 5.250m the terrain slopes back noticeably and so the last meters to the top of the pass are not too strenuous anymore. And so we are already at 8am at the Thorung La, the most famous high trekking pass of the world, decorated with prayer flags rattling in the wind. “The greatest pass in the world”.
Just like in the old days on our expeditions 😁 the feeling of moving outside the comfort zone is still tingling… © Trail Angels
At the “Greatest Pass in the World”: With Pemba and Dhami at Thorung La © Trail Angels
After 1.700m descent in a new world: The pilgrimage place Muktinath with the Dhaulagiri (8.167m) on the horizon © Trail Angels
My conclusion: The Thorung La is absolutely suitable as an extension of the Snow Leopard Trail. If you are ready, after the lonely trekking days in Naar Phu, to dive into the colorful world of trekkers at the Annapurna Circuit. But what is so aptly called: It is the most beautiful thing to share unforgettable experiences with as many people as possible!
And in the evening in the evergreen monsoon forests of the lower Kali Gandaki gorge: 4.300m deeper, in Tatopani. This is possible only in Nepal… © Trail Angels
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