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We Made It!

An emotional journey to the peak (Candace)

Annapurna Circuit: Day 9

Thorang High Camp to Thorang Pass to Muktinath

Distance: 14 Kilometers

Elevation climbed: 600 meters up and 1,600 meters down

Ending altitude: 5,416 at the peak, and then 4,200 meters above sea level

Calories burned: 1,500

Our day started earlier today, and we were on our way by 6am. We had a big climb in the morning, approximately 600 meters, to reach the Thorang Pass, our peak for this trek. And then we had a 1,600 meter downhill trek thereafter.

Andrew is so much faster than I am, and many days, he has trekked ahead of me.  But this morning, as we discussed the trek ahead with our new trekking friends at the tea house, he said, “I am going to hike with Candace today.”  Well, as soon as we started walking, he was off to the races, and I did my best to keep up.  But after 20 minutes of this, I had completely lost my breath (we have 70% oxygen at this elevation), and I started to cry.

I explained that I needed to see Andrew to stay motivated to make it to the top today.  I was tired.  I was out of breath.  And I was nervous that I wouldn’t make it to the top.

And several times during the climb, I had to stop, sit down and cry.  In fact, at one point, our guide, Kumar, stopped with me and convinced me to eat some crackers and drink some lemon water.

But finally, after approximately two hours, we peaked at 5,416 meters.  That’s more than 16,000 feet above sea level.  It was snowing, appx. 32 degrees, and beautiful.  I cried again, but this time because I was so proud of myself, of my team, and of our little family.

After taking photos, singing Resham Firiri and celebrating our success, we began the long trek downhill. Barreling down through the fog, we were literally walking through clouds, picking up moisture in our hair on the way. We made it to Muktinath in just over two hours, where Kumar introduced us to the holy Hindu temple that is famous around the world.

The story of the temple is that a goddess Tulasi was raped by the god Vishnu (who changed his appearance to look like her husband).  When she realized what had happened, her heart instantly turned to stone. Soon after, Vishnu realized that he had done wrong, and turned his heart to stone.  A temple was then built around this location (where a large rock protrudes from from the mountain), where the river represents Tulasi’s blood and the trees represent her hair.  Mukti = free, Nath = god (Vishnu turned his heart to stone to free himself from his sin).

At this temple, we received a tika blessing, rang the bells so the gods would hear our prayers, and then Andrew ran (in his underwear) under the 108 sacred spring water fountains that are meant to wash away sins (I was a wimp, so I just ran my hands through the fountains – it is supposed to have the same benefit).  Such a powerful end to a powerful day.

We did this.  We are doing this.  We can totally do this.