Summit day!!! So much anticipation had built up for this, that we were too excited to feel tired when the alarm went off at 3:30am. Breakfast at 4am, then we headed out at 4:30am. The reason you head out so early is starting around 9 or 10am, there are such high winds at the pass that it makes it difficult to hike. We banded together with a Dutch couple, Ingrid and Sjoerd, and Katherine (American from Menlo Park who was living in Jordan and on her way to MIT Sloan) and Sabina (from Germany) so we could have a sizeable group going up to look after each other. Ingrid and Sjoerd were doing the trek independently, carrying their own packs—impressive! With our head lamps on, we headed out on the snowy path. We have to ascend 1,000 m/3,280 ft to get to Thorung La pass which is the widest mountain pass in the world. It’s never a great idea to ascend this many feet at this altitude but as long as you acclimate and sleep at a lower altitude, you should be okay (we will descend 2,000 m/6,561 ft down the other side).
15 minutes in, Sabina starts feeling ill and can’t keep going, so we were forced to split up. Katherine and Sabina stayed with their guides and porters and Mike and I moved on with Min, Ingrid and Sjoerd. The path was completely covered with snow and we were thankful we got the Gore-Tex Merrels even though it was quite slippery on the bottom. Watching the sunrise over the mountains was pretty amazing and we were grateful for some warmth as well. We were extremely lucky it wasn’t snowing and the sky was clear. We heard from people that the day before was snowy and cloudy and the views weren’t that good.
The sun was rising just as we hit High Camp, so it was bright snow hiking from here on out.
Halfway between High Camp and the pass, there is another tea house so you can rest but we felt pretty good so we kept going.
We finally get to the pass! Made it 4.5 hours from Thorung Phedi. The crazy high winds started about 5-10 minutes before we got to the pass so we definitely got a lashing. The snow would just come rushing at you in small pellets and sting your face. We were practically running inside the tea house at the top since the winds were so intense. We had a cup of tea in the teahouse and then rushed outside to take our obligatory pass photo at 5417 m/17,749 ft before running down the back of the mountain.
Once you cross the pass, it’s pretty steep downhill and still covered in snow, so we were slipping and sliding our way down. There were definitely a few icy patches where I went down.
What’s amazing is the landscape is totally different on the other side and once you get down past the snow line, you’re in a desert land. Since you’re descending 2,000 m in about 3 hours, it’s pretty tough on the knees. 3 hours took us to the base of the mountain and then we had another hour to walk to Muktinath village. So in total, it was an 8.5 hour day of intense hiking.