Our final day was destined to be a short one. It was only a few hours from Deurali to Annapurna Base Camp — nothing like the 8 or 10 hour days we were used to by this point.
We made a leisurely beginning, taking the better part of an hour to finally leave Deurali after breakfast. Temperatures were scorching in the upper valley. A facet of the lightened atmosphere, or simply the weather joining in on our ‘summit day?’ Impossible to say, but I found myself cursing my choice of pants every step, all morning, as we negotiated our way up the snow-covered trail.
We we slowed up for a bit while a very old German man tried to descend the steeps stairs. He had been at ABC the previous night, and was now on his way out. His exit was proving difficult, thanks to the light blanket of snow that had fallen the night before. This man, some eighty-plus years old, was being forced to crab-walk down the slope, microspikes on one foot and a walking stick in his hand. He looked a touch ridiculous — and more than a little frail — but all the while, the huge smile he wore told us there was nowhere this man would rather be.
His insignificance in the world clearly didn’t bother him.
Us trekkers stepped aside, while a number of the guides bandied around ideas for how best to help the man get down. He paid them little mind though, insisting he needed no help, although he good-naturedly took what was offered.
The silhouette of Machupuchre loomed above us. Our first destination for the day was Machupuchre Base Camp, a small collection of lodges at the base of the Fishtail mountain. It wasn’t really a base camp, since climbing the sacred peak was forbidden, but that didn’t stop the Nepali calling it that.
In reality, even the Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp treks didn’t go to the ‘real’ base camps — those were reserved for climbers with pricey permits. The ABC and EBC treks simply went to the end of the trekking trail — the real climbers carried their tents past the lodges, onto the glaciers.
This meant that the terminus of our trek would be nothing special — just another set of cold trekking lodges. But I didn’t mind. The trek had already become about the people more than the place, and the memories we had formed already towered just as high as the peaks around us.
The trek was an arbitrary goal. But so was bagging a peak, or making six figures a year, or getting married, I thought to myself. I couldn’t do any of those other things — but I could finish the trek. In reality, I don’t know how accurate of an equivalency it was — but it seemed good to me, a I put foot in front of foot, in the rapidly thinning atmosphere.