From Machupuche Base Camp, the path turned sharply and continued rising, for no more than one more mile. It was a short stretch, but our pace slowed considerably. This was for a few reasons.
First, we had finally reached the height where altitude was becoming a serious factor. Although the trek to Annapurna Base Camp only went to 4,130 meters (around 13,300 feet)— not really high enough for serious complications — the air did thin out significantly at that elevation. I’d been on top of higher peaks in my home state of Colorado, so I knew what to expect, but others in the group struggled visibly. Nonetheless, with the gentle words of our guides: ‘slowly, slowly,’ the group trudged on.
Trudge would be the correct word to use here, as a layer of snow now totally obscured the trail. As we ascended higher and higher in elevation, more and more snow had remained from the previous night’s flurry. This was the first moisture I’d seen all trek, and I ruefully thought that I could have done the whole thing in sneakers. I definitely hadn’t needed to rent hiking boots in Kathmandu. The good news was though, the cheap Chinese-made knockoffs hadn’t yet blistered my feet, which I considered a major accomplishment.
Finally, as we gained elevation from MBC, we gained a better perspective on the majestic Fishtail mountain. Clouds and geography obscured the Annapurna peaks in front of us, but Fishtail was prominent in the valley behind us as we ascended. Our pace was slowed considerably by people, myself included, stopping every few steps to take pictures back down the valley. You wouldn’t blame us if you could see it yourself — the pictures do the scene no justice at all.
The atmosphere was convivial. The path in front of us was short, our hearts were full with companionship from our previous days and nights on the trail, and a hot shower in Pokhara was only a few days away.
I still hadn’t found the answers I came to Nepal looking for, but that didn’t matter this morning.
The sun was out, I was with new friends, in a beautiful place… what did it matter if I moved to Austria, or broke up with my girlfriend? All that mattered — all that existed — was there in that narrow mountain valley.
This was what I’d come to the mountains for, of course.
The afternoon passed far too quickly. Soon, we were at Base Camp.
The typical afternoon showers were threatening as we made the final steps to Base Camp. We took a few photos, everyone alone, with their guides, and one big group photo. Me, Saffron, Anker, Linjon, the diplomat and her daughter all squeezed in together. Big smiles all around. Anker pressed the shutter on a fancy DLSR camera. The diplomat’s daughter promised to send it to everyone when we returned to Pokhara, and wifi.
There wasn’t much to see — the surrounding peaks were socked in with fog, the wind was howling, and light snow flurries were beginning to fall.
Our pictures snagged, we headed to the cluster of four lodges on the hill that comprised ‘Annapurna Base Camp.’