Up and out early, we had the trail to ourselves and as we had already seen the first half, we blitzed it. There were less hairy caterpillars mind.
Pretty uneventful apart from astounding views. But they are getting commonplace. One noteworthy event is getting caught under a rockfall!!! I knew those random thoughts of what we would do would come in handy!!!
It was a quiet walk, I was walking ahead and taking in the scenery when I heard a clackety clack. Thinking it was Kim's sticks behind I glanced back but Kim wasn't there. I heard the noise in front and turned in time to see a rock the size of a watermelon flash past. I immediately turned to find Kim who was further back and told her to stop as I looked up to see a heard of yaks and goats passing over and kicking down remnants of an earlier landslide. As stones were hailing down I ran for cover behind a boulder. Kim had just reached the start of the landslide area and found her own rock. All we could do is waits and hope the cattle-driven rockfall didn't escalate to another full-on landslide.
Then, silence. I could see that but for one stubborn yak the herd had passed. As I called for Kim to come the yak started walking, so she went back. As did the yak. This happened enough times for it to feel like an episode on Only Fools and Horses, but eventually we made it out ok. But we were lucky, on getting to our lodge and chatting to another group later that day their guide heard our story and told us a porter had died in the same place recently in the same circumstances.
Thankfully no further events befell us. Oh, wait, as we were early birds we rocked up to the lodge, our days walking done (at 9am!!!) in time to see the rescue chopper land and ferry away what I could only describe as a jock suffering from altitude sickness. Discretion the better part of valour indeed?
Our long day at camp gave us time to meet two very cool guys, Thomas from Holland and homesick Kiaran from Scotland, who we shall have a beer with in Largo in two weeks. Both mountaineers who have climbed 6000m+ summits. Kieran was keen to get home so he was going to bed earlier to get a head start. Me, Kim and Tom would tackle the pass together.
And so the morning of the pass. And oh no!!!!! A white-out!!!! Snow, maybe 6in and visibility at 50m and shortening. Kim is freaking out but checking the window every 2mins wasn't gonna help. As planned, we arrived for breakfast at 6. The rest of the camp, Spanish and the usual crew or Israelis, left at 4 apart from the "sick" Israeli woman who was getting a horse. Then, worse, Tom was having doubts. If Kim heard this there would be no shifting her, but seein the weather it wasn't gonna get better, maybe for days. I was sure the iron was hot and needed striking. It would be a relatively clear path and I had contingencies, there was another camp an hour up, if we reached that we could reassess, and then the pass was only a further 3hours away allowing for weather and relative safety on the warmer, drier side.
Tom saw the rationale, plus the fact the guides took their groups earlier. His key concern was he only had light trainers, oh, and he happened to be carrying an extra 13kgs of MOUNTAIN BIKE!!! So he started early, carrying his breakfast of two boiled eggs. We ate first and readied. Here's us, the only ones without a guide, and me and Kim without altitude drugs. Lets be having ye!!!
But wait. Not yet. We get caught by a lost lamb. The day before a guy arrives later not knowing where he is and clearly ill-equipped physically, mentally and literally. And he rushed to catch us at the door so he could tag along. s***!!! I don't need hangers-on right now!!! But what could we do???
We let him fill his water and I gave him the plan and off we went. I was stopping and checking in regularly but was keen to press on as the trail was getting hidden in the snow. After 30mins our new guy was dropping off so we regrouped and made a final push for the next lodge. We made it in 45mins just behind Tom. Our newbie needed to inside to rest and fix clothes (he had a bin liner for a rain mac). I took the opportunity to have a chat. I wasn't for risking Kimbo at his expense. Call it what you will, but that's how I saw it. So I explained we cant let up on the pace and he should consider staying put. He was fine with continuing but not for us to wait. I thought it would be a good idea for him to rest 30mins and he agreed. I asked if he had a whistle and his response - "no, but I can whistle real loud". Oh dear.
We three went on and the going was good. We did keep an eye on the wee dude. He was French. But before long we hit the stragglers - from the group who left 2.5hrs ahead of us!!! There was one Israeli couple left behind by their group. The wife was clearly unwell and shouldn't be out of bed let alone up a mountain. Kim was very Christian and gave her our reserve drinking water. Cheers luv. Tho I felt Helen would be very proud. Kim thought Helen would be very cross as she might need it!!!
The skies cleared briefly to give us some cheer and lift our spirits. We even had a snowball fight and the French guy was still soldiering on.
We made the pass in 3hrs 20mins which Kim was very chuffed with herself for, and rightly so. We got a break in the weather so great views, although I was the only one arriving in shorts and rolled-up sleeves. The Spanish thought I was loco. Hanging around for the view and not even the coffee warmed me, so layers on and we start the decent.
Tom went on on his bike while endured a seemingly endless zig-zag walk. By this stage we had caught all the early-birds so it was like a conga line. This was the beginning of the end, but what a journey to get here.