Thursday 8 January 2015

Day 212: You call this a campsite? - Melting snow

Tso Rolpa lake
Farewell buildings and beds and endless refills of dal!  We hoisted our expedition packs; they felt even heavier than before yesterday's lightweight trip.  But the views helped us forget them.

Our first stop was a lake as different in colour from Phoksundo as it is possible for water to be; it met our memories of Phoksundo's iridescence with a slate-grey face.  But the white slopes and crisp ridge-lines above us loomed ever larger; combined with the prayer flags by the lake, they made it a photogenic spot.  The narrow hidden valley to the south proved even more beautiful, with a stream running through, flat ground that begged to be camped on, and the mountaintops lining up behind.  I had been dreading the hardships of the ascent to the Tesi Lapcha, and I didn't hesitate to say so, but could not help following it with an admission that "this is stonkingly awesome".  It wasn't the most lyrical of phrases but the landscape didn't require graceful prose; it was beautiful enough without.

If only we had stayed and camped beside the water!  But it was still late morning and our map showed another camp site a few hundred metres higher.  We tackled the unfriendly gradient to the side of the valley and soon had to don our crampons.  I spent the next half hour feeling vulnerable and the next half day feeling downright disappointed.  When the four of us stepped onto the plateau at the top of a steep, icy climb (ie. stepped onto the 'campsite') it contained not a drip of liquid water, nor the faintest gurgle of a stream, so we spent the evening melting snow on our stoves.  I 'kindly' let Ian and Paul do the leg-work, fetching pan after pan of the stuff, while I sat in the tent doorway melting each fluffy mound into a disappointingly shallow puddle, then pouring it into bottles.  I definitely had the warmer job.

The Polish team's guide had told us that water could be found at the next camp, on the glacier; we just hoped he was right.

Leaving Nar to head up to Tso Rolpa lake (it's behind the moraine in the distance)
Tso Rolpa with Bigphera (6666m) behind. Our route was to take us up the glacier at the far end of the lake.
Photogenic Tso Rolpa
Susan practices balancing on sticks?!?
Ian looking forward to heading on to the glacier
The path started out nice and easy between lateral moraine and the hillside
Looking back down the Rolwaling valley
The path soon steepened up (you can see the path we followed: yellow area to the left of the lateral moraine)
The path ahead descended to a rather poor campsite at about 4700m on the grassy area below.
A lack of water meant melting snow. The grey that you can see lapping the grassy area is actually dust
blown up over from the rocky moraine on the north side of the valley.

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