Sunday, 11 January 2015

Day 216: Renjo La High Camp - Yeti Sighting

The gompa at Thame. We stayed in the monastery guest house
(the green building in the foreground).
A leisurely morning.  We didn't have a 5,750m pass to cross before nightfall.  We didn't have to sprint to the nearest water source to counter twenty-four hours of dehydration.  There was no need to scramble down, down, down to ease headaches or find air.  We could take our time.  The Thame cultural trail helped out, providing stupas and chortens to photograph - splashes of gold and red and blue against the white-white-white mountainsides of yesterday.  Then it was time to start plodding up another valley.

We had planned to continue downwards from Thame to Namche and Lukla and the end of the trek.  But we had used none of our contingency days on the crossing of the Tesi Lapcha so we still had time to set off on another adventure, this time to the Renjo La (at 5,345m) and Gokyo Lake.  I was tempted to call Ian, Paul and Guy slave-drivers for proposing this addition to our itinerary, but the route looked stunning and there would be no glaciers to cross this time.  I was in.

Heading up-river to the Renjo La
At 10am I changed my mind and decided that my companions were definitely slave-drivers.  We crossed a beautiful side stream - a good place for a much-needed wash.  (No one washes in an emergency camp at 5,400m).  "No, no, let's press on," was the response from three slightly stale-smelling fellow hikers who clearly value summits more than clean clothes.  Yes, they were slave-drivers alright.

But the hike up the valley was a beautiful one, past red plants and stone villages that see few tourists.  The houses all face in different directions and stand neither near nor far from their neighbours as though they cannot quite decide how much they like them.

Guy managed to grab his camera for this
blurred shot. Is it the definitive evidence
we've all been looking for?
We stopped in one of these villages at lunchtime to eat cheese-covered noodles and talk to the owner, a many times Everest-summiteer.  I looked at his pinboard of photos: our host guiding the first Nepali female team to the summit; him with a Japanese female team; his smiling face belying its cold and airless surroundings accompanied by Europeans and Americans.

From here, we continued on our way so rapidly that my slave-driver companions voted to combine two days walk into one and reach the high camp below the Renjo La pass before nightfall, instead of stopping in a village.  Thinking wistfully of the stream where I had not been allowed to stop and wash, I reluctantly plodded on.  But when we reached the camping ground it was so beautiful that reluctance was impossible.  A stream flowed past, the Renjo La rose to one side and across the green valley snowy peaks ballooned above us.

But there was one cause for concern.  This area of Nepal is a centre of Yeti-sightings - those large and malignant creatures that occasionally terrorise trekkers in the mountains.  Lo and behold, a human-shaped but vastly over-sized footprint showed clearly in the snow near our campsite.  Was it a Yeti-print?  And with nothing but canvas to protect us for the night, would it leave us unharmed until morning?  Uh oh.  As darkness fell, the four of us were left alone - possibly with a Yeti roaming nearby.  [Scary music sounds.  Lighting dims.  All faces cloud with fear.]

Beautiful Thame
A raven on a stupa... is that good luck?
The small herding village of Gomo
Inscribed rocks near Gomo
Heading up to the high camp above Langden at about 4700m
Luxury camping... on grass and with running water... wow!!!

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