Thursday 8 January 2015

Days 210-211: Nar - Time for nicknames

Beding monastery
After ascending over two and a half thousand metres in two days, it was time to take things a little easier.  We slept until the late hour of seven then visited Beding gompa after a leisurely breakfast.

"I'm not sure how I feel about donating money to a monastery," said Paul.  We were momentarily surprised then remembered that we generally share a critical attitude to religion only this tends to be modified in the Himalayas.  The Tibetan aesthetic is so appealing and the monasteries blend into our memories of beautiful mountainscapes on previous trails.  We made our donation and thanked the caretaker for unlocking the building.

After looking around the small room of wall paintings and Dalai Lama photos, red-yellow manuscript drawers and rice offerings - the now-familiar landscape of a rural gompa - we returned to the lodge where hot buckets of water awaited.  It wasn't quite a hot shower but it wasn't far off.  We even indulged in a change from dal bhat, taking fried noodles for lunch.  Then it was time to hit the road again.  The signboards told us that it would take four hours to reach the next village of Nar.  "Only three," the lodge owners told us.  Including rests, we made it in two and a half.

Heading out from the lodge at Beding
Nar is the last outpost of humanity in the Rolwaling Valley and we made for the lodge of our previous hostess's sister.  She gave us beds ranged around the edge of the sitting room, so we ate, played cards and slept in the warmth of the same yak dung fire.  This was our home for two nights, with an acclimatisation trek to the base camp of Ramdung Go in between.

The trek took us almost a thousand metres above the village, onto icy terrain, so it wasn't exactly a rest day.  But with only ice axes, boiled eggs and chapatis in our packs, we moved so easily as to have several spare hours for reading in the sunshine and gawping at the view before dropping down to the village to sleep.  High passes between ominous mountains had become visible, as had knife-edged ridges, white fluted faces and weighty mantles of snow.  One long jagged ridge rose prominently to the south of the Rolwaling Valley, like a Stegosaurus spine - both an enticingly distinct feature and a fearsomely sharp one.  While Guy took photos, Ian fantasised about navigating it.  I think I will leave it to him.

At the base camp of Ramdung Go, we found a frozen lake and a half-built lodge.  No doubt it will soon be possible to stay here without camping gear and perhaps Rolwaling will grow in popularity.  But for now, the paths remain quiet.  Since we left the Kiwi and Aussie team behind we have met only one group - a Polish team who are likely to cross the Tashi Lapcha the same day as us.  This is good for back-up and bad for solitude (and for sneaking up Pachermo).  Take your pick.

Night time at Nar
Back down in Nar, the night sky went into overdrive and we set up another LMC (London Mountaineering Club) photo using torchlight.  Then the cold drove us to yet another vat of tea (enough to keep three of us occupied for hours) and another card game.  Guy scored a mere twenty-eight points in a round of Napoleon - a total so poor that he would have done better to play his cards blind.  His nickname for the rest of the trip was "twenty-eight".  And once one person has a nickname, everyone else must follow suit.  Ian quickly became "itch" (a minor irritation); Paul became "snacks" (see previous notes on the contents of his rucksack) and I became "choc-ice" (to simultaneously indicate a chocolate addiction, a complete failure to generate body heat, and a fat body.  The latter I am still assuming was ironic).

In the long hours of darkness after we had consumed the last of our dal bhat, Ian tried to teach us bridge by the light of our headtorches.  But eventually we tired of Paul's dealing speed (about half an hour to deal an entire deck) and we went to bed early, ready for the toughest section of the adventure.  From here, there would be no more dal bhat or yak dung fires and no more games of cards around a table.  Bring on the ice camps and spaghetti!

A group shot from about 5000m with the Ripimoshar Glacier behind
The caretaker opening up at Beding Monastery
Ian seemed pretty enthusiastic about the books 
Buddha at Beding 
Prayer flag totem at Beding
Beding monastery with Gaurishankar in the background
A close up of Gaurishankar
Welcome to Beding!
Paul was tasked with guarding the booze supply at Nar
Working out climbing lines on the huge rock face just east of Nar 
Starting our acclimatisation hike up to the High Camp for Yalung Ri
Ramdang Go from High Camp
The new lodge at high camp
Looking back down along the Ripimoshar Glacier
Ian takes in the view

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