Friday, November 22, 2013

Dhaulagiri Here We Come!

Greetings All,
The first four days of our trek we meandered through small villages with terraced millet fields and farmland.  We stayed at a relatively low elevation, between 5000 and 7000 feet.  There were lots of ups and downs as we had to descend to a river crossing then climb back up another ridge.  We stopped at the village of Dharapani for lunch.  People living here were preparing for the long winter.  Straw and fodder for livestock had been gathered and stored on the roofs of their stone houses.

Typical house in the Village of Dharapani

Women were in the fields harvesting millet by hand.  They would cut the seed cluster from the stem of the plant with a sickle and toss it into a basket carried on their heads.

Nepali Woman Harvesting Millet

The next day we had our first views of the Dhaulagiri Range looming at the head of the valley.

Dhaulagiri Range from the Village of Muri

We stopped for lunch at the village of Muri.  Music was blaring from the ridge above.  We were told that a festival was going on.  We climbed up after lunch to check it out.  The festival was a cross between a fair and a casino.  The women were cooking, the men were gambling and the kids were getting a ride on a wooden Ferris wheel!

Wooden Ferris Wheel in the Village of Muri

Some of the villages had set up tiny shops for trekkers where you could stop for a refreshing coke or a bottle of beer.  A friendly sign reminded us that you had to be a patron to sit in the chairs and tables provided.

Coke Stop in the Village of Bagar

We left the villages and farmland behind and entered pine and bamboo forest.  We arrived at the campsite of Sallaghari to find that a massive avalanche had taken place during the monsoon earlier this year.  It obliterated the forest leaving behind an immense pile of rubble and dead tree stumps.  It stopped just short of Sallaghari.  We carefully picked our way through, mindful not to dislodge rocks onto the trekkers below.

Making our way through the Avalanche Debris

That afternoon we arrived at the Italian Basecamp at 12,000 feet.  Two other large trekking groups, one from France and one from Russia were already camped there.  Once a remote trek, off the beaten path, the word must be out the Dhaulagiri Circuit is a great trek.  The camp had been transformed into a tent city!

Tent City at Italian Basecamp
We spent two nights here acclimatizing and resting for our push further up the valley.  We were now
approaching the crux of our trek.  Leaving Italian Basecamp we had to descend an icy, narrow path to a glacier below.  Fortunately, Kancha, one of our Sherpas was there to offer me a hand across one of the trickier sections.  A rope had been fixed to aid our descent down a steep gully and onto the glacier.

Marc Descending the Gully

We crossed the glacier and climbed a series of zigzags up the ridge on the other side.  A narrow path led us around a cliff face where one misstep could spell disaster.  I didn't stop to take a photo.  We descended the other side to the Swiss Basecamp which was deserted.  The following photo taken the day before during a reconnaissance trip shows our route.

Our Route Shown in Red

From the Swiss Basecamp we descended onto the glacier and the going became much easier.  We were now on our way to the Japanese Basecamp.  When we arrived, our tents along with the Russians had been set up.  It was a cramped camp and we had to sleep on snow.  At least our tent was further away from the Russian mess tent.  They had a habit of drinking and singing after dinner.

Japanese Basecamp (our tent is the lower right one)

The following day we continued up the Chhobardan Glacier with spectacular views of the Dhaulagiri Massif looming above. 

Our group on the Chhobardan Glacier 

We were on our way to Dhaulagiri Basecamp where climbing expeditions launch their attempt to climb Dhaulagiri I in the spring.  At 26,796 feet, it is the 7th highest mountain in the world.  We arrived at Basecamp with impressive views of Dhaulagiri I and the West Icefall.  Somehow climbers make their way up this treacherous jumble of ice to reach the summit of Dhaulagiri.

West Icefall on Dhaulagiri I

We spent another day at Basecamp to rest and acclimatize.  The Sherpas and porters preformed a puja ceremony to pray for good weather and to bless us and our equipment.

Galden Preforming a Puja Ceremony at Basecamp

We hope our prayers will be answered and that the clear weather would hold for our attempt to cross  the French Pass tomorrow!

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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