Our prayers were answered when we awoke to clear skies the next morning. French Pass here we come! Our route climbed 2000 feet along the edge of a gradual ridge with spectacular views of the north face of Dhaulagiri towering 11,000 feet above us as we looked back.
|Marc Climbing the Ridge to the French Pass, Dhaulagiri I is Behind|
Looking ahead we could just make out the V-shaped depression of the French Pass on the skyline.
|Approaching the French Pass|
The ridge ended in a shallow bowl below the summit. Another 400-foot climb to the top of the pass lay before us. We put on our crampons and took out our ice axes for the final push to the pass. Looking back we could see the rest of our group making their way up. The massive bulk of Dhaulagiri I (right) and Tukuche (left) towered behind them.
|The rest of our group on their way up to the French Pass|
We reached the top of the French Pass at 17,585 feet! The icy wind could not cool our elation at meeting this objective which took us 4 years to complete.
|Us on the French Pass|
We headed down the other side into Hidden Valley, a broad mountain enclave that remained undiscovered behind the Dhaulagiri Massif until the last few decades. The snow conditions were optimal and with our crampons the decent was enjoyable.
|Descending into Hidden Valley|
We spent a frigid night in Hidden Valley. When we awoke the next morning the thermometer inside our tent read 10 degrees F! Frost had formed on the interior walls of our tent.
|Us inside our Frosty Tent in Hidden Valley|
We still had one more pass to tackle before reaching the end of the trek in the Kali Gandaki Valley. Since we had camped so high we only had to climb 600 feet to the top Dhampus Pass at 17,225 feet. Our route took us up a gradual snow field to the summit of our 13th and final pass of our trip!
|Us on Dhampus Pass|
Yippee!! Now all we have to do is to descend 4500 feet to our camp at Yak Kharka. We had to cross a series of bowls before making the final descent. We finally reached the place I had been dreading, the point at which we were forced to turn around 4 years ago when we attempted to do the Dhaulagiri Circuit in reverse. It looked as daunting going up as it did going down on our first attempt. A narrow path led up a steep slope when one slip could mean a long 2000-foot fall. This time we had crampons to secure our footing and going up was much easier than going down. When I reached the top, I let out a huge sigh of relief, "I'm glad that's over!" Kancha told us that this section of trail is known as Badasi Dari. Marc replied "more like Bad Ass Pass!"
|Us on Badasi Dari|
We soon dropped below snowline and the Annapurna and Nilgiri Ranges finally came into view.
|Descending to Yak Kharka, w/the Annapurna & Nilgiri Ranges|
The next day we had to descend another 4700 feet to reach trek's end at the village of Marpha. My knees and toes were happy to see the village below.
|The village of Marpha|
As we entered the main street, the same sign was there to greet us. This time we had made it to Dhaulagiri Basecamp and beyond. The circuit was now complete!
|Us at Trek's End in Marpha|
We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc