Monday, February 10, 2014

From Jungle to Snow, an Ascent of Phongun Razi

Greetings All,
We were up before the sun to make our bid for the summit of Phongun Razi.  We left Snowline Camp in darkness using our headlamps to light the way.

Marc Leaving Snowline Camp

The going was rough as we clambered over fallen tree trunks on a steep path now covered with slippery snow and ice.

Peggy Climbing up Phongun Razi

We put on our micro-spikes which made the going easier.  The sun rose as we struggled up the ridge through the stunted bamboo forest.

Sunrise from near the Summit of Phongun Razi

After about two and a half hours we approached the summit.

Marc Approaching the Summit of Phongun Razi

Unfortunately the clouds had rolled in and when we reached the top most of the views were obscured. It was still great having made our objective.  At nearly 12,000 feet, Phongun Razi was a tough 10,000-foot climb with all the ups and downs from the river.  We took summit photos and the trek crew built a fire to dry their socks.  Some had made the climb with only sneakers.

Marc, Peggy & Fred on the Summit of Phongun Razi

On the way back down our micro-spikes didn't grip as well in the deep snow and we ended up sliding down steep spots on our butts.  There were still the fallen tree trunks and roots to negotiate on the descent. 

Marc Climbing down Phongun Razi

We arrived back to Snowline Camp where we had lunch before continuing down to Khantautmyit Camp where we spent the night.  It was a long but rewarding day of trekking.

Marc Drying his Socks at Khantautmyit Camp

The following morning we continued our descent to the river.  Looking back we could see the summit of Phongun Razi in a cloudless sky.

Summit of Phongun Razi

Marc and I hung back to enjoy the forest.  The birds keep taunting us with their calls but were difficult to spot let alone photograph.  We could hear the siren-like calls of the Hoolock Gibbons from distance ridges and managed to spot a tiny Striped Squirrel feeding in a tree next to the trail.  My knees were aching and I couldn't wait to reach the river and the village of Ziyadum.  We retraced our route through the villages taking more time to photograph the friendly local people along the way.

Leaving Ziyadum

Kids in Kalang Village

We arrived back at the rickety suspension bridge which we now had to cross.

Suspension Bridge Over Ziya Creek

We waited for a local woman carrying a heavy load of fire wood to pass before crossing. 

Local Woman Crossing Ziya Creek 

It wasn't so bad.  I even got up the courage to take a video of my crossing.

Ziya Creek Bridge Crossing

We arrived in Awadum II around noon.  The school kids were taking a break for lunch and gathered around us to get their photo taken.  They don't see many Westerners in their remote village.

School Kids in Awadum II

A local woman was carrying a heavy load of bamboo thatch on her back and a baby on the front.  Despite her hard life she had time to stop and give us a smile and a friendly wave.

Local Woman in Awadum I

We passed by the village of Wasandum II where the defunct bulldozer sat rusting in the subtropical sun.  The water buffalo sat in the shade of the plow crewing their cuds.

Bulldozer in Wasandum II

Back at Wasandum  our porters helped an old woman repair a bamboo fence around the guest house.  They are fond of smoking locally made cigars.  In addition to tobacco they contain Jaggery (made from the juice of a Toddy palm),  anise and salt.

One of our Porters Repairing a Bamboo Fence 

On the 9th day of our trek we arrived back at Shangaung after trekking 70 miles and climbing over 18,000 feet.  We thanked our great trek crew for a job well done and bid them farewell.  Without their help, this trek would not have been possible.

Our Trek Crew

We feel privileged to have visited the remote villages, valleys and mountains of Myanmar's hidden Himalayas.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I've been thinking about doing the Phongun Razi tour in November. I only have 3 weeks in Myanmar and know that I'd be missing out on caves, temples and other sights. I was wondering if you would recommend this trek. Part of me is hesitant because I did the Annapurna Trek last year. I loved it but was hoping to get more of a cultural experience in Myanmar. Any advice would be great! Many Thanks!

Marc & Peggy Faucher said...

Hi Joanne,
We spent 3 weeks in Myanmar. One week to climb Phongun Razi and two weeks to visit Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon. You can look at my other posts from Myanmar to see what we covered in 3 weeks. Climbing Phungun Razi is quite an unique experience, very different than the Annapurna Circuit. Most of the climb is through jungle and it is unlikely you'll see other Westerners. Hope this helps.