Trekking round the Annapurnas -  Thorong la ***

Abstract: trekking Annapurna circuit , Altitude mountain sickness, crossing Thorong la from Thorong Phedi to Muktinath.

My first successful attempt to cross Thorong la in 1990


Altitude mountain sickness

For most of the people crossing Thorong la will be the first time, that they go above 5000m. Therefore its very important to know a few things about altitude mountain sickness. I have myself met quiet a few people, who had very serious problems up there and its a fact that still people die because of altitude sickness. The exact reasons are not completely known, but a few things can help you greatly to enjoy a safe an nice journey.

Have in mind, that perfect physical and mental strength don’t protect you from altitude sickness, which is due to an unbalance of physiological processes on the level of your cell membranes. It is often the sporty, strong an fit people who will react to late when the first symptoms occur. Your even never know from previous trekkings, how your body will behave this time.

Your body need time to adapt to the lower pressure and content of oxygen. From my personal experience I know, that every day I spend on acclimatisation days, helps greatly to enjoy more the days at height altitude. If You have the possibility, try to spent some days above 3500m before going over Thorong la. One should not sleep more than 400-500m higher than the night before. It helps your body a lot, when you could climb higher in daytime than the level of your sleeping place at night.

When you have light symptoms, like headache slow down or go even back and down again and wait till your feel better. That you wake up in the middle of the night, your heart beating at 120 and your are gasping for air, is just a normal sign of acclimtisation.

As soon that your have serious problems, like very strong headache, problems holding your balance, view or sight problems, vomiting you should go down imidiatly. There is no sense in hoping that I will improve or that a helicopter will fly you out.

If you can not walk anymore on you own feet, find people who carry you down, even the little kitchen boy will do so, if you pay him enough. Ask other trekkers or their porters. Going down at least 400m or to the last place without any symptoms is the only safe thing to do and holiday in Nepal is just not the right place to die! This does not mean, that you have to stop your Trek, you might try again one ore two days later. There was a climber, who felt sick at Everest base camp and had to be carried down who could successfully climb Everest later!

There a very good section on altitude sickness in Lonely planet’s “ Trekking in the Nepal Himalayas” or the guidebook “Round Annapurna”. There is also a very good and small book “The high Altitude Medicine Handbook” by Pollard and Murdoch, which you can buy for little money at pilgrims book store in Kathmandu/Thamel.

You can also buy for a few rupees and without a prescription in Kathmandu:

Diamox, only suited for light symptoms

Dexamethasone, which  is an emergency drug but which can improve dramatically your health when you have serious problems of acute mountain sicknes (specially with HACE). I gave it twice to people who could not walk anymore by them self, and both recovered within half a hour and could go down on their own. Just be aware, that this drug is not curing you, its only helps you temporally to be able to go down as fast as possible to a lower altitude. Seen the ridiculous price which is about a cup of tea, everyone going to high altitude should buy a strip of it in Kathmandu.

Nifedifine, a drug against HAPE

See also http://www.high-altitude-medicine.com/AMS-medical.html

Going up the valley north of Manang


Above 3000m you will see Yaks. These peaceful animals dont stay below 3000m as there the air is far to thick to breathe. Pure yaks dont give much milk, so that they are often interbreed with cows. Yaks have long hairy harems pants and a typical ”horsetail”.

Female yaks are called Nak, so that yak cheese is pretty silly, isn’t it.

Thorong Phedi is situated at the end of the valley at 4400m. during the day it is nice warm in the sun, but in the night in can be really cold.

In the early morning, one has to clinb up the very step trail above Thorong Phedi.

On the right side you see Yakawa Kang.

It does not make to much sense to start very early in the morning, E.G., at 2 am.

Especially in the cold months of November, December an February this would mean an extra risk because of the cold temperatures,

Climbing up these 300m to Thorong Phedi high camp, you will gasp with little result for air, its already very thin.










Thorong Phedi high Camp at 4750 m

During most of the year, there is little snow on Thorong La, But be prepared at every season to have lot of it, this picture was taken around 25th of October. In other years one could cross Thorong la with shorts at this time!

When there are good weather condition the trail is very easy and has no technical problems. Many times one will think, that he already can see the pass but its only the 14th time that the real pass with the prayer flags will appears.

Tibetan and Nepali people put a stone on the pile with the flag pole and say “la so so..” For the gods being grateful the gods permitted them to cross the pass. What a difference to us Westerner proudly proclaiming ”I did Thornong La!!!!

Photo session at 5415 m

Thorong La seen from the West, on the left is Yakawa Kang and on the right Kathung Kang

Finally after a long day appears Muktinath Ranipuwa. On the left is the Daulagiri



Thorong La with monks from Dzong

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