A Gefilte Fish Tail – Passover in the Annapurna sanctuary (Part 3 – Reaching the Top)

We woke up early in Deurali and swiftly packed our backpacks. Lodging at The Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) is restricted and as we didn’t have a pre-booked room Egge our loyal porter rushed up to reserve us a place for the night. We too left after an early breakfast. The regular trail follows the western bank of the Modi Kola river.

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Modi Kola north of Deurali towards the Machapuchare Base Camp

In spring this section is subject to avalanches and we used the detour path on the eastern bank. This required crossing the rushing burn on a flimsy bridge. While we ascended the narrow valley the sun gradually crept down along its dark brown rocks that were partially covered with snow.

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Crossing avalanche snow fields on the way to MBC

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From left to right Khangsar Kang (7485), Glacier Dome (7069) and Gangapurna (&454)

In front of us unfolded the fairytale view of the MBC arena.

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We had to cross several small snowfields until we emerged into the sun at the Machapuchare Base Camp (MBC) just below the fishtail.

The Fishtail from MBC

The Fishtail from MBC

We soaked up the sun and the views on the veranda of one of the guesthouses enjoying our best mixed Nepali pizza. Behind us several small avalanches roared down into the abyss and front of us Yellow-billed Choughs played with the wind.

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Yellow-billed Chough

Base camp is not a precise definition as nobody is allowed to climb the holy Machapuchare. It was only once climbed but only within 50 meters to the top.

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The glaciers north of MBC that feed the Modi Kola

Many hikers spend the night here at 3700 and dash last stretch to watch the sunrise at the Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) in the early hours. This has some advantages – reduced danger of Acute Mountain Disease (AMS) and warmer temperatures. On the other had you miss the night at the top and must race the sun. We chose to spend the night at the top which proved amazing but also very cold…

The path from MBC went most of the way on a huge snow field and took us deeper and deeper into the Annapurna sanctuary.

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The slopes of the Hiunchuli from the MBC-ABC path

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The tops of the mountains got gradually shrouded in clouds. Half way up an inscription on a large boulder claimed that there is still on hour to go. This sounded as an exaggeration as the blue roofs of the ABC were already clearly visible but it was not. On the way we saw a couple amazingly beautiful Grandalas.

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Grandala

Finally we reached the camp and took hold of our freezing room which Egge reserved us. We were now at 4130 and we all felt it a bit. Thanks to the slow ascent none of us suffered any AMS but we all had a mild headache.

We warmed up in the dining hall that had as always a heated table. Roi came with me to tour the area and we went to the edge of the cliff to look down at the huge South Annapurna Galcier. We had some difficulty identifying it as a glacier as it is covered with grey debris and stones.

In very few places (if at all) can you find yourself surrounded by mountains of this magnitude – Hiunchuli (6434) immediately behind the camp, Annapurna South (7219) a bit further on were both old friends as we have seen them all the way up from the other side. Annapurna 1 (8091) showed its face for the first time. This, the tenth highest mountain in the world, is one of  deadliest ones of them all. Memorial stuppas along the ridge commemorate mountaineers who died climbing it. The Fishtail that dominated our trip so far look from across the valley as do a number of other huge snow covered mountains. The name Annapurna means Goddess of Harvest in Hindu.

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Stupa in memory of Anatoli Boukreev

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The highest flower we saw in Nepal, just above the ABC

In the middle of the night we woke up to a crystal clear sky illuminated by an almost full moon (two days to go to Passover).

I took a 3600 panorama composed of about 15 shots each exposed for 10 seconds. It felt bitterly cold and I estimate that it was about -100C.

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360 degree moonlight panorama – click and enlarge

Fishtail in moolight

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Hinchuli in moonlight

We crept back into our sleeping bags and rose just before sunrise.

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First rays of the rising sun illuminate Annapurna 1

This was an opportunity for a second panorama series (this time a  1/500 sec exposures).

Sunrise panorama - click to enlarge

Sunrise panorama – click to enlarge

followed by a third at full day light where it can be seen how the sun rises  between the Gandharvachuli and the Fishtail.

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360 degree daylight panorama – click and enlarge

Blasphemy - helicopter bringing up skiers -

Blasphemy – helicopter bringing up skiers –

After a good breakfast we packed our stuff and headed downhill back to MBC.

Bidding farewell to ABC

Bidding farewell to ABC

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