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Day 5-8 Bazara-Goeche La Trek 2014, WW
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Day 5-8 Bazara-Goeche La Trek 2014, WW 
Day 5-8 Bazara-Goeche La Trek 2014, WW
Hiking avatar May 14 2014
Hiking12.47 Miles 3,827 AEG
Hiking12.47 Miles   7 Hrs   55 Mns   1.58 mph
3,827 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Part One Here:

Day 5: Now THIS is what I call trekking! We start the day hiking past Joktey Pokhari, a small sacred lake at 4000 meters (12,800'). The sky is crystal clear and the worst of the snow has melted away - it's the perfect kind of morning for trekking. Our young guide takes us around the lake then up a ridge behind it. We're trying to keep the group together, but it doesn't take long for the speedy types to being to chafe at being held back. We fight over it, and compromise by letting the fast group go on ahead with the yak men and porters. We'll follow with the guide and take our time. There's always the chance that we'll get caught in some bad weather again (which only comes in the afternoons) - but the likelihood is low enough that we'd rather enjoy ourselves today. What I can I say, I'm a live in the moment kind of girl.

We're on the ridgeline of the range, quickly above 13,000' and far above the rhododendron forests and mysterious fir groves. Up here it's all short shrubs and low, thick grasses. This means we can really appreciate the glacial geology that surrounds us. I'm throwing Wendy's like they're tic-tacs and taking enough pictures to make a saint impatient. We pass another lake, skirting high above the cirque it sits in. I'm sure it has a name, but I seriously doubt I could spell it without guidance.

One of the unique things about trekking in this area is the complete absence of maps and geographic information. I brought my GPS along because our guide was unable to tell us how far our trek would be, how long between camps or even give us a general idea of where we would be on something like Google Earth. The itinerary had names like "Joktey Pokhari", "Pangmalung" and "Gomathang" but all of the internet searching in the world revealed nothing more. When asked, the guide would say it was "5 hours" to our next stop, or "just a few hundred meters" - they tend to think of distance and time as the same thing. (Unfortunately, this is all relative to their pace, rather than mine.) The herders who travel this area to bring their animals to pastures and markets in Nepal have no use for maps and GPS tracks, the paths and names passed down through generations of families. Each tribe may have a different name for a given place, and each herder a different route between camps. So few Westerners visit here that no one has bothered to make it easy for them.

Welcome, my friends, to the true middle of nowhere.

So we skirt a lake with an exotic sounding name and then drop into a barren, dramatic glacial cirque just as the mists begin to blow up from the valleys below. We miss the wide views, but the mists always have their own ethereal appeal. As we climb to the highest point of our hike thus far there are icicles on the bare rocks and the winds are getting faster once again. We camp that night at Pangmalung (14,000') - a pasture dotted with the remains of herder's huts. We'd been aiming for a campsite on the far side of the ridge, but the yakmen stopped short for better conditions. Turned out the camp on the far side still had several inches of snow on it, and that doesn't make for comfortable sleeping even with tents and air mattresses.

Pangmalung was our coldest camp, and though I think we were supposed to be able to view Everest from a peak nearby, the fog never cleared long enough to make it possible. It was our only chance to see the highest point in the world, and we were bummed to have missed out - but since it also meant skipping a 3am wakeup and freezing morning hike, we weren't TOO bummed. Nothing a hot cup of tea and a snuggle back into the down bubble of our sleeping bags wouldn't fix. Plus, there are plenty of mountains out here...

Day 6: The Glory of Glacial Valleys The morning was not as clear as the one previous, but we did get peeks at a few of the higher mountains ahead as we set out of camp. We traveled over a low saddle then we could see a massive valley dropping below us - the headwaters of the Gomathang River. We had to drop almost 2000' to cross the river, and it was a steep, loose descent. As I picked my way down the rocky slope along a tributary stream, I was thankful that I wasn't wearing a full pack. Then I look up and see the heavily-loaded dzo coming down the same narrow, rocky path! I was amazed at the sturdiness of these creatures, and how little it seemed to bother them to travel such rugged country.

At the base of the descent was another grazing pasture, surrounded this time by the forest trees we'd left behind. The guys made us a rather idyllic lunch by the stream, then packed up the dzo to head uphill again. The area reminded me a lot of Glacier National Park, complete with white glacial waterfalls on the steep valley walls and hanging valleys high overhead. As we climbed to the next ridge, the mists started to thicken again. Our camp, Yangstep (12,675') was thick with fog when we arrived, another beauty that was only revealed by the clear morning air.

Day 7: Something Like Easy Hiking
Hiking out of Yangstep, I wanted to believe that the hiking was starting to feel easier because I'd acclimated to the altitude and been toughened by a week on the trail. Our guide informed me, however, that we were now on a more common trekking route and that the trail itself had gotten easier. I decided to ignore him and spent the day congratulating my self for bigger lungs and steely thighs. Not that my ego needs a boost necessarily ;) , but what the heck!

More hiking along ridges, through glacial valleys and then a long traverse. Day ended as the others, deep in fog, reading and sleeping in the tents. Camped at Pangding (13728'), so thick with fog that it was difficult to see even a few feet in front of us. This would be our last camp outside of the "tourist zone".

Day 8: Return to Dzongri
Morning revealed spectacular mountain views from Pangding. We could see North and South Kabru (Southern end of the "Khangchendzonga Massif") with startling clarity now, as well as the mound of Dzongri Top, where we'd be hiking tomorrow morning for some spectacular views of Khangchendzonga itself.

Our first order of the day was to (again) descend into a river valley to cross the Rathong Chu (Chu being "river"). The major crossing is at a spot called Tegyapla - a common camp for trekkers heading to Khangchendzonga Base Camp. Tegyapla is frequently full of trekkers with the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), a state-operated mountaineering school whose aim it is to promote recreational mountaineering in India (and to develop the tourism industry). HMI makes it a point on their webpage to say that the accept students of both sexes - and that they have been serving women trekkers since the 70's! Today, however, Tegyapla was quiet as a mouse, and we saw no HMI groups on our trip this year. (In 2012 we watched a huge group of nearly 150 trekkers go through Dzongri with HMI - we were glad to be able to avoid that crush!)

We contoured around a hill and then over a saddle into the wide basin of Dzongri. Our camp was not near the trekker's huts but up in the grazing meadows close to where I camped when I came through this area in 2012. From here on in I would be retracing my steps from that first trek, and I was surprised at how emotional I was feeling about it. On that first trip, I really felt like it was a "once in a lifetime" kind of experience, but being here again made me feel like maybe I could have more than just a couple of magical travel experiences in my future. I also have to admit to feeling incredibly fortunate to have all of the the elements in my life that have to be in line for a journey like this (health, wealth, stability).

We headed into the trekker's village to partake of goodies from the little vendor's stands that are set up there. We each got a little something, whether it was mango juice, chocolate or tasty crackers - it was nice to be able to choose something for ourselves for a change. It's nice to have a chef, but for those of us used to eating on our own schedules and choosing what we like, it does get to be a bit tedious, believe it or not!

It was also the first time we'd seen other people in over a week. Many tourists only get as far as Dzongri - and even for those heading all the way to Goeche La, our 7 days on trek made us seem like hardened veterans of the trail. It was fun to compare notes and have a little social time, but we were very glad that our camp was away from the noise and trash of the main site. People are good in small doses ;)

Our guide, Binay, arrived in the afternoon, having hiked up from Yuksom that day. He left the village - about 15 miles away and 5000' below - at 3am, and was in Dzongri by 3pm. In addition to being fit, Binay has amazing positive energy and enthusiasm... I only wish that I could have that much to put into everything in my life! It was nice to have him back with us, and we feasted that night like we hadn't in days. We went to bed early knowing it would be a very early, pre-dawn wake up in the morning to head up the hill and get our alpen glow on the big mountain...
Glacial Valley
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