Day 10 started very early, at 2:45am to get ready to leave for 4am. We got up in the dark and packed away by torch light, the power to the tea house being entirely generated by solar power and stored in 12v batteries, and hence had run out.
The climb up the pass was extremely tough and slow, the narrow cone of vision offered by the head torches making it substantially more difficult.
Our path took us steeply up from Thorong Phedi, towards Thorong High Camp. Immediately after the camp we faced our first technical hurdle, heavy snowfall overnight had made the path very icy and treacherous. Nonetheless, with support from Raj, Ram and Navin we managed to cross these areas and the daylight began to slowly illuminate the mountains around us.
For several more hours we climbed steeply through stunning scenery and an almost lunar landscape, devoid of all vegetation. At around 4900m we stopped at a small cafe that served tea and sold biscuits and chocolate.
After some more time we eventually reached the top of the pass at 5416m, tired and out of breath. Patiently we waited in the queue for the picture by the sign board before grabbing a drink at the nearby cafe.
The descent was even steeper than the climb, and was amazing in that it warmed up so quickly. By 4500m I was back to just my base layer and the undergrowth was returning to greener pastures.
The far side of the pass had a very different land scape to where we had started with an almost total lack of trees visible and a much more desert like landscape, even the colour of the ground has a more red tone to it, with everything coated in a brown dust.
We stopped at a very busy restaurant with very colourful rainbow umbrellas and had cheese sandwiches and cold coca colas in the sun. It was quite heavenly after the hellscape we had endured over the pass just a few hours previously.
After about an hour of rest we continued down the mountain towards our final destination of Muktinath.
Muktinath is a vibrant and busy town, built around a sacred temple in both the Hindu and Buddhist religions. People come here from all over Nepal and as far as India to wash away their sins in the mountain water. There are 108 water fountains in the wall that worshipers walk under and then bathe in two pools of glacier melt (that looks simultaneously filthy and freezing cold). They hope that doing this will free them from any sins that they have committed in past.
Leaving the temple we walked past an enormous statue of the Buddha and then through a gate and down a huge concrete staircase into the main town.
The town itself is extremely busy with cars, motorbikes and people everywhere. There are many hotels aimed at the large Indian tourist community who are coming to the temple. We stopped at the Best Step Inn, which was on the far side of the town from the temple. Compared to the previous places we had stayed it was quite luxurious, with showers (ours were all cold) and passable wifi.
One big benefit was a large open air rooftop area outside our rooms where we all sat for a few hours in the sun, catching up with each other’s life stories and listening to TLC!
Dinner was tasty and offered a much wider range of options than we had been offered on previous days. The chicken sizzler proved to be a particular high point.
After a particularly long day, with a very broken sleep the night before, we decided to head to bed after our meal. Some of the others ventured to a local “Bob Marley” bar for some drinks. Apparently, the Nepal Juice cocktail was quite potent.