Unipal 2015

Day 6: Return to Manang

The snow that we had seen in the afternoon kept up through the night and was still going in the morning. It had been predicted as 3cm of snow but was clearly closer to 20cm already. The view upvalley was not quite whiteout, but the conditions looked bad. Also, seven of our porters were still in Manang after carrying Bruce down. Between those issues, Jason’s injured toe, and the weather forecast, which predicted two or three more days of the same, it was decided that going over the Thorong La pass, still 1400 meters higher than we were now, was not safe for the group.

Many people were disappointed, but most felt the decision made sense, and a few who’d been struggling were obviously relieved. I was bummed because I felt like I was strong enough to do the pass; I’d gotten a good night’s sleep and felt the best I had on the trip. But I wouldn’t have taken the group up into that snowstorm, either. It occasionally taunted us with a patch of blue sky, but the snow kept returning. (The yaks didn’t seem to mind.)

The tour leaders had to work out how the rest of the tour was going to go; the plan will be to ride back downvalley, then around the Annapurna range to Pokhara, where we had been planning to fly after arriving in Jomsom. It looks like we’ll have two nights in Pokhara, which is supposed to be pretty cool.

We heard from the folks who went down to Manang that Bruce made it to the medical center and was getting treatment for high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), which is a potentially fatal condition. At lower altitude, and under treatment, he was expected to be OK.

One of the four noble truths of Buddhism is that suffering is caused by expectations. The struggle to prove yourself, to strive for goals, is the source of suffering. Some folks in the group were suffering from being denied the opportunity to crest the pass, but we had to release our expectations, to enjoy the adventure we were on. We were still riding in the Himalaya.

Even unicyclists sometimes need to find their balance.

Today’s ride reversed yesterday’s, with the added fun of it being mostly downhill, and the extra special bonus of it being in the snow. Though somehow the trail out of town seemed a lot more uphill today than it seemed downhill yesterday; funny how that is.

We mostly walked for a while, and then started slipping and sliding down the hill. MUni in the snow is fun, especially the falls; I had a couple of good rolls. The bridge was completely frozen, extremely sketchy. (Go Dawa!)

There was some ski action and a lot of work on the brake; really fun riding.

At one point I got caught behind a yak and had to walk for a while; he wasn’t in any hurry.

The whole ride was the most pure joy we’d had, not to mention some of the best photography. There were at lot more smiles than we’d seen on the way up.

Once we got back to the gates of Manang, the snow turned to sloppy slush and mud, not as fun to ride, really not fun to fall into. The alleyways of the town were piled up with snow that people had shoveled out of their doorways and animal stalls, so we had to clamber over some ugly stuff. Still, it was good to get into town; Manang has a lot of shops and hotels, while Yak Kharka is just a small outpost on the trail.

We got in early, and way earlier than our luggage, as the porters who’d brought Bruce down had to walk back up to Yak Kharka to pick up the bags and bring them back. So we sat in the restaurant eating pizza and drinking beer—a side benefit of not going over the pass is that we don’t have to worry about altitude sickness anymore!

Bruce was released from the clinic, and looked a lot better. He’s going to be evacuated to Kathmandu, but he may wind up meeting us in Pokhara later.

We had two events at dinner; it was Corbin’s birthday, and we got a nice chocolate cake from the bakery, and Nikola, the doctor who had examined Bruce last night, gave a speech praising the porters for saving his life bringing him down to Manang. And it was also Nepali new year’s eve, so we all chipped in to buy beer for the porters.

No Strava again today; I was out of juice (no electricity in Yak Kharka).

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