Ghorepani to Tadapani and Pun Hill for Dawn Patrol!

6 12 2018
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No shortage of Impactful Women on this trek! From left: Madeleine, Tara, Annette, Uli, Cathy Ann and Amee! And what weather!!!?? Wow! That’s 27,000′ Dhaulagiri back there!

Today we’ve got a super highlight of our trek! Witnessing dawn at 10,200ft Pun Hill! I’ve heard (and seen pictures) of the Pun Hill view and it’s spectacular. There are glacier-draped peaks all around and some are over 26,000ft! The spot is so incredible it draws tons of tourists like us but that’s OK! So, we were up up up and had some breakfast treats and tea/coffee, and then it was out the door to hike 1,200′ up to Pun Hill! O’Dark Hundred.

I was OK for a while, but our lead guide was quick and urgent, and I fell behind. And I wasn’t quite yet acclimated. Nevertheless I got up there before sunrise, and we were all rewarded with a spectacular dawn! Well, us and seemingly everyone else in the region!

There are many peaks to see from Pun Hill. Everything from Dhaulagiri through Annapurna South and Machupachhare, all between 22,000′ and nearly 27,000′.

Once the sun fully began to bake the peaks we descended to the tea house for a big breakfast. And once that was consumed, the big surprise for me happened. Our trip description said we would “Descend through a moss-covered rhododendron forest.” Not. Nope. Instead, we climbed another 1,200 ft right back up to another saddle, right in line with Pun Hill! In fact, I could see Pun Hill directly across from the rest spot. So in a matter of a couple of hours we had climbed 1,200′ twice and descended 1,200′ plus the descent from the 2nd 1,200′ for a total mid morning of more than 3,600′ before noon!

So, once the 2nd 1,200ft was attained, the trail wound up and down a ridge before finally beginning a very long descent clinging very close to a river. We had a super nice warm lunch in the sun (a brown bagged lunch) and then arrival at Tadapani at, 8.759′, was very beautiful, another nice “lawn” with our tents ready!

 

 





Annapurna Sanctuary Trek: Let the Trek Begin!

1 12 2018

After breakfast at the Kathmandu Shangri La Hotel, we took an early flight to Pokhara, the beginning and ending city of our trek. Our 30-minute flights on Yeti Airlines were on a smallish, twin-engine turbo prop. As we rose above the pollution in the Kathmandu valley, the Himalayan giants dominated everything! And while our flights were uneventful, Don and I noticed rivets missing on the right engine cowling, and one more twirling itself out of its hole. Some prayers were offered about the outcome…

Emerging from the plane in Pokhara all one needs to do is look up. My favorite mountain, Machapuchahre, or Fish Tail, at just under 23,000 ft, dominates the view! This mountain would be prominent during the next two weeks. We would do base camp right underneath.

Once aboard our transfer vehicle, it was maybe a 90 minute ride to our trailhead. Along the way, we passed by Nepalese settlements and through a town where we briefly tried to exchange currency.

Our Annapurna Sanctuary Trek officially began at the trailhead at Nayapul. This spot was a Grand Central Station of sorts, all sorts of 4 x 4 vehicles and taxis dropping off and picking up trekkers! We’d walk a couple of hours to a tea house lunch and then end the day at Tirkhedunga, at 5,067 feet.

We had several novice trekkers on this trip, and a few novice campers as well! And so it was that guests like Tara were introduced to the luxuries of “glamping,” and also Annette and Amee as well.

We slung our day packs over our backs, donned our walking sticks and set off. It was a sunny day, with this first walk mostly on a road, and part on a trail. The sun was hot. I relished the shade. We passed through our first series of Nepalese Himalayan hamlets with their tea houses and restaurants.

As the trail wended up into the hills, the road ended. And just when we began to need a relief (and to relieve ourselves) it was time to stop and lunch! It was time for some of our newly minted trekkers to have their experience of glamping on the trail!

I had this experience before, so I knew what to expect. But Tara had no idea how sumptuous just something like lunch on the trail can be! We sat down and the table service began. First beverages, then soup, then a main meal (which might be a few courses) and then dessert! Oh yes. This is lunch on the trail! So Tara exclaimed over and over THANK YOU! It’s hard to get used to this level of service. But let it happen!

And there was dancing. Local children were practicing local dances and some of us, so (Tara and Cathy Ann) tried their part! Super cute. OK, then we put our packs back on, and continued our hike. This hike wasn’t that long, though, and we reached our “perch” by late afternoon.

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We had a nice level spot for our tents outside a tea house and it was perfect. Since several of our trekkers were “newbies,” (Tara, Annette, Amee and Uli) I offered some suggestions on how to “vent” one’s tent, and arrange their sleeping bags, so they were more comfortable. Take note: Venting, regardless of the temperature, is really important! You don’t want condensation building up inside the tent. And, it’s important to resist the temptation to go to sleep inside your sleeping bag with too much insulation. I mean don’t get into that bag with a down jacket and down pants. If you do, the bag cannot do its job. The jacket will “insulate” the bag from being able to “activate” its down to warm you. Instead, go to bed with less insulation. My advice was proven over and over on the trek. Oddly less is more inside your sleeping bag!

 





Nepal Annapurna Sanctuary Sacred Trek: Trekking in a Tutu for Breast Cancer Prevention

25 11 2018

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2018 has been a tough year. In February, I lost my brother John to cancer, after a two-and-a-half-year battle. But on the positive side, my friend Shari has come through a courageous struggle with breast cancer. I have watched and rooted, I’ve been lifted when they were on the mend and pained when the battle seemed for naught. I swear, cancer treatment often seems like witch doctor medicine. I was inspired by their courage to trek in a tutu Nepal’s Annapurna Region to raise funds for breast cancer prevention!

Ever since I completed my first Himalayan trek, the Chomolhari Trek in Bhutan, I’ve been yearning to return to the greatest mountain range in the world, with its spectacular views, ultimate challenge hikes, and its myriad cultures and faiths. So it was that in 2018 I signed up for the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek led by Cathy Ann Taylor.

I love travel, discovering new cultures and perspectives, and I am hopelessly hooked on the outdoors. So this trek was in my wheelhouse. But what was in my wheelhouse, just for other causes was fundraising. I’ve been part of a number of non-profits, even been on the board of directors. So it was a surprise when maybe six weeks prior to the beginning of this trek, it became a “sacred” trek, to raise funds for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. Cathy Ann named Joani Carpenter, a trekking peer from my Cordillara Huayhuash Trek as its honoree. Joani survived pancreatic cancer! My first reaction was OMG what have I signed up for? I’m already busy with fundraising! How can I add another? Then I found out fundraising was not a requirement. Still, over the subsequent days, I kept thinking about it. Then I was at KEEN Footwear in downtown Portland (one of my sponsors), and a heard a phone ring…I picked up the phone and the voice said, “Just do what you know how to do.” I heard a call to action!

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The next morning, I went to my gym, and as it was breast cancer awareness month. They had mannequins festooned with pink shirts, feather boas and tutus. As I did my abdominal routine a thought came to mind, “Trekking in a tutu!” And with that crazy idea in mind, I hatched a plan to raise funds by trekking in a tutu in honor of Joani, and of my friend Shari, who is a survivor, and in memory of my brother John.

At first I went out and bought pink stuff. That was all I knew. I got pink bandanas, a pink boa, pink shirts. Shari made a pink tutu. I made a pink social media post. I figured trekking poles, muddy boots, prayer flags and hash tags might do the trick.

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Shari and I even did a small barbecue and a photo shoot!

Then I learned the correct color is purple! Purple is the color for prevention. With only a week to go I got synthetic purple shirts and a purple bandana. If I got enough support, I’d get images of myself in that tutu in Nepal! I posted photos on social media, and sent personal ask letters. With just so little time I was surprised I was able to generate over a thousand dollars worth of contributions. And with that done, on trek, I needed to generate some content for the contributors! So, whilst in Nepal, I managed to get some images in that outfit, or wearing some of it!

OK, yes, there will be following posts of this trek! We managed to ascend/descend tens of thousands of vertical feet, take in views of the world’s giant peaks, meet people from dozens of countries, and laugh a lot. We struggled up or down tens of thousands of steps. We ? Me? Sweated a lot. We ate like royalty. We witnessed giant peaks and glaciers. We said “Namaste” a thousand times! We witnessed priceless sunrises. We bumped and grinded in 4x4s.

 





Waldo Lake, OR – Beautiful Paddling and Starry Nights

13 09 2018

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Waldo Lake, located about 50 miles east of Eugene, is one of the most pure lakes in the world. It’s one of Oregon’s natural wonders. For sailors and paddlers Waldo Lake is a dream. No powerboats are allowed. So it’s like going back in time. It has no incoming streams – it gets its water from springs and snowmelt only. In fact, the water is so pure, fish cannot live there. Gliding over its surface, you can see 140 feet down. I’ve been going there for years, because the camping on the west side is paddle-in only. Recently, though, forest fires seem to crop up in mid-August every year sending smoke. So there are campfire prohibitions on that side. So this time we car camped on the east side. Because Waldo sits at 5,240 feet altitude, snow melts late and mosquitoes can be a problem in early summer. With the bugs early and fire smoke later on, we decided to visit in early August rather than around Labor Day, as we’d normally do. We lucked out. The bugs were not bad and we had clear air.

I set out with Jessie and her brother Joel. We stuck three kayaks on the roof of my Ford Escape and packed in all the gear. We set out to snag a camping spot. Bill Baxter and Julie Dale would join us the following day.

I’ve never made camping reservations and as usual it worked out this time. We camped at the North Waldo Campground. It’s got a lot of lakeside sites but they were all taken. Still, we got a site just across the road, within walking distance to get our boats to the shore.

After setting up camp, we “slothed” around, reading and relaxing. It was so beautiful by the lake. There were a number of different types of clouds, cirrus, and cumulus. It was fun to watch the little cumulonimbus clouds build. None reached thunderstorm strength. Then, after dinner, we went down to the shore. One by one, the planets came out. We saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all at once. Then the International Space Station flew over, and then according to my Star App on my phone, the Hubble Space Telescope too! The Milky Way was so magnificent. And with my powerful binoculars we could check out nebulae.

Next morning, after breakfast, Jessie and I set out to explore the shoreline to discover new campsites. We didn’t really find any on the east shore. We did find some beaches and lunch spots though!

Our paddle took us all the way across the lake, not far from Rhododendron Island. It was much farther than I remembered. By the time Jessie and I made it back to our starting point it was after 2:00. We were both exhausted. After wolfing down lunch I took a stroll exploring the campground. When I returned Bill and Julie had arrived! We all had a gregarious afternoon and evening. We checked out the stars again and did another paddle.

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Next morning we gobbled up everything and set out for another day on the lake. There is no doubt that camping coffee is a nectar of the Gods that can’t be beat!





Backyard Lakes: Trillium and Timothy

25 06 2018
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Trillium Lake just over an hour from my house!

Anyone who lives in Portland, Oregon like I do, has difficult decisions with free time. Go west 75 mins to the coast? Go north to Mt. St. Helens or the Gifford Pinchot National Forest? Head to the Columbia Gorge? South to Wine Country? Or due east to the playground that is the Mount Hood National Forest. Over the past couple of weeks the weather has been great, so I spent some time up by Mt. Hood.

I spent a day relaxing at the shore at Timothy Lake, and not long after, met my friend Laura up there and spent an evening under the stars. Each time, the weather was spectacular. And early season, before school gets out, these lakes shine and seem like Olde Tyme camping. That’s because they are super warm, nobody’s around, and it’s super off season. And added bonus: You will have spring flowers at your campsite! Rhododendron and Trillium are in full bloom. And the there is still snow on the peaks. The flowers, the blue lakes, the green forest and the snow on the mountains make for a feast for the eyes!

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On the day visit, I needed some “me time” and simply packed a lunch, some stuff to read, and most of my camp stoves to tune up for the camping season. I forgot the old Coleman Dual Fuel 533.

On the “day visit,” campgrounds were maybe 25% full. It was so quiet I only encountered one wife with kids on the shore. Oh. Well, wait a minute! I encountered a whole family! Just not human.

 

The geese have a plan of action. Adults have a guard who keeps up a vigil whilst the kids and other adults can clean and preen. There is a rear guard too. I found the longer I just sat, the trust built and they came up almost to my toes. No worries!

Okay, so then the following Monday I resolved to go up and spend the night. It would be my “birthday eve.” Laura, who was in Bend, Oregon, offered to meet me up there and celebrate. It was another perfect day!

The evening was pretty chilly but in my sleeping bag, with pillows, and a ski hat and the all-important eye shades for the Pacific NW 4:45 a.m. sunrise, I was set. No tent fly needed, the stars are far more important! The sky was absolutely bright with the Milky Way on full display.

Sunset Venus

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Venus was on hand for my birthday eve sunset. Not the sharpest focus but I hope you get the idea!

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Laura captures an image of the sunset.

For Timothy Lake, my suggestion is its best times are before school gets out in the early summer, or after Labor Day.  In high season summer, it’s best mid week. However, there are plenty of kayak-in or hike-in spots on the opposite side of the lake. There is opportunity for quiet camping over there!

 





Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash – Whoop Ass! To 16,404′ Cuyoc Pass!

13 08 2017

 

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At Cuyoc Pass, with the Andes stretching away behind me!

With soothing natural hot springs mending our muscles yesterday, this morning it’s time to put up or shut up. Today we must make it to the highest pass of our trek. And then, manage a steep scree-covered descent without injury or accident. As it would turn out, this day would be filled with physical tests, mental challenges, crazy views, lifetime accomplishments, and Olympic worthy feats. And not without some llama entertainment!

Fueled up with breakfast we were on our way early. I was definitely pumped up. But also trepidation was creeping in. This was what all that training was all about. We had the usual chilly start with a gradually warming morning. We take a break to rest, de-layer and hydrate.

We head off again, and it’s not long before we are made aware we need to make way. Looking back we see periscope necks, big eyes and radar ears rounding the bend! Llamas! The camp crew and their llama/donkey train pass us. Always a highlight!

It Took Everything To Reach The Pass

But beauty aside, we’re focused on making this pass. Lots of oxygen needs to feed our legs if they are to get us up and over. My belly seems to swell to bizarre balloonish size on the way up these passes. Cathy Ann tells me it’s normal, the body is gathering as much oxygen as it can to make it. Today the pain of the climb is really getting to me. I am wondering if I’ll need to call in one of our “just in case” horses! One more step. One. More. Step.

There comes a point where I am telling myself that I don’t belong here. I am no match for this. What was I thinking I could do this? I am so involved in the struggle that I ask for The Powers Above for help. I have never done this before, and I am not Catholic. But I start making signs of the Cross and saying Hail Mary prayers to get me over! Then Karla, in front of me, nearly collapses in shortness of breath. And from behind, I hear Chris calling for the emergency horse. WOW. Somehow this makes some adrenaline kick in. With 20 more minutes to go, I manage to make it. SLOWLY. But I make it.

 

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Gen and Jan on the pass!

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From here, the Andes roll away in two directions (see 1st photo above at beginning of the post too)

 

This GoPro video says all! What a spectacular accomplishment! We are all giddy of course, and take lots of photos for our memories.

About Trekking Poles

I learned some things about using my trekking poles on this trip. The first couple of days, I kept them extended all day. Toward the afternoon, I was suffering aching shoulders, which was really annoying. I attributed this to my backpack – I figured I was incorrectly packing or adjusting the straps. But fiddling with the backpack was to no avail. On trail, because I had the poles extended, it meant when it got steeper I was picking them up too much – over and over. Someone suggested I shorten the poles to make things more comfortable. Voila! I could now do a whole day without discomfort.

I also observed “trekking pole behavior” of my trek mates. Some used their poles all the time. But others seemed to only use the poles for tricky trail stretches or uphills. I found myself using them for tricky sections and on the uphill parts. But on flatter sections they just seemed to get in the way – so I’d just carry them on one side. So I guess whatever works best is the right way! No matter what, trekking poles are a big help on these trips.

They are also terrifically handy when crossing streams – especially streams gray with glacial minerals. You can feel how deep a proposed crossing is.

I Think The Descent Is Even Harder

Now that we’ve made it to the top, the perhaps most challenging part – or riskiest – comes. The descent off this peak is steep and filled with “mines” which are small scree-like rocks. These can be incredibly troublesome. With a misstep they roll like ball bearings under your feet.

One by one we start off – Cathy Ann asks that we give each other a good distance in case of a spill. I start down and for the first part it reminds me a little of skiing. This requires a kind of bent-knee stance. And, we DO have poles, like skiing. You’ve got to be able to recover if you slide. At first, I’m doing pretty good with this. Then I see Jan take a good spill! But she is Okay, gets back up and keeps going. Then I hear that Sandy had a mighty slip but managed an Olympic judged 9 on a recovery on the go. Then it happens to me. My left foot hits some of these ball bearings and hyperextends. It extends and then stops just as fast. I don’t fall. But I know it’s one of those situations where while I might make it to camp, the knee could swell up and become a pretty serious problem on a trek like this! No way to know now. I just need to keep going.

I don’t have photos of this descent as it was too taxing – I was just focused on making it down! Some of our group are medical professionals, so I ask if there are any suggestions about my knee. Jan suggests I take lots of Ibuprofen and keep it elevated as much as I can. And, if there is a river nearby and I can stand the cold, dunk it in there! She gives me some ibuprofen – I had acetaminophen but no ibuprofen.

We hear about a mountain here called Diablo Mudo. In Spanish that means Mute Devil. I kept wondering if there were any stories about Diablo Mudo. With a name like that, there have got to be some stories!

We reach Cuyoc, our 14,436′ high camp, with a gorgeous backdrop of 19,000ft peaks and vertical cliff faces behind.

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Terrible weather, huh?

We’re greeted with beautiful sun at camp. I decide I’m  not braving the icy river next to us to treat my left knee. I hang out in my tent and do my best to elevate my left. Leg – I even skip happy hour. I hope it helps! Well, when dinner comes, I don’t seem horribly worse – so I’m optimistic. Then afterward, I go to bed right away with the leg on top of my duffel bag.

Another chilly night of bright stars tonight. So, what did I bring for the 25-degree evenings? How did I manage? I brought an 800-fill down zero-degree sleeping bag. At bed time, I’d wear thermal underwear leggings, with a long sleeved merino wool top and a light fleece shirt over. Up top, I wore a ski hat and a sleeping mask. On my hands, I wore lightweight fleece gloves. I found this arrangement most toasty! I’d also ensure my sleeping bag hood was over the top. The sleeping pad and a (yay) pillow were provided for us!

 





Hike and A Hot Tub Soak!

8 08 2017

Today’s plan calls for a mellow (well, relatively) hike out of Huayhuash to a 15,584′ pass, 5-hours total, and ending with the afternoon at a hot tub soak and camp at Viconga Thermal Baths, at 14,432′ – natural hot springs here we come! Sounds good! We’ll also break out our portable hot shower! After these hard-won days, I’m liking the sound of that.

Like most mornings, our “beast herders” are out before dawn wrangling the herds! These guys sometimes climb hills, yelling urgent taunts to get their charges (donkeys and llamas) in line. Sometimes they disappear behind hillsides. But every morning, they find the beasts of burden, bringing them back. I never understood why the beasts don’t just take off during the night!

We pass through some beautiful valleys, and pass by condors above, and chinchilla below.

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These chinchilla are really cute! Part rabbit, part guinea pig, or something, they inhabit the rocks all around these parts. With alert ears, long whiskers and fluffy tails!

In between certain elevations, our hikes flow through fields of wildflowers. We experience Paintbrush, Mistletoe, flowering cactus, giant six foot lupine, and others I cannot identify.

Then today as every day, our train of llamas, donkeys and horses catch up with us! They, and our crew, carry our stuff and set up camp so that when we arrive, we just crawl into our tents and mend.

Now it’s time to take a break.

 

We catch up with ourselves. Some like me de-layer, whilst others visit, or take in snacks. On the way we pass a good sized lake. It’s the largest we’ll see on our trek.

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Then, after some climbs and descents, we see our destination! It’s a little valley with a glacier-fed stream flowing through. Up above and behind, it’s got three different temperature thermal baths! Wow! It’s going to be a sweet afternoon!

 

Man that bath felt great. But getting out of the water NOT! OMG.

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They had 3 baths with varying temps. But when you get out, it’s chilly!

Along with our thermal baths, which felt EXQUISITE! Our staff also set up a hot shower. Now, this shower was far from automatic. Somebody had to pump up the water pressure for it to work! Cathy Ann and Roger handled the technical aspects.

 

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Regina peeks out ready for the shower!

 

 

So, Regina gets a real hot shower! Got to be worth it!

Tomorrow is a one of our WHOOP ASS hikes! We are due to climb over 16,000ft! We need all the soothing from today’s thermal baths for that one!