Friday, November 26, 2010

Nepal, Annapurna Circuit....Poon Hill

We were supposed to be up at 4:30 to begin the climb up to Poon Hill. However, by 4 we were already awakened by the sound of others getting ready for what is supposed to be a spectacular moment on the Annapurna Circuit. Eating could wait, the plan for the day was to go up and down Poon Hill and then continue the Annapurna route after breakfast.

I put on my full 'Thorung La" gear, every bit of warm clothing for what was expected to be a bitterly cold morning. Outside the weather was actually a whole lot better than it had been on the day we went up Thorung La. Yes, it was cold, but the sky was clear and although the moon was far from full we could already distinguish the shapes of some of the mountains we hoped to see as it got lighter.

It's a walk of around 45 minutes from Ghorepani to the top of Poon Hill, all uphill of course and quite hard after the effort of the previous day. The climb is something over 300 metres. After 10 minutes I was already removing one outer layer of clothing from the effort. By 5:30 we were at the top, and the jacket I had removed was soon needed again. The sun was not yet up and once you stopped moving you quickly got cold.

The panorama you get at the the top of the hill should include the whole of the Dhaulagiri range, one side of the Annapurnas and a view of the distinctive peak of Machapuchare, commonly known for not very mysterious reasons as Fish Tail Mountain. This is a holy mountain and cannot be climbed, although I preferred the typo in a leaflet we saw in Kathmandu describing it as a 'scared' mountain. That explains why it kept its distance.

The hill was crowded, it clearly attracts many more people than those doing the Annapurna Circuit, and the cameras were busy. This being the ultimate tea-house trek, it only seemed fair that there was a small shack at the top selling tea. We walked round in circles trying to keep a bit warm as the first rays of sunlight bounced off the high peaks. We couldn't complain about the weather conditions on this side of the Annapurna range and as it got lighter the views got more spectacular.

Shortly after 6 it was fully light and the panorama compensated for the cold. Even so, by 6:45 we were satisfied and were on the track back to the hotel for breakfast. A hint for the lazy, I shouldn't really do this but if you are in a Ghorepani hotel facing in the right direction you can get more or less the same view as we had from the top of Poon Hill. But of course it's not the same without that pre-dawn climb and the chill in your bones.

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