Disaster on Annapurna Circuit in Nepal Was ‘Luck’ of the Draw
I was very, very worried. One thing that concerned me was others didn’t appear to be as uptight. Or maybe I was just missing something. After all, many of the trekkers were British, famous for their stiff upper lips. So who knows?
But it had begun snowing at Annapurna Circuit Base Camp at 14,600 feet, after weeks of being assured by sherpas and guides that there would be no snow. In addition, I had a cracking headache, per high altitude lore. The next morning I headed off at 4:00 into the dark, along with all other members of the international contingent. We were facing a 3,200 foot climb. “Be at the top before mid-morning,” we had been told, when high, bullying winds come roaring out of Tibet. That was good advice. As it was, I hurried to get to the top, which was NOT a good idea. Hurrying is one of the last things you want to do at high elevations. My reason was very simple: I was cold. It was impossible for me to relax on a break. Thus I quickly contracted altitude mountain sickness and feared for my life. The snow picked up at higher elevations. Those of you who have read my narrative, Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, know that I was—and am–a very average trekker. Had I gotten caught up in any really serious conditions, I would have likely been one of the first to perish.
For this reason the recent story about the disaster at Thorung La Pass (see link above) on the Annapurna Circuit has special resonance to me. The possibility of getting caught in such a Jack London-like disaster had preoccupied me for months in the runup to my trek. This disaster occurred two years to the day that I summited Thorung La Pass. It is enough to make one think. Nonetheless, the Annapurna Circuit remains one of the great treks to high elevations available to the average person such as myself.
Bill Walker is the author of the Skywalker hiking books, including Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, and the The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago.