Annapurna: The Last Bastion

In August 2018 I spent 12 days hiking the Annapurna Range in Nepal.

I disembark from a dusty bus falling apart at every joint. 4.5 hours to reach a town called Besishahar, the beginning of the Annapurna trail. To my right is a concrete shell of a building with a small room dedicated to being a check point. I get my passes stamped by a local, ask for directions to the trail head and thank them for their vital yet under appreciated role in keeping hikers safe. I walk out, load up my pack, check my gear, sling a 15kg bag over my shoulders and take a deep breath.

 

It's monsoon season. The rains have subsided for a short time but they've left raging rivers and unstable land in their wake. The hike is easy at first. A simple trail that follows along side a gravel road that is still settling from torrential downpours. Each day is an early rise, a cup of black tea, a simple breakfast and a will to make it to the end despite any obstacle. Some days harder than others, each day a new adventure, each day the ache sets in heavier. The hike is solitary and lonely yet empowering. Each day a new day to improve myself. Reach a new conscious level of existence.

 

I meet others; Japanese, Indian, American, Chinese, Australian, Nepalese, French, Spanish... Groups setting out on their ultimate adventure to individuals escaping a mold they can't form to. Lives running parallel for a short time and splitting off again. Friendships that are all too short.

 

It's day 11 and making the final ascent through a pass at 5400m. The highest I've ever been and very likely to ever go again. Warming ground mixes with cold air just below the snow level of the Annapurna peaks and heavy clouds swirl as the Earth breathes, obscuring the tips of the Himalayas. I hike nearly straight up. Pace is key. I forget to set a stable one and repeatedly stop to allow my body to catch up. The elevation puts me in a cloud with 20m of visibility limiting my ability to judge my trivial existence against such a powerful spectacle. I reach the top with no pomp and circumstance, no one to congratulate me, just exhaustion and a desire for it to all be over. Cold sets in, wetness reaches my bones, I take some photos and proceed to descend to the final town.

 

The indigenous way of life in the Himalayas is slowly being eroded by tourism, development and infrastructure.  If modern civilization can reach here then it can surely reach anywhere. We need to protect these last bastions.