April 4, 2009, my 50th birthday, was the most difficult physical trial that i have ever endured. OhMyGod, it was soooo hard! I woke up with major stomach issues and no appetite (high altitude zaps your hunger), and we set off early to make the pass at a reasonable time. We climbed 810 meters (to 16,000 ft) before descending 1090 meters. After a couple hours trekking, we passed a yak herders tent, where nomadic people live for months on end. The tent is actually made out of yak hair, and is completely waterproof! 2 women and a 2-year-old lived there. They were gracious enough to let us in for a visit. Wood is the main source of fuel, and there was a little makeshift wood stove in the middle of the 1-room tent, and i felt like i would choke shortly after crawling inside the tiny enclave. David and i wondered aloud (to each other) how they could live that way, but it is their way of life, and, like nearly all Bhutanese people, they seemed happy.
Making our way to the pass was an extremely slow process, as the snow got deeper, the ice got slicker and our bodies got weaker. My stomach problems were only aggrevated by HAFE–high altitude flatulence epidemic–and by 15,500 ft, i thought i may explode. David and Jambay (thanks, guys) cheered me on as i put one foot in front of the other, finally making my goal.
Then i threw up.
The descent to camp was steep and long, taking about 3 hours. The sheer beauty of the Himalayas wrapped in a coat of snow helped me to overcome my physical discomfort, although i must admit, i was glad as hell to make it to camp and be done for the day. As soon as we got to the bottom, i plopped down on my sleeping bag, exhausted, unable to move. ooohhhhh…my feet hurt, my knees hurt, my head hurt, I HURT!!! i stuck my head outside the tent and looked up at the mountain we had just traversed.
April 4th, 2009, my 50th birthday, was a great day.