October 7th, 2019
The night before there was a torrential rainstorm. The monsoon season was still holding on strong, which meant that our whitewater kayak clinic would be canceled. We ate at our favorite local shop prior to taking a morning stroll along the Pokhara lakeside.
Fresh air and a quiet morning allowed us to soak in our surroundings and contemplate our plan for the 9 remaining days in Nepal.
After having an “interesting” summit bid for Tent Peak, we had sworn off another mountaineering objective; well, our memory didn’t serve us well… Ben jokingly looked at me and asked, “What about another peak? We could try Mardi Himal”. Without hesitation, I said, “yeah, let’s do it!”. We both looked at each other as if the other wasn’t serious, but we both were. Hastily, that day we decided we would get smart from the lessons we learned of our last Himalayan peak attempt. Ben went through our gear, gave me a list, and I went shopping for the necessities.
October 8th, 2019 – Ben’s 28th Birthday!!
Our morning started with a FaceTime call with Ben’s parents to sing “Happy Birthday” to Ben prior to our trek.
After we caught a taxi to Tatopani, we started our trek nice and steeply up to a small village called Mirsa. This day was one of the holiest days in Nepal as it is the seventh day of their festival called Dashain. Luckily, one home was available to prepare some breakfast for our journey.
While Ben and I waited for our food to cook, we started to play a card game called Golf and the family’s daughter, Gorong curiously watched us, so we ended up teaching her how to play even though she spoke very little English. It was so fun to hang out with her and despite not being able to communicate completely, it felt like we had been friends for a long time!
After breakfast, we then continued to go up and up and up; we had to gain 6,000 feet of elevation on the first day as we were limited on our number of days in Nepal and had to cut out time where we could. Of course, only a few hours into our hike, it started to rain, but that wasn’t the worst of it… the leeches then came too. I was miserable and wondered why I had decided that this was a great idea to try for another peak after we were so miserable on the last.
Finally, as it was starting to get dark, we made it to where we would call it home for the evening. Since our “waterproof” tent was clearly not waterproof from our last summit attempt, we brought a tarp to ensure we stayed dry, but as luck would have it, setting up the tarp proved to be an extremely tedious task and I was so cold despite having waterproof clothes; the wet outer shells felt so cool next to my skin that I was shivering as Ben used our climbing rope to fashion the tarp with rocks and trees around us.
After tarp shenanigans were done, I set up the tent and started loading most of our things into it. During this time, I got 4 leech bites – one on my thigh that didn’t stop bleeding for 2 hours?! He was a HUGE leech! As a result of wearing shorts under my rain pants, it was able to latch right onto my skin. They always find you when you’re not moving.
Ben finally got into the tent after I made some curried noodles for dinner in our stove. Nothing better than a hot meal on the mountain, a nice change from Tent Peak. As a birthday surprise, I pulled out some candles I had sneakily bought the day before and sang “Happy Birthday” to my best friend.
October 9th, 2019
We thought it would be a short day, but of course we were wrong. At least this day, we were still able to follow a somewhat clear trail up the mountain and it only lightly rained. I was still in good spirits compared to the night before where I was faking it ’til I was happy. After several hours up the trail, we found a shepherds’ hut as our next camp; putting up the tarp would be much easier and we could make a fire in the fire pit, or so we thought!
It was the first “fight” Ben and I had on the trip as we tried to start a fire. We critiqued each other’s fire-starting skills when in the end we both clearly needed some improvement in this area… at least we got a hot meal with our stove.
After our failed fire attempts, Ben and I played 3 rounds of the game golf. I ended up winning and gloated so much (not that this is atypical)! It was really fun, just a chill relaxing evening in the tent after a long day of walking. It’s fun to be with Ben, to just connect with him.
October 10th, 2019
Without any water sources on the ridge, we had a late start in the morning. We filtered 8 liters of water to carry as a safety net if we couldn’t make it to high camp that evening. As a result, our packs became undesirably heavy.
Armed with 2 different maps with 2 different routes, it was difficult to choose the best path; one map from a Nepal mapmaker and the other from Garmin. Ironically, neither map gave us much faith as each had inconsisties throughout the day.
We hit a place that seemed a bit cliffy and decided to take what looked like a very nice, well-traveled path (very unlike a lot of the trail we’d been on). Unfortunately, this trail took us much further away from the trail we should have been on so we ended up having to climb up a grassy hill through rocks and brush til we finally hit the ridge again. This detour added about 2-3 extra hours we had not anticipated.
We eventually reached base camp (13,517 feet) just at dark – a common trend. Clear skies warrnated a beautiful view of the stars that night; a hint of hope for an end to the monsoon season.
October 11th, 2019
An early morning allowed us to take advantage of the nice morning for our trek until the clouds rolled in around 8-9 am. We could even see Mardi Himal, which was a nice surprise. As we made our way up a sketchy scramble, we were led to more sketchy exposed ledges covered with frosted grass and gravel.
Eventually, our risk tolerances had met their limit as we looked down at the cliffs below us and decided an alternate route was necessary. We opted to try our luck traversing around the ridge for about 30 minutes until we were able to spot a saddle that luckily worked in our favor. My risk tolerance must be increasing though, as I felt quite calm during the entire scramble despite one loose footing could be a potentially fatal fall. I’ve started to realize though that as long as I am at a comfortable temperature; not too cold or too windy, then I am able to remain calm.
I couldn’t help but feel so much love for Ben. He is seriously the best. We make such a great team, assessing routes together, making judgment calls with the information we had since our maps surely weren’t giving us any confidence. In sections that were dicey or we were unsure of what option to choose, Ben would bolt up ahead a bit to check out the situation and allow me to chill as his risk tolerance is much higher than mine.
After following the ridge for many hours, we hit a cliff. The ridge we were on top of became a 500-foot rock wall. It was at this point that our suspicions of the Nepal map were confirmed; the mapmaker must have just literally drawn a line along the ridge without any knowledge of the mountain. :: le sigh::
At this point, we decided to go to the left of the ridge and hike parallel to it. As we traversed alongside the ridge, we continued to look for spots where we’d be able to scramble up to the ridge. We tried at one location that seemed promising until Ben hit a large mossy overhang move and we decided with our heavy packs and mountaineering boots – probably not a great idea (or ever hah). Cautiously, we came down from the unsuccessful scramble to walk along a 45-degree scree slope only to find ourselves exhausted, hungry, and dehydrated; oh did I mention we ran out of water at this point?
Clouds were whisking in and out of the area limiting our vision of the ridge; I kept praying, asking God to keep us safe, to help us find the ridge or just a place that would be easy to camp for the evening. I kept asking…. and then, I had this odd peace, a peace I could never begin to put into words, but I then felt directed, guided even, and that’s when I listened. The clouds started to drift away, the sun came out, and I looked up: there was a ridge above us and a slope that seemed manageable. The rays of the sun were shining directly upon the ridge and I knew that this was where we had to go. God was guiding us.
We climbed up to the ridge just as the sun was setting, the skies cleared, the clouds were gone, and there we were close to the ridge we wanted, but no access that we could see. The plus side though, we had a perfect spot to set up our tent and snow to melt for water. And there it finally came, I cried; I told Ben “this is the hardest thing ever” then we embraced each other. It really was the most mentally and physically demanding thing I’d ever done.
October 12th, 2019
The next morning, we woke up, well-rested and decided it was time to head back down; Mardi Himal would have to see another day without the likes of us. After 10 hours of hiking, we cooked two hot meals this day to make up for our aching bodies’ calorie deficit. The views as we went down the mountain were absolutely breathtaking and our spirits were so much higher.
October 13th, 2019
A reasonable elevation (~10,000 feet), a full(er) belly and the views gave us a new energy this morning.
By lunchtime, we were back down at Gorong’s family’s house where Ben and I enjoyed several helpings of Dal Baht. Finally, we were down from the mountain, swaring we’d never mountaineer without our skis/splitboard again.
Thank you for reading along. I hope you enjoyed our suffering (and some joys)!