Phayo, Franche-Compte, Elounda, Jum

Dread of Descent, Hiking the Himalayan Foothills

Some people are smitten with the fear of flying. The opposite happened to me: On our trek into the Himalayan foothills I developed a bad case of what I call Dread of Descent, (which quickly trashed the notion I’d been toying with, of a far distant past as a hardy Sherpa or a peerless first ascender).

Dread of Descent manifests as an immense reluctance to give back a single hard-begotten uphill meter while hiking, and typically induces short-term outbreaks of mumbled bad language and shaky knees

On the map, our do-it-yourself foray into the Annapurna Conservation Area looked like PEANUTS – a few negligible blue centimeters, on the edge of a vast, awe-inspiring mountain arena

Not until we actually started walking
Trail Starting Point

did the inches translate into the rocks and steps and forests and paths and the camaraderie and aches and pains of the trail from Khande, past Australian Camp

to Pothana, to the Mardi Himal Low Camp at modest 3000 something meters a.s.l.

There’s an immediacy to hiking for hours on end that weeds out distractions and magnifies the moment. And there were many good moments on the Mardi Himal Trail. The days quickly took on an almost meditative simplicity between walking, eating (fern-shoot curry revelation)

and just letting life unfold. In the late afternoons, we’d watch the billowing clouds and then the rain, gusting down from the giant mountains hidden in the fog. In the dripping silence between rumbling thunder, listening to a Chinese guy with owl-sized glasses and a guitar, croon the tenderest version of Tequila Sunrise I’ve ever heard, seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

There’s no mistaking though, that even here, on the very edge of the Himalayan Range, the mountains reign

They never failed to take my breath away, (so that’s why I was a huffin’and a puffin’ up those hills), except once in a while I’d forget them, then glance up and umpf!!

Our trek took us up and up and up

and ummm… down, and up again, through forests I’m sure are home to dwarfs and elves- even the trees looked secretive and whispery….

What a treat, after many steep hours, to arrive at Forest Camp

with its promise of horizontal paths and sweet spicy masala tea. And the best- I got to know Mardi who lives at the camp all year round. After sundown we shared the warmth of a big fat barrel oven,

compared our radically different lives in sign language and a few scraps of English and enjoyed a happy sense of mutual understanding

She is one of the many Nepali who work and play in these unrelentingly steep hills
Desire to drive

and who I can’t help but call valiant….

On our last day, I finally embraced Descent. I knew it was all downhill for me from now on

which felt a lot better than it sounds! And still- looking back into the quiet valley we were drawing away from- I knew the mountains’ pull was here to stay

3 Responses to Dread of Descent, Hiking the Himalayan Foothills

  1. The map doesn’t show at what altitude you are but I guess about 850 m hahaha. Great reporting and photographing, but this time I think I won’t ask for food pictures.

    Going to Brigitte’s for a home-cooked Bernese-style lunch on Saturday. She asked if I would mind if she baked a chocolate cake. But I guess nothing beats a fern-shoot curry 🙂 . See you soon I hope!

    • Would you MIND if she baked a Schoggi Chueche?? Sheesh! PS Fern-shoots are exactly like grüeni Spargle, jawohl! PPS Thanks anyway for stopping by-Yes, Pokhara at around 900m…..PM you

    • And up to 3000m yessir!

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