Day 6: Another day in ABC

If you have read the article  “From Pokhara to ABC in April – Day to Day Guide” you know already that Dennis and I made our way to Annapurna Basecamp after a few hiking days. Unfortunately we came into a snowstorm once we reached the Basecamp! This is how the story continues…
(If you have not read the first part, no worries, this is the “fun” part anyway!)

 

…We woke up and learned that the storm had not gone down. The snow was smashing against the window, the wind was hauling and the freezing cold had caught us in their catches. It was dangerous out there, we had to stay for the day. Some people from other lodges left the camp against all recommendations. The risk of avalanches was high and the paths were already completely blocked. This 2 videos can give you an impression of the storm:

 

We were stuck with a pretty diverse bunch of people. There was this American guy with his Indonesian fiancé who would introduce us to a variety of card games like “Shithead”. The Dutch guy who delighted us with horror stories about all those people who have died up in the mountains in storms.  4 Japanese professional snowboarders who came here for video shoot. An Austrian guy and a Chinese couple.

This was our daily routine:

* Card games. Books. Horror stories.
* Trying to keep warm.
* The same Nepali song from one of the locals phone over and over again.
* Locals gambling for money. Food. Tea.
* Walking in the storm to reach the “toilet” (a hole in the floor with a bucket of frozen water next to it).
* Decreasing the intake of liquids to avoid going to that toilet.
* No WiFi, no socket to charge electronic devices.
By the evening I had this weird headache and I started to take the altitude sickness tablets.

After sunset we were stunned to see 4 people arriving to ABC. They were local sherpas bringing supplies to the Basecamp. They had walked for 13 hours from Chommrong to ABC with over 30kg each on their backs.
From that moment on, nothing about the Gurung people could surprise me anymore. They are incredible.

Another endless night in the Basecamp. I wish the next day had been as peaceful as the previous one but this is what happened.

 

Day 7: Avalanche Doomsday

I woke up with stomach cramps, a bad headache and other symptoms of altitude sickness. While stumbling from the bedroom to the common room we had to accept that the storm still raged deadly and restless.

The locals told us that we had to stay, but everyone seemed to be motivated to leave. To me, that was a crazy idea.

All they would reach was MBC, which has a greater risk of avalanches than ABC. The path between MBC and Deurali is way too dangerous to walk in these conditions anyway and apparently MBC had even colder rooms than ABC. Why would they walk for hours in a crazy storm just to be stuck in MBC then?

I was sick but lucky, because our friend from China happened to be a “physician” and came to “examine” me with the help of an offline Chinese-English translator.

Using this tool, Dennis explained my symptoms. I was feeling hot and cold at the same time.

So Mr. China started his examination.

“Does this hurt?”

BÄMM – he hit my stomach.

“Yes!”

“And this? Does this hurt?”
BÄÄÄM
“Yes!!”

“How about this? Do you have pain?”

Bäääm
“Yeeees!!”

Mr. China also started hitting my back and we had the same dialog again.

He put the following question in his translator to show Dennis:

“Is she in labour?” (“in den Wehen”)

I am glad that Dennis didn’t translate me this, he just told me later. I think I would have freaked out.

Anyway, the physician’s conclusion was:
“If your pain continues I would recommend you to go to the hospital.”

Oh yeah right awesome. I couldn’t help it. “We are in f♥ckin ABC in a snowstorm!”

Luckily Dennis apologized on my behalf – in the end he was just trying to help. Looking back I feel sorry about my reaction but I was suffering from terrible pain at that point.

Then the Dutch guy came and offered me Morphine. Seriously? Morphine?!
I rejected..thankfully.

“Did I seriously just take Chinese antibiotics?!” would become my first words 10min later, after I had swallowed the medicine from our Chinese friends. Yes. Chinese antibiotics. I never thought I would take pills that say something like

Well, what saved me was probably the hot-water-bottle the locals gave me for my stomach. It helped against the pain and cold. I am never going to travel without one again.

The other guys left into the storm. We heard later that they were stuck in MBC, as we had predicted, but luckily they were fine after their 4,5 hour decent in the storm. They were evacuated on the same day as us later.

The Avalanche

It was silent apart from the roaring wind. I was trying to sleep, Dennis was reading a book. The locals were playing their card game.

Suddenly: A double-thunder-doomsday crashing noise, a noise like I had never heard before.

Was it thunder? Does thunder exist in a snowstorm?!

The backdoor of our lodge busted open. A cloud of snow came in.

The locals went out to check the situation. Dennis said “All the snow must have come down from the roof.” When the locals came back they hurried us to change lodge. “I don’t think it was just the snow from the roof.” I mumbled.

“No guys hurry up! The other lodge was destroyed by an avalanche!”

We packed our bags quickly and moved. More than ever before we hoped for the sun to come out soon!

Day 8: Annapurna Basecamp, New lodge

We slept on a box in the new lodge and waited. Basically we just tried to keep ourselves warm. Two pieces of plain toasts each was all we consumed that day. We were wondering what would happen to our bodies if we get buried up there and had regretted that we never googled how to survive an avalanche. Every day we went to sleep around 8pm and woke up around 5am in the morning. That was the typical rhythm of the locals.

The phone worked for a few hours and I called my mom to tell her I was all right and we organised a helicopter to pick us up once the weather was clear. Locals had decided in the meantime they would evacuate the place together with us.

 

Day 9: Hope in ABC

Sun…was it the sun?!
Would the helicopter finally be able to fly and pick us up?
Between snowy gusts of wind we could really spot some sunlight.

It turned out that the weather was still bad down in MBC and Pokhara, so no helicopter was able to take off and we had to spend another night freezing on the box.

The worst thing was the lack of hygiene. We were not able to change clothes since our arrival because we were wearing everything we had and taking anything off was impossible because it was simply too cold. We continuously wore hats and scarfs, even at night. The most we could do was brush our teeth in the snow and bring a cup of hot water to the whole in the floor (“toilet”) for a little wash.

We had run out of battery of cameras and phones days ago already and there was no way to charge any device.

 

Day 10: Evacuate! Evacuate! Holi here we come!

We woke up early in the morning and couldn’t trust our eyes when we realised it was gonna be a bright, sunshiny day!

We finally saw what we came all the way up for – Annapurna I – for an early morning sunrise.

The view was breath taking and the sun slowly dipped our surroundings in a completely new light. It was so beautiful and I almost forgot the pain we had gone through in the past days for a moment.

The flight was a completely new experience. We overflew the Annapurna range and could spot some of the places we had come across. The pilot showed us MBC and only one lodge was still visible. In Deurali we could spot that all lodges were completely covered in snow. It was an amazing panorama flight.

The fun part was over as we landed and had to pay for the evacuation. Make sure you have an insurance that covers for helicopter evacuations, and check their conditions precisely.

We landed early morning, around 7am.
Unlike usually we got ourselves a nice hotel instead of some hostel and had the most needed and appreciated shower of our lives.

Holi Festival in Pokhara

We went for breakfast and it felt like heaven to have a proper meal in the morning sun. We noticed that Holi, the Festival of Colours had already started. People were walking around in the streets in Holi T-Shirts throwing colours at each other!

We got really motivated, bought our own T-shirts, colours and a cool beer and went to find the concert area on the main street. I remember the moment I first heard music playing and I felt energy flowing into my veins again. How much we enjoyed that day!

What an adventure.

Thank you, Annapurna, but next time no snowstorm ok?

 

By the way: In Pokhara we bumped into the Dutch guy again. He told us about 5 people who had gone missing in the mountains during the last days. He explained us how all people who had left ABC were evacuated from MBC in the end.

We also bumped into 2 German girls we had met in Deurali who never arrived to ABC. They told us how they had reached MBC and decided to go back when the storm came up. At one point the guide who accompanied them just shouted “RUN!”, since an avalanche was coming down above them. Without knowing whether whey were supposed to go backwards of forwards they just ran.

Luckily the avalanche stopped before it reached their path and everything went well.

 

Full Annapurna trip video: