Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Reaching Poon Hill and heading down again!

Here is part two of my Nepalese adventure - now almost 2 months ago but still very present in my memory!

7th April - Poon Hill
So today we go up to the highest point of our trek. An early rise at 3.30am was planned - and partly executed until torrential rain sent us all back to bed for an hour. There was no point climbing up for sunrise if the sun wasn't planning to make an appearance! As it was, the gods smiled on us and the rain abated so off we trotted about 5am, with what seemed like an army of climbers, up the steep narrow path with nothing but our head torches to light our way. This seemed the hardest part so far, and I was devastated when about 15 minutes in Deborah was struggling to breath and decided to head down again. I was torn - should I descend with my friend and not make it to the top, or leave her in the capable hands of our guides and struggle upwards. When she threatened me with physical violence if I didn't make it to the top, my mind was made up. I would do it for both of us. So in the cold, dark, wet early morning I just put one foot in front of the other and tried not the think about what the altitude seemed to be doing to me. 3210m is high - especially for a Fenland Frog (as Damon our guide named us both!) Training for altitude is impossible when you live on the edge of the Fens and a speed bump is the highest point for miles around. But with the encouragement of Caroline and Mark, (otherwise forever know as " 1 More Hill Mark!) I kept going to the top. We made it just before 6am, and I have to say it was very emotional. Even more so when I said to one of my fellow trekkers that I was gutted for Deborah - and she said "don't be - Damon went back for her". I ran to the edge and there she was. My sidechick! We had made it. Just thinking It makes me cry even now, sitting at home in the warm with a nice cup of tea and access to flushing toilets!
So that might go some way to explaining the next couple of video clips. I just couldn't stop crying! But I made sure I took a bit of sewing with me! (I hope the links open up in YouTube as they are too big for my blog software!)

And here is the picture to prove we did it. I am so proud of all of us - including the 3 who didn't quite make it to the top. You were with us in this picture. Well Done Dream Challenges!

Then we started downwards again. We had 'peaked', though if I thought this was going to be easier I was completely wrong. We walked down 2000 m in 7 hrs, and I really wished I was dead. My feet were well and truly ruined, and I think I spent the last few hours of the ordeal quietly crying to myself. Irregular, steep, slippery, relentless steps for hours and hours are enough to dampen any humour. The hail didn't help!

One of the Sherpas actually held my hand for last 1/2 hour because I was physically done in - well and truly. My feet were shredded and my ankle was in pretty poor shape. The steps of Ghorepani are famous - or infamous - and we passed many who were going UP them. I am really not sure which way is worse!
Here he is - once I stopped crying!
Im not sure that smile reaches my eyes!
That night in the camp at Tirkedunga we improved our mood by adding gin, crisps and chocolate. We had certainly earned it!

A Nepalese Diet!

Dr Mark took a look at the offending ankle and diagnosed ligament damage (Tibialis Posterion Tendonitius with the lateral collateral ligament inflames) All I know is that it bloody hurt! But there is not much that can be done apart from compress, ice (or a bucket of cold water) and heaps of pain relief (which doesn't do much for the tummy!). Irena played mum and oversaw the Sherpas filling a big bucket with cold water - they found it hilarious! 

Limping constantly was given me a wonky gait and so the other foot is now a mass of blisters. Oh joy! I felt so rough that I decided to skip dinner and go straight to bed. The only problem with that was that our support staff were concerned about me, so kept checking on me every few minutes! This was very kind, but the bedroom door opens onto, well, the open, so it's chilly if you don't close it. And door handles are unknown - so you either bolt it from the inside (meaning Deborah can't get in) or you wedge it shut with a walking pole. This means every kindhearted visitor dislodges the pole when they check on you, and you have to get out of your warm snugly sleeping bag, walk across the cold concrete floor on feet that want to kill you, and wedge it closed again. Patience was really starting to wear thin.

8th April 
This is the day we walked out! There was a real sense of having achieved something monumental that day. We would be walking through the foot hills, at a much gentler altitude so the problems we may have had with breathing were gone. The weather was beautiful, the pace slower and the scenery stunning. We even had time to stop and paddle in the Bhurungdi River. I was very conscious of this being an ending of a very long journey that started back in 2016 when this was a germ of an idea, and I felt a little sad - though I was keen to be reminded of what a hot shower and a flushing toilet looked like! As we left Annapurna conservation area I knew that this was one of those adventures that changes you, and that this really was a dream challenge. Despite everything, I was walking out!

Walking out again!

So there you have it. The full tale of a (not quite so) fat bird climbing a mountain. But I didn't do it alone. Our guides and Sherpas were amazing - with Damon teasing us as Fenland Frogs, and Dawa keeping the juggernaut of our trek moving on. Caroline and Mark for their support (and to Mark for being a knight in shining armour and carrying my stuff as I had my snotty meltdown), for Jenny and Andy checking on me at every stop after they saw how hard I found it on the Malvern training trek. To Jenny and Ann for their conviction that I could do it, even when I wasn't sure I could. To Lin and Brigitte for putting up with my snoring (snoring is amplified at altitude and I think I made the earth move!). To Kathy for making me laugh so hard I nearly weed myself at the German Bakery! To Irena for bathing my poor ruined feet and generally being my mum - and her husband Iain for keeping us on track the day we thought we were lost. To all of those on the trek that made us laugh, or just kept each other going in some pretty rubbish moments. 
Most of all to Deborah - who's strength and good humour kept me going when I felt mine might desert me. Even before I went, when I had wobbles of apprehension, and personal stuff nearly got in the way, she never let me give up, and wouldn't accept that I couldn't do it. We did it Sidechick xxx!

We did it Sidechick!