Day 6 Dhaulagiri Circuit - Soligari

It's official: it's unseasonably wet in this part of Nepal.  October is supposed to be the best month for trekking in Nepal.  It's post monsoon, relatively dry and the best time to see the mountains. This year the monsoon has decided to linger and at the time of writing I'm in my tent and the rain is crashing down outside.

Of course it could get better but it is worrying. Even before today, last week's rain meant that there was likely to be a lot of snow to get past as we get higher up. The current storm has just made the problem worse. Everyone is saying "what will be will be" but I must admit I struggle to be sanguine.  I'm lucky to be able to do lots of these trips but even I won't be back here again.  I want to see everything!

We get glimpses of Dhaulagiri and the views are amazing but they are glimpses only. It's also starting to get uncomfortable - the tents don't get a chance to dry out, are damp and I'm starting to get surrounded by damp, sweaty, smelly items of clothing.

At least the rain came today and not on yesterday's long walk and we had completed most it of the walk before the really heavy stuff arrived.

The walk itself was much like yesterday's except we actually gained altitude.  We are still in the Himalayan Forest, all Himalayan pine, rhododendron and bamboo and following the same river but today's camp is 900 metres higher than yesterday's.
Huge Himalayan Pine
Although we haven't escaped the jungle we are above anything that is cultivated and the valleys are no longer significantly populated.  The landscape and the sides of the valleys are very unstable and the route today took us across a series of gulleys and the sites of recent landslips.  Everything is starting to feel wild and more remote.
Climbing up a landslipe
This may change as we get higher but the group walks together and is a much tighter unit than on the recent trips with Exodus.  Everyone seems happy with the pace set by the lead Sherpa and everyone keeps up.  Maybe this will change as we get higher.

Actually it's a really friendly and interesting group, one of the best I've been with.  Introducing them roughly in ascending order based on age we have:

Nev - ex-Jagged Globe leader and a very experienced climber who seems to have walked and climbed everywhere.  He is 70, has recently had a pacemaker fitted but is one of the group's faster walkers.  He also has an amazing memory for jokes which are sometimes quite funny.

Steve, my ex-tent mate, is 64 and a tri-athlete.  He works two days a week as a cardiologist but is planning to give up working completely to pack even more into what already sounds like a densely packed and active life.  He is a really interesting guy and knowledgeable on a huge range of topics.

I think I'm the third oldest participant which is a bit of a shock.

Kevin a year younger than me runs an art gallery in Fowey in Cornwall.  Kevin shares a tent with Andy (who is 49) and they met on a previous Jagged Globe trip - Mera Peak I think.  Between them they have some amazing gear - mainly the Rab Expedition - and I feel seriously under-prepared in contrast. They are good fun with Kevin playing the indulgent maiden aunt and Andy the naughty nephew from up north (somewhere near Wakefield).  Andy is multi-talented - a musician, photographer and until recently a professional chef.

Deborah comes from Brighton and it turns out lives a mile or so up the road from me.  She is taking a six month sabbatical from her job as a lecturer in a FE college in Eastbourne and is squeezing in three mega high altitude trips.  She has already cycled from Lhasa to Kathmandu and after the Dhaulagiri Circuit trip will do the High Passes and Island Peak trip in the Kumba.

Nick is a vet from the west country and, as well as providing me with my own tent, is someone I can share notes with because of a common agricultural background.  He is currently transitioning from full-time work into semi-retirement and concentration on his specialism - shoeless horses. Another super-fit guy who does a lot of winter climbing.

Brad is an Australian anesthetist, a lovely kind man, and like Nev has a huge back catalogue of jokes.  He has completed a number of mega trips in different parts of the world including Anconcagua (6,961 metres) the highest mountain in South America.  It's great having doctors on a trip like this with Greg, along with Steve, providing instant feedback as your body falls apart with the altitude.

Dean, another lean and speedy climber has been lumbered with the role of group technical expert because he works for Virgin Media although he is another person about to embark on a life changing transition.  He is about to move with his wife from their home in Hampshire to a bed and breakfast business in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sharing a tent with Dean is Charles who, because he works for the MoD and since he bought an umbrella in Kathmandu, has been given the persona of the ultra Englishman.  It is assumed that he is a diplomat, personal friend of the Queen, and generally a man with excellent connections.  Charles is a really nice guy and has accepted his elevated status as if he was born to it.

Last but not least are Mandy and Alexis, who at around 30 are the babies of the group.  They are both chemistry PhDs and a really lovely couple.  Neither of them have been at altitude before but are both experienced climbers - particularly Alexis - and together completed the HRP - the high level traverse of the Pyrenees which definitely one of the toughest walks of its kind in Europe, possibly the world.

In addition there is Chris - the Jagged Globe leader - whose role seems to be ensuring that Summit Nepal - the local company contracted by Jagged Globe to make the trip happen, deliver on our behalf.  It's not his full-time job - he is a manager at an outdoor activity centre in the UK - but it does give him the chance to pursue his passion for climbing.  He has already climbed Cho Oyu, narrowly missed getting to the top of Manaslu and next year makes his first attempt on Everest.

Although the Group sounds like a bunch of keep fit fanatics it doesn't act like one.  So far at least there has been a lot of laughs and nobody is taking the trip too seriously.

The other piece of news is that I have started to take Diamox.  I want to see if it prevents the sleep problems I've had at altitude.  I'm particularly keen to find out if it stops the Cheyne-Stokes respiration I suffered from on the my recent trip to the Indian Himalayas.  Although not life threatening it was very unpleasant - you seem to forget to breath and then find yourself gasping for air - it ruins your sleep.  The main consequence of taking it so far has been to accelerate the speed at which liquid passes through my body.

And finally a mouse sneaked into my tent when I wasn't looking.  It took me ages to catch it and for a while I thought I was going to have to ask for Sherpa assistance which would have been very embarrassing.  Eventually it ran into a plastic bag and captivity.  Thought about keeping it as a new companion but not for long and instead tipped it into the forest outside the tent and the rain.

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