Despite my best efforts to convince everyone we were doomed, the news last night was good. A Sherpa and porters have been all the way to Dhaulagiri Base camp and Pem still thinks we can complete the trek. Either the Dutch guys coming back from the camp yesterday were exaggerating or the snow has gone in the day it took them to descend.
The weather is definitely better. We had sun for most of yesterday and compared to the night before last night was not so cold.
Today's walk took us to a camp 600 metres higher and onto a glacier.
We left Italian Base Camp at about 7-30am. Pem wanted to complete the walk before the sun had melted the frozen moraine on the side of the valley. Once melted these moraines become unstable and dangerous.
|Porters leaving Italian Base Camp|
Climbing up from Italian base camp we passed a series of memorials dedicated to climbers, mainly Chinese and Italian, who had died on Dhaulagiri.
The first obstacle was a huge gash in the moraine which had to be crossed before getting into the main valley. This involved walking for about 200 metres along a frozen path about 30 cms wide, high above the gash, before descending down a steep gulley to its bottom. The gulley was very unstable and Pem had everyone put on their hard hats to protect against falling rocks. It's the first time I've done this in anger.
After climbing the moraine on the other side of the gash the route headed east into an incredibly dramatic valley at the end of which was a glacier. The glacier, which until recently flowed all the way down the valley, must have been a fast moving and powerful one. The cliffs it carved out are vertical and must be well over 1,000 metres high. Because of its depth the bottom of the valley was in shade but the snow covered mountains at each end, with the west face of Dhaulagiri at the western end, were in bright sunshine and of course brilliant white.
|Crossing the moraine|
Eventually we climbed up onto the glacier and stopped for lunch. The walk up the valley had been a hard one but we had to press on to beat the melting of the frozen moraine stuck to the sides of the valley above us. Again Pem got us to don our hats for protection against the debris which had started to ping its way down.
|Climbing out of the "Gash"|
|In the sun in front of the glacier|
The glacier itself was a sorry affair obviously in retreat. It was completely covered in rocks and soil which had been left on the surface as the ice melted.
|Swiss party porters|
We arrived at the camp at about 12.30 to find the team busy assembling the tents. The camp consists of a series of platforms which have been carved out of the glacier debris, snow and ice. A small Italian group had been there for a day already and space was in short supply as the Swiss and Japanese groups had already arrived. Somehow everything gets sorted with national compounds formed around the mess tents. For some reason my tent is stranded out beyond the surburbs, a long way from the mess tent but conveniently close to the toilet tent. I don't think there is a hidden message in this.
By the way, time spent in the mess tent is getting ever shorter and dinner seems to get earlier. Its moved from 6.30 to 6pm and you get the impression that the cook would like to make it earlier still. This means you can be in your sleeping bag by 7pm. The good news is that I think I have beaten the initial threat of cold. I now have a Nalgene bottle filled with hot water and covered with socks at the bottom of my sleeping bag and this gives off a gentle heat for most of the night.
|On the edge of the glacier looking back down the valley|