Crossing the passes...

15th Nov
Breakfast on Tibetan bread & tea at the "Top of the World" lodge in Ghunsa(3595m), bid farewell to our hosts & start on the trail. Cold morning, the sun doesn't rise above the valley walls to warm the village until about 10.30am. We climb steeply up through a forest in the shaded flank of the ridge. To keep warm we set a good pace and soon pass groups of trekkers and porters on the way up. We occasionally get increasingly good views up the Ghunsa Khola valley and also the Yamtari Khola and the path up to Lapsang La(5110m). After an hour or two we reach Tamo La(3940m), a point where the trail snakes over a prominant outcrop at the end of Tangbjarma Danda. We are around the bottom of the clouds, no views up and across the valley, but we have a good view down onto the village of Phale(3140m), 800m almost straight below us. We countour along the South West side of the ridge, slowly up into the clouds, the views from Sele La were(4290m) uninspiring. The campsite at Sele was shrouded in mist, just a few rough & temporary huts next to a stream, but a magical place. The lads from our lodge in Ghunsa knew a shortcut up here and were ready with lunch when we arrived, boiled potatoes, noodle soup & chang - a good sherpa lunch This was the only night on the trek I camped, in a rather small & light tent that rather amused the other sherpas more used to seeing trekkers in top of the range expedition tents. This place has a resident population of zero, but that night there were 15 trekkers and probably around 60-70 Nepali from the trekking groups and up from Ghunsa to provide services (a "shop" for trekkers & raksi for the porters).

16th Nov
The temperature was between -5 & -10, but I was comfortably snug for the night. We drank soup for breakfast & departed early, first on the trail. It was still misty but as soon as we started to climb up we rose through the top of the clouds and began to get fantastic views of the mountain range, Jannu(7710m) looked particularly stunning, and rivers of cloud pooling around in the valleys. We continued to climb, though not steeply, and countour around the side of the hill, over a side ridge at Sinion La(4440m). I was pondering where to put my my prayer flags, my guide suggested Miring La(4480m), and of course he was right - it was THE place on todays trek. Just before we reached the place the view was revealed to us, a huge panorama - to the North the spine of the Himalayas with Jannu and Kanchenjunga, the valleys in between the mountains and all around us were filled with a sea of cloud, far off to the East like an island was the distinctive white bulk of Makalu, and to the West and South off into the horizon just clouds covering the low country of Nepal and off over India. It was an absolutely breathtaking sight, one of those few places that will have it's image etched into my heart & mind. We put up our prayer flags, when the first of the group porters arrived we had them take our photo and departed whilst we still had the mountian to ourselves. Well, almost to ourselves, further on down the trail we came across the fresh tracks of a snow leopard, but no other sign of the animal. At Sinelapche La(6440m) we are treated to great views up the Yalung Glacier, Ratong in prominent view with the massive bulk of Kabru to its left and beyond that Kanchenjunga, can see down into the Simbuwa Khola valley and the ridge of mountains on the other side that form the border with Sikkim. The trail down to Tseram(3870m) is very steep, we pause on the way down to watch blue sheep leaping with amazing grace and agility up and down over the rocks. We arrive in Tseram around midday, just in time for lunch.....