Saturday 25 March

Morning valley mist

Wake to the sound of yak bells, a clear blue sky, and frost on the ground. Outside it really is quite chilly.

After breakfast we set off upwards. It is a steady climb, the path in places clinging to the side of a steep slope. Pass through rhodadendrons draped with moss.

Approaching the Mong La (pass), we stop for hot lemon at the Mountain View Lodge and Restaurant. There follows the usual discussion about the loos, with points awarded for view, cleanliness, and bonus points for porcelaine and running water. Graham and I feel we can award this one only one out of ten.

(magnify) The Mong La

Snow-specked mountains all around. Blue sky, slight haze, hot sun. From the tip of the stupa flutter strings of colourful prayer flags.

We descend down a series of zig-zags, snow and ice in patches near the top making the path trecherous. We reach our lunch stop on a small terrace next to a farm house, looking down the green wooded valley towards soaring snow-covered mountains.

Ravens

As we finish our lunch, ravens flock around to eat the leftovers. Continuing on, we are climbing once more, the scenery changing from awesome to awesomer. Some of the trees are becoming a little stunted with the altitude. We pass through stretches of moss-draped and gnarled trees and past snow-capped sparkling waterfalls. Sometimes the path is muddy, sometimes trecherous with compacted snow and ice.

It is just a quarter past two when we round the last corner and see the tents ready laid out for us.

We are on a small level patch of thin brown grass next door to the Alpine Cottage Dole, at 4100 m. There are a couple of other lodges just above us. One, called the Hill Top View Hotel, has been rather unkindly graffitied the Nowt View Hotel. But today the views are fine. In a sloping field behind the hotel someone has traced out the name ‘Dole’ in giant letters in the snow.

Playing hearts with Dan, Marg, and David whiles away the afternoon. It is cold. Finally the owner lights the stove, but it takes a while for the warmth to permeate. Tea is served at regular intervals through the afternoon, which results in regular trips to the long drop outside.