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Tilicho Lake
Trekking around Annapurna

It is the eighth day I am trekking around Annapurna range, in Nepal. For four days, the rain finally stopped wetting my steps. Monsoon is not able to cross the 8000m high walls of Annapurna. For four days, dawns are revealed through a pure air the splendid eternal snows of the rock giants before the clouds come covering the valley. The rest of the morning, they stick to the slopes letting the sun illuminate the bottom of the valley.

2





In Manang, the day before this adventure, I met for the second time Yann and Roch, two Frenchmen that went walking on the world's roof for their summer holidays. The first time I met them, we walked from Upper Pisang to Ngawal. But on the way, altitude sickness forced Yann and Roch to turn around. Two days later, we meet again in Manang, the capital of the district. We decide to see the Tilicho Lake, the highest lake in the world (according to the map…), located at 4920 m altitude. A dream of adventure…

3



From Manang to the Base camp

This morning, the wonderful sky reveals new peaks: the Gangapurna and the Annapurna III look down to us from their triumphant height, the victory of the nature over gravity! We leave Manang at 7:45 am. The permit control at the checkpoint took forty-five minutes: Nepalese officials here are kings, they take their time.
Two valleys: the one on the right goes right to the north and reach after the Thorung La pass (5420m altitude) the Kali Gandaki valley, the deepest valley in the world. I will cross this one later. The one on the left goes right, westward along the Annapurna Himal and leads to the lake Tilicho. Two rivers meet at the junction of the two valleys; one is dirty fed by glaciers and the other is cleaner, fed by purer sources.

4





We go through the fortified village of Khangsar with stone houses and Tibetan flags. A sign at the village entrance says "open defecation free". Toilets have been installed in the village. You cannot stop progress.
Tare Gompa monastery is in construction. The workers are eating Dal Bhat (lentils and rice). As we are passing by, they greet us with a smile. Namaste! Further up, after a steep climb on the dusty path, we reach the colorful alpine meadows of Siri Kharka. The stupid glances of cows follow us searching vainly for an open restaurant. Half an hour later, we are seated at Bluesheep Hotel. One makes us aware of the danger that awaits us after: landslides covering much of the slope. The trail is narrow, slippery and bordering precipices. We meet an American who decided not to do it. We decide to try.

5





A Nepalese precedes us. We give him the nickname Beam-Man. He carries with the forehead five large beams he brings to Tilicho Lake where a former guide is building a restaurant. At the very least, 75 kg of load and the disability of a five meters long package. The man step on landslides without hesitation. Impossible is not Sherpa.

6





We enter after him. The trail five to thirty centimeters large. The slide on our left falls of three hundred meters directly into the raging river. The danger is real, but the portion is passable. Even more dangerous is the trail when bluesheeps, these Himalayan chamois, are galloping on ridges and making stones to tumble down on us.
Late afternoon we reach the Tilicho Base Camp. The hotel is dirty, but there is no competition. Three Spanish people coming back from Tilicho Lake describe us this fantastic place. They made my mouth water!

7



Ascent to the lake

We wake up at 5am, we make some porridge for breakfast. The whole place is plunged into the clouds. We start in the cold and the darkness. Yann feels sick, the moral is gone. We haven't climbed the first two hundred meters: Yann says stop. As we have eight hundred meters to eat, we decide to head back to the base camp. Yann and Roch fall asleep while I'm speaking to the Spanish people who are about to go back to Manang. After the lunch, Yann feels way better. The sky is clear, we try again!

8





The watchword is "go slow". Every fifteen minutes, we rest for ten. Yann is coming down with something and the altitude amplifies the phenomenon. Breaks prevent him from headaches. We still walk westwards to grassy slopes surrounded by dwarf sunflowers, above the lateral moraines of glaciers below. While the path reaches a grassy strip surrounded landslides, it begins a long series of zigzags then passes the mound. We are busy to climb this difficult portion when the clouds come galloping and envelop us. We pass the mound in the fog. The vision stops at one hundred meters. A sign indicates "Tilicho lake: 30 minutes." This puts Yann off walking. It has the altitude sickness and low running. It has stood the test and the reward of his efforts is flying away. He can't taste the delight of seeing the Promised Land. For my part, I know from experience, two things: first that you are not always rewarded for your efforts - especially in the mountains; second, always persevere. That's what we did.

9





Roch and I walk briskly on the large track lined with standing stones, followed by Yann dragging his feet. I want to touch this lake for which we walk for so long. Suddenly the white hessian rips, the curtain opens, the mist splits. And we see the prayer flags two hundred meters in front of us. We are at five thousand meters altitude, we have jelly legs, and yet we run. We run with glee, with excitement. We run like the devil himself is after us. And clouds are galloping behind us. We need to reach the lake before them. We have one chance. You have to see the Eden!

10



The lake

He's there. We defeated. Smooth and so blue that it seems unreal. Like a mercury sheet of cloudy purity, in a perfect setting with sharp edges, swept by winds biting like crystal. Between glaciers and mountains, Tilicho Lake unveiled itself.
- Yann, what do you think?
- This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.
Clouds come and go, and let us admire in the background the Dhaulagiri (8147 m) or the dark mass of Tilicho peak behind which the sun threatens to disappear soon. We are lonely, isolated from everything by this immobile surroundings. Yet, there has been a house and some soldiers staring at us. They are noisy, those tourists!

11



Back to Manang

We go back smoothly, in the solemnity of the feat accomplished, the spirit away, still invaded by a mountain of emotions. We saw a part of God!
Bluesheeps and vultures follow our rapid descent into the twilight. We race with the sun. We arrived at night at the base camp. Yann's really sick. He's going to bed. The next day we leave the unhealthy base camp in the Bluesheep Hotel, crossing the way of some Beam-Men on the road, and even a Sheet-Man. I leave here my friends to attack the legendary Thorung La pass.

1


Tilicho Lake
Trekking around Annapurna

It is the eighth day I am trekking around Annapurna range, in Nepal. For four days, the rain finally stopped wetting my steps. Monsoon is not able to cross the 8000m high walls of Annapurna. For four days, dawns are revealed through a pure air the splendid eternal snows of the rock giants before the clouds come covering the valley. The rest of the morning, they stick to the slopes letting the sun illuminate the bottom of the valley.





In Manang, the day before this adventure, I met for the second time Yann and Roch, two Frenchmen that went walking on the world's roof for their summer holidays. The first time I met them, we walked from Upper Pisang to Ngawal. But on the way, altitude sickness forced Yann and Roch to turn around. Two days later, we meet again in Manang, the capital of the district. We decide to see the Tilicho Lake, the highest lake in the world (according to the map…), located at 4920 m altitude. A dream of adventure…



From Manang to the Base camp

This morning, the wonderful sky reveals new peaks: the Gangapurna and the Annapurna III look down to us from their triumphant height, the victory of the nature over gravity! We leave Manang at 7:45 am. The permit control at the checkpoint took forty-five minutes: Nepalese officials here are kings, they take their time.
Two valleys: the one on the right goes right to the north and reach after the Thorung La pass (5420m altitude) the Kali Gandaki valley, the deepest valley in the world. I will cross this one later. The one on the left goes right, westward along the Annapurna Himal and leads to the lake Tilicho. Two rivers meet at the junction of the two valleys; one is dirty fed by glaciers and the other is cleaner, fed by purer sources.





We go through the fortified village of Khangsar with stone houses and Tibetan flags. A sign at the village entrance says "open defecation free". Toilets have been installed in the village. You cannot stop progress.
Tare Gompa monastery is in construction. The workers are eating Dal Bhat (lentils and rice). As we are passing by, they greet us with a smile. Namaste! Further up, after a steep climb on the dusty path, we reach the colorful alpine meadows of Siri Kharka. The stupid glances of cows follow us searching vainly for an open restaurant. Half an hour later, we are seated at Bluesheep Hotel. One makes us aware of the danger that awaits us after: landslides covering much of the slope. The trail is narrow, slippery and bordering precipices. We meet an American who decided not to do it. We decide to try.





A Nepalese precedes us. We give him the nickname Beam-Man. He carries with the forehead five large beams he brings to Tilicho Lake where a former guide is building a restaurant. At the very least, 75 kg of load and the disability of a five meters long package. The man step on landslides without hesitation. Impossible is not Sherpa.





We enter after him. The trail five to thirty centimeters large. The slide on our left falls of three hundred meters directly into the raging river. The danger is real, but the portion is passable. Even more dangerous is the trail when bluesheeps, these Himalayan chamois, are galloping on ridges and making stones to tumble down on us.
Late afternoon we reach the Tilicho Base Camp. The hotel is dirty, but there is no competition. Three Spanish people coming back from Tilicho Lake describe us this fantastic place. They made my mouth water!



Ascent to the lake

We wake up at 5am, we make some porridge for breakfast. The whole place is plunged into the clouds. We start in the cold and the darkness. Yann feels sick, the moral is gone. We haven't climbed the first two hundred meters: Yann says stop. As we have eight hundred meters to eat, we decide to head back to the base camp. Yann and Roch fall asleep while I'm speaking to the Spanish people who are about to go back to Manang. After the lunch, Yann feels way better. The sky is clear, we try again!





The watchword is "go slow". Every fifteen minutes, we rest for ten. Yann is coming down with something and the altitude amplifies the phenomenon. Breaks prevent him from headaches. We still walk westwards to grassy slopes surrounded by dwarf sunflowers, above the lateral moraines of glaciers below. While the path reaches a grassy strip surrounded landslides, it begins a long series of zigzags then passes the mound. We are busy to climb this difficult portion when the clouds come galloping and envelop us. We pass the mound in the fog. The vision stops at one hundred meters. A sign indicates "Tilicho lake: 30 minutes." This puts Yann off walking. It has the altitude sickness and low running. It has stood the test and the reward of his efforts is flying away. He can't taste the delight of seeing the Promised Land. For my part, I know from experience, two things: first that you are not always rewarded for your efforts - especially in the mountains; second, always persevere. That's what we did.





Roch and I walk briskly on the large track lined with standing stones, followed by Yann dragging his feet. I want to touch this lake for which we walk for so long. Suddenly the white hessian rips, the curtain opens, the mist splits. And we see the prayer flags two hundred meters in front of us. We are at five thousand meters altitude, we have jelly legs, and yet we run. We run with glee, with excitement. We run like the devil himself is after us. And clouds are galloping behind us. We need to reach the lake before them. We have one chance. You have to see the Eden!



The lake

He's there. We defeated. Smooth and so blue that it seems unreal. Like a mercury sheet of cloudy purity, in a perfect setting with sharp edges, swept by winds biting like crystal. Between glaciers and mountains, Tilicho Lake unveiled itself.
- Yann, what do you think?
- This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.
Clouds come and go, and let us admire in the background the Dhaulagiri (8147 m) or the dark mass of Tilicho peak behind which the sun threatens to disappear soon. We are lonely, isolated from everything by this immobile surroundings. Yet, there has been a house and some soldiers staring at us. They are noisy, those tourists!



Back to Manang

We go back smoothly, in the solemnity of the feat accomplished, the spirit away, still invaded by a mountain of emotions. We saw a part of God!
Bluesheeps and vultures follow our rapid descent into the twilight. We race with the sun. We arrived at night at the base camp. Yann's really sick. He's going to bed. The next day we leave the unhealthy base camp in the Bluesheep Hotel, crossing the way of some Beam-Men on the road, and even a Sheet-Man. I leave here my friends to attack the legendary Thorung La pass.

.