Thorong High Camp
The day before you cross Thorong-La you have two choices. You can stay at Thorong-La Basecamp at 4450m (14,600 ft) or you can hike an hour further up steep scree to 4800m (15,750 ft) I was feeling pretty good the whole while ascending and had spent the night before at Yak Kharka (4000m) with no problems whatsoever so I decided I could handle an 800m ascent and went onto Thorong High Camp, which would make the next day that much easier, especially if I encountered snow. At High Camp there are a couple of loosely fitting stone buildings which the cold breeze goes right through, a nice dining room full of windows, and a couple of grumpy employees running the place. No wonder they arent very happy, they sit at over 15,000 ft in the cold and snow for the whole trekking season.
Sunny dining room at High Camp
Trail leaving High Camp to Thorong-La
During the night at high camp I heard some other folks up all night, puking, coughing, whining about the cold etc. If you have ever spent a night in the mountains outside at 14,000 ft in summer, this is a cush experience by comparison. You have shelter, a bed, and folks to cook food for you. As long as you take your time to acclimatize, you will have no problems here. Its actually very comfortable. I slept very well that night, the temp was around 20 degrees F, and since I had ascended no more than about 600m per day for the last ten days, I was very acclimatized. Everyone at the camp left at 3 am to cross the pass. I got up, looked outside and saw there was only a few inches of snow on the ground and the snow had stopped. I went back to bed until 8 am.
Thorong-La Pass (5416m - 17,770 ft)
I was the last one to leave high camp. The night before there were about 12 Israelis staying there but they all left at 3 am. I got a nice "alpine start" at around 8am. The hike up the trail is not very steep, but its step, step, step, breath, breath. Even being well acclimated you will be breathing hard up here. From high camp I made it up to the pass in a little over an hour, passing the group that left at 3 am. What they were doing still there I have no idea, but most of them were not feeling very good. They did not take their time on the first days of the trek. Many of them had started the trek only 6 days prior. No wonder. If you take your time (about 10 days to get to this point from Besisahar, you will enjoy yourself at 18,000 ft
Looking down into Mustang region just after Thorong-La
After you cross Thorong-La the climate changes quite dramatically from high alpine to high desert. This region sees very little moisture and parts of it remind me of the high deserts of SoCal or Arizona.
The Classic guest house in Muktinath!
It took me about 5 hours to get from Thorong High Camp to Muktinath, an ascent of 700 meters, descent 1600 meters. this is an average time if there is no snow. However, the pass can have over 2 feet snow which will slow your progress considerably, so take that into account. A buddy of mine crossed the pass in March in waist deep snow. It took him 14 hours to get to Muktinath. This night I would spend in the Bob Marley hotel and Rasta Restaurant. I sat out on the deck listening to some classic reggae and indulging in a big bottle of Everest Beer!