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Khukri prepares for action!
Thursday 27th April
Trek Day 4
Magingoth - Phedi

An easy day that isn't!

Barcelona has beaten AC Milan, over the two legs of the Champions' League semi-final, so it will be Arsenal v Barcelona in the final! I can't believe how Arsenal has done so well in Europe after what has been a pretty poor domestic season for us. I'm well proud of them.

This morning we have a later start and don't get away until twenty to eight. We climb gently through more mysterious Rhododendron forests. Now there are patches of snow around, but I'm able to walk in shorts and a thin short-sleeved shirt, and still remain warm enough. Through the trees, there are breathtaking views of the mountains. It's a magical morning, and I can sense that we've left the lower hills behind and are now entering the real mountains.

Rest stop on the way to TharepatiThe dog is still with us. We've named him Khukri, after the famous Ghurkha Knife. There was a Scandinavian couple staying at the lodge last night, and we chatted briefly. They are dressed in woolen clothing. I guess it must be stuff that they picked up in Kathmandu. They don't seem to have any modern mountain gear, and even their shoes seem a bit inadequate for the higher altitudes that we are heading for. I seem to remember that we did the same on our first trek. We did have boots but they were uncomfortable so we soon switched to trainers; which performed quite well. I seem to remember that we did hire some down jackets, and trousers though, and didn't rely solely on woolly jumpers.

As we sit down to have a rest beside the path at 3,500m, we are passed by a small group of trekkers going down. They don't stop and seem to be in a hurry. After one and a half hours walking from Magingoth, mainly through a thin layer of snow, we reach Tharepati, a collection of stone-built tea-houses on a broad col at around 3,600m.

Tharepati - mountain crossroadsThis seems to be a crossroads, with tracks leading off in several directions. We can now see clearly across to the pass that we'll be crossing tomorrow. It looks pretty steep, and is completely covered in snow. We can see a high trail contouring round the valley to the pass, but it turns out that it's a difficult route, and we'll be taking a lower path which we can only just make out because it's partially in the forest. It looks like it should be quite easy because it's a contouring path with very little height gain between here and Phedi, our destination.

We decide to stop for a break at Tharepati, to admire the views and have a drink. A small but convenient cloud drifts along the mountainside across the valley just to the left of the pass. Nurbu uses it to help us locate the site where a Thai Airways Airbus crashed in 1988. It seems terrible that such a tragic, violent accident could occur in such a beautiful place.

Nurbu shows me the site of the plane-crashWe set off again and the snow gets deeper. We are in another thick Rhododendron forest, and the path becomes rocky. This is glacial moraine, and we have to concentrate hard on our steps, to avoid twisting an ankle. After another hour walking, we round a bend, and find the kitchen installed by a stream in a small gulley. It's a beautiful location, but the path is quite narrow and there isn't much room for anyone to pass. Fortunately, the route isn't that busy and only the Finnish couple pass by.

It's so warm that I consider doing some laundry. Luckily I decide against it, because the clouds come in, and we are soon surrounded in mist. We finish our lunch quickly and get walking before we get too cold. After thirty minutes we reach Gopte where there's a camping ground, and a couple of tea-houses. We decide to press on to keep warm.

Lunch in the woodsFrom now on, what appeared from a distance to be an easy day's trek has become much more taxing. The path is constantly either descending into, or climbing out of, deep valleys full of snow. It is slippery, so we have to take extra care on the descents, and because we are now at a higher altitude, the climbs have us puffing and blowing. We have to cross many sections where the snow has avalanched, and several times we are up to our waists in snow. Some of the slides look a bit unstable to me, but we just grit our teeth, cross our fingers, and hurry across.

After seven and a half hours walking, we finally approach Phedi. It starts to rain a bit, and this then turns to snow. The last few hundred metres of narrow path before Phedi is quite steep, and perched precariously above the raging river below. I think we'd normally be a bit scared here, but we're too tired for that, and just press on without thinking too much about the consequences of a slip.

We dash up the final steep climb to the huts at Phedi just as the snow turns to a heavy hailstorm. Just in time we duck into one of the dark and dingy huts, closely followed by Khukri. Phedi looks remarkably like many of the other Phedis that we've passed through over the years. There is a collection of unattractive stone huts and a strong smell from the wood burning inside. It's a pretty desolate looking place, maybe more so due to the current weather conditions.

The pass - left of centreWhile we shelter inside, we find the lodge owner lying to one side on his bed. He's sick and after a few questions we discover that he's been feeling sick all day. Liz offers him some pain killers. It looks to me that he's suffering from an overdose of alcohol from the night before. (We find out later that this was the case.) In the meantime, his son is in charge. He's doing his best, but he's very young, and the whole show is pretty chaotic. Our kitchen boys have taken over the fire, and soon have a brew on.

The Israeli brothers, have been in front of us all day. We caught sight of them at another lodge situated about ten minutes climb further up on the moraine. The Finnish couple have arrived and join us sheltering inside the hut. After a while, they move to an adjacent building where the sleeping accommodation is. I hope they've enough warm clothes. It looks like it is going to be cold and damp night in this Phedi. They invariably are.

Our dining and sleeping tents have been erected on a couple of flat spots above the lodge, and we make our way there; happy to leave the smoky hut behind. The cramped camping area is pretty filthy, with the detritus of many previous visitors, scattered around. There are the inevitable foil wrappings from medications, and some discarded syringes, in amongst tin cans, and plastic bottles. We don't have big appetites this evening, so we elect to just have some noodle soup instead of letting the kitchen staff cook a full meal that would just be wasted on us. We are very tired, and want to get to bed early after a tough day. We need to get some rest for the climb tomorrow morning, when we'll go from here at 3,600m to the Laurebina pass at 4,600m.

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