13 Nov 2017
4 min read
Tilicho Lake (at 4,919m) is known as the highest lake in the world. The Tilicho Lake Trek takes you through the Thorong La Pass, with stops at Khangsar, Tilicho Base Camp, Shree Kharka and Yak Kharka. The trail—which winds through landscapes dotted with Manangi villages, patches of forest and fields with herds of yaks grazing on them, all while offering you many opportunities for taking in the mountains—is known to provide some of the world’s most beautiful views. But as breathtaking as the trek is, it is also one of the more dangerous routes in Nepal.
A month ago, eight of my cousins and I decided to embark on this trek to Tilicho. The morning before we left for the journey, we stocked up on plenty of snacks and medicines. We began our journey on two-wheeler jeeps to Besisahar, and on our way, we passed the Marshyangdi Hydropower Station and verdant rice and paddy fields. Our destination for the day was Chame, but when we reached Besisahar, we found out that only four-wheelers could travel on that road. That night, we frantically searched for any four-wheelers, and at around 11 pm, we finally managed to book one that would take us there the next morning. The next day, as we travelled on the off-road track from Besisahar to Chame (Manang), we passed a lot of waterfalls and had many vistas of mountains. We reached Khangsar late at night and had to stay in a homestay facility, as all the hotels were already packed with trekkers.
The day after marked the beginning of our trek to Tilicho Base Camp—from Khangsar to Shree Kharka to Tilicho Base Camp. The route was an incredibly dangerous one: it’s an area that’s prone to landslides, and if trekkers are not careful, they risk slipping and falling directly into the lake below to what could be a certain death. We trod slowly through the landslide-risk area, and because it was very windy, the mere act of walking straight was a struggle for us. If you are thinking of trekking this route, understand that shoes and walking sticks are musts. It took us six hours just to cross that area. When we reached Tilicho Base Camp at around 5 pm, the hotels were already packed. The food was very expensive: it cost us Rs 350 each for a meal of dal, bhaat and alu ko tarkari. All of us then set up our tents for the night. Exhausted, we succumbed to sleep at 6:30 pm, knowing we had to wake up at two in the morning.
The next morning, we started our expedition at 2:30, chewing garlic (to prevent high-altitude sickness). The glistening snow under the moonlight made for a wonderful view: huge mountain peaks and stars dotting the dark sky. With the bright moonlight reflecting off the snow, none of us even had to use flashlights to see where we were going. When we got to Bais Ghumti (22 turns), we realised we were right on time for sunrise. We watched as the golden rays, streaming through the mountains, engulfed the sky. Mesmerised by the magnificent view, we stayed there for half an hour more before heading to our final destination: Tilicho Lake. We reached the lake at 6:30 am and instantly got to taking countless pictures. There was only one small shop there, which was swarming with trekkers, and even though a cup of black tea cost us Rs 300, we treated ourselves to a cup. After having gotten our fill of the place, we returned to Base Camp.
The following day, two of my cousins decided to return home, while the rest of us made plans to go to Thorong La Pass. Making our way amid the grazing yaks and horses, we reached Yak Kharka at 1 pm, where we had the chance to try out yak cheese and yak meat, which, although very expensive, was a welcome break from the regular meal we’d been having from the beginning of our trek. We soldiered on, in hopes of reaching Fedi that day, but we couldn’t get to our intended destination because the high altitude was getting to us. It was difficult for us to breathe, let alone walk properly. So we spent the night at Ledar.
Next day, on our journey from Fedi to High Camp, we came across a wall with thousands of names scribbled on it. We also engraved our names on it—to testify to our having been there. When we reached High Camp (altitude 4,900 m), the air had become unbearably frigid. The hotel owner there suggested that we climb a hill nearby, which offered a magnificent view of the Annapurna circuit. We were advised to keep chewing garlic and to not consume alcohol or to smoke, as doing either could lead to death at that altitude.
We started the trek’s last day at 2:30 am. The sight of the road, packed with hundreds of trekkers carrying flashlights, was something. Everyone around us was suffering from altitude sickness, but we knew that if we stopped for more than 30 seconds, the cold would eat through the layers of our clothes, and that would make things even worse. When we stopped at a tea shop (a cup of black tea cost us Rs 400 here), the shopkeeper advised against warming our hands on the stove, because doing so would have resulted in blood clots due to the extreme change in temperature. When we finally reached Thorong La Pass, there was a board that said “Congratulations for completing this trek!” We, overwhelmed with emotions, forgot about the difficulties we’d endured through the trek and relished in the victory: We’d done it!