Day 16: Ghorepani - Chhomrong
Side Trip: Poon Hill
Total distance: 361.22km
Total Ascent: 17636m
Total Descent: 16239m
Stairs. That's all I saw today.
I was up early for the obligatory trek up to Poon Hill for sunrise, along with a couple of hundred other people. Naturally the entire trek was stairs. So up we all went to sit around for 45 minutes to watch the sun come up. And that was all we saw. The views of the surrounding mountains, which were supposed to be amazing, were basically non-existent. The outline was there but all details were obscured yet again by haze. It was a major letdown.
I trekked back down the steps to the hotel, ate breakfast, packed and left Ghorepani to head to Tadapani. Via steps. I didn't think it was possible to keep going up after yesterday but apparently it was. It didn't last long before it changed: instead of going up, I was going down. Down thousands of steps. Downhill was much easier yet not that much faster. The steps were still giant-sized and often I had to jump down to the next one.
I walked down steps for hours. It seemed like all that effort I put in yesterday went to waste. Occasionally there was an uphill section thrown in for good measure, but generally I was staring down a mountain. I passed many others coming up the hill, looking as beat up as I probably did yesterday.
There were zero flat sections. I followed stairs down through rhododendron forests, stairs along a creek flowing down the hill, stairs around the sides of steep mountains, stairs between tiny villages perched on the hillside. Although only travelled 20km it took me about 7 hours. And that's me moving fairly fast.
A couple of times I passed tourists who wished me a happy new year. Turns out today is New Year's Day in Nepal. I didn't see any signs of celebration.
The weather was not on my side. It seemed that around every corner there could have been awe-inspiring views along the valley towards mammoth peaks. All I could see was cloud. I chose the wrong day to hike this section of the trail.
Here's a summary of today's weather: cold, cloudy, hazy, little warmer, light rain, thunder, heavy rain, hail, freezing cold, no rain, thunder, regular rain, no rain, thunder, rain - I don't know after that as I went to bed (I presume the pattern continued because twice the thunder woke me overnight). I made to Chhomrong and into a hotel (on my third attempt) between the thunder and heavy rain stage. Five minutes later and I would have been drenched. Maybe the weather was on my side after all.
In between downpours the mountains started to appear, huge peaks that I had no idea were there. They briefly made themselves known before disappearing behind clouds again. My hotel provided perfect views down the valley, and on any other day I would have been going photo crazy. I'm really over the weather.