It was not just the noise created by the torrential rain falling on the corrugated tin roof that made it a bad night. We were using a North Face tapered double sleeping bag. Normally this was OK. If the room we were staying in had 2 beds we would simply push them together. This (apart from the inevitable gap in the middle) worked perfectly well.
It had not crossed my mind however that we would encounter beds that were differing heights. It’s an interesting thing. We were so used to the standardisation that exists in developed countries, that neither of us considered that each bed would be handmade from the materials available locally and as a result beds could very well differ substantially. In addition to this, there was also the added complication caused by the fact that the sleeping bag was “tapered”. What this meant in practice is if the 1st person into the sleeping bag treated it as a bed (which is not tapered) the second person in found they had lots of space at the top of the bag but no space at the bottom. 2 contradictory wars would then breakout. The war at the top of the sleeping bag was concerned with the 1st person having no space at the top of the bag but lots of space at the bottom. The war at the bottom of the bag was concerned with the second person having no space at the bottom of the bag, but lots of space at the top. It’s the sort of problem that to rational people could sort out with a short conversation. Given that there was monsoon type rainfall outside, that the temperature was about -10 and that we were at about 2500 m above sea level in an area that had no infrastructure, medical facilities, or proper sanitation there was an understandable shortage of rational people.
Eventually both the night and the rainfall ended and, much to our surprise, the mountain’s appeared. What a stunning sight. I don’t know how it affects other people but the sheer size of them, and the distances involved confused me. I guess that we each have an inbuilt term of reference built from experience which helps us decide whether something is big or just close or whether it is small or far away. Nothing in my previous experience could help me get my head around both the size and the distances involved in what I could clearly see with my own eyes. Annapurna was hidden although we could see Machapuchare which marks the entrance to the Annapurna Sanctuary . Machapuchare is considered to be a sacred mountain and you’re not allowed to attempt to climb it.
You can see from some of the pictures that we are right on the tree line and landscape gets considerably bleaker from here upwards. It would be some time before we could actually see Annapurna itself. In fact when the 1st expedition to climb Annapurna (led by Maurice Hertzog in 1950) set off their first task was to find the mountain. It took them 3 weeks.
Despite the fact that Annapurna can be seen from 50 miles away nobody had ever been to it and know one knew how to get to it.
As we set off all semblance of farming settlements ceased. Absolutely everything has to be carried up from here to Machapuchare and Annapurna base camps. Jo had said that rain below means snow above, and she was absolutely right. As we gained height we could see the avalanches which had been caused by the morning sun heating recently fallen snow. To me it all felt a bit unreal. It was like walking into a giant picture. I could not believe I was really there.