Mercifully the rains didn’t start until today. What falls as rain down here is snow just a hundred meters above, we were more than a thousand meters higher just yesterday.
As we cross the highest pass on our route we encounter groups of yak herders moving to lower altitudes. Unlike horses, the yaks have no trouble finding the hidden trail, acting as bovine snow plows. The herders make an offering of booze to appease the mountain spirits and ensure safe travel. The maps have located the pass between 4500 and 4900 meter so we make a guess based on our barometric altimeter.
Getting up before 5 am every day really hasn’t been a problem. When you carefully take a peek through the little breathing hole in your sleeping bag it is a relief to see the light of dawn because it can only mean that the temperature will rise. The – 30° C rating on the Northfake sleeping bag can only have been sewed on by a cruel jester. Who really takes the sting out of the brisk mornings is our hearty cook Sonam, as he has been handing in two cups of steaming hot coffee into the tent.
We really haven’t found any decent maps for the region. The altitude of mountains varies by 500 meters depending on which map you look at. Word is that there are some decent Russian topographical maps out there but we have yet to see them. If only the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo would donate their time. They could even use the same grid as the countries are roughly the same size and the terrain has the same complexity.
As the horseman Tenzin lights a fire, Cranky gets his hope up for thawing his feet at their campsite at 3870 meters. The air temperature measures – 4°C but feels much colder due to a light breeze blowing from the glacier above.