...in search of the sacred Kare Tal
Our group of eight hardy trekkers left Kathmandu bound for the west shoulder of Annapurna South. There, nestled at the foot of Annapurna lies Kare Tal, one of the three sacred lakes in Nepal. Each year thousands of devout Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims climb through the wilderness at full moon in August to perform puja (prayers) by the tiny lakeside shrine at 15,000'. We planned to follow these footsteps in the usually perfect fall weather. We had done this many times before and looked forward to our return with eager anticipation. It was not to be.
The Copra Ridge trek is rated strenuous. Over the first 6 days the route climbs 9,000' to reach an exposed ridge looking down into the Kali Gandaki gorge which is three times the depth of the Grand Canyon, and across and up at Dhaulagiri the world's sixth highest mountain. Above the campsite tower Nilgiri, Annapurna l and Annapurna South. The panorama is truly awesome.
On day four we noticed high cirrus clouds forming. By the next day our worst fears were confirmed - a low pressure system was moving in. During the night, on our magic ridge we heard rain on the tent. Our plan to move to the high campsite at 14,000' was postponed 24 hours while we waited for the system to pass. Enveloped in rain and cloud we spent the day playing cards in the dining tent. A lottery was held as to when the storm would pass. We watched the snow line above us move ominously closer. A second stormy night in the tent dashed our hopes. By morning, with the temperature at +2c and our campsite enveloped in cloud, we aborted the climb. Sadly, we broke camp and escaped to warmer and safer elevations acknowledging another lesson from the mountains on expectations. In 5 hours we descended 5,000' to bamboo forests, water falls, orchids and abundant bird life.
The following day in bright sunshine, we joined other trekkers and donkey trains on the busy trading trail to Tibet. The stormy nights at high elevations were replaced by warm campsites, local dancing and lush surroundings. Our final night was spent at Birethanti, a Magar village next to the rushing Modi Khola, where we celebrated our adventure with San Miguel beer. While we did not achieve one objective we did enjoy a high adventure in the Annapurnas. Maybe next time?
Gord and Gail Konantz