Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Day 9: Crossing the Moon

Gokyo (4750m) → Ngozumba Glacier → Tagnag (4676m)

Last morning in Gokyo, and some mental travail and unease over digital messaging with immediate family members. (Saying no more – except that it was a useful reminder that having expectations, or making demands, of people you care about does no one any favours…) More propitiously: muesli with fruit again for breakfast! Yip. And I got to pay for my personal schtuff (showers x2, device charging, WiFi) – with a credit card! Double yip.

Also, thanks to (as usual) Aakash, my dirty laundry had been washed. Drying was another story – but an old one: I made “the beast with four socks”, tying all of them to loops on the back of my pack. And then off we set – for today's crossing of the largest glacier in Asia.

Aakash: “No breaks for the next two minutes.”
Darby: “…Rockslides.”

Sure enough, we were in a rockslide area. I'm presuming I must have actually complied, as I find no photos of it (and presumably wrote down the above dialogue later…).

And thence out onto Ngozumba Glacier itself.

Crossing glacier is like crossing the moon.

As you can see, somewhat counterintuitively, it wasn't all snow and ice – but dirt, dust, and boulders. We got occasional peeks at the mountains of ice underneath all that. → (This photo is a zoom of the prior shot.)

Me: “I feel very humbled today. Naked. Like the universe, even my closest personal relationships, are forever out of control. Like it was vain and stupid to think that I could control things. I guess it's liberating to have your pretensions fall away.”

Darby: “I don't ever want to play these guys at Jenga.”

Me: “What's this? It looks like a hole in the world.”

I broke down and put my hat flaps down, or at least the one on the sunward side. I couldn't be bothered to goop up this morning, and the sun was very insistent.

Flap down

Lovely rest stop. Hole in bite tube, spraying a jet of water when I lean on pack.
Exit the glacier onto nice brown scrub bush.
Get in. Heckofa setting. Dung shed!
Heckofa setting Dung shed! (!!) In

Setting up shop in them main room, as always, we met a nice group of Ozzies from Queensland (visible in back right corner of last photo) – and who had done the Coast to Coast path in England! We all had a lot to talk about. (As Tim will have no trouble believing, i.e. I never stop talking about that damned walk…)

Take a gigantic, squatting, leg-muscle-cramping dump, offer some mints to the boys, then take myself outside to sit beside my socks, all of us drying out in the sun and speechless from the views.
One of ‘the boys’ (i.e. porters) Speechless-making views Me'n'socks, all of us laid out and drying in the sun
It's barely noon – 12:00:57, and 4676m – and this time is precious. Six porters sit farther down the long stone bench, talking, laughing, and being, it seems, uncomplicatedly happy. This place, this sunshine, are happy-making. Maybe if you're Nepalese, you have less need of the happy-making. Maybe you were just made happy.

We got boiled cabbage for lunch – speaking of happy! – w/carrots and ripe tomato and warm chapati. The menu said this place was called Tangnag. I got squared away in the room, and came back outside wearing my shower sandals, as some direct sunlight on my feet seemed like it wouldn't go amiss. Read His Holiness for a while. On these really short trekking days, the afternoon and evening hours can hang heavy. Laid down and napped under my hat for a while until the sun was too much even there, then retired back to the room.

I can't seem to get a handle on my chapped lips – and nostrils now too chapped to wipe. Nap in room, wake & go ahead and get my kit squared away for tonight and tomorrow. (As doing these things in the light and warmth is gargantuanly preferable to doing it in the freezing cold and dark.)

I grabbed both our bladders – for the nightly water-boiling ritual – as well as Darby's cards, and headed back to the main room. An Ozzie named Jeff did a couple of magic tricks, then taught us a very special card game – called Shithead. He, Darby, and I played, while Aakash – who knows, but doesn't like, the game – looked over my shoulder and offered me strategic support.

More reading through long hours, waiting for dinner.
Not even hungry, still willing dinner to come…

When it did, it was more pizza, but smaller. I figured okay, we'd only walked 2.5 hours, and I was trying to avoid boredom eating. But I sure as hell wouldn't be bored tomorrow – it was to be the second pass-crossing day: Cho La.

Cho La 5300m, 600m ascent. 2hr gradual ascent, then cross moraine (ex-glacier). Last 1.5h tough climb, maybe ice. Small glacier on other side. Descent 2-2.5h to Jungla – 4800m. Take Yak Trax. Steep descent for half hour, hands, bums. Damn cold. Wear everything but down jacket. In sun after an hour. Start: 0630, breafast at 6. Wakeup: 0530. 3.5-4 ascent, 2-2.5 descent, arrive 1,1.30. Lots of 6kers, very close to us. "Safety is guaranteed, enjoyment is not."

Aakash wasn't mentioning safety, we were soon to learn, for no reason. And, dodginess aside, the second pass-crossing day was also to be, by a comfortable margin, the coldest I have ever personally been in my life…

Tomorrow, Day Ten: The Freezing Pass – Cho La

close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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