95 #77 & #78
Porters setting the lines for our cable crossing over the tumultuous Chimdro Chu River.
The odds of surviving a plunge into the river are not good.
Gil pulls himself across.
95 #81, #82, #83
Todd Gillenwater makes it safely across and promptly takes a nap. Next to the river is the only place we can escape the relentless heat.
95 #84 & #85
Ian Baker makes it across the raging river.
Hamid Sardar gets tied in.
Once across the river, the trail to the PungPung La Pass is almost non-existent.
Our trail steepened as we leave the bamboo and rhododendron thickets on our wet climb up to the 15,150 foot high PungPung La Pass.
We began to lose our light as the group gets separated. The higher we go the more landslides we encountered. The earth is alive.
Finally daylight! Troy Gillenwater stands next to the makeshift camp. Todd Gillenwater, Gil Gillenwater, Troy Gillenwater, Christiaan Kuypers, Oy Kanjanavanit, & Hamid Sardar spend the longest, wettest, most leech infested night of their lives under this crude shelter.
Pemba Sherpa can start a fire in an aquarium. These guys are the ultimate outdoorsmen. Left to right - Pemba Sherpa (far left), Oy Kanjanavanit, Troy Gillenwater, Hamid Sardar, Christiaan Kuypers.
One misstep on the slippery log and it is “game over”.
Lobsong and his wife find dinner. Suspicious not to look at the camera, Lobsong carries his “Gau” with him at all times. (A Gau is a portable Buddhist shrine worn as a protection amulet).
Pemba Sherpa (far right) sliced the mushroom into the pot. Chombi Sherpa (far left) checks on its progress.
Taking a break on the trail. “Is this our trail?”, we wonder as it disappears into the clouds above. Nobody knows for sure.
This is Beyul Pemako, “Hidden Land of the Blossoming Lotus”.
Todd Gillenwater (left) and Troy Gillenwater (right) pose with our senior porter – Puntsok (middle). We have another 1,000 feet to climb to gain the PungPung La pass. Punstok’s eyes avoid the camera.
Dropping off the PungPung La pass. Todd Gillenwater is not looking real thrilled about continuing the steep, wet descent ahead. Through the mists on the far ridgeline, porters can be seen beginning their descent.
Troy and Todd Gillenwater resting with three of our porters. It is an uncharacteristically clear day for Pemako.
Carrying two loads, our “Gentle Giant” porter is enjoying the drier weather and firmer trails.
Todd Gillenwater negotiates a moss covered log.
The “Jolly Lama” is imperturbable.
The young, married porter couple examines bear tracks on the banks of the animal spirit lake.
Our “Jolly Lama” often sits by himself in deep thought. This Vajrayogini pilgrimage in the “Year of the Pig” is his life-long dream come true.
Todd Gillenwater admires one of the many waterfalls cascading into the sacred lake.
Little could we have known the dangers that lay in wait in this idyllic spot.
Gil, Troy and Todd Gillenwater marvel over the paradisiacal landscape. Who made this place?
Gil Gillenwater walks through a scene from Hobbit Land.
Clouds begin to gather in Paradise.
The cantilevered bridges are primitive engineering masterpieces.
A sure-footed porter crosses the cantilevered bridge.
The skies become foreboding as Gil Gillenwater says good bye to Paradise.
The forest is cold and wet as we slog into a ferocious storm.
Todd Gillenwater deathly ill in the middle. Malevolent water spirits or food poisoning? At his point Todd doesn't care. He just wants to die. It is an excruciatingly long night.
Ghastly ill, Todd Gillenwater somehow manages the 1,100 foot, rain drenched climb to the dreaded Adrothang swamp.
In a super-human effort Todd Gillenwater continues to move forward. But in his sickened condition we fall farther and farther behind.
As brothers we fell horrible for Todd Gillenwater but there is little we can do but try and encourage him onward. Waiting for him is difficult in the glacial cold and rain. We become chilled to the bone and can feel the insidious onset of hypothermia tighten its lethal grip.
Looking off the lip of Adrothang into the swirling abyss.
Todd Gillenwater (left) starts feeling a little better. Gil Gillenwater (right) doesn't.
Todd Gillenwater waits patiently as Troy Gillenwater continues to vomit. The high elevation exacerbates the symptoms of our illness.
This photograph is taken at lower elevation of Chimed Gompo, the "Deathless Lord.” We are convinced he saved our lives.
The climbing continues. Far above timerline, we knew the SangMen La Pass (14,200 feet) has to be close.
Chimed Gompo is carrying two of our packs at once. Our destination, Kundu Dorsempotrang Mountain, the “All Gathering Home of the Vajrasattva Mind”, (Vajrayogini’s heart chakra) reigns prominently on the distant horizon. We have a long way to go.
Chombi Sherpa sends two Sherpas back to us with hot water and noodles. Now we have three Sherpas to carry our packs and help us down to the day’s camp on the banks of another glacial lake.
Dropping off of the SangMen La Pass, we can see part of our group approaching the glacial lake.
As the others surge on, Gil Gillenwater looks for camp near the lake. “What is the hurry?” the Gillenwaters wondered.