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 were not good.
Gil pulls himself across.
95-B #81, #82, #83
Todd makes it safely across and promptly takes a nap. Next to the river was the only place we could escape the relentless heat.
95 #84 & #85
Ian makes it across the raging river.
Hamid gets tied in.
Once across the river, the trail to the PungPung La pass is almost non-existent.
Our trail steepened as we left 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 got separated. The higher we went the more landslides we encountered. The earth was alive.
Finally daylight! Troy stands next to the makeshift camp. Todd, Gil, Troy, Christiaan, Oy, & Hamid spent the longest, wettest, most leech infested night of their lives under this crude shelter.
Pemba Sherpa could start a fire in an aquarium. These guys were the ultimate outdoorsmen. Right to Left - Christiaan Kuypers, Hamid Sardar, Troy Gillenwater & Oy Kanjanavanit. Pemba Sherpa is on the far left.
One misstep on the slippery log and it was “game over”.
Lobsong and his wife found dinner. Suspicious not to look at the camera, Lobsong carried 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. “Was this our trail?”, we wondered as it disappeared into the clouds above. Nobody knew for sure.
This was Beyul Pemako, “Hidden Land of the Blossoming Lotus”.
Left to Right: Todd and Troy pose with our senior porter – Puntsok. We had 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 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 & Todd resting with three of our porters. It was an uncharacteristically clear day for Pemako.
Carrying 2 loads, our “Gentle Giant” porter is enjoying the drier weather and firmer trails.
Todd negotiates a moss covered log.
The “Jolly Lama” was imperturbable.
The young, married, porter couple examine bear tracks on the banks of the animal spirit lake.
Our “Jolly Lama” often sat by himself in deep thought. This Vajrayogini pilgrimage in the “Year of the Pig” was his life-long dream come true.
Todd 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 & Todd marvel over the paradisiacal landscape. Who made this place?
Gil walks through a scene from Hobbit Land.
Clouds begin to gather in Paradise.
The cantilevered bridges were primitive engineering masterpieces.
A sure footed porter crosses the cantilevered bridge.
The skies become foreboding as Gil says good bye to Paradise.
The forest was cold and wet as we slogged into a ferocious storm.
Todd deathly ill in the middle. Malevolent water spirits or food poisoning? At his point Todd didn’t care. He just wanted to die. It was an excruciatingly long night.
Ghastly ill, Todd somehow manages the 1,100 foot, rain drenched climb to the dreaded Adrothang swamp.
In a super-human effort Todd continues to move forward. But in his sickened condition we fall further and further behind.
As brothers we felt horrible for Todd but there was little we could do but try and encourage him onward. Waiting for him was difficult in the glacial cold and rain. We became chilled to the bone and could feel the insidious onset of hypothermia tighten its lethal grip.
Looking off the lip of Adrothang into the swirling abyss.
Todd started feeling a little better. Gil didn’t.
Todd waits patiently as Troy continues to vomit. The high elevation exacerbated the symptoms of our illness.
This photograph was taken at lower elevation of Chimed Gompo, the "Deathless Lord”. We are convinced he saved our lives.
The climbing continues. Far above timer-line, we knew the SangMen La Pass (14,200 feet) had to be close.
Chimed Gompo is carrying 2 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 had a long way to go.
Chombi Sherpa sent 2 Sherpas back to us with hot water and noodles. Now we had 3 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 could see part of our group approaching the glacial lake.
As the others surge on, Gil looks for camp near the lake. “What was the hurry?” the Gillenwater’s wondered.