Dispatch 5: Trek from Marpha to Yak Kharka; Porters Abandon Loads

Ryan and Nick at the start of the trek to Yak Kharka in Marpha
The view of Nilgiri from the trek to Yak Kharka
The very wet and cold mess tent that we huddled in before descending from Alu Bari

Today we woke up at 7:00am, ate a quick breakfast, and prepared our bags for the trek to Yak Kharka. We headed into town where the route began and headed up the foothills surrounding Marpha. What began as a relatively well-established trail turned into goat tracks. We worked our way up these steep slopes as the winds picked up. An ice ring began to form around the sun and we knew it wouldn’t be long before precipitation followed. We turned a corner at 11,750 ft (3581m) and rain began to fall, accelerated by the intense gusty winds. We stopped to put on our waterproof gear, and continued on to a small shelter, where we stopped to have some water. It was here where we realized that even the porters didn’t know the route. We continued as the rain turned to snow and crossed a gully to begin the climb up grassy slopes toward Yak Kharka. The storm intensified, at times causing whiteouts, and the staff that had accompanied us did not know the way. Ryan descended from Yak Kharka to see where the porters were and met us. Badia, Mauricio, their Sherpa, and Ryan had been waiting for an hour in the intense snow with no shelter and were beginning to get cold (fortunately Ryan had packed his small 1-man tent, which provided some limited shelter while things were sorted). Communication broke down between the porters and the staff and it became evident that continuing up the remaining 700ft to Yak Kharka would not be wise with no sign of the tents anywhere and all of us soaking wet thanks to the very wet snow that was falling. We made the decision to descend to Alu Bari (3900m/12,795ft), decreasing the distance that the porters with the tents and cooking equipment would have to go before reaching us. We took refuge from the storm inside a small stone shepherd’s hut with a fire burning inside (set by one of our porters) to warm up and waited for the rest of the porters to arrive. As the light began to fade and there was no sign of anyone coming up, it became clear that we needed to descend, as we didn’t have sleeping bags, tents, food or a stove and a few in our team were beginning to show signs of hypothermia. We began our descent in the dark at 7:00pm and arrived to another stone shelter where we discovered all of our equipment abandoned inside. We were told that two porters had been injured and the rest had run away. We discussed our plan, and decided that Ryan, Jeremy and I would stay there overnight while the others continued the descent to Marpha. We set up our personal tents on the roof of the stone structure and guarded the equipment with our cook. We ate a few bars and drank some of the remaining water we had from the morning and settled in for the night. The clouds parted, the winds died down and we were treated to stunning view of Nilgiri across the valley underneath billions of stars on a moonless night. Moments like these make all of my frustrations disappear, and despite all of the things that had gone wrong today, I felt lucky to be standing on that dirty rooftop with such humbling surroundings.