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Kangchenjunga Trek - Day 19, Rest Day at Pang Pema (walk up to 5,250m)

The sun was up by the time we had breakfast at 0800 and because the wind had dropped I could feel its warmth, a change after the last few days. I think it was warmer during the night too as we had experienced minus five centigrade, as opposed to the previous group (who we had earlier met at Suketar) who said they had experienced minus fifteen.

Although called a 'rest day' its rare that anyone actually 'rests' and we took the opportunity to trek up the slope behind the camp-site and gain some extra height. Actually, it was much harder than I had anticipated, maybe that was the altitude, or perhaps it's the accumulation of effort over the last few days. The scenery however was excellent, as we climbed higher the tents looked like little yellow dots in the snow amidst the vast expanse of surrounding mountains. The extra height meant we could now look at the full expanse of the glacier running down the valley to Lohnak.

Looking down to Pang Pema and the Kangchenjunga Glacier. The mountain mass in the centre is Kangchenjunga.After much stopping to get my breath, I decided that at 5,250m I wasn't really getting on as fast I would have liked and some of the others were clearly intent on getting up to the top at 6000m. So, after a group photo with the magnificent Wedge Peak as a backdrop, I left them to it and made my way down to the camp. My knees were aching again and I considered that I owed them a rest too. Unfortunately, by the time I got back down the sun had gone and some clouds had come in to obscure the tops of the mountains.

It was a long while before the others returned from the summit and so those of us at camp had to wait for lunch. I decided to have some solitude and armed with my Walkman and a tape I went off to the edge of the plateau and climbed onto a crop of boulders. Sitting there, looking at the huge wall of Kangchenjunga just a short distance away across the glacier, I admired the scenery as I played a tape of Tibetan flute music by Nawang Khechog . The music was absolutely right for the moment, the haunting echoing flute was particularly fitting in this environment of wilderness. There are certain moments in life that you feel you will always remember, this was one of them.

By late afternoon the clouds had rolled in even more making the camp feel cold. To keep warm I finished up getting into my sleeping bag with a book As I read I wondered if the cloud was a sign of bad weather moving in. This was the longest trek I had done and I started to drift away from the book, thinking of home and creature comforts and began feeling a little home sick. Then I remembered there was another week of trekking to go before we got to Suketar before flying to Kathmandu. I realised that it could be a long week unless I focused on something positive, after all the trek was there to be enjoyed, so I fantasised about the meals I would get in Thamel, and promised myself a trip to Northfield Café when I got there.

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