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Kangchenjunga Trek Diary - Day 9, Torontan to Tseram.

After the last few days of trekking followed by sleeping in a tent that had been pitched on a slope, I awoke feeling a bit stiff in the legs. The slope of the tent had been a problem during the night as the pertex lining of the sleeping bag, on top of the smooth surface of the thermarest mattress, meant I was sliding downwards towards the flap of the tent. It wasn't till half way through the night that I remembered the useful tip of placing the kit bag at the bottom. Handy stuff, especially if you happen to be camping on a snow slope. Could be a major disaster were you to actually slide out of the tent whilst still cocooned in the bag - I suppose you would continue like a bob sleigh, zipping down the mountain, as you struggled to find the internal zip to extricate yourself. Wonder if it could become a new olympic sport?

The frost persisted for some time today. We made our way up the valley following the river as cooler air from the higher ground above blew down to greet us. En route we passed three or four more trekkers, who looked well wrapped up, coming down the valley. No words were necessary, I got the message. However, others spoke, and we soon learned that they had experienced eleven continuous nights of sub zero temperatures. A comforting thought!

Climbing upwards, the trees became more spartan before we reached a clearing where we rested for lunch. Here there was a large boulder several metres high, it reminded me of the force of nature and I wondered whether it had been left here from a past glacier that had now receded, or had fallen in a landslide from the hills above. The sun was out now and in the lee of the wind it was pleasantly warm. I took the opportunity to dry the washing which I had been carting around for the last few days. It didn't take long in the breeze and I was much happier knowing I had got a change of socks should I need them.

After lunch, we continued walking up the valley which, was now much wider and soon we cleared the tree line affording better views of the snow capped peaks ahead. We reached today's camp in the early afternoon and unlike other days where the cloud had billowed in, it stayed clear, the sun making this an altogether more pleasant day than those of late. I took the chance of airing the sleeping bag. Its amazing how this brings back the life into the down and helps to provide better insulation.

Just prior to getting into camp we had come across a small hut occupied by a single shepherd. He spoke fairly good English and was able to tell me that he also ran a small shop, in the same hut, which is open during the few months of the trekking season. The rest of the time he spends at Yamphudin. It sounded quite a lonely existence and I wondered how many trekkers actually used the shop. The San Miguel bottles sat cooling in a bowl of water indicated that he had done the marketing course.

I took a photo of the inside of the hut which was incredibly well laid out with his few possessions and his wares. He asked me to send a copy of the photo to him and wrote his address down for me in my note book using perfect English. I wondered where he had learnt this.

There was another hut just slightly above this one where our cooking crew were preparing the evening meal. They, and the porters also sleep in these huts or come to that, anywhere they can be near a fire. Sometimes if there is a rocky outcrop, as there was earlier in the trip, they use that. The last option seems to be under canvas.

I had a quick glance inside the hut and noticed it was also a another form of residence for the person who presumably manages the camp site. Looking up at the rafters there was what appeared to be parts of an animal carcass hanging in the corner, and I wondered what the evening meal was going to be. Thankfully I was on a vegetarian menu!

Today's camp site was slightly elevated on a plateau - giving good views all around. The steep slopes behind the camp led up to the Mirgin La, one of the two passes across the high ridge that separated us from the valley we will be trekking up in a few days time. It looked very steep from where we were. Tomorrow is a rest day for us to acclimatise as we are now at three thousand, nine hundred metres, though there is the chance of doing a walk up the slope of the hill just across from camp. Apparently it’s a good idea to go higher and then return to camp to let your body adjust to the higher altitude.

The danger of altitude sickness is now more evident as we start to get into the higher zones. Its something that is so hard to predict and is such an indiscriminate illness striking anyone at all. It can also be fatal, so it pays to be cautious. If it strikes it would certainly mean the end of the trek and a return back the way we have come. I remembered an earlier trek to the Langtang region where one of my fellow travelers was smitten and couldn't continue. It would be such a disappointment if that were to happen. From here on in the only way is up, including the crossing the Mirgin La to the other valley.

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