In March of 2003, my girlfriend, Amy, and I trekked the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Looping for 210 kilometers (130 miles) around an entire mountain range with the same name, the Annapurna Circuit also traverses the world’s highest crossable pass, Thorung La, at five and one-half kilometers (18,000 feet).
On Monday, March tenth, we began our adventure, catching a 0700 bus from a hotel in Kathmandu to Besi Sahar—the start of the Annapurna circuit. From there, our trek continued without a hitch to Saint Patrick’s Day.
That day, Amy and I had hiked into Manang at 2:30 pm. As a fresh snow began to fall, we had gotten a room at the Yak Hotel and then attended a lecture on altitude sickness given by volunteer British doctors. It was highly recommended that Himalayan trekkers see this presentation before pressing onward into the thinning air, so Amy and I had played it safe. After the lecture and dinner, we took a “shower” using Baby Wipes and then crawled into our sleeping bags.
On March nineteenth, Amy and I arrived into Thorung Phedi at 1100. At an elevation of 4,420 meters (16,000 feet), Thorung Phedi was the next-to-last stop before crossing Thorung La. After lunch in a trekkers’ dining hall, Amy and I got a room and decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. Later we ate dinner and simply played cards before calling it an early night. Tomorrow’s climb would take us up to the Thorung High Camp, at 4,800 meters (17,320 feet)—the final overnight stay before crossing Thorung La.
After breakfast the next morning, Amy and I began preparing for an 1100 step-off. As we maneuvered around each other in our tiny room, folding and organizing and repacking, I suddenly developed a cough. In Thorung Phedi’s thin air, I was unable to stop; and eventually, I passed out and fell backwards, hitting my head on the wall.
Amy panicked. She leapt upon my body and revived me—then demanded that we climb no further. In fact, she wanted to turn around and descend back down.
I said “no.”
Despite the incident, Amy and I made it up to the Thorung High Camp that day, and on Friday, March twenty-first, triumphantly crossed Thorung La—me with a huge bump on my head.