On September 15, 2010 I flew to Nepal to begin my journey to Annapurna Base Camp, Tharpa Chuli (18,577 feet/5,663 meters) and the ice caves in the Annapurna glacier.
The first step in planning any trip is figuring what you want to do. Initially, I decided to spend forty days climbing three to four 6000-meter peaks. After climbing Mera Peak two years ago and having just returned from an alpine training course in the Cascades, I wanted this trip to Nepal to challenge my technical abilities and push me to my limits. However, things never work out like you want them to. Last minute family obligations forced me to cut back my trip to about two weeks.
While researching and working on a new plan I stumbled upon the possibility of ice caving in Nepal. I had been caving in upstate New York and even Iraq before, but never before had I descended into the frozen abyss of a glacier cave. The opportunity to venture into unknown territory and explore new horizons seemed irresistible.
Not many tour operators in Nepal offer ice caving. This made my job of finding the right one simple. I only knew that I would not work with the same company I hired for Mera Peak two years ago. Through a contact on facebook I managed to find a tour operator who ran an excellent guide service. Although I didn’t know that at the time, I felt good about this company and its owner.
This brings up a key point I have learnt in my travels all over the world. Trust your instinct. This may seem obvious, but more often than not, people seem to forget this rule.
There are over 1000 tour operators in Kathmandu and at least 300 in Pokhara. Picking the wrong one will not only ruin the experience, it could prove fatal. So if you travel to Nepal without any guidance from someone with experience, read trip reports, google everything you can about the company and the trip and contact as many companies as you can. Analyze their response, give them a call and after doing all your homework, go with your instinct.
Within three days of my departure I finalized my itinerary. I chose to attempt Tharpa Chuli, or tent peak, because Tharpa Chuli’s base camp sat just above the South Annapurna Glacier. As per my guide’s recommendation this was an ideal location for ice caving. Additionally, the climb fit perfectly within my two-week timeframe and it offered some technical challenge as well.
And so I left for Nepal. Alone, excited and anxious about another adventure in the majestic Himalayas.
Return tomorrow for the approach to Annapurna Base Camp and the crossing of the South Annapurna Glacier to Tharpa Chuli.
On a side note, If you are planning a trip to Nepal, feel free to contact me for more information about the companies I have worked with, and I will be happy to provide my recommendations.