This is part of a series that document my trip to Nepal. You can find all of the blog posts here. I have decided to split this post into two entries worth because there will be a ton of photos (and they will be larger than standard).
I awoke around 2am and I have no idea why. I guess going to sleep around 7-8pm after such a short hike just made my body want to be up. I listened to some music and attempted to go back to sleep but it wasn't happening. At around 4am, we were "awakened" by the sherpas with tea. I quickly got a couple of layers on while enjoying a hot tea and grabbed my camera and trekking poles. We gathered and then set off behind some buildings on a path that the Tendi led us up the hill.
As we passed by guest houses everything was rather dark but there was a lot of activity as peopled emerged with headlamps and flashlights and joined the climb to the top of Poon Hill. I was amazed at the number of people that were on the trail. We must have passed by or walked with a half dozen small groups of four to eight people each. It was still very dark but my eyes had adjusted to the point where I really didn't need to use my headlamp. The temperature was rather chilly but the air was crisp and I warmed up very quickly during the climb. I also got out of breathe really quickly. The campsite that we stayed at was around 2800-2900m but we had to climb to 3200m which was the top of Poon Hill. And we had to do it rather quickly in order to reach the summit before the sun broke the horizon.
The trail was really beautiful. Once we got beyond the guest houses we were on a trail that cut through rhododendrons that were beginning to bloom with frost on the ground. It was too dark to take pictures of the trail. About halfway to the top we stopped for a breather at the communications tower with the prayer flags that I mentioned in the last post. It was already starting to get lighter out but the sun had not peeked out from behind the mountains.
[yes I made it that strange tint on purpose. I'm not certain I like it but why not put my blunders up here too]
Our journey continued up hill and the frost that was just here and there started to turn into snow covered grasses. The trees also had clumps of snow on them that would fall now and then or would drip. There were even some icicles. After being in the 80's with high humidity for the past few days this was an interesting change.
Even with all of these signs of cold weather, I was burning up in my coats. I unzipped everything but I was still sweating a lot. Climbing stairs is definitely a workout especially when you are completely out of breathe. Finally, I saw the destination in sight. The path opened up and there were very few trees. I took one more photo behind me as I rested prior to the final push (it had been a tough jaunt).
[Yes that guy is in shorts. Not everyone on the trails were sane.]
Then I climbed the last few steps to the top of Poon Hill...
I was really surprised at how many people had climbed those same stairs that morning to see the sunrise. There were probably 50-100 people when I got to the top. A lot of them were in the tower or in line at the coffee bar. That's right, some enterprising Nepali built and supplied a coffee/tea/hot chocolate shed at the top of Poon Hill.
More people streaming in like ants.
As the sun was creeping up I was taking pictures. Here is Fishtail Mountain.
I went up into the tower which was pretty treacherous as the metal steps were coated in melting ice. I then took some photos of other mountains in the range. I believe this one is Dhaulagiri.
Here's another of Fishtail with the sun beams shooting through.
Annapurna South and Annapurna I are shown here. Annapurna South is the one to the right but it is actually about 800m shorter than Annapurna South. Perspective is deceiving.
The sun finally getting above the mountains.
I decided that I had enough fun up in the tower elbowing people out of the way in order to take pictures so I went down to ground level with the masses. Here's the Dhaulagiri range and about a quarter of the people on Poon Hill.
I like the star effect on the sun in this next photo. Thanks goes to Chris for reminding me of this effect. Annapurna South is the peak to the left with Fishtail close to the sun. The guy in the ball cap at the bottom is Karma.
I really liked this picture, I think mostly because of the unknowing model that is looking toward the distance.
This next one is one of my favorites. I had to wait quite a bit in order to wait for people to get out of the shot. I also had to help a gaggle of French trekkers by taking a few photos for them.
Here I was trying to be artistic with my framing.
Right around this time Dawa came trotting up to our group as we were gathered and he had a backpack full of all types of hot beverages ready to be made and consumed. I had a wonderful cup of hot chocolate and a kit kat bar. It was awesome that he hiked all of the way up to Poon Hill just to provide us with hot drinks. After we were done we all decided that we had enough of taking pictures from this hilltop.
And finally proof that I was there (other than the photos I took).
After that shot we started our way down the steps back to camp. On the way down I took a few more shots and here is one of them. That's Dhaulagiri and the spiky peak to the right of center is Tukche.
The hike down was relatively quick. We probably returned to camp around 7:30am. We were told to pack our stuff and that breakfast would be served shortly. So I went to my tent and packed. And with that I was end this post and continue this day's story in the next post.