(This is a personal account of Ms Hilary Fouweather, from the United Kingdom, on her trek in the Annapurna Circuit region during the severe snow storm of October 2014. Hilary was trekking with our company, Langtang Ri Trekking & Expedition, and one of our most experienced and knowledgeable guides Mr Pratap Gurung.)
We planned to spend a few days on the Annapurna circuit before ascending a side valley to Naar. From here there was a high level remote mountain route which took us over the Terri La (5600m) and then dropped into Upper Mustang. However, the events of October 14th 2014 overtook us.
After 2 days on the trail we had 32 hours of continuous rain, the intensity of which was unprecedented. Our Langtang Ri guide, Pratap, had not seen rain like it, even in the monsoon period. Fortunately for us Langtang Ri had phoned through to Pratap and had given us ample warning of the storm to come. Instead of camping we were immediately offered rooms which we gratefully accepted. Despite the heavy rain we continued the next day with an unplanned rest day to follow in order to dry out. It wasn’t just us that needed to dry out – our porters, food and equipment also needed some respite from the rain. However news started to trickle in as to what was happening in the high passes above us.
Mr. Pratap Gurung – senior guide
A phenomenal amount of snow had been dumped making these high level crossings very dangerous indeed. As groups started to come down from the passes a tragic picture started to emerge. Pratap talked to a guide with very severe frostbite to his hands as he had attempted to clear a way for his group. A section which normally would have taken 2 hours to complete had taken 17 hours to negotiate. Even worse he met a lone porter from a group of 10 plus 3 clients and a guide team. He was the only survivor from an avalanche that had struck their camp. Local yak herders were also among the missing, presumed dead.
As we headed up the valley to Dharmasala our trek was accompanied by the constant drone of helicopters which were looking for the missing and ferrying the survivors down to the valley. All this information painted a grim picture of what was ahead of us. At all times Pratap kept us informed of what was happening. Thus, when we made the decision to retreat it was very much an informed decision thanks to Pratap. I very much appreciated that he simply gave us the facts and we made our decision accordingly without any pressure from the Nepali team. Pratap was in constant contact by mobile phone with LangtangRi Trekking Co. who were clearly very concerned for our welfare.
Plan B was to go over the Thorung La but when we returned to the Annapurna circuit that idea had to be shelved as this pass had also suffered avalanche problems with yet more fatalities. Our only hope of getting to Upper Mustang was to try to reach Jomsom by road in 3 days. This had a series of logistical problems which Pratap took in his stride. From Jomsom we took only 4 porters and successfully completed a 10 day tea house tour of Upper Mustang – our main objective for the trip.
Our thanks go to LangtangRi and our guide Pratap for enabling us to overcome the difficulties the storm presented and to successfully conclude our trek. I would have no hesitation in travelling with Langtang Ri Trekking & Expedition again. This was my 7th trek with Langtang Ri and as always they have provided a friendly, efficient and reliable service.