The alarm went off before sunrise, the weather outside was unchanged. Silently cursing our luck I took another cold shower and packed the bag for a daytrip. I had hoped to ascend Tserko Ri, but in this weather the trail was nowhere to be seen. Only faintly could you make out the glow of the moon in the sky. The backup plan was Kyanjin Ri – the peak above the village and easier to find: go straight up.
We found a trail behind the village that was heading in the right direction and chose to follow it. Soon enough we had no vision of the valley, or the sky. Nevertheless, despite the gloomy start I had hope. Mountain weather is tricky – usually mornings are clear as the winds and low temperatures eliminate excess humidity, and then clouds arrive later as sun heats air and melts snow. This regularity, however, is not that regular – less of a rule, more of a guideline. The rule in mountains is to be ready for anything – weather can change at the flip of a coin and clear skies turn to thunderstorm before you have the chance to reach shelter. I was hoping that this day the sun would disperse the current clouds before making new ones.
As the path edged around the mountain we saw the first glimmers of hope. Clouds seemed to be parting and to my astonishment, what I though had been the moon was in truth the sunrise lit snow of Langtang peak towering above all else. Our pace slowed as the path entered a side-valley – every once in a while we would get glimpses of the mountains far behind us and the view kept getting better and better. We were also beginning the feel the scarcity of oxygen. At that height the oxygen content of air had dropped to 12% (at sea level it is 21%) which made us climb in spurts – you ascend a bit, start breathing heavily, take a break, repeat.
The side-valley provided a more gentle ascent, but it also restricted our vision to only what was behind us. After about an hour of hiking up the side-valley, there seemed to come a change in clouds. This made me hope that views on the main valley and Langtang peak might be opening up, so we decided to take a steep shortcut to the ridge. Easier said than done though.
The altitude made climbing very time-consuming, but the moment I reached the ridge I was rendered speechless. While we had been inside the side-valley, most of the clouds had dispersed and the entire Langtang valley together with all mountain peaks stood before me. It was beautiful.
We spent a while right there, catching our breath and taking photos. Then, in hopes of reaching the summit before clouds return, we continued ascending along the ridge. The higher we got, the more laborious was the climb. At this altitude the process of ascending had become a series of “let me catch my breath for a minute” stops. This was however made much easier by the view around us. The clouds kept rolling in and around the ridge, constantly altering the landscape around us and giving us new glimpses of what lay all around.
We reached Kyanjin peak around mid-day. Standing at 4850m high, the view was incredible in all directions. Beneath Langtang peak, its glacier was snaking down towards us. Due east of it, the Yubra glacier icefall was glistening in the sun. On the other side, the peaks of Gangchenpo were piercing clouds and the pass of Ganja-la, through which a trail heads straight back towards Kathmandu, was enveloped in snow.
The peak itself was marked by a stone cairn flying colorful Tibetan prayer flags. We were not the only ones to summit it that day – some were leaving as we arrived, others could still be seen trudging up the slope. The sun was out, which made the cold wind bearable. Though clouds had started multiplying again, the weather was still perfect for enjoying the scenery.
We decided to take a different route back down, a longer one that would take us away from other climbers and closer to the glaciers. This scenic route forced us to do some rock-scrambling, but soon enough we found ourselves on greener ground surrounded by yaks, who were looking at us as curiously as we were looking at them. As far as the eye could see, we were the only people around. After enjoying the warm afternoon sun in small the windless valley, we started on the tiny scrambling footpath back to the village, hoping to make it before sundown, before the cold comes to bite and the darkness hides the trail.