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  • Writer's pictureHannah Bywater

Polar Dipping at 4600m

Annapurna Circuit Day 6 - This has been my favourite day so far on the circuit. I hiked up to see my first glacier lake here in Nepal!

Now that I am at higher elevation it is time for me to take an acclimatization day. This means staying for two nights at the same altitude in order to give your body some time to adjust. Last night around the fire the other guest Lulu and one of the staff Raaj and I made a plan to do a little day hike to Ice Lake together. Raaj had been working at the lodge for 2 months and this was his first day off so he was excited to go on this adventure. He is from Chitwan, southern Nepal and although he has been working up here for the past couple months this would be his first time ever trekking in his life. From the lodge it is less than 6km which sounds easy but the challenging part about it is that the elevation gain is around 1100m. Because this is a day hike and I would be coming back down to the lodge, I could leave my bag behind and just bring a day pack with water and snacks. This was so exciting for me. The three of us started to hike together in the morning but shortly after Lulu took off like some super athlete and basically ran up the mountain. Raaj and I couldn’t keep up with her so we kept to our own pace. For me, this was the most challenging part of the whole trek to date. We would take many breaks and just sit looking across the valley at the beautiful snowy mountain peaks.

Once we reached the top we felt nothing but excitement. So far this is the highest altitude I had ever reached in my life, at 4600m. I saw that the lake wasn’t entirely frozen so I decided I had to go in for a celebratory polar dip. Luckily for me there was one spot in the lake that hadn’t completely frozen over. I like to believe it was waiting for me. I wasn’t prepared for this with a towel or swimsuit but I didn’t let that stop me. I stripped down to my birthday suit and walked right in. It wasn’t very deep but I was just glad to get in. This was exactly what my body needed trekking day after day for the past week. By the time I had finished my friends had started making their way back down.

On my way down I ran into my friend Peter, who I have been running into a lot on the trail. He was on his way up to the lake. He asked if I enjoyed my swim and I was confused about how he knew about it. He said that when he would ask people in passing how they enjoyed the lake, everyone on the trail mentioned this girl swimming. Apparently there were a few people that came up to the lake and saw me while I was dipping. I must have been enjoying too much to notice. Peter could recognize me as I was walking down and then it clicked, he knew that I was the talk of the trail. When I caught up with Raaj he told me that he started to feel sick, maybe from the altitude and needed to start going down. Then he started yelling about how he couldn’t believe that I went in the lake and seemed so comfortable in the water. He said that he had never seen anyone do something like that before and was worried I was going to die, lol how sweet. Little did he know I practice cold water exposure frequently in Canada. On the way down it was incredibly windy, I felt that if I lifted my arms like wings I would fly away like a bird. I tried and it didn’t work but it was undoubtably very powerful wind. We passed a herd of yaks which were the first I had seen on the trek. I was finally in yak territory! They have these red fluffy tags in their ears that look like earrings. Raaj explained to me that this is how the people insure their animals. If the animals have some sort of accident and die like getting hit by a vehicle or more commonly, slip and tumble down the mountain, the owner can get money back from somewhere. Where that money came from was unclear but anyways the earring is proof of insurance.

The walk from the lodge to Manang was only 45 minutes and it sits around the same altitude so it is still a suitable place to stay the night according the to acclimatization guidelines. My friend James, the angel who gave me a ride on his motorbike the other day, mentioned he had a lodge in Manang. Although I enjoyed my stay last night in Munji and sharing this beautiful day with my new friend Raaj, I was looking forward to moving forward. I walked to Manang and found The Royal Manang, James’ place. I opened the door to go into the dining area and practically walked right into him. He was surprised to see me and I was excited to see him. The world cup was playing so everyone was sat in front of the TV watching it. Sitting right in front was George! Out of all of the accommodations we laughed at the fact that we found each other at the same one once again. Not only this but some other swiss friends that I met briefly a dew days ago were also staying here. It’s so nice to be running into all of these friendly faces! Although I am doing this trek alone, I have managed to find a sense of connection and community along the way.


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