Sangay and I enjoyed our day off after what turned out to be quite a quick 38 kilometers into Padum. It had taken us just under 8 hours; an impressive effort given the headwind we faced for the last 19 kilometers. I'd had the opportunity to catch up on some admin, had a wander around the somewhat small capital of the valley and we'd stoked up on supplies for the second leg of the trip. We were ready for part two, except we lacked the porters! Fortunately, they were on their way and within a few hours they'd caught a hitch to join us.
This part of the trek followed a single, narrow valley with convenient villages to camp and stock up on Maggi noodles, biscuits and milk as often as we needed. My porters were never keen on following a road without getting a lift so they'd often wait for hours before deciding none was coming and so they'd have to walk.
This proved incredibly frustrating, and on more than one occasion I waited for over two hours before they'd make an appearance. One day I'd reached Amnu village at 1pm. I waited and waited desperate to continue the final 6 kilometers we'd planned, but when they turned up at 4pm there was no moving them. All of a sudden I had a mutiny on my hands. They claimed they'd already walked their set 7 hours and wouldn't continue today. They started questioning why they hadn't received any money and how much they were going to be paid. We were in the middle of nowhere - no mobile reception and no way to contact my fixer who would be able to explain the issues. After some persuasion they seemed to feel more comfortable, but we'd stay in Amnu for the evening.
The following morning it was as if nothing had happened. They were raring to go despite the rather nerveracking bridge we had to cross to start the day. And they walked and walked, covering 24 kilometers, their furthest distance yet! It was as if the whole mutiny situation had never happened!
As a final treat, we had one more pass - Shingo-La. We knew there would be snow but just not sure how much. As we rounded Gombo Rambon (and area known as "The Protector"), we caught sight of just how low the snow line was. We'd camp at the bottom of the valley and set off early. It was a cold night, perhaps -8 degrees, but I'd begun to get my sleeping set up right to stay warm enough. We set off the following day at 6.15am and quickly made our way up to the snow level. The snow was still hard much to my relief and the gradual slope up proved straightforward. The views were breathtaking. We worked our way up and within three hours we'd reached the summit. A few photos at the top and we made a move, not wanting the snow to melt before we'd made a start down. It was hot and sunny so didn't take long before that hard snow turned to slush. And then my life became more difficult. I followed Sangay as best I could, but the angles of the slopes and the speed he walked saw me slipping down a few slopes. At one point as we rounded some ice overhanging the road I slipped, resulting in Sangay having to grab me to stop me falling. That was my closest call!
Fortunately, the conditions eased and the road began to emerge. A little further and we decided to take the opportunity to set up camp in an empty roadworkers hut. At least we'd have a slightly warmer night, or so we thought. But the weather wasn't having any of it. As the snow began to fall quite heavily for a number of hours, we had to take a call as to whether to stay put at the risk of an avalanche or pack up and move 6 kilometers downhill as darkness fell. Given the choice, what would you do?! We upped and moved, reaching a safe spot at 8.30 pm. We found another damp roadworkers hut to stay in where I had a somewhat uncomfortable night. On the plus side we'd only have 20 kilometers to the road making for a very easy final day, more so for the porters who managed to get a lift!
Despite this being the easier part of the trek on paper, it certainly had its challenges!