This is the day of the big pass—Bang Tue La at 15,700 feet. I set my alarm and get up before everyone else because I am still obsessed with Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake. I want to see the early morning sun on them. It takes me a long to warm up and motivate myself to leave the tent. But it is worth the effort. It’s crystal clear and the view is, once again, spectacular.
When the pink is gone from the mountains, I head back to camp to pack up and join the others in the trek to the pass. I use my typical strategy to get up the pass—one foot in front of the other at a steady pace I can maintain. Koren and Bill make it up first. Then Glen and I. Then the others. Our guides are amazed. They allotted 2 hours for the final climb, but we made it in under an hour.
Prayer Flags at the Pass
It is windy but clear at the pass. I feel great. We linger to take in the view. Koren, Glen, and I brought prayer flags that we had blessed by a Buddhist monk before we set out on our trek. Koren hangs the flags we brought in memory of her mother, my sister, who died just two weeks before we left the country. Glen hangs the flags we brought in memory of his mother, who died last year.
We modified the prayer flag tradition a bit be cause white vertical flags—108 of them—are traditionally placed on poles to remember the dead. The horizontal colored flags are hung to increase life, fortune, health, and wealth to all sentient beings. The flags will unravel slowly in the wind, thread by thread, over time. These threads carry good fortune and for us, they also carry the memory of Elizabeth and Juanita.
We don’t have much farther to go to our next camp, and we need to drop more than 2,600 feet. The trail is sharply downhill. We come over the crest of a ridge and see our lunch spot—an open meadow surrounded by the Lesser Himalayan range. As usual, the cook and horseman are already at the site. The table is set up with hot tea, rice, and other food. No doubt we'll have spicy peppers and cheese, a Bhutanese staple, with our meal.
We hike a short distance after lunch, and can already see our camp in the distance. Chorapang, our destination is at an elevation of 12,300 feet.