Episode 176: Langma La

Chivalry Is Not Dead. We packed up camp early this morning for the final ascent on our Kangshung Face trek: the push up Langma La, a 5400m (17,720 feet) pass that stood between us and the end of the trail.

Luckily no one was visited by the local demons although I’m not sure if people were completely free of their inner demons. Most of the group has been tense about Langma La for a few days now. It’s high and the route up to the pass is very steep. So, sleep did not come easily to everyone last night. It was also really, really cold last night and we woke up with frost on the inside of our tents.

Luckily yesterday’s poor weather has passed and we woke up this morning to a perfectly clear day. After a quick breakfast and packing (we’re getting pretty good at the routine by this point) it was time to head out. Or should I say, “head up”?

We all made it up the pass relatively easily. Yes it is high. Yes the going was steep. But we’re well seasoned to trekking in this part of the world so it truly wasn’t a problem. The only issue we faced was a wide sheet of black ice that covered the route about 3/4 of the way up to the pass. The ice was everywhere and really dangerous. The yaks had yet to pass us and so the path had not been cleared by hundreds of hoofs pounding the rock.

For a few minutes we tried throwing rocks against the ice to break it up or at least rough it up so we could gain purchase with our boots. No luck. We tried throwing gravel and sand across the ice sheet to gain traction but our efforts were in vain. The ice was too slick and the slope was too steep. The rocks and sand just slid downhill.

We joked that Purba should go heat up a thermos of hot water so we could pour it on the trail and melt the ice. Somehow that idea started to evolve and we came to the conclusion that warm water was the way to go and, by nature, we all have a built-in source for warm water. We would melt the ice ourselves. That’s right. It was time to pee on the rock.

Lobsang thought this was a great opportunity to show his affection for the group as well as his dedication to the team. If someone was going to pee on the ice, then dammit is was going to be him! This fine specimen of Tibetan ingenuity unleashed a torrent of antifreeze and within a minute or two it’s effects were clear. The ice was melting just enough to start exposing some rock across the trail. Eureka!

We all crossed and the day was saved.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 27:23