The second card I received from Kathmandu, Nepal, just three short weeks after the devastating earthquake on 25 April pictures a river crossing in the Manang Valley, close to the border with Tibet and to the north of the Annapurna mountain range. Most groups trekking around the Annapurna will take resting days in Manang to acclimatize to the high altitude before taking the 5,416-meter (17,769-foot) pass at Thorong La to the Muktinath shrine and the valley of the Kali Gandaki. Most heavy goods in the area are transported on mule trains or carried by porters along the mountain trails. A small airport was built recently and a road linking Manang to the Annapurna conservation area was completed in February 2011. Besides catering to the trekking community, there is some agriculture and yaks are herded there. A medical center specializing in high-altitude sickness is also found in the town.
I have been fascinated by the Himalaya and have wanted to visit Tibet and Nepal ever since reading Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard during a motorcycle-camping trip to Colorado with my dad, circa 1979. I also read a number of accounts about climbing mountains, particularly Everest, starting around this time although I don’t recall the first one I read. I had accepted a teaching position in the Annapurna region a little more than ten years ago but that fell through due to the civil unrest there at the time and I wound up in Thailand instead. The region remains at the top of my bucket list and I was affected deeply by the earthquake. My heart goes out to all those lives devastated there over the past three weeks.