Pictures: Nick and the ladies; Pete entertains the local kids; Nick is at the bottom of the kiddy scrum; The Team, Back (L to R) Nick, Pemba, Dave, Pete, Front (L to R), Santosh, Buddhi, Matt.
After nearly six weeks of bad climbing weather, the weather gods smile and give us a small window of opportunity to escape from our home for the last 6 weeks...A nervous Pemba pilot strolls round his aircraft as the early morning sun clears Annapurna 4 warming it's frozen body. He hopes the battery is still warm enough to start the massive rotors; there will be only one shot then he will be calling out the RAC for a jump start.A call on the phone confirms that Pokhara airport is open - for the moment - the fog of yesterday has evaporated, but the cumulous clouds are building. We must hurry.I strap into the front seat and gaze in bewilderment at the dazzling array of dials as Pemba throws the switch draining the battery as the electric starter motor takes the load while the gas turbine catches. After 30 seconds or so, the Jet A1 fuel is burning bright in the turbine with the exhaust temperature rising past the 600 centigrade mark – perhaps a bit hot for Buddhi's base camp baking.We fly close to the 'Ancient Mystics' and over the 'Lost World' of towers and crumbling minarets – this will be the last time I see this fantasy landscape as we quickly loose altitude and as we enter the Seti Kohla gorge, I feel like a small fly in a very large corridor.Trees! Houses! Oxygen! People! Six weeks of isolation has taken its toll on the senses – even the mundane is now interesting.I climb out of the taxi and am hit by a wave of heat – I am not sure my thermals, insulated jacket and trousers are quite necessary.Curious locals start to flock to see what is happening and soon I am mobbed by kids who are fascinated by the movie I shot out the window of the chopper 5 minutes ago. Don't get too close, I haven't washed for nearly six weeks.Nick gets lots of attention from some girls as Matt steps out of the helicopter. Dave chortles "you better make the most of it Nick, the handsome-one has arrived". The girls do not react; Nick asks why - "he looks like a girl with his long blond hair" is their giggling reply.We load up the helicopter with some of the gear and all four of us, the maximum load now greatly increased due to the low altitude as we speed to Pokhara airport only a few flight minutes away and onwards to Kathmandu, beer, traffic, international flights, wives, girlfriends, jobs, careers and crappy British weather.....Pete