Picture: The Ancient Mystics, just part of the Tolken landscape which sits below base camp.
The weather continues to confuse us; either the clouds roll in and sprinkle unwelcome snow, or the skies are blue, but the mountains are full of anger with hurricane force winds above 7000m, their vengeance visible by the kilometre-plus plumes of snow.
Two nights ago, we got a taste of the mountain elemental forecast when base camp was hit by strong winds at 3 o'clock in the morning, which sent Buddhi into a whirlwind of activity storm-guying and dumping rocks on the cook tents for the rest of the night to prevent them from being blown away.
To escape the winds, Matt and I went on an oxygen holiday and decided to explore the landscape below base camp, which sits on a 2 kilometre thick shale band. Over the millennia, the wind and rain have eroded this shale into the most fantastical landscape of immense towers, minarets and other shapes and forms straight from a Tolken novel. Our progress into the oxygen rich environment was stopped at a 1000ft waterfall which had effortlessly cut into the soft rock leaving a perfect pipe to allow the cyan melt-water to charge through.
Beyond the waterfall, we could see a hidden valley, untouched by man guarded by 500 meter shale towers. In the meadows, veloceraptors flocked terrorising their prey, and in the skies, dragons belched sulphurous flames, and all the time the giant ice encrusted mountains looked on knowingly 3 kilometres above. They have seen this all before.
We have been a base camp for 1 month, and the views still impress and terrify. I feel incredibly humbled to think that only a few people have ever clapped eyes on this landscape, and without taking to the skies in a metal dragon, this elemental landscape will only be for the few who have good reason and ambition to venture into this wilderness.
Today, there are no plumes from the summit ridges of A3 and A4 and there are no clouds in the sky. Maybe the jet-stream winds have got bored and are terrorising some other hapless souls on other mountains, or perhaps it is a trap to lure us back into the cold oxygen starved mountain environment.
We have two weeks food left and soon we will have to play our final hand in this ludicrous giant casino.
Update 17:00hrs: Today the weather has been perfect, blue skies and what look like calm winds in the mountains and we have decided to show our hand... Our bags are packed and we are heading out tomorrow hopefully for the summit of Annapurna 3 by the East Ridge if the weather and conditions allow. We have 6 days of food and gas, and are estimating 5 days to the summit... but we shall see. Dave is going to keep the blog while we are away.