Dispatch 3: Two Tigers Holding Hands

Editor's note: For eight years, Telluride local/mountaineer Ben Clark and a few friends/professional colleagues have made Spring treks to the majestic Himalayas. Follow his adventures on Telluride Inside… and Out, including links to his regular podcasts. If you have missed any of Ben's posts, just type "Ben Clark" into Lijit Search to find them all.

Folks, this is my ninth Himalayan Expedition. I have seen crazy stuff happen before, but never anything like this.  We are on our way to the mountains but nowhere near where I thought when we landed in the heart of the Annapurna range just days ago.   21a.thumbnail
 
If you know me well, you know I often joke about getting a tattoo across my chest of two tigers holding hands with the statement "Expect the Unexpected" emblazoned underneath. Well…it is because my life as an adventurer and explorer has put me into some of the most twisted realities I can or can't imagine. I live life daily and this week has been no different.


 
When I strolled through town with my crew of friends, fresh off a twin otter flight to 9000' Jomsom, I was on cloud nine and headed to a place I'd never been. We were on our way to the dream trip of my lifetime, to climb and ski 20,800' Saribung in Mustang.  
 
I don't mean to be too aggrandizing here, but if you've ever hit the tarmac in this area, you're already well into an experience. Within moments we had joined our cook staff, reunited with our skis and expedition bags and only one key element was missing…where were the porters?
 
It was that realization that brought a direct question and then a horseman to the table.  How long will it take us to get to basecamp I asked Gelu, our cook for a third time. Four or five days, sir, he responded.  Across the table, with a glance that could cut a deck of cards our less than cherubic horseman replied "Fifteen days," then "you walk two more after that. There is no food for the horses at basecamp."  Our research abroad and locally contradicted this statement to no end.
 
Ok, so let's back this up for a minute, I just finished the last of six flights, thousands of dollars and months of planning to get here to negotiate with a horseman. We had known that we would need to get our gear deep into the mountains but everyone knew this would only take a few days. Something I was assured had already been taken care of was this detail and our route. Something I had no reason to doubt. We work with professional liasons in this country year after year and this is the first time we all sat down to realize that our fate was held in this horseman's calloused hands and not in ours.
 
Six hours of conversation later, only one truth remained. We were not going to the kingdom of Mustang to ski this fall. I was crushed; we hadn't the time, we hadn't the gumption to add three weeks to our trip. Luckily we also didn't have any pressure, this was on our dime and we were free to do what we wanted. That's how we roll with Ski the Himalayas these days. This trip was ours and we were joined by friends who we love to share the mountains with…and we're still shooting a film, about climbing and skiing 6,000 meter peaks in less than three weeks. All I can say is I used every bit of knowledge from nine expeditions over here to create a totally new plan and not go crazy or reroute us to some hard core new objective…we're right in line with what we originally wished to accomplish.
 
Stay tuned to the next dispatch and find out how we ended up in a deep valley, surrounded by high peaks, only to be living and breathing more mountain air and returning to some unfinished business in the Muktinath Himal. We have two objectives above us and a great story already behind us!
 
Live the dream,
 
Ben Clark

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