Paiyu to Khorbutse : august 16, 2010 : 12,870ft

One of the porters crosses the desert that appeared in the middle of the glacier. ©Ahsan Iqbal

Our first day on the glacier was truly stunning. What looked like mounds of rock was actually moving, transforming, ever-changing ice. The mouth of the glacier = one big black orifice spewing gray water. The side you could see gray striations in the ice. Level upon level of ice, sand and sediment. Trango Towers and Cathedral Peak, Paiyu and Lilligo peaks all enveloped in cloud for most of the morning but now stand towering above glowing browns and grays, leaking vertical strands of black mineral. Glacial pools glow green and year to year the trail moves, flows and is often enveloped by the glacier it sits atop.

The meeting of the Baltoro Glacier and the Braldu River ©Ahsan Iqbal 2010

The mouth of the glacier. The layers are the snowfalls that have been compacted so you can figure out the history of the glacier by the cross section. ©Ahsan Iqbal 2010

You would run into these glacial ponds. Matthew thought there was some copper to make them so green. ©Ahsan Iqbal

I am becoming fast friends with Ayub who stops to point out where the trail was, where mountains are and where are path will go. He throws his arm around my shoulder for a photo and it is at this point that I am certain I will have a forever friend. Murad and I still share mischievious glances, smiles and waves over the glacial lakes and crevasses just to let the other know we’re still there. We started several rounds of contests at lunch – and he – not surprisingly, won most of them.

Ayub was feeling thirsty so he slid down the side to the glacial pool below for a drink of water. Now he is climbing back on to the trail. ©Ahsan Iqbal

Murad decided he was not tired enough and wanted to play human tricks, at which point Ignacio and I were both trying to match him for feat after feat. ©Ahsan Iqbal

I have been shocked that I have enjoyed the past few days on the trail as much as I have. The morning preparation is always – and will continue to be – a constant frustration – but somehow, as soon as my feet hit the trail, my mood goes up and my spirits soar. Why it takes everyone so long to throw on clothes and breakdown tents is beyond my capacity to understand, but it is a reality and so I am learning to be patient and trying to help without sounding or acting like a complete asshole.

Ayub has a whistle that he plays in the evening as it gets dark. It is a beautiful accompaniment  to the milky way stretching across the inky black sky.

The mighty Trango Towers looms over the camp. "Nameless Tower" juts above the rest to a height ot 6289 m or 20,754 ft. ©Ahsan Iqbal

Today was also the first day where I was hit with the altitude. Rarely have I felt the need to not only breathe the air, but drink it into my lungs. I also have never been so tired after blowing up my thermarest. That is where I am now – lying on my thermarest under a sunny blue sky that plays hide and seek with the clouds. The air has been cool all day, which has put a spring in my step. Behind me, Paiyu peak is swaddled in clouds – as if they are protecting it from our prying eyes. It reminds me of an old man robed in a white with a long white beard coming out of the mist – or something equally enchanting.