The hike to Ghorepani ("horse water") was grueling. We pretty much gained back all the altitude we lost from Jomsom. We started off very slowly at 7am with Thakur and Joseph, but after climbing to the first pass, we went ahead on our own. It was still very cloudy out with absolutely no views of the mountains, but the valley we traversed from the pas was quiet scenic, helping assuage some of our disappointment with the weather so far. We were traveling solely on foot trail now, with no donkeys or jeeps, only the occasional cow. There were beautiful stone steps built into the trail to aid all the steep sections. Around noon we reached the Serendipity lodge in the village of Sikha, and had lunch. While we were eating we chatted with a couple from Amsterdam, and then it started raining.
Joseph & Thakur caught up to us as we finished lunch. We headed up in the rain with our Goretex on, but got way too hot, so we shedded the rain layer and just hiked up in our t-shirts. Aside from a dog that followed us for half an hour, we were by ourselves most of the way up. The trail was really steep, and after slowly slogging up, we made it to Ghorepani at 3:30.
Thakur told us to stay at a lodge called the Snow Land, but when we got into the village we were confused by a place we found called the Snow View and checked in there. We were a little surprised he recommended it because it was pretty grungy, but we shrugged our shoulders and wandered into the village. While in the village we found a board with a map of all the hotels and noticed another place called Snow Land up the hill. We went up and checked it out and concluded this must have been the correct lodge because it was a fair bit nicer, so we booked two rooms -- one with a bathroom and one without. We decided to take the room without the bathroom because it was at the end of the hall we figured it would be quieter. We went back to the Snow View and gathered up our backpacks and returned the key for our room. They gave us a bit of the stink eye, but did not seem surprised. It seemed apparent that people make that mistake often.
The sun was peeking through the clouds a bit, so we sat on the steps in town and shard a cinnamon roll and waited for Thakur & Joseph. The air started to get chilly again, so we went up to the lodge and had tea and waited. Around 5 it started to rain again, and then just a few minutes later they showed up. They were very relieved to finally be there and grateful that we had a room ready for them. Almost as soon as they walked through the door it started to absolutely dump outside. We ordered up a large pot of masala tea for Joseph (his favorite). While we were waiting for them, the Belgian couple that we met at Kagbeni showed up for tea, and we had a pleasant chat with them while they waited out the squall.
After dinner, we made plans to head up to Poon Hill at 4:45 in the morning if the sky was clear. Poon Hill is a popular viewing point just up from Ghorepani, with views of two 8,000 meter peaks, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna. We were not optimistic at all, however, having been short-changed on the weather the entire trip since we left Muktinath. We hit the sack at 8 that evening, completely knackered from the long day.
At 4:30 we woke up and skeptically peeked out our window, but to our amazement we saw stars! We scrambled out of bed and got ready and set out at 4:45. Joseph and Thakur had already left, but we passed them about halfway up. We reached the top of Poon Hill at 5:30, just as the sun was sending it's first rays of dim light over the horizon. Our minds were absolutely blown by the view as light slowly began to illuminate them. Dhaulagiri, Annapurna 1 and Annapurna 2, Hiunchuli and Machapachre were perfectly clear, massive frozen peaks so close and vivid you could see the snow flutings and massive rock faces in vivid detail.
Not coincidentally, the folks from the Snow View had set up a coffee stand on top of the hill. While we were admiring the view, sipping over-sugared, over-creamed, and watered-down coffee, Aliza and Asaf showed up! We had not seen them since Kagbeni, but it took them two days to go from Tatopani to Ghorepani, so we caught up to them.