Landscapes of Asia
It was always going to be tight. To trek up to the base camp and back from the last lodge, in mid-winter, would take at least eight hours. That included a bit of time for tea and some food with the more serious mountaineers camping at the foot of the Annapurna Massif. At just over 8,000 metres Annapurna is the tenth tallest peak on the planet. On the return, with the sky a cloudless deep blue, the views were magical; looking down a snow-covered natural ampitheatre towards the fishtail shaped summit of Machapuchare. I kept stopping to take photos. My two trekking companions were now tiny figures in the distance. I started to hurry as the sun had disappeared behind the peaks. I calculated that I still had a couple of hours until the light faded completely. Then I noticed the clouds below. A bank of thick cloud was rising fast up the narrow gorge. Within minutes I was enveloped in a grey damp mist, unable to see more than a few feet in front. My heartbeat quickened as I started to panic realizing I might not find my way back before nightfall. And if I didn't I would freeze to death. There was nothing to do but trudge blindly downwards through the snow, praying I was heading in the right direction. And then, almost as suddenly as they had appeared, the clouds lifted. There against the perfect blue backdrop was the shining peak of the sacred fishtail.