The following is an excerpt from Jeff Fuchs’ Tea and Mountain Journals, a blog by explorer, photographer and writer Jeff Fuchs. Jeff is the 2011 recipient of WildChina’s Explorer Grant. He and friend Michael Kleinwort are currently traveling through unknown portions of the Tsalam route in Qinghai.
Below is a piece from their journey…
We once again pass the 4,500 metre barrier. Our days have at times been an unending series of ascents and dips – climbing up only to descend around the next desolate bend. It is in this way the land dictates the pace entirely.
A laser-like sun is bouncing off of the ice, ratcheting up the heat. We haven’t seen the colour green in a week – all that we have seen is coming out of its dry winter shell.
The grinding of our past days has taken relatively minor tolls on us. Michael’s feet are in dire condition, though, with his nails falling off in his socks and an entire layer of his sole slowly peeling off, but he has been powering through the constant discomfiture with stoic tenacity. It is only one night when I see the extent of surface damage that I marvel.
My single ailment was ‘received’ this morning while loading the yak. My four-legged friend twice cracked the identical spot of my left ankle within four minutes with a solid blow from a hoof. They were shuddering blows that resonated down into the frozen earth below me. There is a strange twinge in the left foot just below where the hoof hit, though nothing that affects motion (yet). It has given me cause to be wary of the massive hooves of our black and white friends.
We haven’t yet glimpsed the Amne Machin range on this day as there is layer after layer of mountains that obscure or long view but at one juncture Gamzon shouts something that gets taken by the wind. She repeats, “Nom’sho” pointing further northwest.
Moments later, while trudging through melting snow, she looks over to Michael and I nodding…and there it is.
A numbing view of a valley (Nom’sho) that is so vast that it seems to continue to expand as we take it in. I need to swivel my head back and forth to take it in, to fit it in to my mind’s eye. To the left a powdering of snow rests on stone peaks, between which are shimmering rivulets that wink with the sun’s blaze upon them. Another valley to the left – massive and flat careens off west. What holds us is the great funneling valley and passageway ahead with Amne off to our right. There is that ever-present urge in me to flit across to its base and begin the long ascent up its cloaked flanks…it is an urge that has been fulfilled many times, but will never cease. A friend once termed this “the eternal hunger”, this often tunnel-vision desire to climb.
Michael quietly pads up beside me and speaks of this space. “There is nothing at all here to muddle this space, besides us”. While he contemplates this stunning vastness I’m dreaming about ascending a not so distant crest on the mountain, but knowing that to do so will be to offend the deities that the locals hold dear – akin to a kind of sacrilege. The two tongues duel it out in my head, one a desire that courses through every vein, another of enormous respect for the locals and their precious animistic mecca’s.