The first part of day three lead us through the magical rhododendron forest that has made Mardi Himal so famous. We did the trek in October which means that we didn’t actually get to see the flowers in bloom but the place felt no less magical. It would be cool to return and do the trek in spring to witness what some people, including our guide, claim to be one of the most beautiful stretches in all of Nepal.
After the rhododendron forest the landscape quickly got more barren and rockier, the wind picked up, and it got noticeably colder. A few hours after we had left Forrest Camp we made it to Badal Danda where we had more dhal bhat and enjoyed some warming tea. We were also lucky enough to catch a few glimpses of the magnificent views before a thick fog that would follow us for the rest of the day rolled in.
During the last stretch of day three we followed a ridge through very barren terrain. Sometime in the late afternoon we arrived to High Camp, the highest located camp on the trek, and what would be our base for the next two nights.
We spent the evening planning for the coming day and our final ascent up to Mardi Himal Base Camp. This ascent can be done in a few different ways.
You can choose to go to either the first viewpoint (located about a third of the way) or the second viewpoint (located halfway to base camp) and then turn back and walk all the way past High Camp down to one of the lower camps.
The other option, and the one we chose, is to walk all the way up to base camp which takes between 2 and 3 hours. By doing this you get to enjoy some of the most awe inspiring views in the Annapurna region before you return to High Camp where you spend an extra night before descending.
We had to wake up before sunrise. It was freezing cold (way below zero C) but the sky was clear and we had a good feeling that the weather would work out in our favor. We had a quick breakfast before heading off in the dark towards the ridge that leads all the way to the foot of Mardi Himal.
A few minutes after leaving High Camp the path got steeper and soon we were using both hands and feet to climb over rocks and cliffs. This continued for about an hour before we reached the top of the climb where we got wonderful views over the Himalayas and its surrounding hills at sunrise.
We continued walking to the first viewpoint where we sat down and enjoyed a second breakfast (we are the Vegans with Appetites after all) consisting of traditional Tibetan bread and dried nuts and fruits.
After the second breakfast we walked along a ridge that was completely surrounded by some of the world’s highest peaks. Thanks to the great weather we even got a chance look down on the path that leads towards Annapurna Base Camp.
It was no later than noon when we finally reached Mardi Himal Base Camp at 4,500 meters (14,800 ft)!
We were both exhausted from the climb but neither of us could feel anything else other than pure exhilaration. All of the long, strenuous days of trekking and freezing temperatures served to bring us to this very moment right here. And in that moment, we couldn’t help but think that we didn't want to be anywhere else in the world. It is honestly hard to describe the overwhelming wave of emotions we felt reaching the top, in either words or pictures.
Perhaps, one of the most incredible feelings of all was that we were up there alone. Out of the 10 other trekkers that set out that morning, we were the only ones that reached Mardi Himal Base Camp.
As we descended back down to High Camp, we reflected on how grateful we were to experience the majestic Himalayan mountain range up close. There is something about the solitude of being in nature surrounded by snow capped mountains which feel almost close enough to touch. It is something everybody should try to experience at least once in their lifetime.
We had originally planned to do the trek over 6 days but after talking to other trekkers at High Camp we decided to try to do it in 5. After the last Dhal Bhat of the trek we headed down a steep, rocky and quite demanding path way all the way down to Siddhing where a jeep that we had pre-booked was waiting for us (ask your guide or the staff at High Camp to arrange this for you).
The ride back to Pokhara was extremely chaotic. The "road" followed a several hundred meter high drop and was barely big enough for the jeep to fit on. On top of that our driver was constantly talking on his phone while carelessly handling the jeep with one hand.
After a two hour nerve wracking ride along tiny roads through the Nepalese countryside we finally made it back to Pokhara just in time to experience the last night of Diwali - The Festival of Lights.