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  Annapurna Base Camp

The mountains draw you inwards to the Sanctuary. In the early morning the summits are untouched by mist or cloud. Then clouds form throughout the day and drift in the motionless air. Then as dusk approaches the cloud thins to reveal once again the great summits lit by the rays of the sunset.

To get to the camp at 4200 metres you pass through a variety of landscapes and flora as you plunge deeper into a narrowing valley with the towering walls of the mountains pressing closer and the river pouring with elemental force over massive rocks.

The trail is a vivid illustration of the effect of altitude on vegetation. From the lush forests and cascading terraces of millet, barley and rice at the start of the trail, to the austere and bare hills and the rushing mountain river with great stones as obstacles: the section could almost be Scotland.

Parts of the trail are dangerous in winter since avalanches can pour with sudden and unannounced force from hidden snowfields far above the rock walls. Finally the trail turns a corner and proceeds into the Sanctuary; only grasses now cover the landscape and all the bamboo and rhododendron forests have been left behind at lower and moister altitudes.

The mountains have gradually revealed themselves and you are now in a huge and glorious amphitheatre. Wisps of cloud curl around the summits and larger drifts of cloud start to float up from the main valley you have traversed. It is a blazing spectacle of light. Clouds coalesce and form, in only thirty minutes. It may feel warm in the sunshine, but as soon as the mist thickens it feels cold again.

At night you’ll see the Milky Way like a long waving cloud, and myriads of stars. Then comes the glorious pre-dawn light. Then the incandescent gold on the tops.

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