Sunrise at 5,000 meters on the Annapurna mountain range

Sunrise on the Annapurna mountain range
Sunrise on the Annapurna mountain range at approx 5,000 meters

A high altitude sunrise in Nepal

I thought it rather apt that considering I am currently (hopefully) making my way back from the Everest Base Camp I would publish a photograph I took at nearly the same time back in 2008 from the Annapurna Circuit Trek.

Today is also when the date on the top right hand of this website should roll over to 7 years …

Facts from behind the lens of this photograph:

  • December and January are the coldest months in Nepal and there are few trekkers out on the trails
  • The Annapurna Circuits highest point is the Thorung La pass (5,416m/17,769ft)
  • I took this photograph as I left high camp at 5.30am and began the ascent to the pass just as the sun came up over the mountains at about 7.12am
  • The photograph is probably higher than 5,000 meters as it’s between high camp and Thorung La pass

The Story behind the photograph

At lower camp I stopped to eat and was so cold from the wind I put on every item of clothing I had.  The hardest thing wasn’t actually the altitude, nor the cold, but the wind. It was penetrating and rabid. 3 shirts, and a windbreaker jacket. Yes, I was woefully under-prepared.

I’d already learned my lesson in Manang about not stopping for acclimatization. Sleep isn’t easy once it hits. The day before my head had begun pounding again as I made my way up to high camp for the night.

At high camp the temperature dropped that night to -25. My water bottles were freezing up so I slept with them to prevent them from completely turning into ice blocks. I’m also not ashamed to say I slept with a bottle of my own urine as a makeshift hot water bottle!

Crossing the Thorung La pass in winter

It lightly snowed the previous night, but by 4am the sky was clear over high camp. A breakfast of cold pancakes and ice water were the only things available as there was only one lodge open and it wasn’t a friendly one.

With ice crunching under foot I set off with my guide in the darkness. Dawn at 5000 meters is pretty spectacular. The strong winds and deathly cold makes it even more surreal. Due to the surrounding peaks we didn’t get a glimpse or feel of the sun until 7am.

I measured -20 degrees before the thermostat stopped working. We later got a recording of a wind chill of -42. We continued to make our way through a lost trail over shin deep glaring snow.

I remember trying to drink and hearing the crunch of my frozen beard against the bottle as I tried in vain to find some liquid in the frozen ice block that had formed.

Looking up ahead one got the feeling of being bounced around by icy spikes of wind, all the while searching for the prayer flags signalling the peak of the pass.

Before we reached it I remember thinking that this was the hardest outdoor physical challenge I’ve ever done.

Looking back on it things would have been easier if I’d gone more prepared with proper clothing. But now as I prepare for the Everest base camp trek in similar conditions, I probably wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!

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5000 Meter sunrise in Nepal
5000 Meter sunrise in Nepal

Please note I’m currently offline trekking in similar conditions as above. Please support this post by taking a look at the new edition of my First Time Trekking in Nepal guidebook.

This is an additional photograph feature from my world travel photography gallery, documenting the story behind the picture 


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30 Replies to “Sunrise at 5,000 meters on the Annapurna mountain range”

  1. Wow, you made it!! The awe-inspiring journey of 7 years!! The sunrise in this photo brings ray of hope for me :) The EBC trek surely will be another most valuable experience you collect for a lot of people’s dream ;)

    1. Thanks Mandy, just back :)

      Going through the Everest Photos will take some time. Planning on doing a day by day of what it was like to do in the winter. Not sure everyone will like it, but that’s what a journal like this is built for I guess!

  2. Great photo and story. Sunrises are always the ones I enjoy the most. They show me the start of a new day.

    That’s another thing to consider as you make it into 2012!

  3. Wow again! Our sunrise wherever we were on Annapurna, was beautiful too,but I had no camera as such, so was a bit cranky I wouldn’t come into the digital era and get one with batteries and buttons…but you have great pics! Oh, the memories of the snow…ahhh. So glad you are up & into it again.
    All the best…

    1. Well, if you go again I might suggest taking a bridge camera rather than a heavy DLR. Especially in winter unless you have some equipment to protect it from the cold. I met quite a few whose camera’s jammed up in the cold!

  4. Well done mate, that’s a photo to remember. I’d love to do a similar climb one day. Looking forward to hearing your comparison between treks.

  5. Great work. Question for you once you’ve returned from Everest.

    I’ve had problems with cameras not working in cold conditions. How did you manage this photo in minus twenty?

    Would be great if you could share this as I just read another post by where he’s had all sorts of problems in Iceland.

    Looking forward to your reply when you’re back


    1. Hi Martin,

      Great question. I had a bridge camera with me, so no moving parts like mirrors etc. I met several people from back then, and this time who had DSLR’s freeze up.

      One small tip was that I kept my camera inside my jacket the whole times, and slept with it at night!

      Uncomfortable, but it worked.

  6. I am full of worries over my exam n final project just few days to come, and here I am now, reading something that make me *jealous..

    ahhhhhh…before this, all i want to do after i finish school is to go wherever i want, blablabla…

    but now,all i want to do after my last paper, on 16/1 is just to have a good sleep

    take care dave~

  7. As per usual, fantastic photography on a fantastic journey.
    Best wishes for the New Year.

  8. I’ve been following your journey for a while. Great website by the way.

    You really do tap into the human element more so than anyone else I’ve read.

    Wishing you the best in 2012, and looking forward to your EBC photos and blog! I’ve been there too!

  9. Hi dear! It’s great to see this beautiful photo which was amazing and you’ve had a very exciting and challenging adventure.

  10. Beautiful photo. Amazing that you were able to capture that with all the distractions of wind and cold. Nice effort.

  11. Great photo! It looks SO cold but then the sun looks so inviting, I’m imagining it warming you up for a bit!

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