Sunset, Sunrise on Top of the World

by Andrew Stein

I always try to manage my expectations so that they can be met or exceeded. However, with the ABC trek, my expectations of Base Camp continue to escalate with every meter gained in altitude. And more specifically, my expectations of sunset and sunrise dominate my thoughts of our final destination. I hope sunrise will be perfect because most mornings thus far have been almost perfectly clear, and greedily, I hope we are lucky for sunset, as many of the afternoons have been cloudy and rainy. Both events exceed expectations.

Annapurna Sanctuary Sunrise, Nepal from Andrew Stein

In the afternoon, a cloud swallows base camp and visibility drops to nothing; however, just before sunset, the clouds part showing off the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The clouds that remain are only additive to the sun’s wave goodbye. The line separating white from gold on the mountains slowly ascends as the sun continues to drop. The blue of the sky, which I thought couldn’t be any deeper, slips to navy, midnight blue, and eventually black letting stars I never knew existed start to appear. Fully half-satisfied, I begin my prayers for an equally successful sunrise in the morning. I predict that such a sunrise would meet my elevated expectations and be a lifetime memory.

Sunset at ABC

Waking up as the sky begins to light and layering myself in wool, down jackets, scarfs, gloves, and anything else that would fit to protect myself against this below freezing weather, I venture outside to find no clouds and a perfectly clear, crisp sky. Despite my finger tips starting to lose feeling because I refuse to put down my camera, I am prepared for something special. I investigate the landscape to figure out what spot to be in and when during the next two hours as the sun would rise above the mountains eventually lighting and warming the Annapurna Sanctuary. Now I have a rough morning plan, my camera, the perfect weather conditions, and a big smile.

Sunrise at ABC

The first mountain tip, which sits around 8000 meters high starts to shine like the first candle of many. All heads at base camp turn to respect this first light. Soon the second and third peaks are illuminated and the sunlight starts its journey down to the base of the Sanctuary. We all patiently wait for the warming rays of the sun while trying to keep our hands and noses warm by blowing into cupped gloves. Almost too quickly, the sun reaches the floor of Base Camp and the sky starts taking on that unrealistic blue from the night before. The color in my photos will look as if photoshop might be responsible, but it’s natural. The blue’s richness seem as though it should allow constellations to show through, and although the moon remains very visible, the stars do not. I continue to spin and marvel at the mountains around me until I warm up, take a couple too many photos, and feel ready for breakfast.

The sun performs for us at our trek’s destination making the Annapurna Sanctuary feel like it’s on top of the world.