I will never forget the moment I was on top of the world. I was trekking around the Annapurna through the world’s largest pass – Thorung La. We rose in darkness and anticipation of our two-hour ascent up to the highest point of our Himalayan hike, the pass at Thorung La at an intimidating 17,769 feet (5,416 m). 

We had spent a sleepless freezing cold night at Thorung Base Camp to acclimatize before our morning ascent. I remember being so utterly cold during the night in our barren, unheated room that I emptied every single item of dirty clothing out of my pack and slept in everything I had along with three wool blankets. Unfortunately I was still frozen to the bone and could hardly sleep that night due to the high altitude and apprehension about the next day.

Would I be ok? Would I get altitude sickness? Would I make it to the top? These were all the worries and concerns that were racing through my restless mind and keeping me up in the middle of the cold, dark night.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

Our last day-long hike up to the top of Thorung La Pass in Nepal.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

To give you scale of the sheer size of the Himalayas, there is a man on top of this house.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

Off in the distance is our last stop before the night and climb to Thorung La Pass.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

The point of no return.

We rose at 3 am in silence and fatigue. The only light we had was coming from our headlamps as we slowly and silently placed each foot in front of the other as we crept up the hill. Inhale. Exhale. Stop. Inhale. Exhale. Stop. Breathing was getting hard.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

My Dad and I setting out for our climb.

I remember hearing the bells from the mule trains and the light of the moon leading our way up to the top of the world. I remember my slow and labored breath and the stillness around me.

After what seemed like forever, finally we reached the top. I have never felt so exuberant in my life. I did it! It was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment. A similar feeling I had when I crossed the finish line of my first and last marathon. An amazing testament of what our bodies can do if we only set our minds to it.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

On top of the world! We did it!

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

Our team

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

The long, grueling 5,000 foot descent down.

Annapurna Trek, Nepal

The long way down.

I still plan to someday be on top of the world again at the summit of Kilimanjaro. It is “on the list” and I can’t wait to be there.



  1. I’m currently reading The Snow Leopard, so this post was timely for me to see! In fact, it led me to look at a few of your other Nepal posts. Wow, I would absolutely love to go trekking in Nepal some day. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Believe it or not, I haven’t read the Snow Leopard but have heard about it! I’ve got to read it! 🙂 nepal does not disappoint! It is amazing!

      1. I’m about halfway through and I’d recommend it! It’s really interesting! Nepal is definitely one of my top picks for my next big trip. Hopefully it won’t be far off. Until then, I’ll read your posts and get some tips! 🙂

  2. This post made me so excited since I’m planning to hike the Annapurna Circuit later this year!!! It’s been on my list forever and those photos are to die for. I also was on Kilimanjaro last September and loved it! Hope you make it there soon.

    1. Wonderful! You will love it there! Be prepared to really rough it but you probably already have experience with the lack of western toilets in Kili! 🙂

  3. Incredible! We are going in October, and I cannot wait. At this stage we are thinking the Annapurna sanctuary (as we are limited with time). Beautiful pics and what a memory hiking with your Dad 🙂

    1. Sounds fantastic! We actually did half of the Annapurna trek starting in Besisahar and ending in Jomson where we took a plane to Pokhara and then one back to Kathmandu. It still took at least 10-12 days (can’t remember exactly) but we had a few days in Kathmandu and two in Delhi. Then I had to get home because my kids were waiting!!! It is an amazing hike! You will love it!

  4. Your first and last marathon? There has to be a story behind that sentence. Amazing photos, Nicole. Did you take high altitude meds or drink coca tea? When we climbed over Dead Woman’s Pass on our way to Machu Picchu, I had to stop every three steps to breathe. I was chewing on the coca leaves like a redneck farmer. I think they helped. 🙂

    1. Ha ha…well I tend to overdue it. So when I trained for my first and last marathon when I was 28 I couldn’t run a mile six months before. I needed up doing three half Marathons and a marathon at 3hours 42 minutes trying to qualify for boston on my first try. So stupid! I could hardly sit for a year as I injured myself so bad. I realized I was too competitive and should have taken it slow. As for altitude so far I have had no problems at all. I’ve done Peru too and was ok. The key is a slow and gradual ascent. 🙂

    1. Thanks! Yes the tragedy on Everest is very awful especially since it was all Sherpas who work so insanely hard carrying all the supplies on their backs and being away from family for months on end. Very sad.

  5. Very inspiring post Nicole! I have no doubt you will make it to Kilimanjaro. It was truly sad to hear of the tragedy on Mt. Everest.

    1. Thanks LuAnn yes the Everest tragedy is heartbreaking especially since it was the Sherpas who leave their homes for months carrying 60+ lbs of guests tables, chairs, and supplies on their backs. Their jobs are so dangerous. It is really hard.

  6. I think yesterday there was in the news that an avalanche killed 12 native mountain climbers in the Himalayas. It is sometimes difficult to realize something this beautiful can be that dangerous.

    1. Yes, I read that. It is tragic. Everest is an entirely different beast than Annapurna. It is frighteningly dangerous and I feel terrible that the Sherpas lost their lives.

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