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Thursday 13 September – Friday 05 October 2018

In mid-September, eleven Royal Welshmen set off on a Himalayan adventure. Exercise DRAGON MANSING saw us trek some 120km of Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit between Syange and Jomson over twelve days.

Our trek started at a Chinese dam on the Marshyangdi River, the trail winding its way up through paddy fields, subtropical forests, great waterfalls, remote villages, across scree slopes, over snow-covered rocky peaks until finally arriving at the the Thorong La Pass at 5,416m above seal level. For comparison, Pen Y Fan is a mere 886m, Mont Blanc tries at 4,808m and Everest towers at 8,848m.

Our adventure was not limited to the mountains but saw us eagerly explore all facets of Nepalese life: visiting sites of cultural significance such as the Great Boudha Stupa, learning about Hinduism and Buddhism in Upper Pisang’s monastery, immersing ourselves in Kathmandu’s vibrant sprawl,and by visiting the Ghurka Museum in Pokhara.

The scale of the Himalayas is almost indescribably impressive. Our adventure began in Kathmandu’s chaotic streets, the air thick and polluted. Our first weekend was given over to exploring Kathmandu and acclimatising to Nepal: its altitude, its climate, its people. We travelled by bus to the start line, taking our first tentative steps in the shadow of a Chinese dam on the Marshyangdi River, whose course we would follow for most of our trek. The first few days were hot but the trail quite gentle, described by our guide as “Nepali flat: a little up, a little down”. The teahouses we stayed in were often basic but certainly not as ramshackle as I had presumed. We found our ‘trail legs’ soon and quickly fell into a routine: reveille at 0630, breakfast at 0700 and step off at 0730. We stopped for lunch around 1130 and then walked for another hour or so until arriving at our next teahouse. Food was good and plentiful: enormous honey-drizzled pancakes with jam and butter, and endless rice and pasta to fuel us. We could all feel the air change as we trekked, becoming cleaner, becoming thinner. We luxuriated in Chame Mandala’s hot springs and visited Tilicho Lake, the world’s highest non-frozen lake at 4,919m. After eleven days trekking, we crossed the Thorong La Pass together, no small feat. Once over the Pass, we descended to Jomson from where we flew to Pokhara. There we enjoyed a few days of R&R to let our legs recover and to unwind back in civilisation.

The effects of sustained high altitude trekking challenged us all physically and mentally. Such carefully-planned and well-executed Adventure Training enabled us to develop skills and qualities essential to soldiering such as courage (Sgt Guy tackling his fear of heights), initiative (Fus Thomas-O’Grady’s botched trouser fly) and cheerfulness in adversity (Maj Laing’s scalded foot). The group bonded well and we all readily threw ourselves into all facets of the trip. All were quietly sorry to return to Wales such an adventure it had been!

Click on the images below to see some photos from the Exercise.

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