At 5:30am the yellow dome of our North Face tent was beginning to glow brighter and brighter as the sun pushed its way up the eastern slope and over the Annapurna Range. This morning would be special if the weather were clear. The day before we had left our campsite at Tatopaine (at 3,500 feet) along the Kaligandaki River, crossed the expansion bridge to the eastern side of the valley, and began an all day stair climb to Chitre, a small village situated at nearly 8400 feet. The trail was simple–one stepping stone mounted upon another rising up the ridge line without relenting once to level ground. It was just like climbing the World Trade Center from 7:30am to 3pm. The major difference here was the far more spectacular view.
At our new campsite in Chitre, our tent was perched on the very edge of one of the many terraces that dotted the steep mountainside. We could look down nearly 5,000 feet to the river valley that defined this landscape so dramatically. Across this valley and beyond the 14,000 foot hills that provided the foreground, we could see the mass of mountains known as Dhaulogire. It is an 8,167 meter (27,000 feet) peak that literally dominates the western sky.