After a little delay in gathering, due to some kind of ‘fun’ run along the canal road, 21 hikers, including many newbies (Norway, Oz, …) and one long-time-no-see-er, braved the cold start and eventually assembled at the meeting point and started hiking at 07.45. No group photo as the leader forgot and didn’t even bring his camera.
We hadn’t used this trail since November and the first section was quite overgrown. (Can someone please get out there with a machete/lawnmower/scissors before we go again? We almost, but not quite, wished someone had burned off the dry grass.) Despite having the usual range of comfort speeds, we managed to stay together (until near the end) without over-long stops and also to talk as we walked.
One hiker left us to do his own additional Everest preparation as we reached higher elevations but he was soon replaced, to our great surprise, by two newbie hikers who had started 10 minutes late and caught us up, over two hours into the hike, just before our first snack stop at a sala in the lychee orchards just below the highest point of the day. Well done you two … and please seriously consider adding to our meagre number of female navigators/hike leaders if you are sticking around for long. (Mr S, eat your heart out!)
After a brief snack stop we continued, reached the decidedly non-majestic peak of Doi Pha Kha at around the three hour mark, and started the long descent, punctuated by brief stops to re-group and re-hydrate as the temperature climbed. We made quite good time and at the stream crossing at the falls we had a decision to make: stop for another snack or keep going straight back to the carpark. In true CM hiker fashion, we did something in between, with some expressing an intention to go on through full mouths.
To rebalance hiker numbers and ensure we finished with the same number we started with (hope you are keeping count), one hiker managed to get lost between the front runners and the main group about 20 minutes from the end, on the way back down from Porcupine Falls. This was communicated to the hike leader at the hike end via a mobile phone translation app which seemed to tell him to “get lost” (not the first time). Phone communication then focused on a “black rock” so the leader retraced his steps to the first black rock junction (in vain) and then on to the second, where shepherd and lost sheep were successfully re-united.
Distance about 10 kms, elevation gain 800m, in about 5 hours. Additional 45 minutes for flock restocking. Reminders: (1) if you don’t know the way, stay with a leader who does and (2) don’t drink the stream water anywhere on Doi Suthep-Pui; there are orchards, fields and villages at higher elevations and we don’t know what pesticides, fertilisers and toilet arrangements are in use.
Thanks to a series of patient back markers for their assistance and to Ms J for photos.