Death in the Himalayas (almost)

In Kathmandu in November 1972, everyone said to me “You must go trekking, you must go trekking!” I didn’t know what trekking was, but off I went, bus to Pokhara then heading up the Jomosom trail on foot with Annapurna South to my right. I was travelling very lightly, a light sleeping bag over one shoulder, a small shoulder bag over the other.
On day three, I found myself on a narrow path cut into a steep rock-face. Below the path, the rock-face continued for about 100-150 feet, then there were dense uninhabited woods. If you fell, you’ld probably be killed, if not, you’ld die of your injuries in the woods.
Being late November, with the snowline down to 9000 feet, the local herders were sending their animals back down from summer pastures to the valleys for the winter. They travelled unattended, as there was only one way to go.
A long line of ponies approached me, each with a large pack on either side. I flattened myself against the rock-face to let them pass. One pony was, like me, reluctant to go to the edge of the path. It hugged the rock-face as it approached, refusing to move over. I was forced to step to the very edge of the narrow path.
As the pony got nearer, it lost its footing, and lurched towards me. A pack struck me in the chest and lifted me off the path. I grabbed the pack and hung on. Unbalanced by my weight, the pony continued to stumble towards the edge – I was going to pull it over.
I thought “Well, I’m probably going to die, but the chance of death is higher if I have a heavily-laden pony on top of me.” So I let go.
Because I had been hanging from the pack, I fell vertically rather than tumbling backwards. I ascertained later that in that rock-face, there was a single small tree, growing out at an angle. My feet hit the angle between tree and rock, I fell backwards – my sleeping bag to one side of the narrow trunk, my shoulder bag on the other. I stayed still for a while, not seeing how I could climb back to the path, but eventually managed to scale it. I had faced death and survived.
Pretty exciting, this trekking stuff.

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