A little late, but here's the final India installment...
A few days in Delhi, complete with doctor visit (250 rupees = $6), big bad antibiotics and a bunch of supporting meds (520 rupees = $13), and a lot of tea and sleeping and I was mostly good as new. Invaluable to have a support network of people with a place to stay and the knowledge of where to go. Thanks Larry!!
Mostly mended, I caught the overnight bus to Manali, in the Kullu valley in the Himalayan foothills to the north to join Lin and Larry. An absolutely grueling trip - the buses have no toilets and the drivers don't seem to need them, and the ride stretched to 17 hours of bumpy curvy when-will-we-be-there-ness. What a relief to see Lin waiting for me at the end!
Snow prevented us from doing the hoped-for five-day trek, but we thoroughly enjoyed staying at the Iceland Hotel and daytripping from there. The backcountry skiing in March and April is enough to keep any avid skier busy for a long time, but for now we had to be content with scoping out terrain not yet sufficiently covered. The snow brought out the contours and features of the surrounding mountains, the beautiful edge of the Himalaya. We hiked to about 15,000' and were rewarded with views of amazing redges and peaks stretching into the distance. The road closed, all this is remote wilderness until springtime reopens roads and paths.
Our host, Khem, is the son of a local shepherd who completed his education, built and now manages a succesful mountain hotel, and is an avid skier whose son has raced slolom and GS on the Indian National Team multiple times. The Indian team has yet to compete in the Olympics, however. The local ski hill (one of the few with an actual lift) consists of a 200' rope tow from which you can continue hiking up. Hard to compete with European and American teams with video analysis, elite coaches, thousands of vertical feet of lift skiing, and all the latest gear and ideas. Regardless, Khem clearly loves his sport and is counting the days (years) until the promised gondola is finally completed.
Don't know if I'll be able to make it back some spring, but Lin and Larry will certainly be back to check it out. After a great week of exploring the snowy hills, it is time to head back, to Delhi, to Seattle, and to the next adventure. I am feeling the pull of the damp evergreen hills of the northwest, but don't yet feel ready to leave India. This acclimatisation trip has left me with a much better feel of how things work - who to talk to and how to work around, what sorts of obstacles and rewards wait when I return.
With friends in Delhi for another two years, I'll definitely be back, for who knows what kind of adventure. I am tempted to beseige some expedition climb, but at the same time am fascinated by the crazy tangents that present themselves - a 9-day mountain bike race from Shimla to Manali with some of the people I've met sounds like an entirely different and crazy experience. Ultimately it begs the question of priorities, but regardless, I will be certain to return and have some kind of crazy ride.