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post #31 of (permalink) Old 02-28-2020, 08:50 PM
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Outstanding report! Finally got caught up on your trip while enjoying a cold bevy. Looking up the valley at a 7100m peak! Wow! Looks like you had good weather so far.
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post #32 of (permalink) Old 02-28-2020, 10:01 PM Thread Starter
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Amazing journey! (Yes, I am reading every word, and will come back again and again.)
Thank you for opening up such a special time and place.
I hope you do go back, to linger, perhaps to climb higher.

Thank you! Not sure about coming back, this was already 2nd time in Nepal and there is still so much around the world I'd like to see before it's time to climb big mountain in the sky. Started looking at Patagonia / Torres Del Paine trek next March. But Nepal is good, and if I'd come back 3rd time think I could do Manaslu circuit; this ends at Dharapani from where, already acclimatized, I could simply take jeep to Manang for last couple of days. These views of Annapurna 2,3,4 were really special, and also to try to do Tilicho.


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Outstanding report! Finally got caught up on your trip while enjoying a cold bevy. Looking up the valley at a 7100m peak! Wow! Looks like you had good weather so far.

Yes, and reason why I picked December. Only 2-3 days snowstorm but I waited that out in Pokhara.

Mountains in Nepal are much higher than in Canada, and even if there are number of "hiker peaks" altitude is main problem with straying off established "valley/pass" trails and trying for the summit. It's all good though
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post #33 of (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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Default Day 7: Yak Kharka to Thorung Phedi

Distance (estimated): 7-8km
Elevation Start: ~4200m
Elevation End: ~4600m
Trekking Time: 4 hrs

Very cold night, but brilliant morning sunshine warmed up the valley; it was fascinating watching shadows giving way to light down mountain slopes with morning cup of "milk coffee" (If you ask just for coffee, you get instant coffee. If you ask for milk coffee, you get milk powder mixed in). Started trekking fairly late (after 9am) as I had less than 8km to hike to Thorung Phedi -- final stop before Thorung La crossing. I expected altitude to finally become an issue, so I took my time. No headache but on couple of steeper parts I had to stop every 10-15 steps to catch breath. Despite the snail pace, I still made it to Phedi by 12:30. This is fantastic place, but in full season overrun with hikers and I heard of stories of people just not being able to find room and sleep at benches in eating area. No such problems in off season, and one of keys why I really recommend off season, even if you have to sleep below freezing most nights.

After lunch and brief nap, still had over 3 hrs of sunshine -- why waste such a perfect day in Himalayas? So I thought I'd hike up to High Camp which was visible directly above. This is one reasonable steep talus slope, and it meant another 350m elevation gain but it also meant further acclimatization. I can not recommend enough this "hike high - sleep low" approach. So I traipsed slowly, making sure I was hydrated and not going fast, and boy did I get a reward! Simply a-m-a-z-i-n-g views of Jinjang and Purbung Himal group, I'd otherwise miss completely next morning as you start well before dawn!! SLR came out and I had beautiful light for some panoramic photography on a little rise above high camp already above 4900m. (This rise would also be fantastic sunrise spot if you happen to spend night at High Camp). Photo Journey:


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[I spoke of menu in one of early posts; well, this is illustration -- pic taken in front of Yak Kharka lodge]


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[Village water source, and good indication of overnight temperatures]


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[Another local about 1hr past Yak Kharka as trail continued low angle but steady rise]


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[Approaching Thorung Phedi you have to make this near horizontal traverse across the steep talus slope. There is potential for avalanche here when spring snow covers these slopes, and it is indicated on my map; no danger on this day though as everything is still almost bone dry]


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[Thorung Phedi, where most of Circuit trekkers spend night before Thorung La crossing. Trio of peaks directly center is rise above the high camp ~350m above where I hiked up later on. The lodge on the hill was already closed]


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[High Altitude Warning Table at Thorung Phedi. I really must bring attention to anyone reading this post to altitude issue. It is NOT a joke. I witnessed helicopter bringing people down from that group that drove to Manang. This trek all looks nice and pretty on Internet images, but if you don't have high altitude trekking experience do not mess with it. You MUST acclimatize and info on this table is excellent summary]


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[Panoramic view of Phedi as I started hiking up to High Camp]


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[And this is why you want to make this hike during daylight, and not tomorrow early morning in dark! Simply stunning views of Purbung Himal group; prominent glaciated peak in center is Jinjang (6111m). Note the cairn]


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[Closer look at 105mm at simply stunning Jinjang]


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[High camp, already falling in shadows as I hiked to viewpoint above. It also gave me excellent view where I must go tomorrow with headlamp. Incidentally, steepest part is already done and remainder of trail to Thorang La climbs much more gently across small ridges and talus slopes in direction of obvious notch center of the photo]


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[Panoramic view from the viewpoint of Purbung Himal range and one of scenic highlights of entire trek for me. You can't help thinking "Wish I was mountaineer and I can climb all these peaks"]

Descent back to Phedi and dinner, and I was in the sack by 7pm (with 2nd night in a row skipping the shower, simply too cold). Wake-up call was at 5am as I wanted to leave ~5:30 -- couple of other groups left as early as 3am, but I saw no need and wanted to trek the most important day of the Circuit as much with daylight as possible. That will be the next post.
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Last edited by zeljkok; 02-29-2020 at 12:09 AM.
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post #34 of (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 12:14 AM
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Spectacular, and what incredible weather.

When I saw your photo of Ganggapurna it caused me to remember the first time, years ago, when I saw Mt Waddington, from the Mt Tiedemann side. I stared at those ranges for 1/2 hr

This is an extraordinary trip, thanks so much for sharing it

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post #35 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2020, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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Default Day 8: Thorung Phedi to Thorang La Pass to Muktinath

Distance (estimated): 18-20km
Elevation Start: ~4600m
Elevation Max: ~5500m

Elevation End: ~3800m
Trekking Time: 9-10 hrs

Hardest day on the Circuit -- Thorung La crossing! It is also the most memorable day of the journey and as I look back now comparable to Everest Base camp, Borneo Mt. Kinabalu, Mt Kilimanjaro, Macchu Pichu and few others -- all leave ever lasting stamp on your life. Anxiety in anticipation of big day probably contributed, and for the first time woke up out of breath in middle of the night. This is not nice feeling as you think you are suffocating & I had it before in Tanzania; then I even panicked a bit, but now I knew what to do: Sit upright, have a gulp of water and breathe deep telling yourself "It will pass". It did within 10 minutes, and I was able to go back to sleep not waking up again until 5am. Quick cup of "milk coffee" with some vitamins and I was on my way.



Slow going up with headlamp, but I knew terrain from previous day and it was easy. Felt better than I thought I would, and it was probably adrenaline rush. Past high camp, grade eases and you hike gently up ridges, always on trail. Then magic happened -- sun came out, and it was all of a sudden so beautiful. Rest of the ascent to the pass was easy; there was no wind and this contributed; I was able to sit whenever I wanted, not rushed for pace. Congratulated myself for Tilicho decision -- I might have missed that, but there is whale of difference crossing highest point on Annapurna Circuit in a whiteout compared to one-in-a-million conditions I had. No headache or any other altitude issues, and around 9am I was at Thorung La! Photo Journey:


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[Sunrise! Here it hit me: You ARE going to make it, nothing can stop you now. It is powerful feeling I can not describe; it allowed me to relax, and enjoy immensely rest of hike to Thorung La pass -- framed by Thorung Peak left (6144m), Yakwakang (6482) right]


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[Higher up as sun was fully out painting beautiful morning light. Trail to the right, gently rising across vast alpine Himalayan wilderness. Thorung Peak upper left]


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[Passing by ruins of old stone cabin, with Thorung peak in your face. You can see here easy ascent slopes upper left; it is glaciated and still mountaineering, but roped, with crampons I'd totally be up for this one]


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[Are we getting there yet? Must be pretty close!]


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[And here we are! (Bit of showboat, sorry). Thorung La, Highest Point on Annapurna Circuit and World highest Hiker Pass at 5416m. And I had it entirely to myself!]


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[View down to Thorung La from little rise towards Thorung Peak. Altitude here was ~5500m and my highest point on trek. Note, on other side, scree trails up Yakwakang peak; they are made by trekkers looking for better views, just as I did -- not the way up]


Wind picked up but I still spent ~45min in total solitude in this awesome place, and I will never forget this. But it was time to head down -- over 1600m vertical over 12km must be descended to Muktinath, where you spend next night. This is main reason why most people do the circuit CCW -- in opposite direction you'd have to climb this elevation, and on this altitude 1600m vertical would not be easy; people still do it I heard. But trail is good, classic talus, well beaten. Hiking poles help. Warm sunshine and lower down I stopped for packed lunch and even fell asleep briefly. Oxygen is now flowing back in increased rate to your lungs with every step, and this is powerful feeling. It was also very scenic as now whole Mustang area opens up with "King of the Castle" -- Mt. Dhaulagiri, world 7th highest, awing you all the time. Lower down I ran into some teahouses and had another break, eventually descending to Muktinath just before dark. Celebrated with Yak steak and can of Heineken for dinner -- I earned it! Photo Journey:

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[One last view from the Pass to where I came from; Jinjang center, Purbung left. Note trail slanting right to left in final rise to Thorung La pass]

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[View back to the pass as I already lost 600-700m vertical, showing relatively easy grade. Sorry about the smudge, this was with small camera and I didn't even notice until next morning]

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[Teahouse where I stopped for break lower down, with great views towards Mustang and Dhaulagiri range. Muktinath is out of view behind that ridge lower right, and it still takes couple of hours from here]

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[Panoramic view of Muktinath. Pic taken the next morning, and gives great overview of the area. Dhaulagiri in clouds upper left]

This concludes extremely memorable day; but scenic wonders of Annapurna Circuit were not over yet. Little did I know, but next day was fantastic as well; This will be the next post.
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Last edited by zeljkok; 03-02-2020 at 05:35 PM.
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post #36 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2020, 07:00 PM
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Absolutely sensational. I have never been, on foot, to such a high elevation. You deserve huge congratulations.

I know there is little chance I would ever go there, in fact few of us ever will. Your TR gives many of us the chance to visit by proxy and it is so appreciated. This is a TR to just wander through, quietly, with a nice cold beer etc. and just take it all in. Thank you

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post #37 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2020, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by xj6response View Post
Absolutely sensational. I have never been, on foot, to such a high elevation. You deserve huge congratulations.

I know there is little chance I would ever go there, in fact few of us ever will. Your TR gives many of us the chance to visit by proxy and it is so appreciated. This is a TR to just wander through, quietly, with a nice cold beer etc. and just take it all in. Thank you

Thank you. Still much more to come ;=) But this IS not as hard as you might think. Hiking itself is non-technical (i.e. your Elphinstone might be harder in strictly technical terms). Altitude is issue, but you acclimatize. And it doesn't cost nowhere as most think; flying is only major cost, but with enough diligence (air miles, shopping around, shopping early etc etc) that can also be managed. And then Nepal is still dirt cheap. I will have at the end of post --- which is still nowhere in sight, lol -- some sort of breakdown in terms of gear, logistics, prices etc.


(And no, you are NOT too old in your 60's for Annapurna or Nepal. Trust me)
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post #38 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2020, 10:59 PM
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(And no, you are NOT too old in your 60's for Annapurna or Nepal. Trust me)
Now THAT is very encouraging .. It's the altitude that i might find intimidating. I was in California early winter hiking up Mt San Gorgonio to 3500m and spent some time, a few hours up there. The altitude was very noticeable, I can't imagine what 5500m would be like.

I'd look forward to seeing your logistical summary. My Son-in-law and I have often talked about doing an expedition type hiking trip. Annapurna would certainly do the job.

Are you collecting GPX tracks. I try to follow your paths on Google earth. It would be even better with GPX tracks. This TR is just such great reading. Really appreciate you sharing your adventure.

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post #39 of (permalink) Old 03-02-2020, 11:06 PM Thread Starter
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Don't forget you sleep at or near sea level. That makes a difference. I sleep ~1300m. I know when I lived in Van & did Kilimanjaro, had problems around 3600m as well. It is all about acclimatization -- start hiking lower, and take more time. That's all there is to it.


No for GPS; didn't take my Garmin, and my watch is non-GPS (which I prefer). I thought about Garmin but after Nepal was traveling another 6 weeks through SE Asia & tried to minimize amount of "Nepal only" gear. Charging logistics had something to do with it too.
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post #40 of (permalink) Old 03-03-2020, 08:38 PM
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Fantastic trip and report. I have good memories from Nepal as I did a Mera Peak trek and climb back in October 1995, shortly before the November disaster in which extreme snowfalls caused by the India Cyclone buried close to a hundred victims on trekking routes. Not to mention the "Into Thin Air" disaster half a year later on Everest. Or the devastating earthquake of 2015. I have a Nepalese colleague and we have done several interesting local trips in the Toronto area together (not mountains but still some challenge and fun).
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post #41 of (permalink) Old 03-03-2020, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by RamblingBull View Post
Fantastic trip and report. I have good memories from Nepal as I did a Mera Peak trek and climb back in October 1995, shortly before the November disaster in which extreme snowfalls caused by the India Cyclone buried close to a hundred victims on trekking routes. Not to mention the "Into Thin Air" disaster half a year later on Everest. Or the devastating earthquake of 2015. I have a Nepalese colleague and we have done several interesting local trips in the Toronto area together (not mountains but still some challenge and fun).
Great to hear from you Marek! Nepal has changed since 1995; it is more populated and more polluted. There is layer of smog and trapped heat in valleys. There are also more trekkers & 'development' (i.e. roads) are reaching deeper and deeper. But once you are above 3000 air is clear and mountains are as beautiful as ever.

I'd like to do a 'hikers' peak in Nepal -- Mera, Island come to mind, or even Tent Peak - a simple ascent from Annapurna Sanctuary. But I am thinking now about K2 base camp. Pakistan is getting safer and max. altitude is similar to Annapurna Circuit, although you spend considerably more time above 5000 and you have to camp. But to see Concordia, Baltoro glacier or even cross Gondogoro La would be fantastic!
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Can't do it by yourself, but there are some local tour operators that cost 2-3 time less than western, and also give you better service. xj6, want to go?
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post #42 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 08:02 PM
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hiking above 5000m ... do you really acclimatize in good time? 11,000 ft and I really feel it, being a sea level dweller. Still, these pics, this TR, just amazing .... incredible.

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post #43 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2020, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, you do acclimatize. Your body learns to cope. It is all proper management. But you must want it, and be willing to sacrifice certain comforts. People climbed Everest without oxygen, and this is 3500m vertical above Annapurna high point.
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post #44 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2020, 05:47 PM Thread Starter
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Default Day 9: Muktinath to Jomsom

Distance (estimated): 14-15 km
Elevation Start: ~3800m
(Elevation Max: Lupra Pass ~4100m)

Elevation End: ~2700m
Trekking Time: 8 hrs


After such terrific last couple of days, next one was surely to be a step down? No, it wasn't -- and it turned out to be one of 3 top days on Circuit. But it does depend which way you take. Road has been built to Muktinath, and good road it is. So you can simply walk down the road, still in grand surroundings. Muktinath even has bus station -- so you could decide to take it real easy; nobody could blame you for that after physical efforts last couple of days. But if you do so, you are missing out big time! Annapurna Circuit trail does not follow the road; instead it climbs Lupra pass following by one of nicest ridgewalks I had, with Dhaulagiri in your face and finally beautiful descent to Lupra village with impressive canyon walls. It might be a challenge to find where to leave Muktinath road though; simply walk down to bus station, then turn left and look for red/white paint on rock and start of Lupra trail. I missed this and descended instead on road to Jharkot village before realizing the mistake. No harm done, and it was kinda obvious which way AC trekking route must go, so I simply climbed off trail across grass utilizing some village roads before intercepting official trail just below Lupra pass.

Another thing not to be missed is little hike to small hill above Muktinath; there is golden Buddha statue there and views are simply out of this world. It would be worth spending extra day in Muktinath just to savor this without rush. There is also world famous Muktinath temple, which I simply did not have time to visit and spent just about an hour before continuing to Jomsom. That incredible stretch of beautiful weather was obviously breaking down and clouds rolled in. Once I dropped to Lupra village, I abandoned AC trekking route and cut short down impressive canyon back to road. Last bit to Jomsom was ~1hr of dusty road walking but at that point I really did not care, still glowing about last few days. Photo Journey:


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[View of Muktinath from "Golden Buddha Hill". Trail from Thorung La Pass comes down the "V" gap in middle of the photo]

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[Muktinath Buddhist Monastery; with typical architecture for this part of the world]

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[Gold Buddha -- you absolutely must come here if in Muktinath, it is just a short climb (stairs) from city main street]

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[Moody scene descending on road to Jharkot village; about here I realized I went wrong and in few minutes turned left & up towards Lupra Pass]

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[Panoramic view back from Lupra Pass. Weather was clearly starting to deteriorate]

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[Last, quite amazing, shot of glaciated Thorung peak from Lupra pass]

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[Couple of backpackers coming up from other side on Lupra pass and going to Muktinath]

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[For quite awhile Dhaulagiri -- world 7th highest at 8167m -- is in your face. Clouds were already obscuring the view, and for optimal shot I needed to be on Lupra pass couple of hours earlier]

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[Annapurna Circuit paint marks near Lupra Pass]

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[Huge suspension bridge spanning the canyon leading to Lupra village. Great afternoon light on tall canyon walls on the other side was ultra impressive, but I was already running short of time & had to hurry]

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[Final road walk to Jomsom, with very different weather conditions than in the morning]


Jomsom is very developed too and lodge I stayed felt more like hotel. Jomsom has airport and plan was to fly to Pokhara to wait out coming snow storm, then resume trek with Annapurna Base Camp that intersects Annapurna Circuit in Ghorepani / Poon Hill. (If one would stay on AC route past Jomsom, it would involve 2-3 days of quite tedious road walking like on last photo). But weather rolled in fully overnight made flying not possible. That will be the next post.
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Last edited by zeljkok; 03-06-2020 at 05:50 PM.
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post #45 of (permalink) Old 03-07-2020, 04:52 AM
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Thanks for this most interesting report! The scenery is fantastic.
Really enjoyed your narrative.
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