So this was it, the long awaited drive up the Sela Pass. Target birds included monals, snow partridge and snow pigeon, grandala and a variety of rosefinches. Abid said to have a good chance we needed to get near to  the top early hence the 3.30am breakfast call.

The first part of the route was basically through an area of roadworks but not as we know them in the UK! Gradually, as daylight grew, the gradient steepened and we began to see a some largish drops on the outside of the straight bits. As the drop-offs increased, the road began to deteriorate further and it began to get just a little disconcerting....

Stuck in the mud!
After a particularly big drop off, we came across a Suzuki van stuck in a stream underneath a towering cliff that was crumbling away as we looked! It was completely blocking the way and we had no option but to try and help get the Nepalese occupants moving, being careful not to fall into the chasm to our left! After more than ninety minutes we eventually got the van out and were able to carry on but we had lost our early start. * see below

What a place for a breakfast stop!
We took breakfast in a fantastic spot while we looked for monals but to no avail. Carrying on we birded our way in fantastic weather to the top of the pass. Birdwise it was very quiet but the scenery and pumping adrenaline (and pumping hearts at this altitude!) almost made up for the lack of birds. We walked along a trail looking for grandala and the inevitable happened...myself and Mandy seeing a flock of twenty birds while Paul and Rach dipped. (they were to get their own back several times later in the trip!)

Alpine accentor on the pass
All too soon, it was time to go down and this time we got stuck again in almost the same place! A lorry had broken down on another crumbling drop off. I didn't fancy staying on such a crumbling section, so we started to walk down and were later picked up by Kanik a kilometere or so down the road. We eventually made it safely back to the Hotel.

Looking back it was without doubt one of the most memorable days of my life and if we ever go back, the Sela Pass is a must do but we'd hope for more birds next time.

More images from the day are here.

* Post script. I understand that the 'road' is now much improved and has a proper surface. (May 2013)

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