Lord Byron quoted:
“There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not Man the less, but Nature more.”
This was ‘A trip of so many firsts!’ This Legendary one which we survived, yes we did! Each and every moment is like a beautiful birthmark now that we carry, something forever etched in our hearts, like a scar, a blotch. While we are presently here in the mega polis, backdrop in our mind is still this!!! It took us months to come out of this, this was the best hangover anyone could have. We still crave for those winds and we still miss this!
It all started few months back, when we decided to do a Himalayan trek. We reviewed Kailashrath Trek operators and finalized them. For months we prepared for our first trek but didn’t prepare our body that well for the same which we realized during the trek. Reality hit us hard only when we actually started the trail. We realized that we were in some unknown land, inhaling fresh uber cool air. We were embracing huge tree trunks, we were experiencing evergreen meadows, so basically, we were out there somewhere in the universe. It was a wow feeling then and a wow feeling now. They say “Somewhere between the start of the trail and the end is the mystery of why we chose to walk.”
Day 1: Assembling at the Base camp Rumsu, Kullu -2,047 meters above sea level.
Our base camp at Rumsu was a beautiful sight. It was a typical Himachali 2 storey wooden house surrounded by mountains and amidst a virgin village. It was as rustic as one can be. It was a great beginning and our excitement knew no bounds. We had an adventure activity of Rappelling planned to test our Physical fitness. We got introduced to our batch of 35 which had 4 girls & 31 boys. It was a diverse group with people participating from few parts of Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi. We were given loads of instructions and were introduced to 3 guides; they would be with us right throughout the journey.
Few people in our group had not followed the basic trekking shoe criteria. We never realized it until the fourth day when something horrible happened.
Day 2: Hailstorms, cold winds & the freezing river. (Hampta Dam to Jobra 2,763 meters above sea level.)
From our base camp we had a short 3 hour drive till the Hampta dam which was the starting point of our trek. Excited and pumped up we started. It was a thrilling experience crossing bridges constructed out of rocks, wooden logs. After climbing & walking for few minutes we often used to arrive at meadows and had water breaks at intervals. It was a pleasant day with fresh breezes. We had no network and were happy about the same. We were walking alongside a small stream which had loud gushing sound echoing in that valley. It all turned breezy & suddenly the temperature dropped. In seconds the sunny pleasant weather changed & turned windy & cold. We reached a small but a strong stream and had to cross it. We were given an option of a trolley but we flatly refused it as we wanted to experience the stream on foot. Call it a mistake or call it an adventure, it was a dramatic experience. Crossing that merciless stream bare foot was a task of that day as it was deadly cold. Our tents were hardly 7 minutes from there, but to our horror the cold weather suddenly turned colder & started hail storming. We ran towards our tents and got in rapidly.
That crazy evening we were cursing ourselves to have come this far. We were missing our home, family & friends basically our comfort zone. Within hours negativity spread across the camp. In the evening when the rains minimized, we made efforts of emerging out of our warm tents & talking to our fellow participants. Fighting cold each second, the recurring thought that evening was how are we going to survive the day 4 cold which we were warned in our orientation? We realized that half the participants in the camp had made up their mind of quitting & were brain washing us in doing the same. They say the best friendships are found in the most toughest of the times. We spoke to few first time trekkers in the camp who were in the same dilemma as we were in. We all had a good pep talk and decided that come what may, we are not going to quit.
Pee humor: Calling it a paid suicide & hating yourself for coming this far, every night we battled with crazy thoughts. Thinking that today might be your last night and that you are going to die fighting this mental cold. At that moment how we wish we could Google -“How cold does it have to be to freeze to death?” So, You are restless in your sleeping bag, that’s when you get a peeing sensation, you hate yourself even more now. After loads of convincing and persuasion you finally make an effort to zip down your sleeping bag and zip up your tent and emerge out. You just want to finish your job so you start the process, that’s when you look around, that’s when you realize you are peeing under zillion of stars with absolutely no civilization around. You are in a middle of the universe gasping some hard breaths, surrounded by huge mountains, praying you survive this freaking cold night. [These were few lunatic thoughts, I could type with shivering hands and the only possible LED screen light around. Here I am now in my comfort zone, mentally still sleeping under the stars but this time with a doable temperature in my mind. I am sure the universe is smirking]
It was our first night in the mountains, in the tents, in the chilly weather.
Day 3: The big blow (Jobra to Balu Ka ghera) 3,799 meters above sea level
So this day began with all of us setting out our damp garments on the rocks to dry off after lot of shivering incidences throughout the night. So waiting for the morning sun rays became like an everyday ritual for the next 4 days. The vibe the camp experienced at the emergence of golden sunrays was always ecstatic. These are the little things you note once you are out of your comfort zone! Moonlight, star gaze, chilling winds, midnight shivers and then drying your socks, gloves, jackets, windcheaters almost everything became like a routine for us.
After breakfast & hot a cup of Chai, we were made to stand in lines. That’s when almost 18 participants declared that they were quitting the expedition. The organizers confirmed the same & our batch of size 35 was split in two directions. Positive & focused we started our trail towards our next camp. It was hardly 2 hour trek till we reached our tents. In the evening we did an hour acclimatization walk, we were given an early supper & hot soup before they sent us back in the tent at 7:00 pm in the evening to sleep. That was a night which I personally had lots of anxiety attacks at intervals. The weather was getting colder and colder each day with temperature almost reaching minus 4 that night.
Day 4: The Epic Day, witnessing a horror. (Balu ka ghera to Shea Goru-3914 meters via Hampta Pass- 4,297 meters above sea level)
So all prepped & zipped & psyched we assembled sharp at 7:30 am ready to conquer Hampta pass. The pass we dreaded, for so long- excited, nervous we proceeded wondering how this encounter is going to happen. We started the trail through glaciers, rocky terrain & large snow patches gasping for oxygen in between. Weather had supported us like best friends do, sky was extremely clear which we all had prayed for. After almost 4 hours we finally spotted the corridor, the crossover connecting the Kullu & the Spiti valley. That was the best walk ever, we were motivating each other, with teary eyes, waiting at intervals to breath, murmuring & whispering to ourselves –” we have to do this” We hugged & clicked & celebrated when we reached the top. It was overwhelming making this climb. Hungry and thrilled we opened our packed lunch boxes which had vegetable rice and started hogging. The temperature dropped and it started snowing. It was very poetic and I wish we could freeze that moment. Experiencing snowflakes for the first time , watching those tiny wonders fall gently on us & in our lunch boxes is a profound memory I am going to carry with me as I depart.
We saw Yama (the lord of death)
We collected ourselves physically & emotionally and began our descend journey. It was muddy and slippery and we were extremely scared taking every step. The worst were the sidewalks where our brave guides made way for us with their snow axe. We had to carefully place our foot on their footsteps. Each time advancing during sidewalks the terrible thought passed our minds – what if one wrong step & we slide, slide and get hurt & die. This thought became a reality for our fellow participant friend from Gujrat – Mitul. He had unknowingly ignored the trekking shoe criteria and was doing this expedition in a sports shoe & somehow even our organizers missed that. To our horror he slipped, seeing that our brave guide dived in like a superman and held Mitul’s bag whilst he tumbled & tripped and skidded towards the valley. If it hadn’t been for our Jagdish guide, Mitul sure would have left this universe. For few seconds no one spoke, there was silence all around. Mitul sat there for minutes breathing heavily. Seconds later his companions started yelling & accusing the guides for the mishap, while we had tears in our eyes. We all took a grip on ourselves & started descending. Scared & petrified we reached a point where there was a never ending snow slope.
New Kind of Slide
Here we were introduced to this kind of snow slide. We had to sit, make ourselves comfortable on the snow and just slide using heels & elbows to control the speed. So here we were thrown from one difficult situation to another. But we took it as a challenge, as one by one all started sliding. This cut our trek by 45 min. We did many small slides till we reached our next camp at Shea Goru (means road of winds in local language) There was a terror in the camp, everyone was contemplating what could have happened if Jagdish wouldn’t have dived at the right time. We sipped on hot soup & did lots of discussions on if’s & but’s. Mitul, that brave boy was doing just fine, I guess better than all of us. That was the most windy night we ever experienced. It felt at one point in the night that the tent was going to blow away. There were intermittent extreme winds & then a haunting silence throughout the night. The sky that night looked unbelievable and stunning. The mighty mountains encompassed us as we witnessed those zillion stars in the sky. It was all worth the efforts, money & time spent.
Day 5: Experiencing civilization ! (Shea Goru to Chatru) 3,315meters above sea level
We left our Shea Goru camp and began our descend journey. We crossed another stream barefoot only to watch each other struggle the after effects. We motivated & encouraged each other. These 17 unknown souls had become a part of each other’s struggle. We recited, hymned & played nice motivational songs while we descended. After lots of walking and trekking we spotted a minivan & a tar road. Out of happiness we cheered only to realize that this was our last day of trek. There was a surprise stored for us this day. We reached a point where we could see a glacier, and had to cross it sideways, but this time there was a strong chandra river flowing below. That means one wrong move & we would slide off in the river & reach may be Pakistan. Horrified & terrified all of us gave up & declared that we would travel only if we were assisted by the guides. So we all started, each person one at a time. We reached our Chatru base camp, dropped our bags in our tents & proceeded to our next planned excursion which was the visit to Chandrataal Lake.
In contrast to the lush & evergreen Kullu Valley, Spiti valley was as rugged as it could get. Mesmerized & awestruck at the change in topography we made ourselves comfortable in our vans. Spiti had no roads, but our daredevil driver was making way through something only he could see. We reached Chandrataal experienced the magical lake, clicked lots of pictures & headed back to the Chatru camp.
Day 6: It’s a memory now ! (Chatru to Manali) 2,050 meters above sea level
We packed, bid adieu and hopped in our vans only to make a downward journey towards Manali passing the touristy crowded Rohtang pass.
We managed to stay out of our comfort zone for those 6 days, barely with 3 clothes, with no shower. We washed our meal plates each day & lunch boxes in the chilling cold streams, drank fresh stream water & ultimately celebrated friendships in unknown land amidst beautiful landscapes. We celebrated universe, we celebrated its creation.
“It is so difficult, this thing to be on fire and still somehow be at peace! Be filled with wonder and still be touched by peace! Live in the moment and forever still be at peace!” – Gauri Argade
For video compilation of the trip click – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed9gdC9NzRk