Sunday, June 4, 2017

The beginning of the trek

For those coming here directly, this is the third blog in this series.

Do read the first part here, and the second part here.

Ìt was time to get up and start our adventure! But first, we had to get some stuff from the Joshimath market, to be fully prepared for the trek. Looked like even after all the pestering and forcing from the wifey, we were not fully equipped! We had to get a lunch box and gaiters, which we would get at the army store in the market.

On reaching the market, however, we found out that there were no gaiters available in stock! What do we do? Without the gaiters, all the snow would go into our shoes and our toes would get frozen!

We in India, however, are the best in finding very good alternate solutions to solve any issue. In Indian parlance, it is called 'JUGAAD'. We are the masters in Jugaad. Give a stick to an Indian, and he will make a house out of it! In a lot of ways, this trip was the mother of Jugaad for a few people, especially the Pangarchulla Yogi jugaad babas (yes it is a group of people who should actually make a Facebook page with that very name, their following would be epic!), but more on that later.

The wifey, on the other hand, went into her jugaad mode, as though it was her second nature. She immediately asks the shopkeeper 'Do you have any plastic packets with you?'. 'Yes Ma'am, that we do', says the shopkeeper and gives her a whole load of plastic packets. She asks 'How much for these?'. The shopkeeper thinks 'Should I take advantage of this situation and actually ask for some money for this?? HAHAHA :D' but then actually says 'Nothing. It's free!'.

I am outside the shop the whole time, and suddenly I see the wifey with a whole set of plastic sheets. She goes past me saying 'LET'S GO! WE DON'T HAVE TIME! WE NEED TO BUY RUBBER BANDS'. The guide had given us about 20 minutes to buy all the extra stuff we would need for the trek, and that was enough for just the one shop. However, we started our mini expedition through the Joshimath market, trying to find the first shop that would sell rubber bands. After running around, we finally got the ingredients for the makeshift jugaad gaiters.

It was now time to start the walk up to the first campsite! We were all excited! We were taken by our taxis to the drop off point at Dhak Village, where we then had the option of using mules to carry our luggage to the camp sites, or we could take the stuff ourselves. The wifey, being one not to use the mules for luggage, carried all the stuff in her trekking bag. She has been doing it for the past 4 treks, so for her, it was easy peasy. Me, not wanting to look weak in front of the crowd, thought 'CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!' and also took the luggage with myself. However, little did I know that my luggage was a good 2 kilos heavier than the wifeys, and that actually carrying your own luggage was not as easy as it looked in the photos that the wifey took in all those other treks she had gone to! But, once a commitment was made, it had to be executed till the very end. So there was it, I had the stuff with me!

The clear skies and the cool weather just made conditions perfect to start the trek!
Not a single cloud in sight, and the snow peaked mountains! What a sight to start our trek!

Pangarchulla peak as seen on the first day. Looked so close by!
The lush green forests being overlooked by the snow capped mountains made us want to reach the top as soon as possible! However, it would take another two days for us to reach there!

From Dhak village, it was a 5 km walk that we took to Gulling top, where we stopped for the night. Even though the distance was only 5 km, it was a climb, so it was tough! However, we were told that the difficult in the 'moderate - to - difficult' rating of this trek was not because of the first 2 days of the trek. So there was a whole lot more to come!

The Gulling Top Campsite.
The tents were put up by ourselves. The view from the campsite was breathtaking! However, the skies had started becoming cloudy, and apparently this was a pattern. The mornings till noon, were almost always clear, however, post noon, the clouds would always cover the mountains.
View from Gulling Top campsite
Once we were set for the day, we had a briefing with the trek leads on certain do's and don'ts that had to be followed, no matter what, to make the trek incident free (even then, there was no guarantee of things going smooth).

  1. You are NOT to sleep in the tent post lunch. You are to find out some or the other activity to do to keep yourself awake during this time of the day. This was hard, especially after walking so long, and having a sumptuous lunch! But no, we had to stay awake! This doesn't apply when you are coming down, however.
  2. Climb high, sleep slow. (Yes. That is what the lead said all the time. We all knew he meant 'Sleep low', but we did not once stop and correct him. It was fun just to hear him say that all the time! :D)
  3. Drink at least 4-5 liters of water during your overnight camp stay. This would build up your oxygen level and help you prepare for the next day's climb.
  4. Even if you do not feel like eating, you are required to eat food.
  5. It was important that you had atleast an oxygen level of 80 for you to be fit to climb up the next day. A test was taken every evening after dinner to check our oxygen levels.
  6. Most important of all, when nature calls, you are not to go wandering on your own outside. There were sophisticated (yes, for trekking standards, they were very sophisticated) western and eastern toilets dug up just for us to use.
Once the briefing was done, it was time for tea, and immediately afterwards, we went up for our evening acclimatization walk (Yes, the climb high, sleep slow rule being applied here). It was here that we finally got to know the names of the other group members of the trek. That too, only because the trek leads forced us in a circle and played a game where we had to memorize the names all the people before us, and I was the second last in the circle. I finally got introduced to the Bengaluru flutist and his brother in law, the professional social networking gym goer; the Gujarati Financial babus, the momo zombie, the pangarchulla yogi jugaadu babas, the director of photography, the CSR and Sustainability ladies, the IIM Cal trekker, the Navi Mumbai engineer and the Ladakh Marathon volunteer tester (Guys who were actually part of this trek may probably understand who they are, for the others, there was a wide range of people from different walks of life here, from Kashmir all the way to Kochi, and that in itself was amazing! This is another advantage of going on a trek, and that is.... meeting people!)

After that, we had a team session, where we had to figure out, as a team, how to solve a problem. The idea was to get the team to work together to plan out and execute a problem. However, on the ground, what actually happened was a lot of planning, and a whole lot of fun! This made us get to know each other a lot more.

Dinner was served at 7 PM, Soon after, it was time to sleep. And this was what we were seeing as we went to sleep.

The stars were shining, the clear skies making it a sight worth seeing!
Sleeping at night was not an easy task by any means. For one, the weather was very cold, so you had to wear atleast 3 layers of clothes and tuck yourself inside the sleeping bag to keep yourself warm. Second, and probably more importantly, as one of the Do's given to us was to keep ourselves hydrated, we had drunk a whole lot of water before sleeping. That would mean only one thing during the night, and as the toilets were far, far away in another galaxy, going through the cold windy climate to the toilet was a task in itself!

Somehow, we managed to survive the night and woke up to another clear sky. The sun rising meant that the rays were just peeking out from the mountains, and that was some sight! It did give me the positive vibe that I needed to move on in this trek!

Welcome sunshine! On a side note, the mountain just peeking on the right of the picture is the almighty Nanda Devi!

Pangarchulla Peak in the morning from the Gulling Top campsite. Our final destination was at the top of that very mountain!
The second day was a 6 km walk to Khulara. However, in terms of height, we went up to 11,122 ft from 9,600 ft at Gulling top. That was a steep climb! We would not get to see snow this day either, as the snow had just melted from the Khulara top. That meant that a lot of the trail to the camp site was damp.

However, it was not as bad as I had thought it would be. We had to go through a forest to reach the camp site. Thankfully, the skies were clear in the morning, and the sun was shining bright!
Some trees just stood out from the rest!

More of the above was what we got to see along the way!
But the sight of the day was not on the way, but at Khulara, where we were to stay for the night.

You could see the entire Garhwal range from this site! It was just out of this world!
We could have spent the whole day just gazing at the sight of the entire range. There was only one thing that could stop us from looking at the awesome views.


Yes. You heard right. You might ask 'But where is the TV? And was there any match going on that day?'. And I would say, ONLY THE BEST MATCH IN THE WORLD!

Playing cricket at 11,500 feet is, as I found out the hard way, not easy at all! The thin air made it very difficult to run, and after having walked up about 6 km and 2000 feet, the body just did not want to do anything else but rest! However, I did take it as a challenge to test my fitness level, and did an OK job batting.
Yes, that is me hitting the ball!
The bowling was even more tough, because you actually had to run to bowl! However, I did not do so bad in the bowling department, being the wild card for the team, picking up a couple of wickets in the one over I bowled, and saving the team from at least losing the game! (Yeah, the game did not complete, and we self proclaimed the win, but the fact that we still lasted so long in the game against the locals was in itself an achievement!)
I did manage to generate some pace while bowling
Once that was done, it was time to do our acclimatization walk (Remember the climb high sleep slow guidance given by the guide?). Here is when we got to hear about the difficult path that lied ahead. It would be a good 12 km climb, with a 3500 feet increase in height, and as you keep on climbing higher and higher, the air would get thinner and thinner, and the weather that much more unpredictable. All of us were brought back to reality, and were quiet for the rest of the day, just mentally preparing ourselves for the next day. We were to start at 4 AM in the morning, and the only rule was that we had to reach the top of the peak by 12 noon. Now, it may sound very easy (6 KM in 8 hours??? I can do that in my sleep!), but, as you will read in my next part of the adventure, it was nothing but!  

What would happen the next day? Would all of us make it to the top? What would be our situation during the climb to the top? To know, read on here!


sreedevi sivadas said...

Well described... Took me back on my treks... Photography.. SUPER

Kartik Krishnamoorthy said...

Thanks Sreedevi! Glad you liked both the post and the pics!

Deepa said...

Excellent writeup dear. Waiting for next one....

Kartik Krishnamoorthy said...

Yes Deepa... It is work in progress! Will have it up soon

rakesh said...

heyy...great description :D

rakesh said...

great description :D

Kartik Krishnamoorthy said...

Thanks Rakesh! Glad you liked it.... keep on reading!

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