Wednesday, December 13, 2006

14-10-2006 [Bara Bhangal (~2500m) – Somewhere Near Thamsar Pass (~4200m) ] ~11hrs

This was the most extremely adventurous day of my life. I am thankful to God, because without His help, this day wouldn’t have ended like it did. I don’t think Sandeep or I will ever forget this day for the rest of our lives. Looking back, I am really happy that all of us safe sound, hearty about this day and here to write about the trek after all.

On the previous night, the weather turned bad again. It was raining in Bara Bhangal. The whole sky was overcast. When we woke up, we were both greeted by the sound of the rain lashing against our tent. Prem brought tea to our tent that means our guide wants us to wake up early.

Our guides Kaushal, Rinku and we both [ Sandeep and I ] decided to not only skip the rest day but also to attempt to cross the Thamsar Pass on the same day [skipping the Camp site Murh].

I got really worried from within my heart. Are we going to make it not …I asked this question so many times because the pass is at nearly 4800m. So we have to directly go from 2500m to 4800m and then down again to a decent camp site. Although we were very well acclimatized after the Kaliheni pass, still the thought gave me the creeps.

It was indeed a very bold decision. Trusting our strength and will power, we started for the big day at around 7.00 AM.

It was an extremely steep climb to Murh. Murh itself is a campsite that is about 5 hours from Bara Bhangal. On the way to Murh, we found some pug marks on the snow. Rinku told it might be some dog’s pug marks. We were walking on boulders and rocks and this climb continued for the next 4 hrs. The rain did not stop all this while. Just as we neared Murh after about 4 hrs, it started snowing heavily and there was a complete white out within few mins. A whiteout means, heavy snow, mist, and the visibility became less than 10 feet. Sandeep forcefully took some photos.

There were signs of a snow blizzard as well. Rinku, who was walking with us, was totally tensed. He tried not to show it and kept on encouraging us, but still we couldn’t miss the tension in his voice. We were beginning to tire as well. The snow, now was almost 2 feet in depth.
Sandeep meanwhile was happily clicking away. I was thinking whether we would be alive to see those photos or not. Rinku asked Sandeep to wear the Sun glassed and asked to continuously look around instead of concentrating on one point as I was wearing my power glasses. This is because if you are walking in the snow for a log time without wearing sun glasses then there might chance for snow blindness. In the snow, it was becoming difficult to find the trail. We were both following Rinku’s foot prints. Rinku also told us to move our legs and hands so that there is a good amount of blood flow to our limbs. Sandeep was now beginning to worry about frost bite as well. After sometime our horses crossed us. Suddenly our speed reduced as a total fatigue set in. We had been walking for God knows how many hours and it seemed like eternity before we reach the pass and get down from it. We were tired, hungry, dehydrated, numb, cold, and the altitude was taking its toll on us. We still had to cross the pass, which was no where in site.

We reached Murh at 1PM we were very much tired because of the climb. We had tried to walk at a faster pace than normal, but the conditions were very difficult. And our destination was not Murh; we still had to cross the pass. We also saw a black dog there. This was a Tibetan breed which most of the Gaddis have. Any other time, it would have looked ferocious, not today. After sometime we forgot about the dog as it ran away from us. We took a break for 10minutes, had chocolates and dry fruits and started again for the Thamsar Pass.

Suddenly Sandeep and I got some energy. We both remembered God and started again. As we neared the pass, we realized that the snow fall was indeed very heavy. The snow here was about of 3 feet and it was extremely difficult walking on this snow. The trail to pass was covered in the snow as well. Since the horses had already moved ahead of us, we were following their hoof marks or whatever was left of them in the heavy snow.

This was our first experience of trekking in snow. When Sandeep is following me while walking, then I have a habit of saying “Sandeep neet ya” every five minutes. But today I knew that if I speak more then required then I am going to lose my energy. So instead of saying loudly “Sandeep neet ya”, I was just mumbling it in my mind.

I couldn’t help wondering, how every body becomes selfish after reaching total moribund state.
Rinku,meanwhile was trying to motivate us regularly. I was still not sure whether we would be able to make it or not. We were feeling very thirsty but there was no sign of water only ice every where. Everything was against us, the altitude, and the snow but thank God, as the wind was taking some rest. We were progressing slowly. My energy level and will power started decreasing. After sometime we reached to that point from where the pass was visible. It seemed to be near, but I knew that reaching to the pass would take lot of time. It was still a few kilometers away. The distances in the mountains are really misleading. The destination seems to be very near or very far, but it is always the other way round. At this time I was totally fatigued. With every step I was thinking of God. But I was unable to move after a point. The distance just seemed incredible. Rinku told me not to look at the mountains ahead us. He said, just put your head down, count the steps and move ahead. I crossed one such stretch and but after that I stopped. Then Rinku gave me his hand for help but Sandeep became angry and asked to climb without his help.

The snow seemed to be getting thicker and thicker. Each step was so difficult which I can’t explain now. It seemed that there was kilograms of lead tied to our feet. We lost all the strength and our legs were unable to move. While walking, our legs used to go deep inside the snow hence it was really difficult to move ahead and along with that the altitude was taking our exams.
After a while, we were able to see our horses near the pass. At the pass, the horses were not able move; they were standing in one position. Kaushal and Prem were trying to make path in the snow for them.

This time even Sandeep was totally tired. He started saying that he was unable to move his fingers. Rinku told him to bang both his fists together. We must have been around 100 – 150 meters from the pass and then both of us gave up. Our will power and strength both were gone. We couldn’t move single inch. Now we understood, what “giving up” means. Rinku helped Sandeep and Kaushal helped me to cross last 50mts. And that’s it. We were standing on top of the Thamsar Pass.

I was crying with happiness. But the part which both of us didn’t like was we gave up for the last 50 mts.

Back home, when Sandeep and I used to talk, Sandeep always used to say that while crossing the mountain one requires two things one is strength and other one is will power. He is strong believer that when your strength is gone, will power is gone too. But I used say; one can climb the mountains with the help of will power alone. Even when your strength has gone, will power will take you to the summit. Today was the day when we saw that strength and will power, both are gone and the only thing that kept us moving was faith.
So we added an additional item to strength and will power. For climbing mountains, you require not just Strength and Will Power. You require an immense amount of Faith as well which is probably the most important of the three.

We were so tired that we couldn't walk till the next campsite. It was also getting dark. It was then all of us decided that we would have to camp in snow around 400-500m below the pass. We all huddled together in one tent. Rinku and Prem made some hot tea by melting the snow and using it as water.

Both Sandeep and I were tired and cold and ready to sleep. We had walked for about 11 hrs today in snow and both Rinku and Kaushal were doing their best to keep our spirits up. Also we were a little worried about frost bite as our hands and feet were all numb due to cold. As we huddled in the tent, we thought the worries were over. But it did not still end here. In the night the wind was blowing mightily and suddenly one of our tent poles broke. The snow started coming inside the tent but finally we managed to conquer the horrible night. Obviously, none of us could sleep properly that night.

During the night, Kaushal and Prem told us that from Murh till the Pass they had followed the pug marks of one dog that was moving ahead of them. Then we thought it was the same dog, whose pug marks we saw while starting from Bara Bhangal early morning. Everyone was saying that God has sent this Dog to help us. If the pug marks of the Dog would have not been there, if would have been really difficult for us to find the trail in such a heavy snow. After few days coming from the trek, I was reading one book called “Higher Then Everest” by M.S.Kohli, and this book also mentions that if you see a dog moving in the same direction ahead of you, it is supposed to be a good omen.


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