Sunday, September 30, 2007

Negotiating the Arwa Nala

3rd September

Even though, we had decided on waking up a little late, we ended up waking at 5 AM in the morning. There was a big waterfall near the campsite and every time, the flow in the water increased due to glacial melt, it would make a big thunderous sound, very similar to the avalanches on the Avalanche Peak. This kept us awake in the night. JP and Moiz were also out of their tent and all of us spent some time talking. This was the day when we had to cross the Arwa Nala (“Nala” is a small river). This was to be another challenging task. The river has to be crossed early in the day, as during the afternoon, the flow in the river increases due to increase in the water level from glacial melt. Our guide, Budhi, in one of his earlier treks, had fallen in the river while helping one of the members cross it. Budhi had always been cryptic in his replies on our questions about how we were going to cross Arwa Nala.

To be honest, mentally I was quite reluctant about crossing the Arwa Nala as I knew that there was an alternative way of crossing the Nala. That was over a natural Snow Bridge a little further up the Arwa Glacier. The only other person who was with me on this was Harsh. Sandeep, Moiz and JP didn’t mind crossing the Nala. But today, neither of us knew the route that Budhi was planning to take.

We started a little late, at around 9.15 AM, negotiating – what else boulders again. After one point we reached a complete plain ground where 6 to 7 small water rivulets could be seen. We had to actually cross these water streams. One of our porters said this was the "Chota Arwa Nala". None of us were carrying our sandals with us today and this made things difficult as we had to cross the rivulets with bare feet. Sandals would have helped us while crossing the "Chota Arwa Nala".

I attempted first river stream and oh my God the water was horribly cold. It felt like putting your legs in cold fire. For the first stream, which was the biggest stream, I had to take help from one of the porters. Actually crossing the "Chota Arwa Taal" was trailer of things to come, about crossing "Arwa Nala".

Our guide himself had already decided that the he would be using Snow Bridge. The porters had decided that they would be actually crossing the river. All of us went with Budhi. Although JP, Moiz and Sandeep wanted to go with porters but since Snow bridge route didn't look too far, they came with us.

As we approached near the snow bridge, we found that the snout of the glacier was totally broken. There were huge cracks in the center of the snout. So we had to climb for another hour to find a suitable place from where we could cross the bridge safely.

After sometime I saw some of the porters also behind us. Actually while they were crossing the Nala, one of the porters had slipped into the water and that made rest of the porters to cross the Nala using the snow bridge.

Actually after crossing the pass, we had thought that the rest of the trek would be easier. But a trek like Kalindi will test your strength till last of day. The boulder hopping was not ending at all and I had started to tire of all the boulders.

We climbed around 200m on loose boulders and then we had to cross the glacier on the snow bridge. This was the scariest part. Harsh was after our guide Budhi and Sandeep and I were following him. When Harsh was crossing the glacier on the boulders, one of the porters told him to cross the glacier quickly as it might crack anytime. While crossing we could hear the sound of water flowing below the glacier. The glacier was really very thin and we wondered if it would give away anytime, but all of us crossed it safely.

We had a small lunch break on a rock bed after crossing the bridge. While having lunch, all of us discussed the plans for the next day. We had another campsite after todays but if we pushed a little hard, we could be in Badrinath, our destination by the next day. I wasn’t very keen on finishing the trek a day early, but decided to go with the crowd.

We thought we would decide about it after reaching our campsite for today "Arwa Taal"(4500 meters, 14900 feet). Finally we reached to campsite at around 2.45 PM.

This campsite was on flat ground and there was some greenery around. Budhi told us if we were planning to directly go to Badrinath then we need to inform the porters in advance. We took a poll and decided that tomorrow we would be directly going to Badrinath instead of stopping over at Ghastoli(3900 meters, 12870 feet). We decided that Ghastoli, we would re-look at our decision and if we were tired we would camp at Ghastoli itself.

Normally on a trek like this, one walks for about 4 to 6 hours max and the distance covered is 8 -15 kilometers. However, skipping a campsite would mean walking for 25-30 kilometers and possibly 10 to 12 hours.

The dinner we had today strangely felt more delicious then before. Probably this was going to be our last night in tents for this trek and I felt bad because I could see the trek nearing its end. We went to bed because again tomorrow we had to start early.


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