Monday, August 4, 2008

Reaching Base Camp

We got ready and started a little late at around 11 AM for Jispa. As our luggage was getting loaded on the Sumos, a dhongi baba, carrying a snake started pestering for money. Apparently wanted money to feed his snake; for snake snacks.

Our driver was called Chunni Lal and was quite an interesting character; kept us entertained for the next couple of days.
On the way, we stopped at “Marhi”, where Kaushal and other members had their lunch. We saw a lot of tourists at this place, para gliding.

The next stop was at Rohtang Pass, which at around 3800m. It was extremely windy, when we got down at Rohtang. Again there were many tourists here, all with overcoats and snow boots enjoying the weather.

As we were going to gain considerable height in the next two days, all of us were wary of acclimatization and used to drink lots of water. The only person harrowed by all this was Chunni Lal; we made him stop very frequently on the way for nature breaks.

Further down, after crossing the Rohtang pass, we saw the road which goes towards “Chandra Tal.”. I have been wanting to visit this lake for some time now as I have heard that it is an extremely beautiful place. May be sometime in the future.

There is a checkpost at Khoksar and Chris and Dan had to show their passports here. We also wanted to have lunch at Khoksar, but we were getting a little late so decided to wait till we reach Keylong.

After Khoksar, the condition of road was little bit good. So our driver decided to speed up a little and what happened next was quite funny. There were a couple of cops, waiting for this moment, catching the drivers for speeding, using a speed gun. Now, the Manali-Leh road isn't in a very good condition. Theres only this 2 km segment which is probably newly done and the cops choose this same place to catch speeding drivers. Amazing business sense some people have; but not so fast. The cops called Chuni Lal, but couldn't give him a ticket, because their printer got jammed at that same moment. After they tried for some time, they managed to correct it, but now it printed only blank white sheet. Chuni Lal, was elated as he came back to the jeep with victory written all over his face.

The surroundings were amazingly beautiful. As we were now in Lahaul, there was a stark change in the countryside, which was getting more and more barren. But I should say, it was very beautiful. We could now see the beautiful snow capped ranges with tens of small glaciers around us.

We finally reached Keylong at around 4 in the evening. Everyone was pretty hungry and we had our lunch at a small Tibetan place there. We quickly grabbed a bite and started for Jispa; Chuni Lal told us that the headlights of his vehicle were not in a working condition. We wanted to reach Jispa before it got dark and we finally reached the town at around 7:15 PM. There is mountaineering institute in Jispa and we were going to camp there for the night. This campsite was on the banks of the Bhaga River.

After sometime Kaushal gave a briefing about the training; kind of setting the expectations for the training and climbing program. We had a great dinner, went for a small walk towards the town and finally hit our respective sacks.

From the day we decided to climb Mt. Yunum, I was trying to get information; some photos, write ups for Yunum without much luck. The thought of now seeing the mountain which we were going to climb was exciting.

As we got up early the next morning at 5, I could see that it was already quite some light outside. This was good, the days seemed longer in these parts during this time of the year.
We got ready, and packed our sleeping bags and folded our tents. After having our breakfast, we met a Bengali guy who has been living in Leh for the last 20 years.

He was accompanying a few bikers, riding from Manali to Leh and then to Srinagar and then Dharamshala on motor bikes. He was carrying all the luggage and fuel for the bikers. It was great talking to him and listening to his experiences. We finally started for Bharatpur at around 8.30AM. It was going to be a 4 hour drive from here. On the way at Darcha, Chris and Dan had to again show their passports for verification.

The drive was steep on the Manali-Leh road and Chunni lal was driving perfectly. After some time, we stopped at Baralacha La (4800 mts), which is again a famous trekking destination in Himachal.

This was an extremely windy and cold place and as we got out of our jeep, we realized that we were now at respectable altitude. We clicked a couple photos and moved ahead.

The vegetation and the terrain are really different in Lahaul. I have never been in such surroundings before and it was beautiful in its own different way.

We finally reached Bharatpur (4300 mts) at 11.30AM and found it to be a really small but nice place. Bharatpur has only ten odd small dhabhas, which remain open during the tourist season. We called Bharatpur the Las Vegas of India; this was a pretty happening place in the middle of the desert.
Theres a different kind of tea; “butter tea” served in those dhabas, but didnt have the will to try it at that time.

Our base camp was about 300 odd meters from here. We did load ferrying from the road head to the base camp. Dan alone carried a big 25kg potato sack and we were thankful to him throughout the trip; our “aaloo paratha”, “aaloo sabzi” were all courtsey Dan.

After reaching the base camp, all of us pitched our tents and after a while had our lunch. This was going to be our home for the next whole week at least.

The altitude was starting to show its true colors now. We had had this experience during our earlier treks, specifically during the Kalindi trek when we were hit by altitude for quite some days. This is definitely not a great experience. As the headache and nausea started to creep in, we thought we would go for a small acclimatization walk. Dan wasn't feeling up to it. So the rest of us started to climb towards a smallish glacier that we could see from our camp. We must have climbed a few hundred meters and just then we saw the mountain. Mt Yunum. So this was the mountain, finally my curiosity of the last few months ended. The peak looked beautiful in the daylight. There was a sheer slope the North-West face on one side; but the south face with snow and scree , what looked from here was a gentler slope.

On the way Kaushal showed us how to take a resting step while climbing, how to climb down on boulders etc. After some time we came back to base camp. Moiz and Chris were also not feeling good.
It was getting extremely windy and cold. We had our dinner and went to our tents.


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