We waited for jeep at Pidmo for sometime and later decided to walk. We were walking on the mettle road which was getting built between the Padum-Leh. We were walking at a very good pace and we crossed Hunmil in no time. Just about 6 to 7 km before the campsite, we saw two jeeps coming towards our side. These were our jeeps and we got on to the second one of them. Afte sometime we saw the jeep ahead of us had stopped and team members were taking some pictures. Lobsang ji came to us and asked “Snow Leopard dekhna hai ??”. We were so excited, we jumped out from the jeep. It was a dream come true. There was an animal chasing a group of Ibex. It was on the far side of the mountain and we could barely make out. Some of our team members tried to capture its picture. It was awesome site, something which I had only watched on T.V., a snow leopard chasing a herd of Ibex. People wait for years before they get a siting and here we were. Although we could not see very clearly, but still the site gave us goosebumps. (Snow Leopard photo by Subbu. It is the small animal seen at the center of the pic)
It was good day for all of us. We reached campsite at 1.30 in the afternoon. We had good hot tea and lunch. This was the windiest and coldest of all the campsites. Around 5 pm, Manish told us that the temperature inside his tent was -5 degrees so the temperature outside could be around -12 to -15.
We had early dinner and decided to hit the sack.
Stuck on the Chadar banks
Last night was I think the coldest night. In the morning, Imran told us that the temperature last night would have been in the high -20s.
By the time we got ready it was 8.30AM. It took really a lot of time to pack the sleeping bags and other stuff. We had a good breakfast and started at 9 AM. Despite the cold in the morning we were making good progress. We realized that we were now going downstream, so it was relatively easier to walk.
In about an hour and half we reached the point where we had used rope earlier to climb down because of the broken Chadar. Now we need to climb up and cross to the other side.Some of the porters climbed first and with the help of Lobsang ji we all climbed up using the rope.
It took sometime for us to cross this section but all of crossed safely. I remembered that last time this was the only major hurdle between the campsites. I was happy and started dreaming about the warm room of Nerak. But as they say “Man proposes God disposes”. After a while we saw a group of villagers were sitting together and were having their lunch. We came to know that the Chadar was completely broken and for there was deep water for the next 200 meters. There was no way, this section could be crossed. There were sheer walls on all sides and no route over the rocks as well. The only thing we could do was to wait and pray for the river to freeze.
As we waited, we realized that it was very windy and cold. We did not feel the cold when we used to walk, however, once you sit idle, the cold gets to you. Someone suggested that we build a stone wall which we could use for protection from the wind and it would also help us keep warm as we do not sit idle. Everyone started gathering stones from around and helped to build a wall. It did help us keep warm for sometime.
In the afternoon our porters tried to give another shot to Chadar and tried to check if it were possible to cross it, but were out of luck. Lobsang ji decided to camp here itself because there was no way we could go back or go forward and we saw some other group was also coming towards us. So it was better to pitch our tents first. We decided we would not pitch all the tents because it would take lot of time to pack up again if needed to start.