Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trek to Dib caves (the AMS camp)

Last night in spite of the cold outside we did have a good sleep because the sleeping bags and tents were really good. Thats one thing for the Chadar. There cannot be any compromise with gear and we were lucky to get good gear from Manish and Lobsang. It makes no sense to trek when one is in a lot of discomfort and specifically for the Chadar, where discomfort can be really a problem given the weather, the gear matters all the more.

Today we started at 9.15 AM. Lobsang ji our guide was testing if the Chadar was good or not and slipped into knee deep waters. This is the scariest part of this trek. Sometimes when the Chadar is not properly formed we walked on boulders or rocks near the banks. If the rocks were tricky to negotiate and risky we used a length of rope to climb the rocks and cross over.

In the early part of the trek today, we saw that the Chadar was broken in parts and had to be crossed to get to the frozen parts. The water was ankle deep so we borrowed the gum boots used by our porters and guide. The gum boots made it relatively easier to walk through the water. However, there was one small section where porters actually carried all of us one by one to cross small section of water and then with the help of the rope we negotiated the rock section. I for one do not like being carried and would have rather tried the crossing myself, but I realized that in the interest of time and ease to the porters, this was the better option. We did see a lot of action today in the first part of the trek itself. “The Chadar changes every hour”. This was the mantra Manish kept on telling us and it was indeed so. There were stretches where the Chadar was unbroken for kilometers however surprisingly the Zanskar could be seen flowing serenely on some sections.

Since we had seen a lot of action during the initial part of the day, by the time we reached the lunch point it was later than usual. Lobsang ji wanted to camp at this point for the day, but Manish insisted that we go ahead. We had good hot maggi for luch and then started for the camp. For the rest of the day we encountered a properly formed Chadar. At some point, I could feel the water was flowing below the frozen ice and each step I took made a “crack” sound on the ice.

Now this was scary, but by this time we had learned some basic walking techniques on ice. There were few caves before the campsite and that was home for our porters.

When we reached the Campsite, we saw there was one more tent already pitched by some other group. Later on we came to know that one member was not keeping well so had opted to stay behind. This person called himself a wild photographer. When Imarn and Manish spoke to him, he said he was having AMS and couldn't go ahead. But they soon realized that this was the first outdoor experience for this guy and he was totally ill prepared for the mountains. He also showed signs of taking the mountains for granted and was not repentant for doing something foolish. Later they said that he did indeed have AMS ( Attitude Mountain Sickness) but there was no cure. Dib caves came to be known as the AMS camp since then. At this point I would like to mention that even if the Chadar is a walk at a relatively lower altitudes, this trek does require certain level of fitness, a likeness for the outdoors and a willingness to tough it out in the cold. Like all expeditions in the mountains, it requires its own form of preparations.

We had got some Haldiram from Delhi and we were relishing those after reaching the campsite. The campsite was very windy as compared the previous one but Lobsang ji said that the colder and windier campsites were yet to come. Most of the campsites were right on the banks of the river or they appear to be on the banks of river at least in winter, not sure what would happen to these campsites in summer. The Zanskar is not easily negotiable in the summers.

On the way Lobsang had shouted for “Tuggu”, one of the villagers he met. Our own Subbu responded to his call assuming it was for him. This is when Subbu acquired his claim to fame as the Zanskari boy “Tuggu” which we called him for the rest of the trek.

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