Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tsarak Doh at the road head

It was warm last night, unsurprisingly because we were in a room with a bukhari. I still had a tough time sleeping. There was a snoring competition going on between Sandeep, Satya, Mohan and Subbu. Sometime early morning I fell in deep slumber.

We got ready by 9 AM. I had two big falls right in the begining of the day. There was a frozen stream going down the mountain and the ice was slick. I had to be careful to negotiate it. The initial walk was on the boulders near the bank because the Chadar was not proper. With my overboot, I had a lot of trouble while walking on the boulders, but it was more comfortable once we were back on the ice. There was small water section which we needed to cross. Lobseng ji from the other end were helping us, but unfortunately Manish had fall and he had to go inside the water. It is very difficult if one gets wet in sub zero temperatures. We met couple of groups which were coming back towards Leh and they said the Chadar was alright ahead with some sections requiring caution.

There were couple of sections early on today where the Chadar was not good, and we had to climb on rocks. There were several sections where I realized that if the Chadar is broken, there is no option to climb as there were sheer vertical mountain walls and no bank.

Since this is a winter route for the villagers between Leh and Padum, there are some sections where some permanent iron rods have been fixed into the rocks. Not that it is safe, but it helps if the Chadar is broken in these sections. One can not completely rely on these fixed iron rods, because the rocks are so brittle here and it felt that it can break at any time. We encountered one such section post lunch.

After climbing using the rods we needed to descend down but the rock face looked so imposing and risky that we decided to use ropes and climb down. With the help of one length of rope, Lobsang ji and porters helped all the team members to descend down After descending down, while unroping Sandeep had fall but he manged without much injury. Mohan had some first aid kit handy so he used it bandage himself.

We walked for a while on completely unbroken Chadar and saw what looked like the road head. There is a road construction going on between Padum and Leh from both the side since 2003 along the Zanskar river. The stretch is not long but becuause its very tricky to cut the mountains and build the road, its taking lot of time. It might take another four to five years before the road work is done.

We decided to walk on the road from here and so we all climbed up to the road head from the river. It was so much easier walking on earthen roads after walking so many days on different forms of ice. We found there were bunch of BRO bunkers and a small tea shop where we had good hot tea.

The campsite of Tsarak Doh was on the Chadar bank after about 3 to 4 km from here. Lobsang ji had already told us that this campsite is very windy since it is open from three sides. We got down from the road head to the campsite (back on the Chadar) and realized that Lobsang ji was absolutely right. It was mighty windy and was so cold that it was almost impossible to stand outside the tent. We decided to have an early dinner and called it a day at 8 pm itself.

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