Saturday, May 7, 2011

Satopanth Tal Trek - The End

Old Posts:
The Beginning.
Day 1
Day 2

We woke up in time to see the stream in front of our camp with a thin sheet of ice on top, but showing a good amount of thaw.

The moon was still up.

Today was the day for the final push. We were planning to walk up to the New Base Camp (BC) of Mt. Neelkanth and from there to Chakrateerth. If we did good we would walk a few more kilometers and camp next to Satopanth Tal. With fresh snowfall in the past few days, the path was going to be tricky. However, with a campsite near an icy lake straddled by the mighty Himalayan peaks being our destination, motivation was oozing out of every mountain pore.

Breakfast was dull as I had lost the last vestiges of appetite. I had some biscuits and tea choosing to forego the roti and dal being cooked in our camp. We were raring to go, and as usual Mannu send us on an uphill climb with a promise to catch up soon, one that he must used to keeping. The views were too good everywhere.

Looking down, we saw them gather the gears and start to walk up.

In another 30-45 minutes our support crew joined us. Somewhere here:

We kept walking taking liberal 5-10 minute breaks in between. Climbing the rock-strewn path was no easy thing.

After crossing the New BC of Mt. Neelkanth, we encountered our first batch of fresh snow. It was a bit of dangerous going, as you would never know how deep your legs are going to go down.
And when we reached here I knew I will not be dying a happy man. This looked like a snow cemetery.

I imagined snow ghosts pulling me down and they did. And they pulled our captain down our too. The problem was that there was nothing like a "route" which was safe.

I know when I'm thigh deep in snow that I should stop. One more step, and I can be an ad for Levis Jeans with just the label showing. Looking back at it, the hard part was not your legs going down in snow. In a recent trip, we had oodles of that sort of stuff happening, but there was little threat. Here, the problem was the snow was on top of loose rock, stones and gravel. Every time your legs go down, you could sense sharp stones or whatever trying to cut your leg.

It was a tough call from here on. Mannu said that he can possibly break a trail. I wasn't keen, with all last night's thoughts running in my head. I decided to stay back and Shylu was also not keen on pressing further.

Mannu wanted to go ahead while we camped. It was his first trek of the season and he did not want to jinx it. Fair enough. Bhuvan went with him, and we watched them for a long time as they made their way through the madness falling, shifting, sliding, picking up, but not even once looking back.

Kuldip had set up the tent up on the New Base Camp in around 45 minutes.
Snap time.

The tea was ready. Mannu and Kuldeep were out of sight. We decided to just chill inside the tent. I slept off and woke up in the afternoon and started feeling bored after lunch. No devices to keep you occupied, your friend sleeping, your porter tired, there's nothing you can do but think. Or take snaps, but I had done that already.
So I started making a mini dam with small stones and mud on the little stream next to our tent. It was good to arrest the water flow for a while, and at some point, I broke the "dam" to watch it all gush out. I hadn’t played that game since I was 9 or 10 years old. Hmmm.

I think this is Shipton's Peak, in memory of Eric Schipton, one of the doyens of Himalayan Mountaineering.

Shipton could have been the captain of the 1953 Everest Expedition which put Hillary and Tenzing on top. In fact, he headed the reconnaissance mission on Everest the earlier year. But Major Hunt was chosen ahead of him. Part of the reason was Shipton was more of a mountain lover, some sort of romantic, with a hint of distaste for heavy-duty war-like expeditions. Britain needed a more pragmatic leader, and they went for Hunt. And the rest is history.

While we were dozing off and getting bored and building icky dams on silly streams, Mannu and Co was up to some serious work. I had given him my camera, and boy, did he bring back a treat!
These are pictures of Chakrateerth.

And this is the icy Satopanth lake. It was not Valentine’s day, but the ice formation was just perfect.

Mannu came back by early evening. He had tasted success and was possibly the first man to sight icy Satopanth that year. Here’s him sharing the icy details with an eager listener.

And these are the remnants of a dwelling.
A sadhu a.k.a saint used to live near Satopanth Tal year around. He used to get a lot of traffic, including foreigners. A sadwhi (saintess:) complained that he was doing illicit stuff and got the administration to demolish his arrangements.

Cooking is a pain at these altitudes.

We went to sleep early deciding to try and reach Mana Village back the next day. Frankly, there was no sense of disappointment in either of us. Two of our crew had made the destination. I still remember listening to Shylendran “Macha, reaching this much is big enough. What’s the point in taking risks that you are not comfortable with?” True. *

That's me - the Sherlock Holmes shadow shot, trying to capture a shot of the melting water early next morning.

Return was quick. We just hopped over boulders and ran down. This time – way ahead of our guide and support. I don’t know how that happens. Perhaps, we were eager to return to a phone call, our kind of food, friends, e-mails whatever. I guess we reached Laxmi Van in record time.
Here's the video of the breaking up of an ice-waterfall:

Few shots on the way. The following one is of Mordor.

This time around, we decided to cross the Alak Nanda on our way back. It was a bold, if not chilly decision. The water was only knee-deep, but it was freezing to point that your feet were becoming to become numb in 30-40 seconds, and the flow was not bad.

All of us were jumping around in the hot sand once we reached the other side. Shoes and socks flew as we tried to get out of them and press the numb feet in sand. Here’s a post-dramaticus photo.

There was one small problem though. Our guide’s thermal flask was forgotten on the other side. The ultra-efficient Bhuvan went back and brought it back. He had done what we did multiple times now. First to test the water, then to help us to the other side, and now for a flask.

The walk to Manna village was relatively easy.

This is the same doggie that I had captured in a snap a year back.

Once we reached Manna, we heard the big news. UPA had won the election, and Congress had an enormous upper hand. BJP was thrashed in Uttarakhand losing 12 out of 13 parliamentary seats. That evening we were having a conversation with Mannu (he was all smiles, his vote for the Congress helped, he had reached Satopnath etc.), one or two villagers, and a senior BJP functionary of Joshimath district. I asked this person why he thought BJP lost in Uttarakhand which was its stronghold. He had the usual reasons like giving seats to defectors from other parties. He did blame the ruling CM – Mr. Khanduri. His take was that Khanduri takes an even stance – does not care if the people in front of him were from Congress or from his own party – then what’s the point (in being in a party). So naturally, his party men were upset. And they lost. True. Such a politician cannot win elections in India. Unfortunately. **

Weather next day was clear. Here's a good shot of the streets of Mana.

* But, I spoke to him last month about the same things, and, ironically, far removed in time from that day, both of us agreed – but in the opposite direction – "Macha, we should have gone all the way.”

** Khanduri was soon enough removed from the post of UK CM.

No comments:

Post a Comment