Har Ki Doon Trek – Day -3 – Deep Into the Wilderness
We woke up to the sound of birds at about 05:00 am fresh and filled with energy. I went out brushed my teeth in the cold water, a difficult thing to do. I went to the forest with an axe, a bottle of water and some toilet paper.
Completely fresh, I washed my face and head in the running water of the river with a face-wash which I asked from Mountain Man. It was a cold but refreshing feeling. We did some stretching exercises in the morning to gear up for the coming day. Before breakfast, we were advised to empty out tents, pack sleeping backs and submit carry mats. On the whole trek, my objective was to get ready for walking as early as possible and emptying out the tent was the first and last thing to be able to do so. We were served breakfast of cheela and daliya which I ate sumptuously considering their high fiber, high carbohydrate and fat content. We got ready for the trek and moved on towards our next camp site.
By the time I was writing the day’s first entry it was 09:30 am and we had covered approximately one kilometers by-passing Osla village and reaching Osla Guest House which is situated at 2769 meters (9000 feet approx) above MSL. Surrounding peaks are beautiful. And even the peaks close to us were seen covered with snow. Fortunately, I was not having any breathing problem, but my backpack was giving extreme pain in my right shoulder. I adjusted my backpack straps in which Gajji also helped me and things were much better now. It became comfortable then and I followed the same arrangement for the whole trek.
When we move forward, on the point of crossing the river, there is a hanging bridge. One has to cross the river for Har-Ki Doon. For other expeditions to Bandarpunch range, Black peak, Bali pass and further to Yamunotri one has to go straight ahead without crossing the bridge.
Here we cross the river, and suddenly climb becomes riskier and steeper. When this stretch of about two kilometers was over we enter into a wheat field. There is this agricultural field whose one side the mountain is rising much higher and we have the idea that we have to climb further. On the other side there is this valley in which river is flowing. The view is amazing. While coming back from the same route from the top we see wind moving grass in such a way that it forms beautiful aurora like patters of green shades.
Mules took another path up in the mountains as they would have damaged the crops in the field. But, the comfort was short lived and we again pulled ourselves up the mountains. Gajji was true to his words that today’s climb will be tough and it was. Fortunately, the distance was less though it was evenly tiring. On a decent near a stream there was a concrete bridge, a tea/maggi shop. We stopped here and had our packet lunch. It contained two chapattis and fried lady-finger. The lunch was limited as we were informed that the camp site is nearby. By this time we all understood that the term ‘nearby’ by these guides means at-least two to four kilometers although they make it sound like its just a few hundred meters. So, considering this I ordered a Maggi too which cost Rs 30 only. The Businessman informed that Maggis are quite famous and their prices are directly proportional to the altitude. During his YHAI National Trek to Sar Pass, he had the opportunity to have a Maggi plate in Rs 100.
After, giving rest to our muscles and lungs, we started the much steeper climb again. This must have been a hundred meters climb but quite steep. Climbing it must have been the most difficult part of the trek. But, the reward was incomparable. As soon as we reach the top, it opens up in a meadow and about hundred meters flat we can see our tents waiting for us.
I was too tired to walk and walked real slow to avoid unnecessary exhaustion. Most of our group was ahead of me, some had even put their bags in their tents and some enjoying the scenery sitting on a big rock at the edge of the mountain. Few were behind me. As soon as I reached the base camp, I was first fascinated by the natural beauty. There is this deep valley, in the North we see fresh snow-covered peaks and forests of pine trees. Far away in East we see a full range of high peaks including Black peak and Banderpunch range. Gajji told that a team has gone for an expedition at Black Peak. He himself has summited Black Peak twice. In West direction, from where we came, it was worthwhile to wait for the sunset and see how it looks in the Himalayas. Behind us, in South direction, we see hills from where the path leads closer to Har-Ki Doon, our next day trek. The beauty was transcendental.
I came to senses when I started feeling sudden surge of cold and headache. The feeling of cold when we stop moving is most evident in Himalayas then at any other place and it’s quite sudden. When you are walking everything in fine, as you stop you start feeling cold. I had to wear one jacket, one fleece, two t-shirts, gloves, cap and woolen muffler to feel comfortably warm. But, there seemed no cure for headache. This was the time I thought I will return back. I don’t want to face this again. I am not fit for cold and heights. Since, it had started raining by then, we three – me, Mountain Man, Business Man were in tent and I told them about my condition. They sympathized. It was late afternoon and I was in my sleeping bag with all my clothes on. They were discussing about much difficult treks and I was feeling like let me go from here. I thought I had made a mistake coming here. Outside, the rain had stopped and people came out to discuss mountaineering and trekking. I could overhear them discussing mountain accidents and related movies like Vertical Limit, 127 hours and Into This Air. I was much afraid then. The same discussion was going on in our tent. Then the point came up that only those who have strong will to live, survive in the mountains. It was a very important realization to me. I decided to complete the trek first.
I remember our Ground Co-ordinator telling the formula of 1-1-1 to check if one has headache due to Acute Mountain Sickness or just due to dehydration. The formula is taking one Dispirin with one Liter of water and waiting for one hour. If the headache diminishes, it was only dehydration and if persists there is a possibility of Acute Mountain Sickness.I will see two days later in Hata Valley, the highest point of our trek at Har Ki Doon that Mary suffered severe headache when we were in snow. She asked for Dispirin but none of us took it along as we had to come back to our camp by afternoon. Fortunately, Consultant had Crocin which she took with ample amount of water as was advised by Professor. She starts feeling confortable by the time she reached back to the camp.
When I was eating Maggi near the stream and the concrete bridge, Gajji informed that we will be served Pulao when we reach the camp site. But, a very unexpected thing happened. Some mules did not stop at the designated location of our camp site. They moved ahead much near to Har Ki Doon at higher heights. Due to this logistical problem, to our disappointment we were served Maggi again when we reached the camp with no sign of Pulao in dinner also.
Me, Professor, Jain, Mountain Man and Curator watched sunset and clicked some really beautiful photographs of that evening. Professor had brought his tripod which will prove to be very useful in low light photography. He and Mary told they have purchased this tripod especially for this trip. I saw a very small Buddhist shrine made up of carved wood and coins inserted by devotees in the cracks of the wood. You can see coins of 10 paise and 20 paise in these cracks. There is no deity or symbol in the shrine but a blue colored flag depicting the figure of Buddha meditating with sutras written in unknown language are present. The staff boys told that the shrine is present here from the time even before their grandfathers.
I was back in my spirits. In the evening, Gajji asked if anyone had any medical problem. I informed him about mine to which he replied remove all your excess clothes and feel comfortable in the weather. He gave example of Mountain Man who was wearing only the basic clothing. I felt confident and removed excess clothes. Later during discussion with Doctor about my fear of cold and about my condition, he said Cold won’t kill you just wear what you feel confident in. He himself always wears a balaclava and socks as he himself is quite sensitive to cold but is not afraid.
We were served tea, snacks and tomato soup. Tonight, the dinner was Lauki (Bottle Gourd) sabzi, chapattis, dal and rice served with sweet dish of Sevaiya. The food tasted delicious. Considering the cold and tiredness, I don’t remember any bonfire lit or games played.
So, I gave a thought to how my body was behaving in such situation. I had some breathlessness in the last two kilometers of ascent on the first day of trek. Today, also the last kilometer gave me some breathlessness to which Grillinctus is a constant partner. But, now the breathlessness part is completely gone.