Monday, July 7, 2014

Crossing the Sian Gad and a long long haul to DDK Base camp

This day will definitely be one of the most memorable days of my trekking life. We got ready and started around 5.45AM as we had planned to cross the river hoping that the flow was reduced. However, when I looked at the raging river, I didn't feel see difference in the flow as compared to the previous day. I was a little scared, in fact all of us were apprehensive about the crossing. Again, the resourceful Suresh went ahead, somehow crossed the river and anchored the rope on the other side. All Balawant tied the slings around each of us and we decided to cross one by one. 


I ventured out to be the first one to cross, however, looking the jumps on the rocks, I backed out. Brijesh was the first one to cross. After that Jaggi crossed and as he was crossing, the river suddenly swelled up. I saw that he had to go inside the water as the flow as had increased by this time. Sandeep insisted that I should go after that Jaggi as he was worried about me.

 I gathered all my strength and will power. More than the flow, I was really worried about the freezing water. The first part of the river crossing was done without me getting into water. The later part, the water level had swelled so much that I had but no choice than to get into the water and while I was doing that I slipped on the rock. For the first time, I realized what it meant to be taken away by the flow and to drown. The force of the water was so high and the river, it was trying to pull me with it. Tears automatically started rolling from my eyes, I had forgotten that I was well anchored. A porter gave me a hand and I reached the other side. At the other side the site of Jaggi made me realize that I had crossed safely to the other side. It took only but a few minutes to cross the river, however, for me it seemed like a life time. My feet and my fingers were on fire after the crossing, but I did not mind that. Everybody including the porters crossed safely and I was much relieved. The whole of this had taken more than two hours. It was finally at around 8 that we started our climb to the base camp. The guide had already told us that today it was going to be a long day. After walking for a while, we were negotiating snow and boulders and were walking on glacial moraine. It took us sometime to get adjusted to walking on snow. The snow was soft and it was very easy to slip. We were making slow and steady progress towards the base. 

The whole terrain had now changed considerably as we were in true Himalayan country. There were huge snow fields, ice fields and towering mountains around us. We could also hear sound of rock fall and avalanches as we climbed. We were above 4200 mts and I could feel the altitude while negotiating this terrain.

As we climbed a ridge, we decided to take some rest and have our packed lunch. We had been walking for a long time without rest and all of us were hungry and thirsty. After lunch, we had to make a steep climb again. After climbing a narrow ridge, it seemed that the mountains had drawn closer to us. All around us were massive snow clad peaks. It was at around 2 pm, we reached a small clearing. The guide mentioned that the actual campsite was a few meters ahead, but that would mean, we had to camp on snow. So we decided to camp here itself. Although, this place itself was not a very ideal site for the camp, it looked better than camping on snow. From this point, we also got the first view of the rocky pass. The last section of the pass looked very steep. It was a sheer wall of ice, but I decided to worry about that later. We were at an altitude of around 4750 meters. The porters were struggling today as they did not have a lot of experience walking on snow for such long durations. Some of them had never been to such altitude earlier.
Once all the porters arrived, Suresh asked them whether they were ready to go ahead today and camp in the snow which would ultimately reduce the effort on the next day. However, given that not all the porters were equipped with the good equipment to deal with the snow conditions, we decided to camp in the rocky moraine itself.


This was a very windy camp. The wind had picked up right from the time we started to setup the tents. All of us were feeling the altitude as well. Nobody wanted to put any extra effort and the best thing was to conserve the energy. I could hear rocks tumbling and small avalanches around us. This was scary, but we were well protected. We were not camping near a rock fall region.
Simple things like getting in and out of the tents would leave one huffing and puffing. So we decided to just stay put and not do anything much in terms of going around and exploring. We had decided to make an early start given the snow conditions, so all of us decided to hit the sack early today. I could not sleep well tonight as I kept thinking about the crossing.

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