A Night of Horror and Terror - The Great Himalayan Expedition-6
A peaceful night's sleep was all i needed and finally got one. The temperatures dropped to 4 degrees and the cold was enjoyable. This doesn't mean i was allowed to freely roam around without a jacket and accessories which kept me warm. Time and again i was instructed to keep myself warm even though cold is something i could withstand.
The morning routine was usual except that we started trekking an hour early due to bad weather.
Trek Day 4: Laangha Thach - Sourtal (3700 mts.) - 4.5 hrs
The title itself speaks a lot for this particular post. The Day 4 was not as peaceful as the other days. One terrific night which shook everyone of us and gave us the doubt if we would make it back to Prini.
I had mentioned in my previous posts that the weather was getting bad day by day. We started off to the Sourtal base camp and it was a long way uphill. All of us were anticipating sightings of snow and yes!! we could see patches of brown snow and were disappointed that it wasn't fresh and could not see more of it. The hike up to the Sourtal base was intense as the altitude was getting higher and higher. While trekking you din't feel the cold but the intermediate breaks brings a chill down the spine. This is when you take the jacket from the backpack and warm yourself.
The trek was through varied trails of boulder, mountains and deep ridges. Receding forestline helped a few of them experience what they call the mountain sickness. The body feels very light making one feel like falling off the path. I did feel light headed during the initial 2 days and later my body charged up like the guy from Perk Advertisement!
An exhaustive trail needed us to support each other while ascending and out trek leaders helped escort each and everyone of us very safely. Rajat kept telling us its just an hour more and kept us going. Just before we could reach the campsite, there was one deep trench which we all had to climb and then reach a flat surface to reach the tent. 2 people went up and then a few started sliding down. This wasn't a path carved out by walking, i guess the mules took this path and it was one of the most difficult 30 mins of my life.
It was noon by the time all of us finally reached the campsite. We had a very strict briefing done here. Since altitude was high, staying warm was the important one. Also, there was a boundary marked just before the toilets to mark the end of the valley. Nobody was supposed to go beyond the red mark in order to stay alive and get back home safe. This campsite was one of the most breathtaking ones surrounded by the silver mountains clad with snow. Look around, you see white mountains; look down and you see the deep valley and bird's eye view of the city which looks like the map of India.
We spent a lot of time walking around the tents which were pitched at various levels.The men took the highest one and we were at the lowest. A large tent for recreation and food were put up here as well. This was bigger than the previous one. The kids went around to play in snow while i took a lot of pictures.
With nothing to do, our trek leaders made us play a few games post lunch and later the activity for today was zip lining. My first zip lining ever and i had lots of fun doing this between trees overlooking a deep valley!
It was evening and the entire setup of the campsite changed. Silver mountains turned gold and copper with clouds playing peek-a-boo. Cold winds started to blow and this is when 3 layers of clothing felt like nothing. I felt like i was standing there exposed to the cold winds blowing through me. Chattering teeth, numb feet, a bleached face i ran into the tent.
Dinner was served and it was time for the night of horror to set in. There were 2 girls tents and in each of them, there used to be 1 person who used to always sleep later or stay awake. 1st Karunya and 2nd was Nishitha. We were the sleep troubled and deprived kids who used to just stay awake hoping for the night to end.
This campsite has sleeping bags which stunk due to the cold weather. The rugs were not enough to keep the feet warm. I personally disliked this tent. At 2 Degrees in the night, i took all my jackets to cover myself to at least stay alive till dawn. I didn't use the sleeping bags which gave me nausea due to stench. Sleeping very close to the exit of the tent, i could feel the cold creeping in all the more.
The long night set in.
It was the CALM BEFORE THE STORM till 22:00 PM before the horror show started. Rumbling clouds made a horrible unbearable sound which shook me from within. Like this was just not enough, waves of thunder hit us followed by a unseasonably severe and perilous storm which was frightening. Lightning and thunder, severe snow storm and heavy downpour was the unwelcomed surprise package for the night. No I didn't need this, i already had sleepless nights and the severe thunderstorm accompanied with hailstones and a tent which hardly had any rugs was definitely not what i wanted. As it started to pour, i could see drops of water seep into the tent and the chaotic storm shaking the tent. I was convinced that the tent would uproot and all of us would go down the valley. Rains got harsh and so did the storm. Looks like they were competing against each other to prove who was more destructive. Looked like a draw. We suffered inside. I could hear the heavy footsteps of the trek leaders walking around and drawing sheets to protect the tents and ensure they wouldn't fly away. They took in a lot of pain to support the situation and make sure everyone was safe. I started to chant hanuman chalisa constantly and could take the cold no more. I was freezing. The gloves-caps-jackets were null in front of the winds and rain which took over the night. I was hoping for the night to pass so that i could step out and meet my mother in the other tent.
Karunya was awake in the other tent but we had no signal to talk to each other and stay strong. All we did was hope we could sustain the terrific night and chant shlokas to keep us alive. the 4 girls in my tent were sound asleep while i sat in the corner shivering with frozen feet and waves of chills down my spine. No amount of friction generated by rubbing my arms helped.
The rains and wind continued to dance through their peak and put up an unforgettable show changing the entire environment of the campsite. I could hear the trek leaders talk about making a decision. It was high time to decide if we would continue our hike or not.
I saw my phone and it was 5:00 AM in the morning. i felt a huge sigh of relief. I could step out and meet my folks. The long night had come to an end.
I unzipped the tent to see a huge white patch of ice literally like a carpet formed everywhere around the tent. the ice had marked its territory even under the small spaces of the tent. The brown campsite which hardly had any snow was covered with a bright white blanket in the morning slapping my eyes making me shut it involuntarily. The campsite was covered by a white blanket and all the barren land around was caked up with frost! The before and after scene of this campsite was a major shock.
06:30 AM, I finally stepped out to see Karunya and we knew what we had to discuss about the long night. The other sleeping beauties were in for a shock on seeing the transformation of the camp.
A decision was made...
We all survived the long night.
End of Day8.
Destination Sourtal base.