Roopkund Lake || Final Summit Push || 25 May 2017 || 15750 fts.
It was the final summit push day and the entire trek was to be on the snow-clad mountain. We were supposed to start trekking at 3 a.m., because as the day-light approaches, the ice smooth-ens, making it difficult to hold a grip on the ice while trekking.
We were to gain and lose a net elevation of 3050 ft.:
Patarnachauni (12,700 ft.) To Bhagwabasa (14,100 ft.)
Bhagwabasa (14,100 ft.) to Roopkund Lake (15750 ft.)
And back. Junargali, if possible.
As our guide would say ‘Mumbai का Fashion और Himalaya का मौसम कभी भी बदल जाता है’‘(Mumbai’s Fashion and Himalaya’s Climate can change anytime), we saw it transforming. It had got exceptionally freezing in the night before our summit day and our potatoes took over 1.5 hours to boil, thus delaying our dinner and sleep.
Things at toss, destiny at play, some carelessness, misfortune, recklessness – whatever one may say, we lost the crucial 1.5 wee hours and started the trek at 4:30 am. The trek from Patarnachauni to Bhagwabasa had a little of a steep climb and more of long passes, but at an altitude so high, everything felt nerve-wracking.
It was around 7 am when all of us reached Bhagwabasa (the time by which we should have already be done with the summit, we started at the designated time). There was still the ‘steep, high-altitude, less oxygen’ journey to be covered. But we were determined. We rested there for breakfast and waited for our crampons.
And then we witnessed it:
Some enthusiasts were returning without summiting. They suggested us not to attempt the summit that day. Our calm started to dampen when we saw the numbers only increasing. ‘Should we make the final push today? Or call it a day, camp there for the night, and attempt the next day?’ All sorts of doubts were clouding our clear vision of seeing us standing at the top.
“Your faith can move mountains and your doubt can create them”
It had been an hour since we had reached our current location – Bhagwabasa.
Our doubts had started to gain weight, and we decided amongst ourselves to call it a day and to call for our ration from the previous campsite (Patarnachauni). Just when we were removing our shoes and starting to settle down, our ever-positive guide appeared with hands full from holding crampons and asked us to get ready for the final push.
We conveyed him our doubts, and told him how we thought it would be better if we waited for another day, when he said “भैया, भोले बाबा हमारे साथ है। मैं यहाँ आने से पहले उनके मंदिर गया था। सब ठीक होगा। हम पहोचेंगे Top तक। भरोसा रखो।” ( Lord Shiva is with us, before we started the trek I had worshiped him . Everything will be fine and we will reach the top, just keep having faith). There existed such simplicity and patience. The books of the world may give an account of all the scientific discoveries made in the exact chronology, but only mountains could speak faith. So boarding the boat of his contagious smile, and sailing with his confidence we decided to do it. We started from Bhagwabasa for the summit at close to 8:30 am.
We were excited about attempting the highest altitude we have personally ever been at but also were anxious. Everyone except us was descending from half the way. Some would wish us luck, whereas most had the puzzled expression – ‘You are going now?’ – ‘Yes’, and we would walk by and as the time passed, it was only nine of us on the whole mountain.
A few steps at a time and an hour passed, then came the 200 ft of a final-steepest climb- Everything was white in the complete snow.
The Sun was up, and I started feeling dehydrated. (When you are at a high altitude, you should keep taking a sip or two every 10 mins. It keeps you hydrated and energized.) I pooled out the water bottle from the corner pocket of my bag. It was empty. Another bottle, empty too. And everyone in our group was out of the water. What now?
Only one wish: Water. I could have bet anything for a sip. Sustenance.
My throat started to burn, and I started getting more tired of every step. The blazing Sun wasn’t helping. Finally, I restored to eating ice to keep my body and soul together. What was only 200 ft, felt a complete whole mountain.
“The more we climbed, the more there was to climb.”
After an eternity, I saw a डमरू (Damru) from distance, and the guide said, ‘That is it. That was where we had to reach‘. And I didn’t believe him. I thought it was a game he was playing to lift up my spirits, just as we would do with the other trekkers in the Western Ghats. 10 minutes more. 10:30, I reached the pellet drum, and that indeed was it – standing in front was the tall, handsome lake, the beauty was so captivating.
Did I feel tired? No. Every tiny pain and burn had left me.
It felt like a rebirth. I was so hypnotized by the majestic beauty in front, that I failed to notice the temple nearby. A friend reminded me and asked me to go to offer my prayer first. I went, and I was on my knees. Here, my Lord, I give my all to you, for you have given me your all. I touched my head to the snow, and went and sat near the lake. Peace. It was just us, and the majestic lake. We sat there for a long time. No one spoke a word. There wasn’t a need to.
“There’s a calm surrender to the rush of day
When the heat of the rolling world can be turned away
An enchanted moment and it sees me through
It’s enough for this restless warrior just to be with you”
If you would ask why you climb mountains and tire yourself so much?
A line from Grey’s Anatomy would suffice until you climb your first :
“There are some lines that are way too dangerous to cross. Here’s what I know. If you’re willing to throw caution to the wind and take a chance, the view from the other side is spectacular.”