Saturday, October 20, 2007

When the life fell short by 6 cm

Two years ago, a team came to RJB to enthrall us by their experiences and arouse a deep interest in me to join hands with them. The team was nothing else; rather it was our own Himalayan Explorers Club. The same year, I went on my first ever adventurous trip, on a trek to Tapovan, and was privileged to have a worth remembering and everlasting experience. Few days back, I was again with the team, on a trek to Kedartal, considered one of the toughest treks in Gadhwal region. I was quite excited with the dream of having another adventure, especially after having a look of Tal pictures on google. There flows the river Amarganga (actually a part of river Ganga only), and lies a lake, especially famous for Brahm-kamal.

Monday night, just after the test series got over, the team was being ready to conquer the Brahmkamal, and Tuesday morning we finally departed from R. Scheduled time of departure was 5 AM and the late comer was ME, who rarely gets late for the class. It was around 8:30, when our taxi finally left Hrishikesh, for Uttarkaashi. On the wavy roads of hilly areas, everyone remains quite sure about the exercise of his own intestinal system, and if looses control, nobody can guess what can be felt inside the belly remaining. The same happened with one of the team member. So, team took its first stop at Uttarkaashi, at Mr. Trek leader’s maternal uncle’s place. There, we heard the news of three Russian trekkers being lost their way and about the expected storms. The night before, heavy snow fall was there at Kedartal. Listening to this news, my body shivered as I imagined the thrill of walking in the snowfall. A feeling of regret came in my mind for a while, as if I loose the grip or if my feet slipped over the ice. Certainly, I was going to loose my life in those circumstances. Somehow, I tried to restore my courage. At 8 in the morning we left Uttarkaashi for Gangotri, the starting point of the trek and we reached there in the midday. We had lunch there, hired a guide and then, at around 3 pm, we marched towards the pathway. From the news we heard, now, we were quite sure to face the bad mood of weather. For this very reason, forest department forced us to take back our step. But, after all they were also Indian officials, and it was quite easy to settle them few green colored pieces of papers. The incident took around half an hour to be resolved and our feet began to walk on the pathway at 3:30 pm. Start off path was highly inclined and few of us, including me, felt muscle cramp in this path only. Our steps became slower, which was giving the indication that we are going to be late to our camping place. If night falls on before we reach the camping spot, and we encounter any wild species, we were quite sure to loose the battle. On the way further, I started losing my breath, and it became difficult for me to walk with the 15 kg sack. Thanks a lot to my friends who took the sack from me and let me walk easily. It was around 5:30 pm, and light snow started falling. My heart pounded, as I imagined that I am going to be frozen to death under this snow, if it continued. We crossed the day dawn under snow, falling on us, wiping our faces to make breathing easy. The most fearful moment finally arrived. It became dark at around 6 pm and we had only 3 torches with us. Nine people had to walk under the light of three torches. I can’t remember exactly how many times I remembered god, to help us to cross the path safely. Rather everyone would have done the same. We were still far away around an hour distance from our camping spot. We kept on walking with the torch light. Around half an hour past, we encountered a natural channel, where we could not find the way further. We sat there for a moment, filled our water bottles, drank few sips of ice cool water and started looking around for the path. We were left with the two options: either we search for the path or we place our tents near the water flow only. In second case, we were quite sure to encounter wild animals, as this was only source of water within a long distance, for us and for animals also. Our guide searched around and finally he discovered the path. A feeling of relaxation came to us as he also assured the camping place is just 100 meters from this spot. Firstly, the guide crossed the path and we shouted, is it the path? If I explain according to mathematics, the path was like, consider a right angled triangular wedge kept on a cuboid, with around 6 cm of space left outside. These six centimeters were the only distance left between our life and death, on that path? We had to walk, keeping our feet on that six cm space, taking the support of slant of the upper wedge and that too under the torch light. A mistake of six cm was going to cost us our life, and in the darkness no body was sure that which animal is going to take the dead body away. Thanks to Mr. Trek leader and guide who helped us to measure our each foot step in the path accordingly and exactly, to cross that safely. I was the last man to cross that path, and when I was safe I sighed with jolly. We hurried to the camping place, pitched our tents and joyfully exhaled with the sips of tea. Few of us went to search for the woods, to set a camp fire, few were busy in pitching the tents. Our lunch menu comprised of maggi. Four of us encamped in one tent, rest four along with the guide settled in another. At around 10 in the night, heavy wind started blowing. One clamp of my tent got loosened and the rain cover started hoisting. That cold wind made everything cooled, even our sleeping bags were cooled except for the part of it which we were occupied. Suddenly, one of our camp mate started snoring, and heart of rest all started pounding with the suspicion of roar of some wild animal from near around unless we confirmed about the snoring. Somehow we could fall asleep. Our morning started at 8 am. We could not see rising sun from the valley, and sun came to our place at around 9 am. We had soup and the team marched further. It was heavy snow lying around and for this very reason half the team could not dare to walk to further, and that included me. As the team departed, a flock of crow started hovering around the tent. Definitely, they would have come suspecting the availability of food. They brought with them the fear of wild animals, following them and we slid inside the tent calmly and composedly, maintaining the pin drop silence inside. A little later, another team of three trekkers from Delhi came to the place. We came out of the tent, had few chats with them. They had tea and then marched further. We again slid in. A moment later, a French couple came, and this time we came out to have a click with them. Sun was just above our head, and it was very difficult to stay out in this sun, because of dense UV light reflecting from the snow bed lying around. We felt headache in the sun, so decided better to be inside and wait for our companions. At 12:30 they returned from Kedar-khadak, could not reach Tal, because of heavy snow lying on the way and I sighed with relaxation on my decision of not moving further. We started our return journey to Gangotri at 1:30. This time, Mr. Trek leader was like god to me, who helped me crossing that six cm death-line safely. At this place, on of our team member slipped the grip, and our heart stopped for a moment unless he was supported by another team member beside him. But, the dreadful way for me came now. I started feeling muscle cramp, as I had to walk down the inclination. Half way, my muscle cramp became dominant over my courage and I lost the battle finally and sat on the path. I tried to stand up and walk a bit, and again sat with loosing further my courage. I rolled down on the path many a time. At one moment I did not have enough potential even to stand up, and I started sliding on my hips. I knew, some of my friends would be thinking that I might have slipped in valley. Finally, guide again served me as a prophet, as he took my sack and gave me the support of his shoulders to cover rest of the path. When I reached Gangotri, I thanked to god, had prayer in the temple there and took decision that I shall not be on a trek of this kind in future. Probably this was one of the worst decision as it indicates that I took a lesson from this experience that one lost I can not restore my courage. Hope I do not repeat this kind of lesson in future.

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