Sunday, August 19, 2012

Trekking : Padum to Lamayuru - Day 2

Trekking from Hanumil to Snertse.
We were warned by our guide that today would be a tough day, as we had to scale 2 mountain passes to reach our destination in Snertse.

Up till now, I had relied on my iPhone to search for information about the trek route. But now we were in an area, where there was no cell phone reception. I was cursing myself for not carrying a printed copy of the trek route. The GPS device was giving me accurate data about our current location, elevation, and distance covered from the last point - but I had no means of cross-referencing this data with the trek route. This meant that I had absolutely no idea how far, or how high we had to walk to reach our destination. If I had this data, I could have prepared myself both physically and mentally. Without this data, I had to rely on whatever Trashi (our guide) was telling us - and truth be told, he was not the most encouraging guide I have come across.

The first mountain pass on the trek, Perfi-la.
We set off early in the morning, leaving Trashi and Shashi (our horseman) to load the equipment, and catch up with us. The route winds along the Zanskar river for 2 hours, where it veers off to the left, to start the steep climb of Perfi-la. I let Shawn and Roy walk ahead of me, while I stopped to take pictures, and just enjoy the views. I knew I could catch up with them anytime, as they walk at a much slower pace.

Gradual climb towards Perfi-la.
It was all climbing now, and Shawn got tired quickly. To make matters worse, there were no clouds in the sky to provide any kind of shade. The sun was hitting us directly. We were getting hot and quickly running out of water. We looked back to see if our horses were close by, as we had told Trashi to carry some extra water with him.

Horses loaded with equipment on the trek.
Eventually, our team reached us but there was bad news. Trashi only carried 1 bottle of water. This would not be sufficient for us, and we had not even reached half-way up the pass.

Half-way point to Perfi-la.
It was all about steep climbing now. We were forced to take frequent breaks and we were quickly falling behind our schedule. To make matters worse, the water situation was getting rather dangerous. Unless we could reach the top (and then walk all the way down to the bottom of the pass, where there are streams), we were going to become extremely dehydrated.

Finally, around noon, we reached the top of Perfi-la. It stands at a height of 4,200 meters - which means we climbed nearly 800 meters. Tibetian prayer flags greeted our effort.

Top of Perfi-la
Shawn and Roy reaching the summit of Perfi-la
I groaned when I saw the sight in front of me. We could clearly see the route towards the next pass in front of us. The route from the bottom of Perfi-la towards Snertse was marked like a squiggly, which a kindergarten child might have drawn if asked to trace a route.

The trek route towards the 2nd pass - Snertse.
Here's a wider view of the same pass.

The route to Snertse - just behind the steep pass.
It looks so close, but if there is one thing I have learned in Ladakh, it is that things are not as they seem. I knew it would take us at least another 4 hours to reach Snertse. In our current condition, it would be very risky to attempt that climb. I consulted with Roy and our team, and decided that we would set up our camp at the bottom of Perfi-la, and leave Snertse for the next day. The good news was that there was a proper camping area at the bottom of the pass. All we had to do now was make the long walk to the bottom of the mountain. No more climbing for the day.

As we were trying to catch our breath on top of Perfi-la, I noticed that one of our horses was not carrying any equipment - and Shashi was running after him. Apparently, the equipment was not tied properly, and it came off. Our precious gas cylinder went rolling down the mountain, more than 500 meters into the valley. I was expecting to hear an explosion any minute.

We were dumb-struck. Without gas, we would have to return back to Hanumil and abort our trek. It was impossible to continue the trek without a gas cylinder, as we would be without food and potable water.

Shashi, after sucessfully retrieving the gas cylinder.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Shashi going down into the valley, and then casually climbing up with the 16 Kilo cylinder on his back. If fact, I was so surprised, I did not even think of taking his picture as he climbed up. He had just saved our trek. Credit must also go to Hindustan Petroleum for making cylinders strong enough to survive a 500 meter mountain drop.

Relieved, we started our descent. The trail was steep, and we had to go down carefully.

Climbing down from Perfi-la.
Steep descent from Perfi-la
Some of the places have an almost vertical drop. The trekking poles are a necessity here.

We sent off the support team ahead of us to setup the tent. The tent would be setup near the Omachu river (seen in the picture below). Omachu river flows and joins the Zanskar river on the other side of Perfi-la, which we had just left behind.

Support team going ahead to setup the tent.
After nearly 2 hours of descending, we reached the camping site. Trashi and Shashi had already setup the tent. We rushed into the tent to escape the heat.

Our tent waiting for us at the bottom of Perfi-la.
We were extremely dehydrated. Luckily, there was a small hotel serving cold drinks. I gulped down on a Pepsi and nearly choked on it. Important lesson: When you are dehydrated, don't gulp down carbonated drinks. Take tiny sips.

It was still early in the day. I used the time to wash and dry our clothes. I also had a dip in the icy cold water of Omachu river. Trust me, it is worth it.

Evening at Omachu River.
It was getting late. I realized that if we were to do this trek successfully, we needed to avoid the afternoon heat. This means, we should start the trek early in the morning (perferably at dawn).

We had an early dinner and hit the bed to prepare ourselves mentally for the steep climb ahead of us in the morning.


Anonymous said...

Huzzah Cajie, you did it. So exciting to do the trek vicariously through you, coz never in my lifetime would I attempt such a feat. You guys are brave, to walk alone on such deserted paths. What an adventure, rolling cylinders, runaway horses, dwindling water... what's more. I must confess though that your last trek was visually more beautiful. This terrain is a bit harsh. Waiting for more.. Regards A. Dias

Cajie said...

Yes. I agree that the Ladakh terrain is very harsh, and not as pretty as Srinagar. Ladakh is almost like a desert in the mountains. The dusty trail also gave us lots of problems. But it has its own charm.

Anonymous said...

Cajie, Please elaborate on your diet.

Cajie said...

Are you referring to my daily diet or the diet during the trek?

During the trek, you have to eat what is available. In our case it was dal, rice, noodles, canned food, cold beer, Gatorade, and plenty of water.

As for my normal diet, that's an entirely different matter. It's all about counting calories, and having a proper balance of the macro-nutrients. My health blog should give you a general idea of what I eat normally.

Anonymous said...

Cajie, it seems u r very busy. Waiting for your updates.

Anonymous said...

It seems like some of the text in your content are running off the screen.

Cajie said...

Maybe a browser specific problem. What browser are you using?