I woke up at 2 am and woke up Omshree too. We wanted to finish the usual routine stuff before it starts queuing up.
As we came out of the tent, we saw there was a slight drizzle happening.. Gosh, when did this start?
Devang said he will give a wake up call to everyone at 2.30 or 3 am I don’t remember exactly but we did see the Kitchen team already up and about preparing our food as we were walking towards the washrooms.
It was terribly cold out there and just to brush was a challenge, I did what I could barely manage and rushed to sip hot water to keep warm.
Slowly the group was waking up, one by one, queuing up and packing up.
We literally had to shove food into our mouths at 3.15 am, to eat at that hour was so unearthly but we had no choice. It would be quite a strenuous trek and our body needed that energy and the trek leaders made sure we ate.
We packed our lunch box with another round of food, this would be after we reach the Summit.
Venkat & Devang were rounding up people with their gear in a circle and doing a Check on all the items we had or might have forgotten.
It started drizzling more now and instructions were strictly given.
Unlike before where some of us went ahead and some of us lagged behind on previous days, we were told we MUST be in a Single Line TOGETHER.
No Detours, no one going ahead at all. We must be together as a team in this. If one would find any difficulty and stop, we all would stop and wait, it was total team work.
One more important thing that was told strictly was to watch out for VEER GLASS ICE. Yup this was something that was drummed into us.
It was most risky and dangerous because snow and fresh snow at that would not let you lose your balance but this thin sheet of ice would be almost invisible and if one stepped on it, you could just fall or slide and major injury would happen.
I remember Devang clearly saying Guys I slipped on Veer Glass Ice and I cut my tongue, so please watch out. We had to work as a team. If someone in the front saw a Veer Glass Ice, we had to start telling others, pass it on, one by one and bypass it carefully.
It was pitch dark and I mean really pitch dark and we all had our rain ponchos on with head lamps and trekking pole.
When I look back, I don’t remember what route we took to ascend from the campsite, we just went in a Single File, one by one. We knew who was in front of us and who was behind us. I remember Saikat was in front of me and behind me were the Ahmedabadi guys – ‘Awesome’ Ankit I think.
Now it started raining and I mean raining hard and fast. This was completely unexpected, even the trek leaders and guides were surprised. Until yesterday no one expected a weather like this.
We kept on walking up and finally we crossed across Chopta village, through jagged roads, through homes and to a motorable road. I remember the entrance ..
The entrance gate where bells were hung, now this would be the starting point to ascend up to Tungnath Temple and finally to the summit. A lot of us rung the bells as we walked through praying for a good beginning..
But the rains weren’t helping at all.. We already halted once when the rain was lashing at us. We took a small shelter, all 27 of us with the team in pitch dark. Terribly cold and lashing rains.
We would keep checking on each other, looking in front and behind. The Rains were just not stopping and didn’t intend to.
As we ascended slowly but surely, we had to halt another time, this one was pretty bad as the rains were just lashing stronger.
I remember a small stone cave like shelter. We took whatever space we can and stayed put at least for 20-25 minutes and we were losing time.. The later it would take the more difficult it would be..
I clearly remember something else distinctly on this one. Pankaj went up to the trek leaders at that time and asks if he can go ahead.He says slowly slowly I will go ahead.
This was serious lashing rains in pitch darkness and we were clearly told to stay together and I remember for the first time Bhupinder the trek guide was frowning and saying with a still calm voice, just stay here.
I was wondering what was Pankaj running away from.. What was discomforting him so much that he wanted to get away from this.. from people.. from himself? I am telling you this is what I exactly thought that time..
Maybe situations like this makes one confront something they have avoided and when faced with it, their response is to run I guess, I don’t know..
Finally the rain subsided a bit, still raining but not as much as lashing and we were slowly able to see glimpses of the scenery, there was no light as yet but slowly and surely the scenario was changing..
Devang was egging us on saying “Shabash Shabash, good work guys, keep it going’ motivating us. Venkat was sometimes in the front and sometimes in the back checking quietly. Manojji would be in the middle and Bhupinder would help if we gave out a call. Pratap the swiper was leading in the front watching for any obstacles.
What an amazing team they were now when I look at it.. Each one of them had their own way of dealing with us, dealing with trek obstacles. They were in this together and doing what best they could do to keep us all safe and continue. It was not a One Man effort.
I remember as we were walking up, we saw pairs of shiny glimmering eyes looking at us in the darkness way above, Foxes..
I also remember seeing a solitary tent pitched in the middle of nowhere.. Wow.. The tent remained with a small light on and the rest of the stuff outside was tossed aside because of strong winds and rains.. Who was in it? I was truly intrigued..
Slowly and I mean slowly even with the rain, the darkness was lifting up, giving way to a glimmer of light..
In Himalayas, if it starts raining in the plains, it means it was snowing up there! That’s what Devang and Manojji said, it’s snowing up there, where we were going!
We were like what????!!
Seriously, we really didn’t have much hope of seeing some snow, forget a snow fall! So this was something else..
When the first glimmer of light creeps up with the fog, one must see this with the naked eye and NOTHING and I mean NOTHING can capture this, not even the best camera and lens in the world..
We stopped, frozen in awe as we saw the entire landscape, the mountains filled with SNOW.. What do you call this if not Divine Intervention?
That feeling of being overwhelmed was something I felt last year too when I explored Ladakh.
Even an atheist or agnostic or whoever sees the Himalayas cannot deny the existence of a force that is so much bigger than us, omnipotent and omnipresent..
The trek team told us to pause a bit and savor the landscape.
I remember welling up, tears, big fat tears clouding my vision as I saw with my glazed eyes the beauty of mother nature.. She can show beauty, happiness,sadness, fury, love, nurture in ways that a mere mortal cannot comprehend.
From seeing the snow, we were IN IT.
In the middle of snow fall, hitting us faster as we trekked up and up, it was getting difficult with snow hitting us, fresh snow.. This was not just a snow fall, this looked almost like a Snow Storm.
We saw light but we were nowhere near Tungnath and it was getting difficult by now.
We were cold even with our 2-3 layers of clothes and poncho, snow was getting inside our trekking boots, our gloves, we had to keep on wiping our eyes from the snowfall.
It was a mixture of emotions, physically, mentally, emotionally….
We were feeling exhilarated with the snow and at the same time our bodies were feeling the sub zero temperature and snowfall.
Will we reach Tungnath?