Today would be the day when we would be able to see Vishnusar and Kishansar lakes together at Gadsar pass and Krupa had been raving about it from day one. I remember her telling us that what we will witness from Day 3 till the last day would take our breath away and she was absolutely right.
Meanwhile in the morning, Bhim was just about recovering but he still looked weak and breathing was a little laboured. He was on the Diamox course and there was nothing to worry about, but he was worried if he could walk so much. It was another long gruelling day. AMS had taken the wind out of his sails and even a little task like pulling out the pegs while un-pitching the tent was making him tired. It had hit him really hard, Mentally and physically.
He was saying it’s only 12,000+ feet altitude right now and I got hit by AMS!! The thing with Kashmir Great Lakes unlike other trails was a constant ascent and descent of altitude every single day. The body was going through extremes in a matter of hours. In a couple of hours we would be trekking higher up then the next few hours complete descent then again ascent, the body but naturally would react accordingly.
He was still weak, and his energy was very low so I told him to tell Krupa right NOW! Maybe she could give him a steroid for extra energy, this was one of the essentials to be carried while trekking. Diamox controlled all the symptoms and his body was adjusting to the altitude but what about energy. We went upto Krupa and Bhim told her about his condition, promptly she gave him a steroid, she told him smilingly, once you take this dosage, you won’t even ask me anything again during this trek. You will spring on your feet! And slowly and surely he did 😊
Krupa looked much better right now and later as we spoke she said the guides had told her to go back to base camp, why bother leading the trek if she was unwell they would handle it. It meant that they could do it their own way, and not be ‘led’ by anyone. But she also understood where it came from. They were not used to seeing women trek like this, and least of all a trek leader whom they had to listen to. But little changes were happening, since she was in so much pain, they carried her backpack finally. She could just trek, of course with painkillers and being in the middle and back of the group.
What I admired most about her is that she continued to be open and interacting with everyone in the group. She also apologised for not getting the group together for some games and she promised that we would all regroup and do something fun. As she told much later, she was not going to hide her pain in a steely face devoid of emotion, if she wanted to cry she would and she did in front of the guides and kitchen team when she couldn’t handle the pain anymore. As she said, it was time to ‘humanise’ the trek leader. They were not invincible, they were like us.
As we started our usual ascents and descents all I remember is trekking through alpine lakes and boulders and getting those moments of peace on and off. And as usual Bhim and I would chat randomly on anything under the sun with Sanskar closely following us or ahead of us and having our moments of silence. Let me stop here for a moment and tell you this, the people you trek with in the beginning won’t be the people you end with… and that holds for life too, isn’t it?
I started noticing my group with a different eye. Bhavik was a loner alright, he mingled yet he had his own sense of space where he would be alone. He had an energy that was soothing, one couldn’t help but like him. When he offloaded his backpack in between the trek, he had no day pack so he would carry his plastic bag and trek as if he was a pahadi doing his daily chores. To give credit where it’s due, people in the group offered to carry stuff to make his load lighter, I offered one day to carry his tiffin dhabba, others offered to carry his fleece jacket, somebody else something or the other. It was nice, it was also because he was genuinely nice.
Sanskar warmed up big time to Bhim and me. He spoke about his Uncle’s famous turmeric powder, the remorse he felt when his cousins went back. My heart went out to him when he said, ‘Meri badi bahen meri taqat thi’- his older cousin who went back on the 2nd day was his strength. The irony of it all was that it was his two cousins who wanted to go on this trek, and neither did he read about it nor knew anything about it!
Which meant that he never trekked before and he had no idea of wearing trek shoes, nothing! It was hilarious to Bhim and me. This 20 year old was something alright. Plus the cute way he called me ‘Swapnadi’ every time in his Maharashtrian accent tugged me hard ♥️ After so many years I have actually felt I have a kid brother in my life and he is one. And that’s what trekking does to you.. No matter how the rest of the group were, the few were what mattered in the end.
What can I say about the trail? Unending meadows, alpine lakes and of course we would have the privilege of crossing Gadsar Pass. Another pass as punishing as Nichai yet different.. well a pass is a pass and it wouldn’t be easy folks! There were so many army check points I remember. We would also cross paths with army commandos scouting the trail and most of us with a lot of pride greet them with ‘Jai Hind’ and they would respond warmly asking as where we came from, are we enjoying the trail and to look out for slippery slushy trails in the forest.
And yes the crowds were not far away! Especially leading up to the pass. Shaukat bhai told us we had to leave early, in order to escape groups from the campsites. Believe me people, it was a total competition everyday as to who would pack up the entire campsite faster so we could get out faster! To our credit, every day we pitched and un-pitched the tents while the rest of the groups, I wouldn’t call them ‘trekking groups’ as some of them had horses to take them, wouldn’t move a finger. Hell in one campsite, I actually saw folding chairs and all for the people to sit on! You wouldn’t imagine seeing this in the middle of nowhere!
The route to Gadsar Pass was another thing altogether. KGL trek means we had to start every day no matter what at 7.30 am. And you should see the ascent up Gadsar, it was downright steep and up with blazing sun, and all that we could handle but the crowds! The effing crowds! It was a traffic jam damn it! Here is where Shaukatbhai’s skills as a guide came out, he simply said, follow me and we can overtake them, don’t stop! We were like, overtake them?? Steep ascent narrow trail up?? And he did and how!
The crowd was despicable with 80% of them not fit to walk in a city park forget a high altitude trail! Truly unfit people with sticks, with no idea of how to walk on this trail. There were older and younger fat folks who were gasping for breath at every step! How were they even allowing them?! Well the local guides didn’t care, it was business, so we also saw instances where guides were literally hand holding these unfit folks the whole trek! It’s sight that one should not see if one is a Trekker.
Shaukat like a deer, light on his feet was walking through the trail with us in tow, my god my admiration for his skills notched up after seeing how he navigated, saying Side, side, he just took us to the top without stopping! It was nothing short of an adventure, navigating through crowds and most of them with a very bad attitude.
Our trek group looked like professionals pacing consistently and making the way up. I also remember an unfit older Trekker shouting at Shaukatbhai, when we all overtook him. He was letting out his entire frustration at us, gasping for breath and struggling and not able to fathom that he was not able to trek further without taking hard breaths. He started yelling at us, full on, we followed Shaukat Bhai’s prompt, totally ignore every fool or arse who considers themselves trekkers and keep moving on.
That was another lesson for us. To not react, to not jump the gun and be a part of this Tamasha/ Spectacle. One had to be focused, to trust totally what the person in front was doing and keep going on. Crowds were like obstacles in our life, if we stop and react to everything we will be so stuck where we are, there would be no moving forward.
Finally when we reached the top, there was an air of exhilaration, and no it was not about reaching the top but seeing what the mind can do.. Down below, when we saw the crowds struggling, causing traffic jams, I was so thankful for choosing Indiahikes. For pushing the limits, for keeping the trekking spirit true. Yes there are flaws in their system but so are we! Forget perfection, we are as flawed as anyone else. And for someone like Arjun Majumdar envisaging this and keep its foundation and core true to its roots to its team members is praise worthy. Yes lots of learnings isn’t it?
The sighting of both the twin lakes- Kishansar lake and Gadsar lake and later along with Yamsar lake was a sight for sore eyes.. According to me, this would be the prettiest trek day of all days! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the pics below!
Bhim from having low energy was now bouncing back into form, the colour had come back to his face, he was smiling, yes the ascent to the pass was tough on all of us but in someway it calmed most of them down, well except the usual suspects of loudmouths, there was a calming energy about it all. We were closing in onto our campsite after a truly long day.
To be continued..