The morning was sunny and therefore warm. And while everyone wore jackets, I could have been mistaken of roaming in New Delhi on an early November morning, due to my attire. I am not new to high altitude and I know that in moutains temperatures change faster than Mamata Banerjee's tempers! It is warm when sunny and cold when cloudy. I was improperly dressed and I had to pay the price later.
The rest point was at Patalnachunia where Maggi was being served. I can swear that there have been few occasions in my life when I faced such a huge dilemma: trek down the hill to savor hot maggi or save energy and time staying on course. The latter option was taken and we continued to walk after eating some of Anupam's snacks, but after a brief hiatus a well deserved tea break was taken at nearby fiber huts. The route to Bhagwabasa seemed to inspired by our guides as the visible path was roughly one third of actual path.
On the way, we saw many villagers scavenging the hill slopes for certain herbs which are reportedly extremely precious in international markets (read China). They seemed to be hung precariously hung on the slopes but were negotating the terrain with ease and expertise! The trek route was no more steeper than some of the earlier routes we had taken, but reduction in oxygen and decreased temperatures made the ascent more difficult.
Bhagwabasa holds religious importance for the people here. Bhagwabasa means 'Lion of Goddess' and the trek route is actually a piligrimage route taken by devotees of Goddess Nanda Devi every 12 years. But the temple here is that of Lord Ganesha whose black statue has earned him a unique name 'Kalua Vinayaka'. The view from Kalua Vinayaka can not be described in words. The snow capped mountains cover entire view in front of eyes, much like IMAX screen. But then whole scenery is monochrome, colors ranging from black to white including multiple shades of gray. There is almost no vegetation and all you can see around is snow or stones. Walking to the camp site involved a little walk in snow, which was in a state between frozen and molten and hence was walkable most of the time.
By the time we reached the camp site, I had caught cold pretty firmly. I could not drink water as the cold water hurt my throat badly and not drinking water pushed me in danger of getting dehydrated and being a victim of AMS. I think it was just Diamox that I didn't catch AMS too.
The camp site had couple of fiber huts and a number of tents strewn among smaller rocks. 10 of us got to stay in one of the fiber huts. In hindsight now I know that I got the worst possible position in that hut. The door opened on me and for neighbors I had Vikrant on my right (nothing wrong with him!) and footwear on my left! More on this later.
The water supply came from melting snow which meant that in the night and early next morning, there was no water! Washing utensils was a punishment and only utensils I used were the steel tumblers meant for tea (which was the only liquid my throat was accepting!). Going to attend nature's calls took much more effort now that even small walk on that amazingly Martian terrain was tiring and secondly because the cold wind pierced the exposed parts of body (you know which parts right?) like a hundred needles!
The next day trek to Roopkund was to start at 4 am and we slept early, or did we?