Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Trekking from Gulaba to Bhrigu Lake - A visit to Heaven and Hell.

I hope you are doing good. Though, a daily hike of about a distance of four kilometres that I had to cover six days a week in my childhood, surely was helpful as an experience on this recent trekking trip, but surely it had not fully prepared me. This was a somewhat long trek and moreover up to an elevation of 4300 metres, the very first time ever for me to reach at.

The elevation of the Gulaba , the starting point of the trek, is around about 2800 metres, and it was risky to reach the 4300 metres in single day hike, but I was unaware of the dangers.

Those early childhood hikes were along the hilly  terrain followed by  gentle terrain, where population lived in a village next to mine, but my yesterday's trekking was a much bigger task if compared with the former. The story goes like this:
 This was Saturday, Tarun and me, started our bus journey from Sunder Nagar to Gulaba village at around 10 PM.

Reaching Gulaba - the start of the trek:

At 12:00 AM, after getting on a HRTC bus, which was showing a board of 'Dharamsala to Trilokinath' , our night journey from Mandi to Hanogi was accompanied by the dense rain drops from the invisible sky. Due to several reasons, sleeping was not an option in the whole journey, so three of us reached open eyed at Gulaba at 5:00 AM next morning. Aayush had joined us at Kullu.

Aayush and Tarun shared the same passion of trekking, and because Aayush already had trekked the Gulaba to Bhrigu lake trek, he also had to act as our guide for this trek.

I had never gone up to elevations higher than 3500 m, highest elevations I had visited ever were those of Adi Himani Chamunda at Kangra and Dayara-Bugyal in Uttarkashi, but out of my habitual confidence, I was more than happy to get off the bus and start climbing.


Morning Sun-Shine mixing White, Green and Golden: 

After getting off the bus at Gulaba, the cold temperature forced us to put the warm cloths on. With each foot step up on that mountainous trail, daylight started to penetrate into the dark, and as we climbed a distance of about 1 km, it crowned the mountain peaks around us, with a golden color.

Aayush told us the names of the respective peaks, and one of them popularly known as Hanuman Tibba, which still was snow cladded, looked more beautiful.

Our path was a trail of the footsteps of earlier visitors, it was surrounded on both sides by the dense 1 to 2 feet jungle flowered plants.

Although, they looked beautiful, but later on I would come know that there also was some kind danger to human consciousness from them.

No trees- only pastures and shrubs:

Oak trees accompanied us, providing the beauty and life(oxygen) at the same time up to an elevation of about 3200 m, but then suddenly they disappeared into the soil.

On the way along with some temporary Gaddi settlements, we saw their animals grazing here and there, mostly cows and one herd of horses, a rare sight indeed on the planes.

For those animals, summer season and this place seemed to be a perfect habitat, grass and water both were available in abundance.

One after another, we climbed those smaller peaks, and finally reached at the base of a mountain peak which looked steeper to reach at. A water stream with fresh water was running down and on one side of it I could see few tents and a herd of mules, loaded with the luggage of some kind.

Acute Mountain Sickness:

Trekkers who has to do the camping on day after another can hire the mule service for carrying their necessary things while enjoying the trek in a period of 5 to 6 days.

I had been feeling low since the morning, reason I thought was the late dinner, unfulfilled sleep and no breakfast, and in-digestion, but suddenly after climbing a little further, after reaching may be 3800 metres, I felt an urge to vomit it out.


I thought that it was the non-digested food, but Mr. Tarun  and Aayush started to talk about something which I heard for first time. Before writing this post, it was must for me to learn about the Altitude sickness. As they both insisted that vomiting was a sign of altitude sickness, they asked me go back, but I took it lightly and insisted that I was alright, and that it was nothing more than a non-digested stuff.

I didn't want to go back after reaching at 3800 m, and climbing another 500 m seemed easier than to turn back, so I followed them.

Soon we caught a group of foreigners from England, which was heading up to Bhrigu lake but were very slow compared to us, their plan was to reach the other end of the trek at Vashisht. There was one more difference in our plans, we had to come back to Gulaba from Bhrigu lake on the same day, but their trek was longer and divided into a period of about 4 to 6 six days.

Most of them girls of the age of about 16 to 20, and as I could judge from their walk and could hear some of the words, they were not very much comfortable with walking on Himalayas.

 I feared if some of them could also have been suffering from the altitude sickness, yet they were at less risk because the time they had for acclimatization while they camped at different spots along the rising altitude. They made a slow ascent and therefore lowered risk of altitude sickness.

Snow, Blow and Lake:

 In case of sudden hike in elevation, risk of altitude sickness gets multiplied, and if I measure it from Sunder Nagar to Bhrigu, within less than 10 hours it was a hike of about 3500 metres.

Oxygen density starts to drop down after 2700 metres, so altitude sickness can catch anyone and at anywhere after that elevation. I had been thinking it to only be a digestive problem, the cause of my low feeling, so I forced my body to follow my un-real assumption by dragging it up.

I didn't want to believe it to be mountain sickness, because I wanted to reach at the top. This last part of my ascent journey to the top was the most difficult. It was somewhere in-between snow and ice filled stretches, which made it more difficult to walk on. Aayush carried a pack of Glucon-D in his bag, and offered it to me.

Water is highly recommended while you are attacked by the altitude sickness, so both of them kept offering it to me, steps after steps.

Tarun sir advised to me to drink as much water as I could, and I feel thankful to both of them for having that knowledge and offering it to me. I was getting unconscious, but somehow I climbed the last and the toughest peak of this trek from Gulaba to Bhrigu lake.

 It was totally vertical and snow cladded, and to climb it over was a big success for me, but it made me totally exhausted, I tried another thought, the second vomit, which partially was forced by myself, because of a constant urge and thinking that vomiting would alleviate the pain.

I put two fingers into my mouth and rubbed them on the inner top surface of the tongue, it made me vomit.

I hoped to get back a little more of my conscious and a relief from the head-ache, but it didn't really help. I was hanged somewhere in between my sleep and consciousness. Finally I reached at the lake bank.

Unconscious or Conscious??

I wanted to lay down and sleep, not because of the peace or calmness at the place, but because of my sickness. I laid down, closed my eyes, almost unconsciously, and waited to get back some energy and freshness.

This didn't got any better, my headache was getting worse, and then I could clearly feel the effort which I had to make to inhale the air. It felt as if something had clutched and therefore choked my throat and chest. Clouds hovered around beautifully, appearing and disappearing constantly, as if swimming like ducks on a mountainous surfaced water.

After resting for about 10 minutes, I was woken up by one among Tarun sir or 
Aayush, which one I don't remember.

I tried to stroll around the periphery of the lake, but crossed very less of the total, and clicked few photographs.
Sun appeared and disappeared with the permission of those mad and uncontrollable clouds, which were following the wind. More than those clouds, I was getting seriously mad, because the pain was killing me and I was loosing my conscious.

Am I going to Die?

Tarun and Aayush had reached at Bhrigu lake at around 11:30 PM but I must had a 10 minutes difference and at around 12:30 PM we started back down.

This indeed was a visit to the heaven and hell, heaven was the place itself and hell had been breaking into my body since the morning, but now it have had just broke itself completely into my body. My altitude sickness was getting worse with each step that I took, I felt completely exhausted.

I clicked on the English people group, which I met again on our way back down from the last steepest stretch.

I didn't want to walk a single step further but, as both of them suggested that I had to get down to lower altitude as soon as possible, I forced myself hard.
I felt that stepping down was easier than stepping up, so it was a help.

They saved me:

Tarun and Aayush were walking ahead of me, much much faster than me, but they were in their normal walk, it was me who was slow.

They sit at places to wait for me to reach them and offered me water and a dose of Glucon-D and an emotional push to carry on. I felt to cry at places, because my breathing had become heavy and headache was on the verge of exploding my head. At each stoppage, I hoped to gain some strength but at some points it got horrible like death.

For a moment I thought of death, but then I remembered all the things which I still have had to do in my life. One of them was writing this blog post. It made me to further wanting to cry, but somehow I controlled myself, because it could also had demotivated my friends who were constantly pushing me to reach the safer elevations.

 With 6 to 7 of such stoppages, I reached almost at a vertical distance of 100m near to the tree line, Aayush started walking along with me, and Tarun a little ahead.

Everything has to pass, this pain had to pass too, either by leaving me unconscious or by alleviating. What happened to me was latter, as soon as I reached the trunks of the Oak trees line, I felt a sudden improvement in my breathing, and headache just fumed and got lost into the fresh air.

While I was still walking down at the higher altitudes, I had planned that if I would survive this sickness, I would thank the brothers, and so did I, when I felt safe. I tried to joke away the whole tension, and felt a great difference between the two states of my body.

Heaven and Hell:

One, the earlier one was the worse that I ever have had in my life and the newer one was just amazing.
At 4:00 PM, we were back to Gulaba on the Manali-Leh road, we got lift and came back to Manali. Tarun searched for the medical store and bought a Diamox tablet. After taking it in, I felt relieved from all the pain, within 30 minutes of taking it.

Thanks for your kind visit, please come and visit again!