The next day dawned bright and early for me. I wanted to be up early so I could finish my business before there were too many people wandering about. Although the trek organizers had setup toilet tents, they were almost always occupied. Plus, the stink in those holes after a few people had visited it, was something else. Nature was calling and it was time to answer it! A quick, small trek uphill in the cold and I was in a secluded enough for doing what was necessary. Then, I was back down, changed into a fresh pair of clothes for the day’s trek, and ready for tea and breakfast.
Trek The Himalayas (TTH), the company organizing the trek, were outstanding in the planning, organization and execution. The food that they cooked, setting up the tents, packing up and being ready for us when we got to the next campsite with hot tea, water and food – they were very, very good with everything. So it was with the variety of the food – we had everything ranging from Maggi noodles, Paranthas, Poha, Samosas, Gulab Jamun, rotis, soups, etc. over the 3 day period when we were trekking. Undoubtedly, they had challenges of all sorts in ensuring the ponies were available, the tents were in decent shape, the crampons were OK, etc. Importantly, they never let us, the trekking group, be affected in any way by these challenges through the entire duration.
After breakfast and a fill of our bottles with water from the stream, we were off by around 8:00 a.m. This day’s trek was through the forest and trees. It was mostly in the shade and we set a slow pace. There were beautiful sights that we crossed on the way uphill – streams and small clearings, that were quiet and beautiful. We reached our campsite for the night at approx. 1:00 p.m, having walked mostly uphill for maybe 5-6 kms. It was quite telling that the trek leader and the tour guides hardly broke a sweat through the journey. They were patient with us city lot, who were all decked up and covered, prepared for the cold weather, while they were quite comfortable in loose fitting fleece t-shirts and cargo pants.
Lunch was followed by a game of cricket, of all things! It was a lot of fun and the locals absolutely thrashed us in the 3 games that we played. I played in only one game and was out without scoring, going for big runs. You know, the pitch was uneven, I went in with the asking rate already above 10 per over, I was tired and the bat was broken too. A short acclimatization walk was followed by the final briefing prior to the walk to the peak on the next day. The leader was honest in his assessment and said that he would ask people who were unlikely to make it, to turn back. They would assess the situation after a short distance into the walk the next day and then decide. We were to start at 4 a.m with 2 ltrs of water and packed lunches. We were handed out crampons for help with walking in the snow too. There was a batch of trekkers that had started a day prior to us and some of them had returned after scaling the summit. We took the opportunity to buy their Gators at half the price. These were definitely useful the next day. Gators are water proof covers for the shin and the feet. They are worn over the shoes and the pants and are very useful in avoiding any snow from entering into the shoes, especially when walking in deep snow where our legs would often go into soft snow reaching up to our knees.
The group discussed on their strategies for the next day – circling around how many layers each would be wearing and such. A note here on the stuff that I was carrying. I had separate t-shirts packed for each day of the trek. Although the ask was for full sleeve t-shirts, I made do with half-sleeves and a jacket on top. On the day of the summit climb, there was an inner wear t-shirt, a trek t-shirt, a sweater and a jacket for the torso. A woolen cap, sun glasses, a small backpack, a buff for covering the neck, ears and nose, inner wear for the legs, a trek pant and water proof pant on top before the shoes, and gators. We carried the crampons in our backpacks for later use. We changed into the trekking clothes in the night, before bed time and set our alarms for 3:15 a.m. There was breakfast to be served at 3:30 a.m and the trek leader was very clear about the timing. We were to start at sharp 4:00 a.m. Those that were late, would be left behind. Our cheerful trek leader had morphed into a scowling and strict squadron leader! Like he said, it was not funny business any more. The trek was going to be difficult – he promised us that he would get us there, but we had to have discipline and follow orders, which we were all willing to do.