A Mukherjee World View


Day 3

We started at 07.45, heading for Baguabasha. The way out of camp is straight up a grassy hill in front, which is not very steep but steep enough to leave one gasping the first thing in the morning. Of course, there is also a longer way out, back up to the path we had left so gladly yesterday evening. We met up with this path eventually and then it was a long, gently curving trail to a pass between two hills, where we crossed over to the other side of the ridge. The pass offered the best view yet of Trisul 1, 2 and 3, especially 2, which is usually hidden to a large extent by a brown hill just in front of it.

Following this path, there was a level path of many km, which led at last to Pathar Nachani. This lovely name refers to a steep stretch straight up a rocky hillside. Dadabhai estimated an hour and a half for a slow walker to get to the end of this, but he was quite wrong. Amit and I, gasping and panting, took close to two and a half hours. Despite our slowness, none of the others overtook, or even caught up with us on this stretch. It is quite a horrible ascent, consisting of short, steep segments of path which immediately turn back on themselves in the most dreadful hairpin bends. This is where the tough gets going, one could say.

At the top of the slope, there is a small temple. This also seemed to be a gathering point for various parties. It was around 1 pm and the clouds that had at first obscured only the distant peaks had now drifted across our path and fingers of mist were lazily curling around us. We hurried on, the path now level and straight again. It seemed like a long time before we came to camp, though it must have been an hour or less.

We had walked in our fleece jackets but were advised to put on warm clothes immediately, before the cold could get a grip. “Wear everything you have,” we were told and Amit stripped right away to put on thermal inners. (A little later I did the same more discreetly, in one room of the three-roomed hut.)

No sooner had Amit finished dressing than the sleet began. All the stuff the donkeys had brought up had to be put into the room and then plastic sheeting was hurriedly put on top, to cover the worst of the gaps between the stones in the roof. Finally a sheet of plastic was hung over the doorway. Those who had arrived early went out in search of those who had not yet arrived and when everyone had made it, there were almost 20 of us crowded into that little room, with backpacks and all. It was still cold, but nobody suggested bringing the donkeys in. In the room next door there was a smaller party of eight. Two separate huts served as kitchens, one for us and one for the other party. After a while, the body heat of 20-odd got the better of the sleet and wind leaking in and it stopped being cold. A steaming mug-full of soup brought in from the kitchen by the trusty Anil also went a long way in warming cockles and lifting spirits.

Baguabasha was unbearably cold. There was sleet till evening and when it stopped and we all ventured out, it was unbearably cold. Lunch had been late and darkness came early, so everyone was inclined to retire early to bed. Tents were hurriedly set up, though the camping area was quite crowded. Amit wanted to stay up and socialise, but I was cold enough to want to go to bed and others had already set the thought in motion, so around 7.30 we went to bed – or rather, to sleeping bag.

We got dinner in bed around 9.30 and we left the plates outside and got back to the task of trying to get warm enough to sleep. Amit's sleeping bag was too short (or, too put it another way, he was too tall, at 7 feet, no joking), leaving his neck and head uncovered, so he wrapped his parka around his head and was still cold. I had on, in addition to the usual jeans, T-shirt and shirt, a sweater, two pairs of woollen socks and a monkey cap. My heavy, built-for-a-Chicago-winter parka lay like a blanket over my sleeping bag. I was still shivering continuously. I found that my sleeping bag was cold because the rope around the neck, which you can pull tight so that you are all trussed up, had opened and disappeared into the channel.

After struggling and cursing in the dark, trying to extricate it using various implements on our Swiss army knife for more than half an hour, I finally gave up and cut the seam. Then I tied myself up in a knot and tried again to get warm enough to sleep. I must have been successful after a point, because when it was morning, I woke up.

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