Sankri to Juda ka talaab base camp
We all got up at the assigned time of 6.30 am more or less and were woken up by a wake up call of tea (our routine wake up call) for the next three days.
All of the group were pepped up to go, with a light breakfast in our stomachs and few fresh supplies from the local market, we were off for the trek.
The adrenaline was running high in each of us which I guess helped to conquer the cold. We started at around 10 am, with a walk of approx 1 km from Sankri village, the ascent started.
We all were dressed to bear the cold with layers of clothes. Just after a few steps of ascent, we saw snow all around us. The excitement for us was palpable as we were going to walk on the snow upwards. It was not easy to walk on the snow as the footwear we were wearing was not suitable for it. However as we walked upwards, the body became warmer with the walk and we removed one layer of clothing.
Each one of us was walking at their own paces and were stopping and going as per their requirement. Yogi bhaiiya as he was fondly called (a local experienced mountaineer with a lovely sense of humour) was leading the trek; and Preet was our sweeper as they call it. The entire group has to walk between the leader and sweeper. Nobody ahead of the leader and no one behind the sweeper.
The trek was now taking its shape as the views around us were getting better and better with the each step. There were pine trees all around us covered with snow in their branches.
There was silence with no ambient noises of any kinds except the voices of nature, birds chirping, water falling off a cliff some place far and winds blowing through the leaves. Oh my god it was just awesome to just feel this and for me personally I started feeling one with nature.
We were very lucky with ample sunlight and a very mild breeze blowing. Just perfect to trek. Occasionally snow would fall from the branches of the trees, and in the silence, the sound was like a rock dropping from a height.
As we were ascending; we stopped at a place from where we could see the Himalayan ranges in full view. The view was breathtaking with the largest peak in front of us was Swargrohini. A collection of six peaks with 4 visible from the angle we were seeing. Swargrohini, according to Mahabharata, is the peak from which Yudhisthira and a dog ascended to heaven. The first thought that struck me was oh my, are we closer to heaven. Surely feels, sounds and looks like it.
The first major pit stop on our trek came around 1 o clock. I was just pleasantly surprised what we were going to get here. Somebody is going to give us fresh and hot Maggi. Oh wow. Most of us had Maggi with a addition of cut boiled egg as an addition along with a hot cup of tea.
Refreshed we started our ascend towards our first base camp near Juda ka talaab. Managing some steep climbs at some places, we trekked through the snow clad mountains, we reached the base camp at around the 3.30.
The camp which was at a height of approximately 9000 feet was already setup by the team from Renok Adventures and lunch was kept ready. We had hot lunch and then were briefed that we were going to go for acclimatisation walk to Juda a talaab at about 5 o clock.
We were assigned tents, with two of us given one tent to occupy. Some selected that three of them would stay in the tent while others had four inside the tent.
One of the attractions for us to select this trek was to get an opportunity to stay in a tent. As soon as we entered, we thought how are we going to spend a night inside this with this extreme cold. We were told we would be getting sleeping bags with an inner inside in which we have to spend the night.
After spending some time in the tent, we started our acclimatisation walk at around 5 o clock to Juda ka talaab.
Juda ka talaab is a lake and one of the prettiest sites that you could see on the trek. In the summer it's lush green, but the way we saw it was a frozen lake. Still it was one of the best sites on the route.
Acclimatisation walks are done so that the body gets used to higher altitude where the air starts getting thinner. This is exactly what was happening to us and also were getting used to walking on the snow. The snow was two feet deep around the side of the trail we were walking through. It was getting difficult for our shoes to grip the snow especially when going down where few people managed to slide down while myself was forced to slide down as I was slipping every few feet.
We reached our base camp where twilight had set in and were welcomed with a hot cup of tea and pakodas. The evening cold was setting in and all were shivering. Everybody now gathered around inside a slightly bigger tent which was termed as a dining tent. We were given small stools and somehow there were 15 people sitting in the tent and it felt warmer inside than outside. There was another briefing to tell us the schedule of the next day.
The group had now started to gel well together and after a round of dumb charades made the team bond better. After an hour of fun and games, we had dinner and were ready to go to our tents.
Once we came out, it was a task to just walk to the tent which was hardly a few feet away. However this was a full moon night and the peaks and trees around us were looking magical all around us. The snow glowed in the moonlight, ah just magnificent. I hoped to watch this for a longer time but it was so cold that we had to go into our tents.
We were given a theory lesson as to how to wear a sleeping bag and an inner which we need to slip into. Practically doing this was a difficult task the first time. We need to get into the inner and then slip into a sleeping bag which would be zipped from the side. Once we managed to get into them, we felt warm. The tents were setup on the snow and the level of the same while lying down was not flat. Hence sleeping on the uneven surface took us getting used to. Some managed little sleep, some slept well and some did not sleep well at all.