The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft

Tripoto
17th Aug 2014

#TripotoTakeMeToBrahmataalContest

Not everyday do we get this errie feeling that it might be your last. Well for me, I thought it would be my last night. I was camping near the lake Chandrataal in Himachal with few of my friends. We had got our camping equipment and sleeping bags from Manali. However, the guy who supplied us the items was not conscious or informative enough to tell us that with this tent and sleeping bags, we might face fatal situation while campaing at a height of 14,100 ft. The items we rented were never meant for sub zero temperature and at night, the temperature dropped to minus 4 degree. This was the day when I learnt some critical life saving lessons to remember for the rest of my life.

Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft 1/1 by Anupam Debnath

We passsed through some of most picturesque surroundings that I have seen in all of my Himalayan adventures so far. As we passed from Manali to Chandrataal through Rohtang and Kuksar(spent one night at Kuksar and hence had to take a small detour), we gradually witnessed the change in hue and terrain of the majestic Himalayas. The colourful rhodendrons, the spiralling riverways and the imposing mountains kept us high in our spirits as we crossed one of the most difficult Himalayan roads that lies in India.

Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Koksar Bus Stop, Leh Manali Highway, Khoksar, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath

Once we reached the camping spot, some locals approached us to know if we need any camping stuff or help in setting up the tents. We politely refused thinking we are well equipped. Little did we know that these are the guys we would need to approach once we realise our lack of preparedness and information that we managed for a trip like this. It was a bright cool day and since it was August, we never even thought that we need to get scared and respectful of the night at such towering heights.

Photo of Chandra Taal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath
Photo of Chandra Taal, Lahaul And Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India by Anupam Debnath

After pitching the tents and before the dwindling light gives way to darkness, we thought we should go and see the lake that brought us here. One has to trek a few kilometers from the camping site to reach the lake. Once our eyes first had a glimpse of the pristine body of crystal clear water, we immediately realised as to why people take so much of a trouble to come and see it exist. It is one of the most beautiful lakes you can find in India. Its beauty is not just because of the lake itself but is grossly eccentuated by the serene yet imposing barren mountains on all sides. You can sense an admixture of peace, spirituality and nature just by being there.

Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath

Once we came back, all of us carried a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. However the night was left and that was one hell of a night. As it grew darker, temperature started falling drastically. No one could sense this more than us as we were not at all prepared for such a temperature drop as this. Immediately, two of our friends started feeling uneasy. Headache, dizzyness and cold started gripping all of us one after another. As the condition of two of our friends became severe, we reached out to the local guys. They immediately came to our rescue and allowed them to stay in their camp which was warm and local experience was available. We made friends with a guy named Jamaica who helps the campers with equipment, food and of course valuable life saving advises. Once we settled our sick friends and had a simple yet satisfying dinner, the rest of us headed back to our camps.

We had set our camera outside to get some time lapse videos but we never thought that nobody would have the guts to go out even once and check if it was working. The temperature dropped to sub zero and we tried all possible ways to keep us warm, smokes, Rum and fire but nothing helped. We wore all we could and that included multiple pairs of socks, all the clothes we had and got inside our sleeping bags with shoes. We had no other option. I was feeling so uneasy that I was just praying for the night to get over. All of us wanted to go join two of our sick friends in the warm tent but there was no more space left. The cold and oxygen scarcity got so much better of us that I did not even go out to pee.

That night I felt that if something happens to me or any of us, there is nothing much anyone could do at that time and place. We somehow lived through the night to wake up next morning and see layers of ice on our tent and the surrounding areas.

Few important lifesaving lessons that I learnt that day and which all travellers should know includes:

1. Keep yourself educated of the weather, terrain and temperature before going to any place above a height of 9000 ft.

2. Always be safe and carry sub zero camping gears while camping in secluded and cut off places like Chandrataal. You never know when the temperature drops suddenly at night

3. Always keep medicines with you. Take medicines (like Diamox) before reaching any place above a height of 14000 ft

4. Avoid drinking heavily the day before or in the day time

5. Avoid excessive smoking as it interferes with breathing and oxygen intake

6. Always keep your hands and feet warm in cases similar to ours

7. Get to know the help and assistance available beforehand in case something happens

8. Drink a lot of water and keep chocolate/energy bars handy. This helps produce body heat

9. Hot water bags help a lot but is not always available. Local help can be used for getting hot water

10. If you have a car and face a situation like us, the best option is to sleep in the car with ac on

Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
Photo of The day I felt I might die at 14000 ft by Anupam Debnath
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