Monthly Archives: May 2014

Langtang Gosaikunda Trek – Recommended

Everyone has their own reasons to go on a trek. I love to be amidst the mountains, somehow being in their midst is humbling, comforting and liberating. The mind starts to get still, as the body goes into overdrive. Physical comforts are forced to be given up, and limits are breached.

Of course, being passionate about photography, I make my own attempts to capture the beauty in the images. I know it can be futile to even imagine that one can capture all the beauty, but that would mean taking up a defeatest attitude. I do my best, I prepare for different kinds of scenarios, do my research and then Mother Nature either rewards me with a stunning view OR slaps me on my face. I go to the mountains prepared for both.

Enough of my thoughts about being in the mountains.

If one were to go on the Langtang Gosaikunda trek, with a primary aim of photography and also to enjoy the trek at a little more than a leisurely pace, I would recommend an itinerary as below.

Furthermore, I would strongly recommend doing the trek in the early winter months of Oct and Nov, rather than in Spring/summer.

I did the trek in April, and I was kinda disappointed with the weather. No, I don’t mean the unseasonal rain or snow.

Its the haze. I have no idea where the haze came from – from the valley, from the forest fires, from ???

But wherever it came from, it created a screen over the mountains. Some mornings were clear, some were ruined. And it also ruined couple of nights that I stayed up to shoot star trails.

In addition, by late morning/noon, clouds would rise and cover the mountains, ruining whatever chance I had at witnessing/capturing a sunset.

If photography is one’s main reason, then I would advise that one should stick to the months of Oct/Nov/early Dec. There are no guarantees with mountain weather, but that would be the more ideal period for photography.

Now, onto the itinerary…

 Trek routeRemarks
Day 1Kathmandu - Syabrubesi - BambooIf going by private jeep, leave Kathmandu by 630AM,
else factor a night at Syabrubesi
Day 2Bamboo - Ghora Tabela/Thangsyap/ChamkiIf accomodation is available in Ghora Tabela,
that is also a good place to stay overnight
Day 3Ghora Tabela/Thangsyap/Chamki - Langtang/Sindumacclimatization day. Langtang is a fairly big village with lots of lodges,
if you fancy staying in smaller settlements, consider Chamki or Sindum (however there are fewer accommodation options in these places)
Day 4Langtang/Sindum - Kyanjin Gompa
Day 5Kyanjin Gompa - Langshisha Kharka
Day 6Langshisha Kharka - Kyanjin Gompa
Day 7Climb Kyanjin Ri/Tserko Ri
Day 8Kyanjin Gompa - RimcheThis will be a long day, so better start early
Day 9Rimche - Thulo Syabru
Day 10Thulo Syabru - Shin Gompa (Chandan Bari)Can cosider staying at Phoprang Danda,
as the view from there is much nicer than Shin Gompa,
but the lodge facilities (toilets) are very basic.
Day 11Shin GompaRest day
Day 12Shin Gompa (Chandan bari) - Laurebina Yak
Day 13Laurebina Yak - Gosaikunda
Day 14Gosaikunda - Shin GompaCan also consider staying at Laurebina Yak as the view is much nicer,
but the lodge facilities (in some cases no shower) are very basic.
Day 15Shin Gompa - Dhunche - KathmanduIf descending from Laurebina Yak (instead of Shin Gompa), factor in an additional 1.5hrs

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Plan vs Actual

The Langtang Gosaikunda trek are two different sections and the route goes along these villages.

Langtang Section

The trek starts from Syabrubesi, which is a 7 hours drive by jeep or more than 10 hours by public bus.

Syabrubesi (1470m)- Doman (1672m) – Pairo (also called Landslide) (1800m) – Bamboo (1930m)- Lower Rimche (2400m)- Upper Rimche (2470m)- Lama Hotel (2480m) – Riverside (2770m)- Woodland – Ghora tabela (2970m)- Thangsyap (3200m) – Chamki – Langtang (3430m) – Mundu (3442m) – Sindum – Kyanjin Gompa (3860m)

If one wishes to continue on to Gosaikunda trek, the trail branches off after Pairo (when returning from the Langtang Trek) and follows these villages/settlements.

Pairo – Thulo Syabru – Dursagang – Phoprang Danda – Sing Gompa (Chandan Bari) – Cholang Pati – Laurebina Yak – Gosaikunda

The Gosaikunda trek then extends and joins the Helambu section after passing over Laurebina La from Gosaikunda. It then ends in Sundarijal. Since we didn’t do the Helambu section of the trek, can’t really write about it.

I was probably too ambitious in planning the trek (especially the Langtang section) and we all had to pay a price for it.

The table below shows how trek progressed in terms of Planned vs Actual.

 PlannedActual
Day 1Kathmandu - Syabrubesi - BambooKathmandu - Syabrubesi - Pairo (Landslide)
Day 2Bamboo - ChamkiPairo - Thangsyap
Day 3Chamki - Kyanjin GompaThangsyap - Kyanjin Gompa
Day 4Kyanjin Gompa - Langshisha KharkaKyanjin Gompa - Langtang
Day 5Langshisha Kharka - Kyanjin GompaLangtang - Rimche
Day 6Climb Kyanjin Ri/Tserko RiRimche - Thulo Syabru
Day 7Kyanjin Gompa - BambooThulo Syabru - Shin Gompa
Day 8Bamboo - Thulo SyabruShin Gompa (Rest day)
Day 9Thulo Syabru - Shin GompaShin Gompa - Laurebika Yak
Day 10Shin Gompa (Chandan bari) - Laurebina YakLaurebina Yak - Gosaikunda - Laurebina Yak
Day 11Laurebina Yak - GosaikundaLaurebina Yak - Dhunche - Kathmandu
Day 12Gosaikunda - Shin GompaKathmandu
Day 13Shin Gompa - Dhunche - KathmanduKathmandu

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 11

Laurebina Yak – Cholangpati – Shin Gompa – Dhunche – Kathmandu

F and I were up as soon as first light hit our windows. I looked out of the window, it was a bit hazy. Thankfully, I hadn’t stayed out all night long in pursuit of that elusive star trail…

The entire Annapurna range, Machapuchare etc. were not to be seen, but Manaslu’s peak was clear. The previous morning it was clouded out. So, being the die hard guy that I am, I lugged my tripod and the 7D with the 70-200mm and took some record shots of Manaslu. Went back to the room and packed up.

We had breakfast in the kitchen, paid off our expenses and started the descent to Cholangpati. Made it in record time. Bought some shawls as souvenirs. And promptly set off for Shin Gompa.

We were making fast progress and reached Shin Gompa around 9. We found out that L and K had left Red Panda around 8ish.

We decided to have a chocolate pancake and coffee and then all the way to Dhunche.

The last section of the trek is usually the hardest. By then the mind is all but willing to give up. The body is tired and craves for little comforts.

This part was nothing to write home about. Its just non-stop descent all the way down to the valley, through multiple switchbacks. Lila and Sher had surged ahead and F and I were making as fast a progress as we could.

We reached the riverside after what seemed like an eternity. Asked Lila how far more. He replied “not too far…”, which doesn’t mean anything.

By now, F was getting serious tired. Physically and more so mentally. I kept talking to her and telling her to keep it going, its not too far, we are almost there, whatever I could to keep her going and keep her in a positive mood.

We passed by a water treatment and bottling plant, and then hit the bitumen road that goes from Dhunche to Syabrubesi. The jeep was nowhere in sight, neither were L and K. Had they left ?

I asked Lila to call the driver and check where the jeep was and if he could come and pick us up from where we were, as were already on the bitumen road. Lila made some calls and said that the driver was waiting at a hotel. It would’ve been nice if the driver could’ve come and picked us up, saving us the torture of walking on the bitumen road in the hot sun. But if the idiot didn’t, I wouldn’t lose sweat over it. I would just keep going. After all, Dhunche is a tiny little town, how far could the bloody jeep be ?

F had had enough of walking. So we stopped outside a hotel – think it was called Shangri La 🙂

Lila went ahead to the hotel where the jeep was waiting and probably got the driver to move his ass. After a few minutes, the jeep came over, and we got inside. The hotel was just a couple of minutes of jeep ride away. Stupid driver. He was just being anal, I guess…

When we got off, L and K were standing outside the hotel. L was laughing “What happened, bro ?”

I was pissed with a lot of things at that moment, but I gathered my wits and told him “That was not the way I wanted our trek to end. So, we made a mad dash to catch you before you reached Dhunche and also to surprise you…”

Apparently, once the jeep was about to reach Dhunche, Ganga had called Pemba and informed him. At the same time, Ganga had told Pemba that they should wait for us, so finally they knew that we were not too far behind…

It was not possible to have lunch in that hotel as there was a big crowd and only one chef. So, we decided to leave and eat something along the way. Bags were loaded onto the jeep and off we went. Permits were shown at Dhunche checkpost and Lila came back with a large packet of samosas for everyone. So thoughtful. This is the Lila that I know. This is the Lila I adore.

Two bottles of Everest appeared out of somewhere. And one by one, we had a gulp and passed on the bottle.

And when we reached Kalikastan, a formal celebration was launched. Ordered some finger food and few more bottles of Everest.

And it continued as we made slow progress back to Kathmandu. We stopped at Trisuli and picked up a couple more bottles.

And then as the mood lightened, we talked about life. Saw a broken down truck being repaired right on the road – where else could they tow away ? I remarked that if this was back home, we would see a sign a km earlier “Veh broken down Lane 1”

We reached Kathmandu, and the madness and the noise and the dust and the pollution and the crazy traffic.

It was a huge relief when we got out of the jeep into Sacred Valley Inn. Ganga was there, gave him a hug, and very soon we had our room keys in our hands and our bags already made our way up into our rooms.

Quick shower and a fresh set of clothes later, we went to Rum Doodle restaurant and bar to officially celebrate the successful completion of our maiden trek together.

As more Everest flowed, each of us spoke of our experiences and it was nice to see all of us happily together. I am sure each of us would have our own set of memories, our own impressions, our own experiences that we would carry with us in life.

This was the way the trek was supposed to end. And that was the way it did.

PS : The following morning L and K would make their way back home. And F and I would stay back in Kathmandu, with nothing major to do, so maybe we would laze a bit, check out the sights and indulge in Gaia’s food. And I would make plans for my next trek in the Himalayas, most probably alone…

 

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 10

Laurebina Yak – Gosaikunda – Laurebina Yak

By the time the dawn was about to break, I couldn’t stay in my room anymore. I woke up F and went out with the other 7D and 70-200mm. Lila came later and he asked if he could wake up L and K, as it was their only opportunity to see this view… I told him to go ahead…

This was the best morning of all. All 4 of us were together, enjoying the view together. This was how the trek was meant to be. I had already this thought at the back of my mind that this was the last day for us to be together. That afternoon, L and K would descend to Shin Gompa, the next day to Dhunche and they would get to Kathmandu by night. The following morning they would fly back home…

For now, I brushed that thought away, as the moment demanded that we enjoy what was on offer. The sky was so clear, we could see from the Annapurna range, Machapuchare, Lamjung Himal, Manaslu section (a bit of cloud covering the peak), Ganesh Himal, Tibetian Himalayas and Langtang. The mightly Himalayas in all their glory.

That moment was interrupted by the click-click-click-click-click-click-click sound of probably a Sony PnS camera being operated in pano mode. It was a bit irritating, but there was nothing that I could do about it… Just ignored it…

After a while, once again click-click-click-click-click-click-click. So much for a handheld pano, and giving all the intelligence to a silly machine and we becoming dumb… Dumb and dumber. That seems to be theme of this civilisation.

Once the sun came up and brightened up the day, we decided to head back indoors and grab some breakfast. L and L quickly packed up, left their bags in our room and we were soon on our way to Gosaikunda. F and I would stay one more night in Laurebina Yak, and then descend to Shin Gompa, stay there for a night and then get to Dhunche and back to Kathmandu. Or maybe stay 2 nights in Laurebina Yak… Nothing was decided. I just had no interest in getting back to Kathmandu…

It was a beautiful morning. The best so far. The sky was blue, it was clear, the snow capped peaks were glistening in the distance. But there was a section with 60 degree ascent to overcome, before the track flattened out a bit. We were aware of the altitude and we were also in the mood for picture taking, so we were making slow progress. At one point, Lila said “We are getting late… Come on, lets move a bit faster…”

The Dude from Day 9 soon met us on his way up.

Me : Hi !

Dude : Hi ! How’s it going ?

Me : Not too bad. Where are you heading ? Over Laurebina La and to the other side ?

Dude : No No. Today is short day. Only till Gosaikunda.

Me : (Thinking. This guy is superman…Smiled..) Have a great day. Enjoy…

Dude : You too.

And he disappeared into the distance with his long strides. He really was insane.

We made it to the temple on top, and stopped there to enjoy the views for some time. It was spectacular… I wished that the moment would freeze. No photograph can ever capture the beauty of that moment…

After the temple, we still had some ground to cover. And shuffled our steps.

For some time, F and I were ahead, then I fell behind as I wanted to take photos of the group from a distance. And then again, I overtook them, so that I could turn around and take their photos while they approached me… I was high. Even though we were at a higher altitude than at Kyanjin Gompa, I had no ill effects of the altitude.

Made it at a good pace ahead of the group and reached Gosaikunda. En route, even managed to take lot of photographs of Bhairavkund too… The weather so far had been quite perfect.

I saw The Dude at the first lodge that we encountered at Gosaikunda and waved him a Hi. He smiled and waved back…

We went to Tibet Lodge or something like that. Every lodge there is Himalaya hotel or Tibet lodge or something similar…

F followed me soon after and L and K ambled in…

We ordered some food to replenish the lost energy. And then we decided to circumambulate the lake. Just as we decided to do that, the weather took a turn for the worse. Clouds rolled in from nowhere and the mood turned a bit gloomy.

Lila and I had made a deal that we would bathe, my impression was take a dip, Lila’s impression was that we would swim, in the freezing waters of the Gosaikunda lake to wash off our sins.

We all went down to the lake. Lila and I stripped to the basics, and then before I realized Lila was swimming in the lake. Dude, that was not my impression. I just went till knee deep, the water was icy cold and splashed some water on my head chanting “Om Namah Shivaya…” thrice…

After coming out, I was wondering if I should’ve taken a proper dip at least. And then I went in again. This time, I needed “Har Har Mahadev” to counter the biting cold water. When I came out, I felt quite nice. It wasn’t that cold as I had kinda expected.

By the time I had a change of clothes, L and K had taken off along with Lila. F and I followed with Sher. I wished that we could’ve stayed one night in Gosaikunda. It was really nice to be there, and I am pretty sure similar thoughts were running through F’s mind too. But what to do ? A decision had been taken to get back to Laurebina Yak. After walking around for a while, I told F that if she wanted to, we could come back the following day with our bags to Gosaikunda and stay there for a night…

We slowly made our way back to the lodge for lunch, taking lots of photographs. Some day I would be back…

Lila was waiting outside, he told me that he would go ahead with L and K to Laurebina Yak as L wasn’t feeling so well. I went inside and met them. L said that he was feeling breathless and struggling for oxygen. He had just had some noodle soup and I told him that they should descend ASAP. I guess I am quite petrified with anything remotely to do with AMS. By the time, F got back to the lodge, L and K had left with Lila…

We had our lunch and then started our way back, with Sher leading the way…

F was not in her element and making very slow progress. I wondered if her mood had taken a beating that we weren’t staying at Gosaikunda. She replied in the negative and said that it was her toes that were hurting during descent.

By the time we returned to the lodge in Laurebina Yak, L and K were ready to leave.

We hugged each other and I told L to send me a message once they got to Kathmandu and also when they reached home. He promised he would do so.

My heart sank when I saw them disappear out of sight. It wasn’t the way I had imagined that we would end the trek. I had imagined that we would be back to Kathmandu together, drinking along the way, recounting our memories, and the party would only really begin once we got to Kathmandu, and that we would be together on the SilkAir flight back… Anyways, Man proposes, God disposes…

After they left, F and I settled down in our room for some rest. I wanted to sleep, but sleep wouldn’t come. I was so restless. F and I looked at each other. We were bored. And I told F that this was not the way our trek should’ve ended. And I was wondering if we should descend to Dhunche the following day and catch up with L and K… She said that it wasn’t a bad idea…

I went out and sought out Lila. Told him about my decision. He asked me if I was sure. I told him “Absolutely…”

He called Ganga and made sure that the jeep that was going to pick up L and K would wait for us in Dhunche. I told him that I would send a message to L, but Lila said that we should surprise them the following day and not to send me the message.

The moment this decision was taken, it was as if a load was lifted off my chest. We would end this trek together. And we would have one last farewell dinner with the whole group.

Went back into the lodge and told F that everything had been settled and that we would descend to Dhunche the following morning after an early start.

Sunset was clouded out and hazed out. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter anymore. I had decided that I had had enough of photography for this trip and I wasn’t interested in any sunsets or star trails or nightscapes or whatever. I just wanted to get back to Kathmandu and back home soon.

There were two couples in the dining hall yapping away. I was in no mood for any conversation. F and I sat quietly in the kitchen by the fire. K had left a can of sardines for F to finish off, and that’s when Lila produced a bag of dried fish and cooked up a curry. F, Lila and Sher enjoyed it, while I had my staple dal bhat and fried potatoes…

After that we retreated to our room, and slept like logs. No night photography, no star trails, no nothing. Pure bliss. For once, I was genuinely happy that I didn’t have to stay awake all night long for photography and the weather would happily play truant and spoil my plans.

One more day and we would be done with this trek. I had had enough.

Ganesh Himal Range before dawnView from Laurebina Yak - from Annapurna and Machapuchare in the left, to Manaslu range in the middle (clouded out), Ganesh Himal and then the Tibetian Himalayas to the rightLangtang Range at dawnGosaikunda lake. The trail on the left goes to Laurebina LaFrozen Gosaikunda lake starting to melt... Spot two trekkers sitting by the side of the lake on a rock ?Another panoramic view of Gosaikunda lake, as clouds roll in...A Shivlinga by the side of the lakeAn idol of Hanuman by the side of the lakeGosaikunda range reflected in the melted waters of the lakeFrozen Gosaikunda, as we circumambulate the lake in a clockwise direction...Frozen Gosaikunda lake, with the lodges in viewElaborately and precariously balanced cairns by the side of the lakeReflection of the Gosaikunda range in the melting waters of the lakeCrystal clear water of the Gosaikunda lakePanoramic view of the terrainCloser look at Ganesh Himal, waiting for dawnPanoramic view of Ganesh Himal, waiting for dawnTibetian HimalayasLangtang range silhouetteGanesh Himal peaks light up with the first rays of the sunManaslu range lights up with the first rays of the sun, but the tallest peak is obscured by cloudsTibetian Himalayas in the morning light. Check the thick haze in the valley in front.Ganesh Himal in the morning light, even as there is a thick fog in the valley in the foregroundA trekker makes his way slowly towards the temple at the summit of Laurebina YakSaraswati Kund, enroute to Gosaikunda...The trail to Gosaikunda, hugging the side of the mountainTrekkers on the Trail leading to Gosaikunda. The lodges of Gosaikunda can be seen as well...Looking back at the trail we came by, from Laurebina Yak to GosaikundaThe snaking trail to GosaikundaPartially frozen Bhairav Kunda. Another look at Bhairav KundaMelting waters of Bhairav KundaBhairav kunda takes on an eerily dark colourDark waters of Bhairav kindaDifferent look go Bhairav Kunda7D2_MG_9353-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9354-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9356-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9357-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9358-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9360-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9361-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9363-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9364-edited-resized-for-web.jpg7D2_MG_9365-edited-resized-for-web.jpg

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 9

Shin Gompa – Cholangpati – Laurebina Yak

As soon as there was first light, Lila, Sher and I made our way back to Shin Gompa, packed up quickly, went down for breakfast and by 8 we were on our way to Laurebina Yak.

The first stretch of the trek was hugging the hill that we had climbed couple of days earlier and met the Korean guy at the top, and after a while we came across the section where we had joined the track on our way back from the hilltop.

It was a gradual ascent all the way and I could see some shiny rooftops in the distance on the opposite mountain. That was indeed the lodges of Laurebina Yak, our destination for the day.

Even though the ascent was gradual, we could feel the effect of the altitude. After a while, we entered a thick forest. In between, we would get glimpses of the Langtang range.

Once the forest ended and the track flattened a bit, we could see the Langtang range in all its glory. And the lodges of Cholangpati. L and K were already raiding the shop there for souvenirs, yak wool shawls, woollen gloves, whatever not…

Lila suggested that I try a chapati and the vegetable curry, somehow he got a taste of the potato curry and it was apparently very tasty. And so, I obliged. F and I had a chapati each and the curry as well as the chapati were indeed very yummy. L and K took off soon after and Lila and Sher went along. And with Lila went my water bottle. F and I were left with just around 250ml or so of water for the next section until Laurebina Yak. And that section was at a 60 degree incline all the way. I wondered what was wrong with Lila. He is usually very attentive and that is what I love so much about him. Its almost as if he is your shadow, he knows your needs, your moods, he is ever so watchful. But this time round, it was something different…

And then I saw a sign – Laurebina 2-3 hrs. I cursed.

I told F that we need to conserve our energy and reduce our dependency on water. So, I started taking slow, measured steps, breathing in, breathing out, and not thinking of water. But the mind is such that whatever you resist, it persists. From time to time, I would look up to see if Lila was waiting for us, if he realized that my water bottle went with him, I yelled, I screamed for him, I whistled loudly… But no response from him, nor any sight of him…

Half way up, I finally saw him at a distance. I was running out of breath, but I yelled at the top of my lungs. I somehow managed to convey to him that we needed water and my bottle was with him. He cooly left the bottle where he was and continued further up to Laurebina Yak. I was really pissed with him at that point. By the time, F and I reached that place, I was boiling. F helped me with the water in her bottle and then we picked up my water bottle. It was a huge relief.

Laurebina Yak seemed so far away, but F was in a bright mood. With a spring in her step, she told me that we could make it to the lodges within 15 mins or something. And we did. Sher came down the first lodge, to show us the way to our lodge which was higher up than the recommended one…

I gave Lila a piece of my mind and told him that I was really upset with him. He just let out a smile and all was forgotten after that. He has that power. Lila…

Lunch was ordered. L and K were probably starving by that time, so they got their food first and wolfed it down in no time. Ours came later and it was quite tasty. After lunch, we settled down in our rooms for some rest. The wind had picked up and was blowing a lot of dust around and making howling sounds as it made its way into the rooms through thin gaps in the windows. The toilet was clean. Thank God for small mercies.

Ah, I need to tell you about this guy I met at Laurebina Yak, right after lunch. I had gone out to see Lila who was sleeping in the sun. There was this dude who had just arrived at the lodge and having a drink outside too. The conversation went like this :

 

Me : Hi !

Dude : Hi !

Me : Where did you come from today ?

Dude : Ah, some place Syabru…

Me : Syabru Besi ? (And wondering, how the hell did he make it from Syabru Besi in half a day…)

Dude : No no. Some place with T… Thulo Syabru.

Me : (Thinking… What the hell ? We took 2 days and more to get from Thulo Syabru to Laurebina Yak and this guy does it in half a day ?) WOW. Thats a long distance to cover…

Dude : No no. It was ok. Not too long today. Yesterday was a long day…

Me : Ah ! From where did you make it to Thulo Syabru ?

Dude : From Kyanjin Gompa.

Me : (At that time, the earth moved from under my feet and I fell unconscious). That’s cool man. See ya later.

And I disappeared to my room. This dude walked from Kyanjin Gompa to Thulo Syabru in ONE day. ONE freaking day !!! Was he insane or what ? I think he is the sort of guy who can probably climb Everest in 2 days. Nah. just kidding…

Later, I told the exchange to L, K and F and all of us were like “What the f**k ?”

The next day we saw the dude starting after us from Laurebina Yak and while we were struggling for break, saw him take long strides and overtake us. For the conversation that ensued with him, stay tuned for Day 10…

Woke up after a short nap, in time for sunset. The haze and clouds ruined whatever views were on offer. But I got a great image of Lila, Sher and Pemba as they were in deep conversation over I dunno what, and there was a beam of light through the clouds, right over them…

Soon after, it got dark and with nothing else to do, dinner was ordered and promptly eaten. And with nothing else to do, it was time to hit the sack. Such is the routine during the trek and all of us had got quite used to the routine.

The only exception was that I had still not lost hope that I would get some memorable nightscapes / star trails – the ever so foolishly optimist in me was still alive. What was it that Madhu had called me ? “Hopeless romantic…” Yeah, that’s what I am. I keep getting beaten up by life, and yet I don’t lose hope…

So, off I went with two tripods and placed them next to our room, within sight from my window. The 6D went on one with the 17-40mm lens and the 7D with 24-105mm. One in the direction of Ganesh Himal, the other in the direction of Langtang. The plan was to shoot star trails before moonrise – with the snow capped mountains as silhouettes. And then again after moonrise. With the snow capped mountains lit up. Man proposes. God disposes.

All night long, I kept checking the cameras from time to time, if the batteries were still alive or dead, if the tripods were standing or blown away in the wind, crazy…In between, I saw that the battery pack on the 6D had died, so I went out, changed the battery to a fresh one and got back to my room.

 

The lodges of Shin Gompa/Chandanbari in the morning, with a bloody haze blocking most peaksHaze. Next time someone says trekking in April is nice, show them this photo. Only on rare occasions, the sky is clear in April.As you go higher, Ganesh Himal comes into view...Langtang through the pine forestPine forestDense pine forestFrom Cholangpati to Laurebina Yak, the route is a 50 degree unforgiving ascentThe lodges of Laurebina Yak and the temple on the ridge, before one crosses over onto Gosaikunda...View of Laurebina Yak, reaching Cholangpati... See the clouds ?Lantang range - soon to be clouded outLangtang range from Laurebina Yak - clouded outLangtang in the last light of the day, breaking through the cloudsBreaking through the clouds in the last light of the day...Peaks clouded outClouded out...And more cloudsSunset through the bloody hazeCloser look at one of the peaks through the haze...Clouds in last light of the day. Will there be a miracle ?Langtang range, clouds clearing a bitColourful clouds, a little reward for waiting patiently and expecting a glorious sunset

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 8

Shin Gompa – Rest day

Since we had gained a few days by shortening our stay at Kyanjin, we now had the luxury of modifying our trek as it suited us. Even with L and K returning home 2 days earlier, we still had a spare day. It was decided that since three of us had some kind of issue with the altitude, we wouldn’t spend a night at Gosaikund. Instead, we would do a day trip from Laurebina Yak. That gave us an additional day as buffer. And since Red Panda was so comfortable, we decided on spending an extra day there to rest n recuperate.

And so, I came up with this crazy idea to go to Phoprang Danda at 3AM to see the snow capped peaks under moonlight and to catch the sunrise, and then get back to Red Panda for breakfast. Only F was willing for such craziness. Lila and Sher didn’t have a choice 🙂

So, I set the alarm at 245AM, but kept waking up from midnight onwards to check on the weather and if the sky was clear on not. Finally, at 3AM, I woke up F and went to wake up Lila and Sher. Within 10 minutes, the four of us were marching in single file. Lila leading the way, followed by F, followed by me, and Sher bringing up the rear. My zebralight headlamp started its erratic behaviour by either not turning on at all, or turning off abruptly – nothing to do with the condition of the battery. Wasted.

After leaving Shin Gompa, we went through the forest. Lila missed a turn and within a minute realized that he was on a wrong track and we changed our route. The three of us were following blindly, and were thankful that Lila could make out the way even in darkness…

What had taken more than 2 hrs the previous afternoon, we covered in less than 45 minutes. Once we reached the clearing just before Phoprang danda, the view was spectacular. All the peaks were lit up by the moon, the stars were partying and I immediately setup shop. Made a series of frames, and even took out to the 7D with 70-200mm lens to capture the forest fires burning in the distance. I knew that we had less than 30 minutes before the sky would brighten up. Should’ve come earlier and I might have been able to shoot a decent star trail. Damn. When I stay awake all night, the weather turns sour. And now, I had missed the best chance of the trip to shoot a star trail. Nevertheless, I setup the 6D with the 17-40mm on a tripod and programmed the intervalometer to shoot 4 minute frames, to be stitched later.

Within 30 minutes, the sky brightened up. No point continuing with the star trails anymore…

So, closed shop and went to the lodge at Phoprang Danda. The guard dog started to bark like crazy. Lila had informed the lodge owner earlier that we would be coming at 3-4AM, so if they could tie the guard dog, as we didn’t fancy getting bitten by the animal… But the dog, sending intruders, started barking like crazy. That woke up some of the French guys who were staying in that lodge. One of the guys came out, saw the beautiful view, saw us shooting the sunrise, and went to woke the rest of the guys. That caused quite a commotion and we decided to close shop from there and move back to the open area from where I had made the star trail.

Once the sun was out and we had had our share of the views, it was time to sprint back to Red Panda, which we did. Once again, in under 45 minutes. The walk through the pine forest will forever be etched in my memory. Had already walked that section thrice so far, and a crazy idea started to form in my mind…

What if I went back to Phoprang Danda that night once again ? This time late in the evening, and rest in the lodge until midnight and then wake up to make a star trail after moonrise…

I sounded it out to F, who politely declined. Lila and Sher had no choice 🙂

Once we were back in Red Panda, we had coffee, breakfast and snoozed for a while. The lodge was now empty and other than the 4 of us, Lila, Sher and Pemba, there was just a couple from England. The lady was unwell and they decided not to go further on towards Gosaikunda.

It was very relaxing to be there in Red Panda. Doing our laundry, watching Pemba do his, should’ve taken a photo when he was washing his jeans. The guy is so cute. Always happy and cheerful.

Lunch was ordered and devoured.

Rested again. Brought in the dried clothes.

Around 430PM, Lila suggested that we go to Phoprang Danda at that time itself, so that we don’t need to do that walk at night.

I quickly packed up, bade goodbye to L, K and F and off I went with Lila and Sher. Enroute, Lila picked up a bottle of Rakshi to keep himself warm for the night.

We reached the open clearing near Phoprang Danda, just as the last light from the sun was hitting the peaks. It was very hazy, but I made some images nevertheless. We settled down outside the kitchen as darkness fell, and one by one the stars made their appearance. It was so beautiful, no words to describe …

For whatever reason, Phoprang Danda is not a favourite place amongst trekkers. It is actually the best place on the Gosaikunda section – next only to Laurebina Yak. There are unobstructed views towards Ganesh Himal and Langtang.

After dinner, I setup the 6D with the 17-40 (at 17mm) towards Ganesh Himal, shooting 4 minute frames. And the 7D with 24-105mm (at 24mm) towards Langtang, shooting 4 minute frames too. I had put in fresh batteries, and prayed that the battery in the intervalometer would survive.

We slept in the dining hall next to the fire. The caretaker who was also the chef was having a voice chat on his phone, with a group of friends. It was quite cute to hear them talk in a musical way. Apparently, that was the Tamang way of speaking in rhyme… Ah, the fine art of conversation…

I woke up a few times at night to check on the camera and tripods and everything was fine.

Moon was supposed to rise around 2AM and would’ve come out from behind the Gosaikunda range before 3. So, I woke up Lila and Sher and off we went to the clearing near Phoprang Danda. And waited. And waited. The moon came up, but where were the mountains ? Nothing in sight. Where the hell did they disappear ? Thats when it stuck me that there was a thick haze that went so high up as to obscure the snow capped peaks. What in the world was wrong ? What did I do to deserve this ? I scrolled through the images captured before moonrise. True enough, the stars were there alright. But the silhouette of the mountains was missing. Damn the haze. Damn the weather. Damn the conditions. Damn the trek. Damn the April month. Damn everything.

I asked Lila if we should get back to Red Panda immediately. I think he had had enough of my madness. He said that it would be best if we go after sunrise.

We went back to the lodge but I couldn’t get much sleep. I kept fiddling with the fire and finally reconciled to the fact that I couldn’t be faulted for not putting in the effort. I had skipped comfort, compromised on sleep, did whatever was possible within my means. And if Mother Nature decided to slap me on the face, so be it.

And waited for dawn to break…

Waiting for dawn to break...Breaking dawnWaiting for dawnGanesh Himal at dawnFirst light hitting Ganesh Himal peakCloser look at first peak lit upAnother peak lights upCloser look at the peaks lit upYet another peak lights upAnd anotherGanesh Himal GrandeurGolden Glow Ganesh HimalGlorious Ganesh HimalGanesh Himal Range in the morning lightGanesh Himal lit upGanesh Himal in the morningLangtang Range silhouetteGanesh Himal range in the morning lightLangtang at dawnGanesh Himal in the morning...

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 7

Thulosyabru – Phoprang Danda – Shin Gompa

Day 7 began with a leisurely breakfast in the dining hall. We were now officially on the second half of the trek – the Gosaikunda section.

All of us were feeling good. L and K, that they were going back home early by couple of days. F had had a good shower, a wonderful dinner and good sleep. And I had kinda accepted the inevitable – that I wouldn’t get many keepers from this trek. It had been a bad idea to trek during April, knowing very well that most afternoons would get clouded out. Rushing up to Kyanjin and planning 4 nights there was also a foolish idea.. Whatever.

We had received news that Yuva’s brother, who had come from Dubai, would be getting married in 3 days time. It was decided that Yuva would come with us till Shin Gompa, and then he would descend to Dhunche, catch a bus to Trisuli Bazaar and then change to another bus to Pokhara. By the following evening, he would be in Pokhara.

It wasn’t doing my mood any good, as I had been looking forward to spend time with Lila and Yuva during the trek. We didn’t play as many card games as during the ABC Trek, and there hadn’t been the time and space for jokes and music. Expectation reduces joy. When would I learn this lesson ?

As soon as we left the guesthouse and within 5 minutes of ascent, we had the first glimpse of Ganesh Himal. Finally. Distant snow covered peaks under clear blue skies. Customary photographs were quickly snapped, lest clouds rolled in later and obscured the view.

40 odd minutes into the ascent, we reached a chorten. By then everyone was sweating profusely. But the views made up for that. On one side we could see Ganesh Himal range. And on the other side – roughly 90-120 degrees to the right, we could see the Langtang range. And down below, we could see Thulo Syabru and scattered houses in the fields. Fantastic.

We kept going up, another half an hour or so later, we reached a small teahouse where we stopped for a drink. Tang Mango flavour. Felt good.

And then more ascent. Kept climbing and I decided to stay behind and bring up the rear, listening to some songs on my phone. For a while, I had Pemba for company, and then he forged ahead. This was a beautiful section of the trek. Even though it was through dense forest, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t wet or damp as it usually is, when the trek goes through forest. Sunlight was still seeping through. The trees were at least few hundred years old, for sure. There were tiny flowers in all colours – yellow, white, purple that were in full bloom, even few cm from the ground. How life thrives at the slightest opportunity !!!

Also got to see Lali gurans (Rhododendrons) in different colours – off-white, red, pink etc.

Around noon, we reached Phoprang Danda. There are just two lodges there, we decided to have lunch at one of them. There was a Korean group with their own chef, their own korean food and a Nepali guide who spoke fluent Korean. What luxury 🙂

Once again, I told Lila to get whatever food we could get without cabbage. He came back saying they had Okra (Ladies finger). The chef made a dish of fried Okra and potatoes. Yummy. I had fried dal and rice. That kinda lifted the mood. Took out my compass and checked out the direction in which the sun and moon would rise/set. I made a mental note to come back to Phoprang Danda for sunrise the following morning. It would be a 45mins – 1 hour from Shin Gompa to this place. It would be the perfect place for sunrise. Prayed that the weather would hold good…

After lunch, we walked through a nice section of pine forest. Probably took more than 2 hours for what was only a brisk 45 mins walk.

We reached Shin Gompa and proceeded straight to Red Panda. Had read very good reviews online and had made Lila book that guesthouse in advance. I had told him so in Thulo Syabru. And I knew that he had not done anything about it. So, reminded him again when we were at the chorten right above Thulo Syabru… I made him speak to Pemba and got Pemba to call Red Panda. Two rooms were booked immediately. Something was wrong with Lila this time around. He wasn’t in his usual element at times. I felt he preferred treks in the Annapurna region more than this part of Nepal…

Red Panda had a very nice feel to it. We first bade goodbye to Yuva, I had a brief 1 on 1 chat with him, as I walked him down Red Panda. Gave him a hug and wished him the best.

We sat in the garden between the dining hall and the block where the rooms are located. Had coffee and enjoyed the view. We decided that we would go up the hill next to Shin Gompa for a chance at sunset.

Went to the room, unpacked and I skipped shower, as I knew that I would be sweating my way up the hill. L and K stayed back. F came with Lila, Sher and I.

It took at around half an hour to 45 mins to get to the top. There’s a small house, and a Korean guy was spending 20 odd days there in solitude. Apparently, he was meditating most of the time. We went up and said hello to him. He couldn’t speak a word of English, so most of our conversation was in sign language. He showed us his living quarters, he was sleeping in a tent, with a fire burning all night long outside his room. He had gathered a fair amount of firewood.

It was time for the sun to set. I was feeling a bit uneasy, and when F disappeared out of sight for a while, I panicked. She was just exploring the place on her own.

Ganesh Himal couldn’t be seen from there and the Langtang range was almost clouded out. I told Lila that we should get back to Red Panda ASAP. Lila suggested that we go down another route, as the one we had come up by was quite steep.

He took us through jungle and when we were going in an opposite direction to that of Red Panda, I figured out that we had lost our way. That’s when we made a sharp descent through the forest, slipping and sliding… After a few minutes, we joined the trail that connects Shin Gompa with Cholang Pati (and onwards to Laurebina Yak – as we would find out later…). We then turned back in the direction of Shin Gompa and made a dash as darkness was setting in…

Unpacked, a quick shower and it was time for dinner.

Red Panda is very popular amongst big groups, and there will be certain days when it would be fully packed and others when it would be more relaxed. That night there was a big crowd from England and quite boisterous at that – after drinking lots of Everest Beer.

Lila had managed our order ahead of that group and our food arrived soon. I had the usual daal bhat and had ordered a plate of thinly cut potatoes fried crisp. It was very nice. We ended up ordering a second plate which was probably fried in a hurry, so it didn’t taste as well as the first plate. It often happens so…

I had told Lila that I would like to go back to Phoprang Danda for sunrise, if the weather would be clear. He asked me to wake him up at 3AM and showed me which room they would be sleeping in. L and K had declined. F agreed to join me in that craziness.

After dinner, walked into the garden, the sky was so clear. Plenty of stars and I pointed out a few constellations that I could make out. Feeling happy, I quickly fell into slumber, as soon as I hit the bed…

Day 7 had been the best of the days so far, even though I didn’t get too many opportunities at photography. Would better luck follow ?

Looking out from the 3rd level of Lama HotelStarting the trek, looking towards the Gosaikunda rangeRimche, far in the distance (we had stayed there the previous night)And the lodges of Syarpagaon, which is part of the Tamang Heritage trail...Syarpagaon and Rimche, gives one an idea of the scale...The Gompa above the village of Thulo SyabruChorten - 40 minutes into the climb from Thulo SyabruTerraced farmingLooking down towards the fields...First glimpse of the Ganesh Himal rangeA closer look at the Ganesh Himal rangeStanding tallClearer view of Ganesh HimalPart of the Langtang range coming into view...Forest fireLittle paradise ? No, its just a name that I coined...Little paradise, indeed... surrounded by terraced fields, dense forests and mountains that touch the sky...Looking down towards scattered houses and fieldsLangtang range coming into view...Forest fire. Wonder how it gets extinguished... when the entire forest is burnt off or when rains finally arrive ?  Who do you call ? 911 or the Fire Department ? Or Pray ?Colourful treeFlowersLangtang getting clouded out already - and its not even noon...Yellow flowerAnd white flowersAnd pink flowersRed rhododendronsOff-white flowersDense pine forest between Phoprang Danda and Shin GompaDense pine forest between Phoprang Danda and Shin GompaMore yellow flowers against the blue skyThree stupas at Shin GompaResidential block - Red PandaYellow flowers encountered when climbing up the hill next to Red Panda, Shin GompaBurnt tree trunks and yellow flowersLast look at Langtang Range, getting clouded outThe house where a Korean guy was staying, hilltop Shin GompaDense forest during sunsetSunset, hilltop near Shin Gompa

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 6

Rimche – Bamboo – Pairo – Thulosyabru

I don’t know what happened in Rimche, but probably I reached a conclusion that I would go home without many worthwhile images and this just wasn’t the right time to indulge in photography.

L and K had decided that they would try and head back home couple of days earlier as we had cut short our stay in Kyanjin Gompa. The challenge now was to rebook their tickets, but we would deal with that when we reached some kind of civilisation…

After a leisurely breakfast, we started our descent, slipping and sliding all the way, crossed the river and went over the other side, on our way to Bamboo… Our plan was to spend some time at the lagoon just before we reached Bamboo. And that went to plan. We spent a fair amount of time relaxing by the river, soaking our feet in the cold, running water and Lila, F and I made a few cairns as well, while L and K indulged in some glamour portraiture. I guess we all needed that space.

Moved on to Bamboo where Lunch was announced. By now, I was quite sick of anything with cabbage in it – and almost every dish had cabbage. Ordered a plate of fried potatoes with cheese and finished it off with fried daal.

After lunch, it was through the forest on to Pairo (Landslide), a brief stop there and then the fun began. For the next hour or so, it was just steep ascent. In the hot afternoon sun, it wasn’t a happy affair. But for some insane reason, I enjoyed it thoroughly. By the time we reached the ridge line, everyone was cursing and sweating, but I reached the top with a smile.

There was a tea stall run by two brothers, where L treated us to an overpriced can of Pineapple juice (made in Thailand), as a reward for the afternoon’s effort.

L and K took off after that, with Lila and F following them. I went at my own slow pace, enjoying the walk…

At one place, there was a steep descent and then cross over to the other side via probably the longest hanging bridge that we had encountered during the trek…

I waited for the L, K, Lila and F to reach that spot so that I could take some photos from the high vantage point. I yelled and shrieked and made my intentions known…

I then made my slow progress to the bridge and by the time I crossed over, the rest of the group were raring to get going to Thulo Syabru…

I caught up with Lila and F eventually, and then the three of us made our way together to Thulo Syabru village.

By the time we reached the lodge, I was famished. Tired. Badly in need of a shower. We went two floors up where our rooms were and a small dining hall too. L and K were there.

Ordered dinner. I requested Lila to make any dishes but cabbage. The lady of the house somehow managed potato-peas curry. It was such a welcome break from routine.

L and K made fried noodles and noodles soup with some sausages in it.

After dinner, L and I went to a cybercafe next door and after almost 2 hours, we managed to book one way tickets by Thai Airways (via Bangkok) for L and K. I got connected to the outside world, and relayed by sob story to JH and PSS and a few other friends…Probably that crying helped, as I got back feeling better 🙂

There was no chance for any photography from that location, neither did I have any interest.

End of Day 6.

Looking across from Rimche to Thulo Syabru (our destination for the day). What goes down, must go up...Trees on ridgePlayful monkeys on tree, at the riverside near BambooLooking back towards Pairo - where it all started...RiverLandslideLooking from across the ridge towards Thulo Syabru, and a lone tree...The longest suspension bridge of the trek...Branches and the setting sun... and some abstract thoughts in my mind...Thulo SyabruLone tree amidst rocksThe longest suspension bridge that we crossed

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 5

Langtang – Chamki – Thangsyap – Ghora Tabela – Riverside – Lama Hotel – Rimche

I hadn’t seen much of L and K the previous day and was hoping that they would be fine. They had had cup noodles the previous day for lunch, and I didn’t know what time they had gone off for dinner.

After a day’s rest, I guess they were feeling better. K came into our room in the morning and we all had coffee together downstairs. The sky was clear, but I wasn’t really in the mood for taking any photos. I was still sulking within myself.

We went down for breakfast, I had oatmeal porridge (I recollected that that was what I used to eat most often during the ABC Trek) and then went up and packed. From here on, we had no fixed schedule. We would take each day as it came.

We took lots of group photos, paid up and then started the descent. I was hoping that we would make it to either Rimche or Bamboo, but Lila was probably thinking we wouldn’t even make it to Rimche…

As usual, L and K set the pace and they were left behind by Yuva and Sher. I think Pemba was somewhere in between, in his own world, listening to folk songs and singing along…As usual, I brought up the rear…

When we reached Chamki, I suggested that we stop at Hill Top Lodge and at least have a drink and check out the rooms. Yeah, its a nice setup – 4 rooms only, and the toilets were clean. If someone likes smaller establishments, and less disturbance from other trekkers, Hill Top Lodge in Chamki is definitely a good option.

Lila, F and I sat in the sun, soaking in the views. We saw a helicopter passing above us, most likely to rescue someone… It happened more often on this trek than during the ABC Trek…

Thangsyap came and went. The descent after Thangsyap reminded me of the struggle on the way up. Precariously, stepping on stones and bouncing off them, I made my way down, probably in a quarter of a time as what it had taken on the way up…

L and K were nowhere to be seen.

Ghora Tabela came and went. We said our last goodbyes to Tserko Ri as very soon we would be going into the forest and all views would be gone.

Lila had left us behind too and gone ahead. It was just F and I. We slowly made our way, I wasn’t really enjoying this trek… As long as I get good weather, as long as I get good views, as long as I get some good captures, I can keep going. But this was turning out to be miserable. Why did I choose to come in April ? I could’ve saved my time and money for the Annapurna Circuit in October… And done the Langtang Trek another year in October.

Such is the mind. It wants to be anywhere but here, anytime but now.

I kept having a dialogue with myself, and putting one foot in front of the other. Counting steps. Counting breaths.

We passed by Woodland, which I had thought was Riverside. But no, F said, we got to keep going. And we did…

By the time we reached Riverside, L and K had already ordered their lunch. I let F decide whatever she preferred to eat and order that and I went to meditate. Later, F and I went to soak our feet in the freezing waters…

When lunch arrived, I reluctantly made my way back to the table.

L and K had finished their lunch by then and I asked them to go ahead. I wanted to rest for 15 minutes after lunch. What was the hurry ? We had 2 extra days in the kitty now.

I had asked Lila to call Ganesh Lodge at Rimche and book two rooms. He was so reluctant, claimed he had no mobile signal, whatever… What the hell was wrong with Lila ? I insisted at Riverside, after lunch, that he call ahead and book. Finally, Pemba got the clue and he used the phone at the lodge to make that call. Yes, two rooms were available (probably the last two rooms) and they were promptly reserved.

More walking through the forest. It was tiring. And boring. I was tempted to shoot some long exposures at the river with the rocks as composition, but I just couldn’t get myself around to do so… The mood simply wasn’t there…

Lama Hotel came and I told Lila I needed a break and a drink. We stopped at one of the lodges, had a honey hot lemon, chatted for a while and then continued.

The weather was gloomy, cloudy, no views whatsoever and it was so depressing. I wondered when would things change.

The last stretch to Rimche was somehow cleared, and when I saw the crowds at Rimche, I thought to myself “what the hell…”

There was a queue for hot shower, there was a queue for laundry, and I wondered what would happen for dinner. Anyways, we got into our room, with its paper thin plywood walls, made small talk with the neighbours, when L and K appeared from their room.

Almost all of us wanted to do our laundry. L got into the act first, and then F decided to follow suit, while K was busy taking pictures of the action.

Pemba decided that he needed a shave, and I decided I would get rid of my stubble too. Borrowed his mirror and I queued up.

One by one, we all showered. I was probably the last one. I felt so much better. Fresh, clean clothes, without the headache and nausea…Some sort of normalcy was restored.

In the distance, on a hill far away, at almost the same elevation as where we were, I could see the lights from Thulo Syabru, which would be our destination for the next day. But for now, it was dinner time. When it comes to ordering food, Lila is ever so attentive. Dinner was ordered and after wolfing it down, all of us settled in the kitchen. The dining hall was full, and I couldn’t stand the non-stop banter. Kitchen was better. K was in her element too, chatting with the porters and joking all around. The canned sardines and sausages and whatever else that they had carried from home and managed to cook, probably brightened up her mood too…

I decided that I had had enough for the day and wanted to sleep.

Pointed out a few constellations to F, the sky was relatively clear, but there was no composition worthwhile to shoot.

I probably slept almost immediately, but woke up at night to bring in the laundry. And right on cue, it started to drizzle.

Day 5. End.

PS : Even after 5 days into the trek, I had no worthwhile images. When would it change ? Would it ?

WaterfallWaterfall and snow capped peak behindPorter carrying a huge plywood board towards Langtang (probably will become a wall in some lodge)You shoot me, I shoot you...Looking back towards Langtang, last look at Tserko RiRescue helicopterApproaching ChamkiLangtangClose look at Rhododendron flowers

 

Langtang Gosaikunda trek – Day 4

Kyanjin Gompa – Langtang

I suffered the night. Kept going to the loo to throw up, but there was nothing in my stomach. Tried not to disturb F, but couldn’t resist when I peeped out of the window and the moon was out in all its glory, lighting up the landscape. I had no strength to take my tripod and camera out, to take any pictures. The headache was terrible, and the nausea – every movement in my body was a struggle. Woke up F to let her see the view. She was amazed, but slept right away…

By morning, I was in pretty bad shape. When I drew the curtains open, I was surprised to see the view. It had snowed at night, and the entire area was covered in a blanket of white. Woke up F, it was her first time to witness such a spectacle. Lila knocked on my door. Asked me how I was. I told him I was in miserable condition. He could probably see that. We went over to L and K’s room. They were in bad shape too. What the hell happened to them ? I thought they were fine. L said “Bro, the headache is terrible…” I felt pathetic for dragging them all the way there. I went back to my room, not sure what to do.

And then I heard K throwing up. That was it. I decided that I had had enough of Kyanjin Gompa. I spoke to F and she agreed that it was best for us to descend, as it was not worth risking our lives. I told Lila we are descending. He asked me if I was sure. I told him absolutely sure.

At that moment, I hated the world. I hated the mountains. I hated Kyanjin Gompa, I hated the weather conditions, I hated everything.

I stepped out for some fresh air. I was gonna rebel. Against what, I dunno. But I decided that I wouldn’t take a single picture from that place. And I didn’t. So, all I have are painful memories.

Lila took F, K and L out to show them the different mountains and I guess they all took many photos. I still didn’t take any. I didn’t have the physical strength and mentally I was just being an ass…

I felt like throwing up all the time. Drank some warm water, threw up that too.

I kept standing outside and Lila told me that I should descend first with Sher and the rest will catch up with us. I dunno how/who packed the duffle bag, but I just started walking. Every few minutes, I would pause for breath and to throw up, and continue.

Somewhere after the stupa, Sher and Yuva and I stopped at a tea shop. I kept cursing in my mind – I have no idea who or what…

Every step was a struggle. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and counting…

I think the rest of the group caught up soon, and L and K decided to continue ahead, while I waited at one of the tea shops/lodges.

I have absolutely no idea how I got to Langtang. i think we stopped for a few minutes at Sindum. F was giving me company and watching out for me. At the ridge before reaching Langtang, I saw Yuva walking towards us. I kept telling Lila that I needed to go to the clinic in Langtang and see if I could get oxygen. I had already had one bad encounter with AMS and HAPE, I couldn’t risk going through it again… Somehow, Lila tried to defer it, but this time around, I was firm…

When we reached the Pilgrim Guest House, I asked him to call the clinic. He said he had no mobile signal on his phone. I asked him to use Pemba’s phone. The lady owner of Pilgrim Guest House intervened and they managed to track down the guy who was incharge of the Langtang Valley Clinic and made him open it.

Lila, Sher, F and I made our way to the clinic. Found out they didn’t have oxygen cylinders, but they had a Gammow bag (PAC – Portable Altitude Chamber). Nobody knew how to use it. So, F and I quickly read the Operating Manual. At least my brain was still working…

Lila had seen it in operation, but didn’t know how to use it. So, we made a trial run. I didn’t want to be inside at the first attempt. he he he…

Told F to watch out for me and most importantly how to deal with an emergency if there was a sudden change in pressure.

The thing with the PAC is that everything is manual (for fairly obvious reasons). Someone had to keep stepping on the pedestal pump to allow fresh air (oxygen) inside and to release stale air (carbon dioxide) from inside and to maintain the right pressure. Its a tedious task and needs a lot of patience. Only Lila was able to do it right. Every 5-6 seconds, the foot pump had to be pressed. I could hear the conversation going on outside, I could see F peering through the translucent screen on the PAC…

When Lila was not working on the foot pump, he was keeping track of the time (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – “ok pump now” he would say…) Once when Yuva came and started working on the pump, I could feel that he wasn’t doing it right, as no fresh air was coming in… I tapped on the PAC from inside and Lila and F asked me what happened… I told them that I wasn’t getting any fresh air, and Lila took over working on the foot pump…

It was quite an experience. I guess I was inside the PAC for 30 mins or so, but the relief was immense. I almost wanted to doze off inside as it was so comfortable.

Thanked the caretaker, paid up, gave a donation to the clinic and left.

I had no mood to eat, but I forced myself to eat a bit of rice and dal. And slept. Like a log.

When I woke up, I had a bit of a headache, asked how the rest of the folks were. Everyone was doing fine.

I told Lila that I wanted to use the PAC once again at night and he agreed. After seeing the recovery I had made, I guess he was convinced too. F and I went back to the clinic with Lila and Sher. A small crowd gathered from the village as they were all quite inquisitive about the PAC. I wanted to play a prank, but that was not the right time and place to do so…

Got back, had a good dinner and crashed out. In the first 4 days of the trek, so much had happened. But I had no photographs at all – not the kind I had dreamed of…

I compared this to the ABC Trek, where each day had been getting better and better in terms of photography. From Dhampus to Tolka to Chomrong, each day had exceeded the expectations.

This time around, I had nothing but disappointment. I hated the trek, I hated myself for rushing to Kyanjin, for making so many plans of Langshisha Kharka and whatever not… My mood had taken a severe beating.

But I was glad to be alive. And with these thoughts, I drifted off to sleep…

[I didn’t take any photos on Day 4. These photos are courtesy F…]

 

Sunrise at Kyanjin GompaSunlight reaching Kyanjin GompaSunrise at Kyanjin GompaKyanjin RiYak Hotel (probably a better place to stay as there is a rooftop, if one wants to shoot at night..)Langtang Range clouded out...Leaving Kyanjin GompaLooking back towards Kyanjin Gompa, with Tserko Ri and Langshisha range in the background...Walking back from Kyanjin Gompa, Kyanjin Ri on the left...Langtang range clouded out...Langtang glacierAnother look at Langtang GlacierStupa near Kyanjin GompaFresh snow overnight...Yak crossing a river (freezing cold)Teahouse between Kyanjin Gompa and Sindum...Looking back towards Tserko Ri and Langshisha rangeLangshisha rangeCrossing an Avalanche trailAvalanche trail, last look at Tserko Ri and Langshisha rangeReaching LangtangAs the sign says, way to Cheese and bread factory, Langtang