Abhishek Kaushal describes how the rest day on an expedition normally is – Loaded with lots of “Restful” activities all day long.
Rest day at Raktvan (Base Camp) – Expedition Day 3 – 23/May/2016
In spite of being a rest day, I got up at 4:30 am just to get the first view of the nearby mountains once again. Carrying out morning routines in such surroundings gives me a very different kind of high – it does sound a bit gross, but I get a feeling of being totally free. Anyway, I went to the kitchen tent to have a hot cup of tea and started chatting with our cook to discuss the food menu for breakfast. Since there would be a small prayer ceremony today at the base camp, he was preparing “halwa” for breakfast along with “paranthas” and “sabzi”. This was something to look forward to, especially on a day when most of us would be just enjoying the weather and doing small walks around the base camp. The two guides and two senior members of our team were doing a Load Ferry to the Advanced Base Camp. The two guides were also supposed to go a little ahead of the Advanced Base Camp to see the condition of the route to the summit camp. The porters also left for Gangotri town after having their breakfast.
Sipping my third cup of tea, I was watching the Load Ferry team getting ready for their climb, while the resting members of the group were slowly coming out of their tents. My heart was telling me that I should also go ahead with the Load Ferry team to Advanced Base Camp, while my brain was telling me to be smart and use this day to rest and recoup for the next five days of grueling climb to the summit and back to base camp. I followed my brain and decided to be in ‘minimum energy state’ for the day. Soon the Load Ferry team prepared their technical and other camping equipment to be carried to the Advanced Base Camp and left our base camp. I saw them climbing up the ridge near the base camp and then they disappeared from our view into the gully between the higher mountains.
The rest of us, including our team leader, prepared for the prayer ceremony for a successful expedition. Everybody gathered around a small stone temple where the expedition leader lit a few incense sticks (agarbattis) and also offered some “halwa” and coconut to the mountain Gods. Then he distributed the “prasad” (religious offering of sweets) to all the team members. After the ceremony we all had a relaxed breakfast in the sun. We also laid our clothes, sleeping bags and shoes in the sun for drying and to absorb some much needed warmth.
The leader then took us all for a walk around the base camp towards the Raktvan Glacier. This would be helpful for all the team members for acclimatising and also to keep our bodies moving. We crossed a small stream coming from Thelu and then climbed up a ridge near the Raktvan Glacier. The Raktvan Glacier was very small as compared to Gangotri Glacier but still was the source of Raktvan Nala, which was one of the tributaries of the Bhagirathi River. Looking back down the way we came up, the base camp looked very far and very small from the ridge where we stood. From this ridge we could also see the ridge over which lay our Advanced Base Camp. The Advanced Base Camp looked far and high from here and I could gauge the effort that would be required the next day to climb over the steep moraine route to the Advanced Base Camp. Our Load Ferry team also came into view as they were heading back and we also started climbing down towards the base camp.
The Load Ferry team reached the base camp and they told us about the route and the condition of the Advanced Base Camp camp site. Since the entire stretch was full of moraines, hence it would be a tough and hectic climb. The guides also told us that above the Advanced Base Camp we would be climbing over a ridge and then hit snow. This was very exciting for me and I was looking forward to walking over the snow patch. While the preparations for lunch was going on, the guides and senior members along with the expedition leader started preparing and finalising the rations that would be required at the Advanced Base Camp and the summit camp. The team members were also instructed to check and organise their technical gear that would have to be carried the next day to the Advanced Base Camp.
After lunch we checked our ice shoes (Koflach) and adjusted our crampons as per requirements. We were also given our ice axe, harness, sling, jumar and carabiners. Till base camp all this stuff was carried by the porters and from here on we were responsible for all this equipment. So far, the journey on this expedition had felt more like a trek. But on receiving all the technical equipment, I felt great as I realized that the trip had now graduated from a trek to a mountaineering expedition.
By the time we sorted out and stacked our individual equipment into our tents, the clouds had started to build up above the high mountains and the winds from the valley down below were getting strong. This made everybody hit their respective tents and four of us started playing cards to kill the time. Soon it started snowing and there was a white-out around the base camp. Every now and then we had to get out of the tents to clear the snow from the top of the tents and it was at such moments that one realized how cosy the tents were. By evening the snowfall had stopped and the weather had started clearing up, which meant that tonight would be a very cold night. Fresh snow on top of the nearby peaks made the sights very beautiful.
Dinner was ready early today and we all gathered in the dining tent. Plans for the next day were discussed and everybody was instructed to carry all their technical equipment to the Advanced Base Camp. The plan was to leave early for the Load Ferry and come back to the base camp before lunch time. Soon after dinner everybody went back to their tents for a good night’s rest. We all had kept our sleeping bags in the sun earlier in the day to make them warmer, but the temperatures at night were so cold that after settling in, it took a little time for the sleeping bag to warm up. While lying down, I was thinking about the tough climb that lay ahead of us the next day. I have always preferred walking in the snow than on the moraines and with the excitement of seeing the Advanced Base Camp for the first time tomorrow, I slowly dozed off.