I inspected Kibri a bit the next morning.This was a place known to local Lullum people because their yaks would frequently venture into Lingti valley for pastures when they are set free in the monsoons.Locals have to go fetch them from the valley during winters when they are needed in the villages.So there were 2 houses built here by them.Knowledge of these locals ,of the area beyond Kibri was sketchy at best and there was only one person in Lullum,the guy whose donkeys we had rented,who knew about Lingti valley more than others.Excpet Kullu of course.He knew the entire Lingti Valley “like the back of his hand” 🙂 !I was in safe and expert hands indeed!
There were a lot of hill pigeons around.Today was the D-Day,i was informed.I had not taken efforts to find out more about our itinerary beforehand..But that ignorance turned out be a blessing in hiding.Because as i learnt that day,we were to start from Kibri-4000m and go till the Shijibang pass which lies at 5100m and then climb down some 500m to reach campsite for day 2 of the trek.Now as may of you must be knowing,1100m is quite a large height gain!I could see the serrated ridge at the base of which Kibri lay.This was the ridge we were to climb to reach the pass at its top.We were basically crossing the mountain from one side to the other and there was no intermittent campsite.I tried not think much about all of that and started at the rear end of the group on the climb.
First one and a half hour was alright.I t was all uphill but i could walk continuously by keeping the breath steady and rhythmic.I carried on.But later,the gap between me and others started to increase and the going became tougher for me.So Kullu asked RInchen to not leave my side even if it meant lagging behind a lot.Rinchen walked a little distance behind me the whole day so that i won’t trail behind alone.He continued like that,always chatting up with me and patiently giving an ear to my frustration filled words.I had been determined at the start,still determined after 3.5 hours but after that i began to lose patience.It was all very steep and without any break.We could see Lama almost running and nearing the top but he seemed impossibly far away.I started having my own breaks.The frequency of the breaks went on increasing toward the last leg of the upward walk and the time interval between successive breaks went on decreasing.I only had a small pittu containing packed lunch ,sweater and my 3 kg camera in it.But it started feeling like such a pain in the ass.Rinchen generously offered to take my camera in his sack and i could not say no to that offer.Finally,one lump of mountain after another,one narrow trail after another,one scree patch after another,dragging myself,panting profusely and cursing the mountain for causing me such mental and physical hardship for the last 4 hours,i finally landed my feet on Shijibang Pass.WohhO!!!I was at 5100m!Seemed so good after a break of 3 years when i hadn’t been on the high altitude.The view was amazing .Kullu showed me Gya,Sheila ,Labrang and many other peaks.Gya was important cuz this was the only point in the trek from where it was possible to see the formidable peak.To one side of the saddle where i was standing lay the Matterhornesque Shijibang peak.
I took some rest at the windy pass(it was really cold ever since the last 200meters to the pass),munched on raw maggi and biscuits and chocolate(all constituting the packed lunch),hydrated myself and then we began the descent on the other side of the pass.
It was all downhill now.Within an hour,we reached the eponymous campsite on a plateau on this other side of Shijibang peak.The altitude was 4750m.The cold at the campsite suited the altitude.Fire was lighted,soup and dinner cooked and served.
Kullu had said that climbing Shijibang pass was the most difficult part of the trek.That meant that the days to come were going to be ‘relatively’ easier than this day had been.This relaxed my mind a bit though i couldn’t help speculating on the return journey,which was also going to be arduously steep.With such lingering doubts,i tried to put myself to sleep.But it was really cold that night.I had to put on a thermal pant beneath my track pant and above i was wearing 4 layers to keep myself from shivering.The sleep wasn’t as comfortable as the previous night.But somewhere around dawn,my eyes finally started finding it hard to remain open.