The day I saw the India- China Border
I was lazily lying down on the sleeping mattress outside my tent and looking around.I was trying to catch up on some reading and some writing when the guys spotted a herd of blue sheep grazing on one of the mountain slopes surrounding our site.Beyond those slopes lay the snow and glacier laden mountains which formed the India- China border.That is,we were only 4 km inside the border.The acute difficulties in crossing these formidable mountains meant that there was no need for army presence on this side of the border at least.I had read about the Himalayan walls ensuring my country’s security in the geography textbooks during school.Seeing it happen in real was a different feeling!
This was day 3 of the trek and it was the easiest of all days in the trek.There were only 2 uphill climbs,each lasting about an hour,with a long downhill walk along a nala(Lumba) in between.This was the toned down version of the nature our daily trek,where we would climb up a mountain,climb it down till we hit the river in the valley,cross the river,climb the mountain on the other side of the river and then climb down till a plateau was reached where the dogris(stony huts) made by the locals and/or some water source could be found.We would gain around 800-900 meters daily and would climb down half of it to get to the campsite.
Claims by the guys,earlier in the day, about the ease of the climb had indeed turned out to be true :).It had been an easy day indeed and we had reached the campsite at Sheru(4500m) earlier than usual.I lazed around the whole of evening before turning in.
Unknown to me ,Kullu was making plans for setting his feet on one of the peaks to the west of the campsite.But more on that,later.
Crossing Lingti and Her Very Own Geological Museum
The next morning we started a little earlier than usual because at the bottom of the plateau on which we had been camping overnight,was a powerful river to be crossed.The descend till the river was tricky and full of scree & loose soil that seemed ready to slip off from beneath your shoes.
The river bed was around 40 feet across.Kullu,thanks to his earlier experiences here,knew the spot where crossing would be possible.The water,though less than waist high,had tremendous force.So going without a rope was just not an option.Kullu had brought along two new 50m ropes,carabiners,ascender,iron pegs and the pulley device keeping this river crossing in mind.He had the system worked out already in his mind and soon ,we all began on the procedure.
First with the help of the belay from the shore,Kullu,in his wading suit,tried going across.But in the middle of the course,he fell off in the water,the water filled in his suit and made his forward progress impossible.This try had failed.Kullu was all wet with the icy cold water.He then changed into shorts and sneakers and gave it a try again and that went on to become successful.He was across!He then tied the end of the rope to a tree on the shore on his side while we did the same to the end on our side.Lamaji was then sent across by clipping him to the safety of the rope anchored between the two ends.The idea was that we and the donkeys would cross the water on feet using the safety of the already anchored rope.The main problem was the transfer of luggage without letting it get wet.
Lamaji had taken the 2nd rope as his belay to the other side where Kullu was standing.He and Kullu then anchored the iron pegs(also sent with lamaji) at considerable height on a boulder across the shore.They used the pegs to tie one end of the 2nd rope while we anchored its other end to the stem of a tree.With Kullu shouting clear step by step instructions across the roaring water,we set up the pulley system using the pulley device and carabiners.Our contraption was ready to be put into action!
We clipped the first of the rucksacks to the pulley mechanism and Kullu and Lamaji started pulling up the rope at the other end.The rucksack began to move upward toward the two guys pulling at it.It was all hard physical work for Kullu and Lamaji but they did it till the end.One by one,all our luggage was hauled up across the river bed.
It was now our turn to cross the water.Using the same system which Lamaji had used,we all reached across the shore(though i did fall off once owing to the flow of the water and the pull exerted on the rope by the person slipping off behind me.Thanks to our self anchor to the main crossing rope,both of us remained safe and were up on our feet in no time to cross the rest of the way.).The donkeys who were also tied to the rope,had to be shoved inside the water and pulled across the shore.
We were going to keep the 2nd rope as it is for the sake of the return journey.But the 1st rope had to be brought back.So kullu went across to the other end by clipping himself to the 2nd rope and sliding along it.He removed the 1st rope and then ascended the 2nd rope using a device called Jumar(mechanical ascender).
Hard work was over.Kullu’s system had worked brilliantly.We had reached a place called Phiphuk across the valley from Sheru.Phiphuk was along the river side and had a couple of dogris in place.We deposited some of our unnecessary luggage here.We would collect it on the return journey .We then started the uphill climb to the campsite called Satyachen.
We climbed up the slope for an hour and then walked another hour up along a Nala that was flowing down the mountain.In the distance,visible in a line inner to the peaks on the india- china border,lay a lump of a mountain top.The approach to this top was seemingly doable.Approach was to be taken from Yarsa,a site above Sheru .The route till about three fourth way up the mountain was looking like easy enough terrain.The last patch seemed difficult but Kullu was confident that he would be able to negotiate it.We were not sure about the altitude but it seemed slightly less than 6000m.Its location on the border meant that whoever reaches the top would enjoy the view of China beyond.This was the peak Kullu had been contemplating climbing since a few days.
We marched on along the Nala and then climbed upto a pass called Kuli La,from where the majestic vista of Satyachen opened up before us in the valley.What i was looking beyond Kuli La,was a landscape that seemed frozen in time.It was the most untouched place i had ever seen in my life.I was awed.Truly.
Toward left lay Sheila and peak and in front lay Labrang peak.The slopes coming down Labrang were pasture studded.The bifurcated Satyachen Nala cut across between these mountains and the slope on which lay Kuli La,where we were sitting,absorbing the geological magic that lay before us.The scene seemed to come directly out of a geography textbook containing illustrations of the physical and geological structures.I could have kept ogling at that landscape forever .But it was very windy in the pass and so we made a downward move.I sauntered down the slope,clicking as many pictures as I could.
I was lucky to be able to land at Satyachen-An area so far explored by very few people in the world.Entire Lingti valley trek is largely unknown to Indians and non Indians alike.Its a difficult trek and number of people who know the region can be counted on hands.
I was extremely lucky to be included in the trek.The view that was being offered to me that time,was worth all the efforts spent till then.It was so awesomely beautiful and isolated in time and place.
In the next half hour,i reached the campsite down in the valley.I was amazed to find a dogri even at this place.Though evidently it hadn’t been frequented by anyone in a long time(evidence being the dung cakes collected by Kullu’s team the previous winter and the fact that we found them stacked there the same way as they had been left the last winter by Kullu’s team.)
Soup was served.Dinner was consumed with much relish since on menu was sepcially made roti and tasty egg bhurji.The stars were up and Scorpio looked down upon us from its place in the heaven.Where we were staying for that night,was nothing less than a heaven either 🙂