So today was the day where we would finally hike up Sandakphu; this is challenge we were all here to complete after all. After a short walk of about 1Km on the windy road leading to sandakphu, the tea house is finally visible atop the sandakphu, far away, 6kms i.e. The trek route again lies on the border of India-Nepal.
At certain junctions, there are small shacks offering refreshments. The trail from here to Sandakphu is a steep incline of 4 km and zigzags up the hill. One can choose between two routes here – the left one which goes via Nepal and is a longer trail with a gradual ascent, or the more popular shorter route with a steep ascent. We chose the steep one obviously.
Midway a tower post gave some wonderful view of the valley.
All along the route, there was a semi motor able route leading to the top running parallel to the trek route which is steeper. The top seemed closer atop every small hillock but seemed far away after every descent; why was the mountain testing us ?
All along the way, the views kept getting better, with clouds playing hide n seek from behind the mountains; sometimes engulfing the valley; other times disappearing without a trace.
The mules carrying supplies, luggage raced past us at many junctions; for once it seemed the mule was having a better time than us. After 4 hours of trek, we finally reached a point where sandakphu was within reach.
Well, almost within reach. It was another 500 meters at least fro this sign post; when the incline is at 45 degrees, that’s a lot.
At this point, there is another ‘short cut’ leading to the top with a even steeper incline; me, Nikhil,Yash and kushal decided to give it a shot in hopes of cutting our trek time.
The “stairs” were covered in a thin sheet of ice and it was very slippery; so slippery that yash decided to turn back. After much struggle, nikhil managed to hike up but I had underestimated the hike; the gods of friction abandoned me suddenly and with the gravity assist , I ended up hitting my head on the ice , on the ground, and slipped about 2 meters. In all fairness , i thought that this is the end. Can’t continue with a bloody head right. Thankfully, while I did hit my head bad and lost consciousness for a few milliseconds maybe, I was able to regain balance and give it another try, only more carefully. Kushal, right behind me, learnt from the folly of my ways and managed to safely trek through the slippery passage and quick 5 minutes walk, we were at the top of sandakphu, FINALLY !
It was a gorgeous sight with a crystal clear view of the sleeping buddha in clear daylight.
A traveler’s lodge served as a rest point / tea break joint where we snacked on some hot tea and Good Day cookies. Temperature here was -2C in broad daylight. Heck, we managed to get a good mobile signal here as well; a lot of trekkers called up their homes. I called up my work buddies to inquire on the state of the chip I was working on; I was trekking in the mountains at a very critical state of the project.
Thankfully everything was fine. After some light snacks, it was time to move on. Our tea house was another 1.5 kms and this time the walkway was flat.
The tea house is run by a pleasant aunty and we all checked into our dormitory; all the guys in one and the women in another.
We were provided with additional sleeping bags & liners since blankets cannot be washed in cold icy waters. Almost immediately , lunch was served; the usual course. After lunch , we had multiple options. Behind the lodge, there is a nice place to take good shots of valley; one can spot the clouds being held hostage by the high mountains.
Some of us scouted the area for good photography locations, for eg, the top of hill behind the tea house while other huddled inside the observation room to play dumb charades ; made more fun with Hot cauliflower pakodas served with tea, i gobbled at least 6 of them. Soon enough it was sunset time already and half a dozen of us rushed to the top the of the hill to view the sunset; it got pretty crowded up there pretty fast and we had to jostle to get a proper shot through; made worse by the biting cold and the fact that we had to remove our gloves to get the camera settings correct. The sunset was breath taking for sure, the red hue over the clouds with glowing horizon; it was magical to say the least.
After a quick dinner, a lot of us assembled to take shots of the milky way; it was the first time in the trek that we had a clear night sky. Actually it was the first time that many of us were viewing the galactic core; so surely a definitive moment of many of our lives. The shots came out pretty decent and definitely gave me more inspiration to upgrade my camera before my next trek.
A final shot of sandakphu before hitting the sack and I called it day.