The trek to Brahmital from the campsite had been portrayed as a sort of lazy jaunt on the rest day by the trek organizer at Uttarkashi. The day dawned with the information that it would be a four hour ascent and about three hours of descent. Not a particularly restful program for the day but our jaunty group was still full of beans when we started on the trek.
The first half an hour – after crossing the waterfall - had spilt most of the beans from almost all of us. One does expect a tough time ascending but the path was almost unrelieved ascent on loose soil with almost no stretches of level trail to regain your breath. That this portion of the trek was in the shade of trees was the only saving grace – not that we were in any mood to count our blessings. Dinesh was doing well enough to help the other guys around which was great going for anyone leave alone a first time Himalayan trekker. Sriram, despite being the oldest, was always gung-ho about going places and seeing things and, despite the lung-testing qualities of the trail, could still manage to give his usual exhaustive commentary on the status of things!
Two hours into the trek we, at last, hit some level areas. Any other day, these areas would have seemed a testing incline for they were not particularly level but, after the efforts of the first couple of hours, this was almost a walk in the park. We crossed the waterfall yet again and faced up to an interminable ascent yet again! With blood vessels ringing what seemed like a death knell in my forehead and lungs screaming for surcease I topped the rise to see Chandru holding out some dried fruits. End of trek?
Not really! We had used up four hours and the guide said that there was another hour of trekking to do to reach Brahmital. Chandru and I blew our tops. The day’s trek would take up eight hours, even assuming the guides’ estimates, and that was tough going by any count. Add to that the fact that the descent was bound to be treacherous – with the steep incline and loose soil – it seemed a difficult ask to do the trek in the day. Had the guides done a proper reconnaissance, we could have camped at Panchbilli on day one and camped by the side of the waterfall (Sathgadare, is the name of the place according to the local), where we crossed the second time, on day two. Then, the trek to Brahmital and back would have been possible on day three though not necessarily a walk in the park.
Recriminations are normally an exercise in futility once you are stuck with options already exercised. Five of us opted to try the trek further and three dropped out. Hari, Dinesh, Chandru, Shekhar and I proceeded further up. There was a stretch of trail rendered absolutely slippery with ice melt and slipping and slithering became the order of the day. I was trailing the group cursing myself heartily for not having joined the sane lot that opted to walk back. What devil of contrariness urges us ahead to do things so discomforting that you rue your decision almost as soon as you make it?
The weather had become chill with the skies clouding up and Hari found the combination of slippery slopes and cold weather not to his taste. He opted to walk back and join the others on their way back. About half an hour later – and an hour after starting on the last leg – I joined Chandru and Shekhar who were waiting this side of a long ice patch. Chandru pointed out to the distant horizon, where the icy peaks jutted out into the sky, and said that Brahmital was just beyond that ridge. Considering that a good half of the distance had to be walked over snow/ice, it did not seem likely that we could do get back to where we were standing in less than 2-3 hours. Starting a descent on the slopes that we had just slithered up as it was getting dark did not seem conducive to a healthy return for all five of us. Nor, indeed, did the ominously darkening clouds provide any silver lining!
Sriram and Dinesh had already part-crossed over the first ice patch when we decided to call it a day. With great reluctance the intrepid duo acceded to coming back. Chandru left to lead the way while Shekhar and I awaited their return.
The return descent was impossible without the help of the guides. I was practically dragged down till the waterfall considering that the inch of thick clay under my heels was offering me no purchase. At the waterfall, we met with Chandru nursing injuries. Apparently he had slipped on that treacherous stretch and somersaulted down. Scratches on his scalp and cheek, a badly barked knee and a swollen finger testified to how bad the fall had been.
After lunching at the waterfall we proceeded down the next stretch of steep descent back to the camp. As a final irony, the skies cleared up miraculously and we hit the camp with the setting sun shining brightly down on us.
Or was it that the Goddess of Brahmital did not want us to see the place?
Disclaimer: Photographs by Dinesh.
Links to photographs taken by my fellow trekkers are here. Needless to say, no photographs were taken by me, considering my abilities to turn the most ordinary attempts into something Picasso would have been proud of!