He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary
Friedrich Nietzsche, the conjurer of literary magic, wrote these epic words in his philosophical masterpiece Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I was just 20 when I first read this book. Little did I know about the power of these words and the magic of the mountains back then.
Yet, these lines inspired me a lot!
In 2010, I saw a photograph of Bhrigu Lake shared by Anshul, a good friend and a great photographer, at Flickr(click to see Anshul’s Photstream). That reminded me of Nietzsche and his prophetical words. Since then, I had been yearning to pay a visit to this heavenly abode of the Mountain Gods. It took me four years to reach there. But the wait was worth it.
Worth every damn second of those four years.
Aayush, an expert of the Kullu Himalaya agreed to accompany me on this trek. My friend Sanjay was also accompanying us and it was his first experience of a 4000 meter + expedition, which we got to know only after he started hallucinating and vomiting because of Acute Mountain Sickness. But we talk about that later.
Gulaba – Start of the Trek
Yeah, Gulaba! That very spot which you see subjected to worst form of abuse by the tourists and locals alike during the ‘peak season’, marks the start of this trek. The journey starts from the left bank of River Beas and leads through a thick forest. This was Aayush’s second journey to this part of the Himalaya but the rains had washed away all the trail marks and we ended up walking through knee high shrubs as we lost trail.
Mount Hanuman Tibba (5890 m), zenith of the Dhauladhar Himalaya shone in its absolute glory as we gained height. A couple of weeks ago, we had hiked up to the Dashaur Lake on the other side of River Beas and all we saw from there was just a glimpse of the divinity that was now unfolding itself in front of our eyes.
The Guardian Mountains of the Himalaya were bathing in the golden glow of the rising sun. The mountains were magically positioned in a semi-circular arrangement, with the leftmost corner being guarded by Hanuman Tibba and rightmost being watched over by Mukar Beh (6070 m).
The peaks and passes sprinkled in between by the Mother Nature were equally magnificent in their grandeur. The seven sisters, a series of 7 smaller peaks reaching up to the neck of Hanuman Tibba, Ladakhi Peak sliding gradually towards the Mukar Beh, and Taintu La, a mysterious passage to the land of Bada Bhangal were right in front of our eyes.
All of them, absolutely crystal clear.
Coming back to the trek, we started at 0530 Hours from Gulaba and it took us almost two hours to reach at the first campsite at Rola Kholi, situated 3850 m above the MSL. Rola Kholi is a wide open meadow where trekkers headed towards Bhrigu Lake camp on the first day. It takes not more than three hours to reach atop the lake from this campsite.
A British Expedition Group had camped there last night and the porters were dismantling their tents. We could see those trekkers hiking up ahead towards the lake. It was a huge group of 16-17 kids, mostly teenagers.
We decided to reach at the lake before those foreigners because a big group is always a distraction at such pristine places. But destiny had other plans for us.
High Altitude Sickness – How Not to Get Killed?
I and Sanjay, started our journey from Sundernagar (750 m) at 1200 Hours Midnight. By 0400 Hours, we were at Manali (2050 meters) and by 0900 Hours, we were camping at Rola Kholi (3850 meters). Within 8 hours, we had gained 3000 meters.
There still was another 1200 meters to go. And unfortunately, it was Sanjay’s first time above 3500 meters.
He started vomiting as soon as we left Rola Kholi and he was adamant not to go back. He deduced that it was not AMS but indigestion. Gradually we started hiking and it took us another 3 hours from the campsite to reach at the lake. By then, Sanjay had lost senses of his surroundings and his head was spinning faster than a Francis Turbine.
While Sanjay buried his neck in his knees, I and Aayush walked around the pristine waters of Bhrigu Lake (4220 m). It is believed that Rishi Bhrigu, the creator of Bhrigu Samhita, meditated here and this lake is named after him only. The lake is nestled amidst the towering mountains of Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar Himalaya. One can see the twin brothers, Deo Tibba & Indrasan from here on a bright sunny day. Although we were not fortunate enough to see anything but fog all around. But that didn’t lessen the charm of this heavenly lake.
Every third year, Rishi Vashishth from Manali visits this lake to pay his respects to Rishi Bhrigu. A decorated palanquin from Vashishth is carried by the devotees and the idol of Vashishth Rishi is bathed with the holy waters. Trail from Vashishth is a grueling walk of two days and that is certainly not meant for the faint hearted.
Soon it was foggy all around and all we could see the white mountain shining in the green waters of the lake. We were so lost that we almost forgot about our sick companion.
Well, not actually!
After feeding him with whatever little we had, we started our journey back. Now, we were at 4220 meters and Sanjay’s situation had already worsened. He could not see properly yet he dragged himself to the Rola Kholi camp with great difficulty. We kept motivating him and but that made little difference to him.
By the time we reached at Rola Kholi, he had lost his marbles and all he wanted to do now was to sleep. We literally started dragging and pushing him and it took us another one hour before we reached near the tree line. Now we could say that he was in the safe zone as the oxygen levels had gone up near the tree line. Then we explained to him why it is important to leave high camps as soon as AMS strikes.
By now, Sanjay had realized that he had a narrow escape and to double ensure his safety, he was running like a jack rabbit to reach at the road side. The mistake was entirely mine, as I had forgotten that it was his first time at such altitude.
Meanwhile, the mountains hid themselves behind a thick cover of creamy white fog. The heavenly landscape was dissolving into the oblivion.
And likewise, we too were lost in the serenity of the Himalaya.
P.S. Never fuck around if anyone is hit by AMS in your team. Drop height, descend to lower altitudes even if it means pushing the sick one from a cliff.