Indian Himalayan Grand Traverse - Day 13 - Parang Chu (1)

After yesterday's non-eventful day, today was action packed.

Last night the wind Dilip had warned us about kicked in with a vengeance. It must have something to do with differences in temperature between the air over the lake and the glacier in the mountains (I think you get a similar effect on some Greek islands) but it was like a wind-switch had been turned on by a furious god in the sky. An almost instant gale started to blow down the mountain. Everything seemed to be blowing away and it was all hands to the pumps as the team, in particular Pemtuck the rescue man, rushed around frantically to secure the tents.  The toilet tents blew over several times and were eventually abandoned and the mess tent also had to be taken down.  In the morning everyone had their story.  Most people had struggled to sleep particularly Ralph whose tent had blown down completely.

Of course the next morning the weather was on best behavior, coy and innocent, pretending that nothing had happened.  There was little time however for recriminations - we had to start early as there was a river that needed to be crossed before the glacier melt water built up and made it too dangerous.

Looking back towards the Tso Moriri lake
After paddling through a couple of streams we started to walk across a huge expansion of gravel - a strange feature and very dramatic.  On one side of it is the huge Tso Moriri huge lake, reputedly very deep, while on the other is a valley which quickly drops away below the water level of the lake.  We are walking across a huge natural dam - probably two miles wide.

Heading down into the valley

Beyond the natural dam the route descends down into a beautiful green valley full of yellow and purple flowers. For some reason the Changpa no longer come here although a small herd of yak was happily munching its way through the grass.
In the valley below the Tso Moriri
Beyond the greenery and down another level we arrived at the river we have to cross.  It's been a relatively dry spring, the rivers are comparatively low but crossing this one is still a challenge.  A wet year and it could have been just too exciting.  Sagar is armed with a rope but he didn't feel we needed to use it.  Finding a safe passage however was still a bit of a lottery.  The wide flat bottomed valley has a gravel base and the river is constantly cutting a new course and a path has to be found for every crossing.  Christine and I were in the first guinea pig group and we managed to find some very fast deep flowing water which everyone else sensibly then avoided.

I felt particularly sorry for Malcolm whose wet water sandals had disintegrated in the streams close to last night's camp.  He was walking barefoot across the gravel bottomed rivers, not an issue if you're bought up in Nepal but Malcolm, from Nottingham, was clearly suffering.  Pemtuk tried to help him across. Pemtuk, 5 foot 2 inches at most and weighing 90 lbs, did not really provide the anchor Malcolm needed and came perilously close to getting washed away himself.

Christine with Pandbhadur crossing the river
Christine managed a find a more secure walking partner to help her.  Pandbhadur, who was also carrying half the lunch, has legendary strength and has, on numerous occasions carried trekkers down from the mountains.  Earlier in the year he had carried drums of gasoline up to the Indian Army on the Siachen Glacier so ensuring that Christine didn't get washed away was a minor task.

Almost as soon as we got across the river, and just as we started to eat lunch, it started to rain, the first really hard rain on the trip so far.  The rain, and the thunder and lightening, seemed to fit well with grey water of the river which was getting noticeably deeper as the melt water built up.

On the other side of the river the pony train started to cross followed by one the Russians we had met briefly yesterday. The other Russian, the man, was missing and so began a mystery which held out attention for what was otherwise a wet and miserable afternoon as we started trekking up the huge gravel filled valley.

The Russian woman tagged along with our group constantly looking back hoping that her partner would turn up.  She had waded across the river in her boots, was in a bit of a mess, and was clearly very distressed.  The pony man told Dilip that the other Russian had been with them and they didn't really know what had happened to him.

By the time we arrived at the 4,70camp - about two hours later - it had stopped raining.  We invited the Russian woman into the mess tent and tried to comfort her.  It was a dilemma for Dilip.  What to do.  He had no means of contacting the outside world and no way of knowing if the other Russian had gone back, got lost or had fallen and was somewhere on the trail injured.  Worse our Russian didn't speak a word of English (or French, German or Swedish) and it was impossible to establish how the two Russian's had become separated.

We all of course suspected a row, and row that had got out of hand, which had resulted in the two  Russians heading off in opposite directions.  Walking alone with huge bags must stretch the sinews of any relationship, but it's a bit dangerous if they snap in such a remote location.

Happily, after another couple of hours and a lot more speculation, the other Russian turned up. There was a tearful reunion.  The arriving Russian said he had twisted his ankle and decided to have a rest to let it recover.  "Pull the other one" was the general reaction.
A wet Parang Chu valley

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