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Day 16: Kedarkantha: Juda-ka-Talab to Luhasa

If waking up early in extreme cold was a problem, imagine the amount of pains I had to endure when I had to go for a pee at midnight! I was on a course Diamox. It was not necessary but it helped in acclimatisation. The compound, Acetazolamide [1], is a diuretic and caused me to rush to the toilet one too many times. I had been drinking more fluids, too, in order to compensate for that.

To top it off, my stomach wasn’t that well. Lower oxygen levels caused food to be digested slowly. There wasn’t enough fibre in the diet, either. Cooking such meals would be quite difficult in that altitude. Even if I did not feel like it, I had some food for breakfast and sucked on a Digene tablet.

I packed my bag, filled my bottles and left the tent. Some trekkers were a bit late to assemble for departure for which we were given an earful by Karthik after which Dev explained the route to Luhasa and the lack of water sources. Since the trek was short, carrying one bottle was enough.


Karthik took photos of everyone as we descended towards the Juda-ka-Talab basin.


Flat meadows before the lake.

Juda-ka-Talab, the namesake of our campsite, was about few hundred meters above. (Technically, we were put up in Kuamoli.) The flat region nearby was already taken by a different trek team. Everyone stood beside the lake to have their photographs taken. It was a nice flat ground to rest and enjoy a close-up view of a solitary, frozen lake.


Juda-ka-Talab untouched with a layer of frozen ice.

The forest grew denser after Juda-ka-Talab. Some of the trees had pieces of small coloured cloth tied to their branches. These worked liked markers whenever the terrain was coated with a fresh layer of snow, covering all existing footprints and pathways.


Donkeys had the right of way

We reached Luhasa at 12:00 AM, earlier than our scheduled time. The rest of the trekkers reached there in batches within another hour. The Sun shone directly into the tents. I opened the tent’s zipper and dozed off on the mat while soaking the heat. My siesta was broken by two kids, both carrying DSLRs, bickering about if Nikon or Canon was better than the other. I’ll bet they hadn’t heard of Leica, Hasselblad, Phase One or any of these and probably thought less of brands like Pentax, Fujifilm and Sony. Truth is that the best camera is the one with you [6].


More tents from my tent.

After lunch, Karthik, who was an amazing dancer, gathered up the group and taught them some moves so that all could dance to a tune in synchronicity. I was more than happy to opt out. Instead, I lay in my tent and watched them all learn the dance moves. Sadly, I had to hear the track way too many times. That earworm of a song [8] is still stuck in my head.


Karthik teaching some dance moves to the trekkers.

After 3:00 PM, the Sun receded behind the hills and slowly, the chill resumed. Unlike yesterday, I had to keep my gloves on for most of the time. A few of us gathered inside a tent where I got to learn Monopoly Deal [10].

We were given gaiters and micro-crampons. Karthik and Dev demonstrated us on how to use the micro-crampons in snow.


Micro-crampons were distributed according to shoe sizes. They gave a lot of grip on compacted snow.


Karthik and Dev demonstrated how to walk in thick snow.

At night, post dinner, Dev told us the story of Shiva and Bhasmasu [13]r. Kedarkantha peak is marked by an incomplete shrine. According to local folklore, this shrine, built by Shiva himself, remained incomplete as Bhasmasur managed to locate Shiva and he had to flee before he could finish it.


Day 17: Kedarkantha: Luhasa to summit and back at Juda-ka-Talab [15]
Day 15: Kedarkantha: Sankri to Juda-ka-Talab [16]