How an evening at Chandratal became an adventure we didn’t see coming…

Different people find their dose of adventure in a wide variety of experiences. This is a story of how an evening at Chandratal became an adventure I can never forget…

This time of the year. Two years back.

The faint visuals of the evening at Chandratal still keep popping up as part of memories. Sometimes when I’m revisiting the photos. And at other times subconsciously…

It was my first trip to Spiti. I was traveling with my younger brother, Gaurav and my friend, Chirag. I didn’t know of Spiti long before that. Didn’t go with much preparation. Didn’t factor in the EXTREME cold that nights at these high-altitude regions unleash even at a time when the plains are burning hot…

So as fate had it, it was going to be a full-moon night the day we were at the Chandratal lake. As some of you would know, camping around the lake is banned so this base camp is the campsite. This campsite is like just a kilometer before the lake. From there, it’s an easy walk to reach the lake.

Many of you would also have experienced the drastic drop in temperature that happens at such a high altitude as soon as the sun goes down.

As naive as we were, we planned to walk to the lake in the later part of the day so that we reach there a bit before the sunset, enjoy the views for a while, wait for the sunset and be back to the camp after catching a glimpse of the full moon. If I knew any better I’d have picked up every single piece of warm cloth we had in the bag back at the camp, and keep some extra quick energy food. Did I tell you we were so naive?

 

Chandratal lake

As we reached the lake, with the sun reaching for the horizon, the whole setting was that of a surreal landscape. The breeze flowing past the sublime surface of the lake, the surrounding vistas and the golden rays of the sun… it was nothing short of an out-of-the-world experience.

We could see more people around the lake by this time. Some of them were also looking like having conquered the world. There was this big group of foreigners getting photographed with a huge flag of India. I could relate to their joy.

Only till we were blessed by the Sun.

Thanks to the thin atmosphere, this region hardly retains any heat and un-surprisingly it drove every single person around us, back to their relatively comfy shelters. Except for three souls. Who were determined to catch a view of the moon. Yep, the three naive ones…

As it got colder and colder, with the wind getting even stronger, we were losing energy fast. We had a packet of dry fruits. Which got finished in a blink.

We hoped that it would become bearable if we don’t face the direct wind so we hid behind piles of rocks hoping to prevent ourselves from some of that nature’s fury.

That too, didn’t move the needle.

We kept trying different things but all efforts were in vain. Finally when we didn’t see anything working, realizing we had barely enough energy left to go back to the camp we decided to call it a day. It was pitch dark and we – the naive ones – didn’t have any torch. So we planned to use the phone flash as long as the battery lasts.

Though walking was supposed to help keep the body a bit warm, we underestimated the cold. It was sucking energy fast. We were going numb…

We walked and stopped, walked a bit more and stopped, to catch up with breath and regain some energy. The time was 8pm-ish and there was no sight of the moon. Not that that was our biggest concern though.

What should have been like a half an hour walk, took endless time.

Or so it felt.

So a point comes when we are walking real slow and I’m thinking and rethinking whether we would make it or not, but thanks to the strong company of Gaurav and Chirag, we don’t lose hope even when we are drained of all the energy and body heat. Not even a single time did we mention to each other about any pessimistic thoughts. There was this unspoken fact all three of us knew that only thing that we can do is keep walking. And that’s what we did…

A few minutes later we noticed some lights in the distance. Lights that must be coming from the dinner tents back at the campsite. It was clear that we still needed to walk a lot to reach those lights. And we had exhausted phone batteries by now. What were we expecting!? Of-course nothing lasts forever!

The distant lights from the base were a sure hope, though. That we just need to keep following the zigzagging path faintly visible under the multitude of stars and keep heading in that direction down to the campsite…

After an endless walk, just before we were about to reach the camps, the magnificent moon with all its glory arose from the mountains from our back side. Surreal, it looked!

Coming back to reality we resumed our marching ahead to the campsite and eventually after what felt like an eternity we did make it to the camps.

 

 

Was this whole experience something I’d choose to plan given an option? Probably not.
Did I regret anything? No.
Was the experience worth the trouble? Hell YES!

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