Alagu Balaraman visited Goecha La with Juniper in October 2016. In this article, Alagu shares the events on the final day of the climb which involved the push to multiple view points on the trek.
The ice crackled the tent when I opened the flap and set off sleepily towards the meeting point at the dining room of the Thansing camp. The only thing on my mind was “Damn, it’s cold”. We were divided into 2 groups. Group 1 of which I was a member was heading to view point 1 and group 2 was heading closer to Goecha La was heading to view point 2.
We set off in the footsteps of the more aggressive Elite group that had left a purported two hours earlier on their way to View Point 2 - the last point allowed to trekkers. It was still pretty dark when we left at 4.15 am and we all had our headlamps on.
The initial walk towards Samitri Lake had everyone focusing on where they were placing their feet, but as we walked the predawn twilight started fading the stars out. The valley broadened as we moved away from the river and flattened as we approached the lake. There were a few large structures with a low stonewall in front of them.
They seemed to brilliantly camouflaged to match the rocky background. It was only when we were returning in full daylight that it was clear that they actually were rocks. Who knows why someone chose to build a low wall around them. So, it was a time of fantastical thoughts, probably brought on by the hypnotic effect of alternatively placing either foot in a blob of light thrown from the headlamps.
In that frame of mind, we reached Samitri Lake. A glassy black mirror in a shallow bowl between sharp ridges on either side. All around it the ground was imprinted with small hoof prints of the blue mountain sheep forming a complex border all around the lake. Since it was already pushing on 7am, we couldn’t spend much time there staring at hoof prints and looked upwards for our climb.
The trail got a little tricky. We could see the pile of stones that were the view point, draped with prayer flags, but it made sense to mind where we put our feet. A last climb up and at 9am we reached the View Point on the shoulder of Mountain Pandim. Put like that it makes me feel like Frodo Baggins of Mount Doom.
The view below was similar. Four different glacial flows were making a devastated landscape that would have fit in at Mordor. Above us, Mount Pandim stretched up about another 2 km and snaking its way down the slope towards us was a glacial ice flow that looked a bit more like a ‘real’ glacier should. It is a bit unnerving to have a few million tons of ice hanging somewhere above your right shoulder but people can get used to anything. The place was a strange combination of exhilaration and peace, as we sat amongst forces that we could scarcely comprehend, leave alone affect in any way.
We spent about 30 minutes in the cold wind and then agreed this view must be better than View Point 2. On that happy note we turned back and started the descent.
As we climbed down not only was the lake doing its number with a constant change of scintillating colours, but a bevy of ladies were striking alarming poses on the lake shore. Others were going around the lake and we got back to a warm welcome. Fortunately for our self-esteem, it was done before the first group got back from View Point 2. So all was well on the shores of Samitri Lake.