I’m writing this at 7:20 pm in my sleeping bag on the bank of the Gosainkunda having earlier reached heights of nearly 4800m. I’m very tired and my neck is in pain. Let’s fill in the blanks.
From the start this morning, the sun glared down at us from a position of power as we began today by immediately going uphill into the snow. Whilst nowhere near as threatening or dangerous as yesterday, the snow was deep and therefore made every effort to slow us down. It didn’t work.
With most of us (more on that later) packed preparedly for changing conditions, we headed upward at a good speed and by the time we stopped for an early lunch, the flagpoles and prayer flags demonstrating the summit was visible ahead of us. Briefly visible.
For whilst we sat amongst rocks making small talk and shoving chapattis down our food holes, the clouds came in and dropped both the mountain temperature and our hopes of a great summit view. Not that this should diminish anything we have achieved at all. As we all posed with predominantly positive facial expressions beside the summit marker, we demonstrated that we had accomplished our goal. A goal originally set by the leaders to offer a challenging trek in an environment unique to anywhere else. And each and every one of us had succeeded in achieving this goal through our own unique journeys and struggles. A proud moment, and an even prouder one for me to wear the UK scouting neckerchief and be able to represent us abroad in a positive manner.
After lunch, began the steady but consistent descent to Gosainkunda lake itself. In Hinduism, it is said that two goddesses were borne from the holy clear water there. Sadly, my R.E GCSE along with JK’s preexisting knowledge does not cover this in any further detail.
By the time we’d begun 2.5 days of descent, the sun had the cheek to reappear and taunt us with its reflections in the snow and into our eyes. For 15 of us, this issue could be resolved with the wearing of sunglasses. But for poor Ben T, who’d failed to disclose the loss of his sunglasses two days prior to the leaders, he was a sitting duck. 10 mins after the descent, having ascended all morning without eye protection and also slightly feeling the effects of altitude, his body said no and disposed of its contents.
This changed the group dynamic quickly from one of light-hearted joviality to urgent pressures to descend rapidly. In Ben T’s best interest, he borrowed Ben C’s sunglasses whilst the latter wore a snood over his face. For a good 10-15 mins this strategy worked well. But Ben C, unable to drink and feeling rather humid in his snood in the bright afternoon sun, quickly became dehydrated and our casualty list increased.
Fortunately, these are footnotes in what is a great achievement for us, and for Blythe ESU as a whole. Tonight, with Ben T still feeling unwell, he has moved further down the mountain and we will meet him tomorrow. Meanwhile, Ben C, drained by earlier excursions, is lying across from me asleep, having only woken from originally going to bed at 4 pm for food. His rest is deserved.
As for the rest of us, we are mostly sunburnt having not anticipated such blazing rays of Ultraviolet light upon us. Having worn a buff, a neckerchief and often both for much of today, I only reapplied suncream twice on my neck and assumed that would suffice. It didn’t. In fact, the pain of applying after sun almost doesn’t warrant applying it at all. We can only pray that tomorrow, when we descend around 1000m that the sun will be weaker, our sun cream will be stronger, and we will be more vigilant.
As we descend down from our trek high point, surely that isn’t too much to ask?