|The Great Dungtsho. In the pic ashim Ching and Dolma|
Many a time, as always on Sundays we wake up very late, then watch some movies, grab some tea and sleep again. Before you realise another Sunday would just demise, and nothing would matter much since it is Sunday. It is over. But then little do we realise there is so much more to Sunday than just lazying around in the bed for the entire day, when she submits to Monday and we frown, “Agrrr, it is Monday again!” Not often, but as far as possible we the #TREKKERS360 degreeians make a point to hit the mountains on weekends either to ease our mind, body and soul or just for an adventure.
Last Sunday on 14th May 2017, we decided on an easy one-day hike to the great Dungtsho a few hours past Phajoding. Six of us confirmed and at 6 AM just four of us gathered at the base. But our spirits were as high as the mountain itself, so we began ascending easy from Motithang palace at 6.49 AM. It was all filled with jokes and laughs. We talked on about anything and giggled at everything. Like some puppies let out in an open after keeping enclosed for months, we hopped hither thither up the trail. A few steps short to Phajoding we were talking on some books and then came in Sangay Khandu a.k.a DrukAir that lately he had started reading books on managers and leaderships. We sensed a sudden shift and upon insisting he surprised us, he was in fact recently promoted to a Managerial post, which none of the fellow #TREKKERS360degreeians knew about. We congratulated him on behalf of all the TREKKERS360degreeians midst jungle where chilly morning breeze lifted his zest and spirit to work harder way up. We were in Phajoding 3650 meters above the sea level at 9 AM, such a fine place to celebrate his promotion: we drank black tea.
|Enroute Thuji Drak 4000 meters|
|Yes, Thimphu is down below|
The monks told us it is 8 to 9 hours hike to and fro the great Dungtsho. We started counting on our fingers and talked amongst ourselves, “We were either quite late or the distance is too far.” No matter how far the lake is or late if at all we were, an easy hike it is; we did much harder treks than this, that much we knew and so decided to hike at our own pace. Just as hiking to Phajoding, leisurely did we hike past Phajoding. Before reaching Thuji drak 4000 meters we drank all our tea and small packets of snacks. Took some photos. Ashim Ching Ching sniffed some flowers. We cracked some jokes and laughed our lungs out. The weather was pleasant since morning, Dolma made a video calling to ashim Lhamu back in Thimphu who could not join us. She advised us to keep the pace and that sounded reassuring. One step at a time we started bucking up.
|Dolma did sniff some flowers 😀|
|Ashim Ching and the Rhododendron|
|Mr. Drukair and Dolma|
At 11.49 AM we made to Laptsa 4084 meters. Thimphu lied far below like a stroke of white paint brush later tinted with grey dots. Such a breath taking view. I had a mixed feeling, that was my 6th time there – but never been to the lake – every time I noted Thimphu growing and the laptsa in different shapes. At first laptsa was a small loosely stacked stone stupa, later it was a beautiful chorten, a year later it was vandalized and today it was again a stone stacked stupa, but coloured and maintained. Sat for sometime enjoying the view before weather went dark, and started making some plans – we will hike till 2 PM wherever we reach from there we will return, all four of us agreed.
|Ashim Ching leaning on the Laptsa, 4084 meters|
|Hike past Laptsa 4000 meters above the sea level|
The trail from there was a gentle hike except for the pass at 4220 meters which slowed our pace further down with its thin air accompanied by rain and hail stone. It was 1 PM and everybody seemed hungry, ashim Ching Ching made a good decision to stop by if we came across any caves for lunch. Sangay spot one beneath the trail that could accommodate 3. Since he had an umbrella he sat outside facing 3 of us inside. It was quick but a scrumptious lunch in the hail stone. In 20 minutes we were back on the trail again, Came across a few lakes on the way and that kept us going instead of turning back after 2 PM as planned.
|Selfie in the cave, lunch time, heavy hail stone outside, 4200 meters|
|We missed tea on our lunch. We should not have drunk all 3 mini
flasks of tea at a go down below
Rain, hail stone and wind. It stopped altogether for sometime but rained again. In another hour of walking in the hail stone we reached the diversion leading to the great Dungtsho from Drukpath Trek route. Climbed up and down several times leaving behind Simkotra Tsho and mountains turning white with hail stones, and destination seemed just behind a mountain that was behind another 2 or 3 mountains. On two occasions ashim Ching Ching nearly gave up, not because she could not walk but she had a severe headache. And she only thought it was because of the mountain thin air. To add on she was wearing a kira. Sonam Dolma was the motivator rooting Ching Ching, Sangay the lamtenpa or the guide cum front runner and I swept. “An exemplary display of a team spirit,” I thought to myself deep inside.
|Ashim Ching wanted to sit here and wait for us, but Dolma rooted
her to take a step at a time
Again came on more rain, hail stone and wind. Visibility became poor plus trail flooded with rain water. It was all muddy and splashing. Our hike supposed to be an easy one was becoming harder than the treks we did in the past. Yet, our determination as strong as steel and love for mountains un-wavered. Our lamtenpa who was ahead of us went out of our sight, down the other way 3 of us went and came across a lake which later I knew it was called Dungtsho Shama meaning Lower Dungtsho. Took a few photos and 10 minutes later we reached the great Dungtsho after walking for 3 hours in the rain, hail stone and heavy wind. All 3 of us were, “Yayyyyayy, we made it!!!!”
|Dungtsho Shama, 10 minutes short to Dungtsho|
Our front runner was there already offering some prayers just then heavy dark clouds started clearing up and showed us the revered lake. Many times people dont get to see the lake, it will be covered with thick fog in the heavy rain. We were lucky, may be she knew we were coming from a far. I was so emotional deep within and the rain saved me from revealing it on my eyes. I heard of this revered lake some 20 plus years ago when my elder brothers would talk of and bring us some water from the tsho. My late mother would preserve and treat it with high regard. Since then I have longed to come and pay my respect, but never did I realise it would be after two decades that I could actually make it.
|Selfie at the Great Dungtsho, 4200 meters|
Without wasting much time we headed back. This time nothing could stop us from picking up our pace. Walked like highlanders in their land in the interest of time and distance. Less worried we were this time, since we knew where we were heading. Kept on picking up the pace. Once in a while we would laugh at nothing, and again continue walking silently focusing on the trail cent percent. Seldom did we look back, every time we looked back smiles cut our faces in two halves with the sense of accomplishment while the length started to numb our legs. Walked past our lunch cave, also crossed the highest pass, crossed the lengthy stretch of sky burial, finally at 5.30 PM Laptsa greeted us with fluttering prayer flags. Sangay video called his girl showing Thimphu valley far below tempting her, while 3 of us teased them.
|Thimphu valley far bellow|
At laptsa we sat for 5 minutes after walking for 2 and a half hours in the hail stone. “Not bad, 5 hours hike to Dungtsho and we covered in just 3,” ashim Ching Ching smiled, “and return it was estimated 3 hours, but us we did it in 2 and a half hours,” Dolma was high spirited. I sipped chilled water, it hurt my throat as though swallowing a bottle of sharp icicles. Ran down to Phajoding like horses firstly to keep up the reputation of #TREKKERS360degree and secondly to get through to our base before night engulfed us. Dusk was already in the air. Ashim Ching Ching then realised her headache was from sniffing the wild flowers. In mountains it is always no to sniffing flowers.
|Yea, at the laptsa 4084 meters|
|Ashim Ching can be really camera shy sometimes 😀|
|At the gate of Phajoding 3650 meters|
|The lamtenpa and motivator|
Of all some how coming down from Laptsa proved to be the toughest, which otherwise supposed to be a mild descent. The route was all muddy and slippery, and yes, Mr. Druk Air was the protagonist throughout. Just like anyone of us think Phajoding hike to be the easiest of all the hikes in the country, most of the people go up unprepared. We were no exceptional too. Ashim Ching ching was in kira, lucky she wore trekking boots, and Sangay he was in sports shoes. Gosh, he had the toughest time. I was counting and he slipped 50 times starting from laptsa to the base, as Dolma said, “He would never let his butt hit the muddy ground.” Sangay maintained his balance except on 3 occasions. At one point Mr. DrukAir laughed with pain in the butt, “How I wish this umbrella to be DrukAir. I would fly straight down!” He was carrying a DrukAir umbrella.
At 6.30 PM we completed almost 70% of the trail, but for the remaining 30% we had to put on cell phone torches and walk very slowly for night engulfed us completely. That last portion took more than the walk from laptsa to this point. And it was hard plus more fun too, watching Mr. DrukAir slip every fifteen steps he took, “Alwai, dha, hahaha,” we heard continues service. A few steps down and he slipped again, “Zai, Phajoding hike was supposed to an easy one, but my every next hike or trek is getting tougher and tougher, hahaha!”
Finally at 7.25 PM, to our relieve the sign board at the starting point reflected our cell phones light. “Yayyyyay, at last!!” We cheered in chorus. But, sadly there was a huge U-Turn and that put off ashim Ching Ching, “Now, even if I slip as long as it will reach me down, I dont mind!” All of us laughed out loud, “Hahahaha” 7.30 PM and at the base we were, “Goodness, whoever said Dungtsho trek is an easy one might have never done it from Thimphu. She/he might have done in two days.” We rated it was one of the hardest and toughest hike given the distance from Thimphu. At the end of the day, what we expected to be an easy one-day hike turned out to be the toughest. In total 13 hours hike straight with nothing more than an hour rest on the whole hike. It was indeed a toughest hike so far and a real endurance test. We endured. We conquered. We smiled and smiled again.
Hotstone bath for an hour post enduring hike, gave us the soundest of sleep that Sunday night.
Well, try getting up at 5 AM on Sunday and start hitting the mountains. You will run out of breath. Legs would start feeling like going numb. Destination appears like it is just behind that mountain which is hind another 3 to 4 mountains. It will rail, hail, you will shiver; slip and fall.But, when Monday comes and say hello to Tuesday, your heart will be filled with millions of memories worth cherishing for the rest of your life.
Try for yourself once, make some plans this weekends and hit the mountains. It might lift your spirit and help you in embracing the entire week with a smile be it good or bad.
My friends #TREKKERS360 and I #TREKKERS360degreeian made yet another zillions terebytes of memories!!!!