Climbing, Falling, Stumbling, and Crawling to the Hatu Temple : MISSION HATU PEAK (21 FEBRUARY 2011) - by Aneesh Airborne Awasthi
We always knew it wasn’t going to be an easy feat but then what’s life without some adventure in it. Risk provides adrenaline rush than nothing else. So I and Karan along with my bike decided to travel to Hatu peak from Shimla. The length of the road is 6 kms and you may feel that 6 kms isn’t much but keeping in mind the steep incline and heavy snow enroute, it was going to feel like much for than 6 kms in reality. So to reach the peak in time, we started from Simla at 11:00 AM. Looking back, we should perhaps have started much earlier than this. But we know better now.
The journey from Shimla to Narkanda was pretty uneventful and smooth ant it took us 1 hour 45 minutes to complete it. The next part wasn’t as easy though. We halted at Narkanda to gear up for the rest of the journey, which meant packing food and performing a thorough bike check-up.
Aneesh Airborne Awasthi @ MISSION HATU PEAK (21 FEBRUARY 2011)
And after a glimpse of the way that lay ahead, we decided that the bike needed snow shoes. And we started with rope shoes for the front tire. It wasn’t easy. The air was freezing and tying multiple knots on the ropes was nothing but torture for our hands.
The rear tire got metal shoes. We used dog chains and travelling chains for the purpose as there was no other option. Unfortunately, the metal shoes did not work too well and came off during the trial run. We retied and tried for a few more times. By the time we had tied the shoes a few times, my hands were scratched and blisters. But, in spite of that, nothing seemed to work. However hard we tied the shoes, they came off and did not last even the trial run. Fortunately, I had a backup plan
We decided to deflate the tires of the bike so that it would provide enough friction against the snow. And Bingo! It worked. The only regret was that I had to deflate the tires of my bike with my own hands. But, at last, we were ready to go. I could not help missing my bed though which was 65 kms away then.
And then we met Ashok Dogra Bahiya. He liked our spirits and decided to join us on our trek later in the day. We were overjoyed. And then we started the trek with our bike with deflated tyres. They worked really well for some distance and we could ride it for some time.
However, after some time, it became more and more difficult to ride the bike and we had to drag it with us. As the distance between us and the peak decreased, the amount of snow on the grounds increased and we found ourselves supporting the bike instead of the other way round.
It was quite exhausting and we laid down on the snow a few times for rest. At one point in time, I started doubting whether we were actually going to make it to the top. And we did fall down a few times. Falling was easy whereas getting back up was a nightmare with a bike that weighed more than 200 kilos to haul up with us. And the snow became thicker as we went ahead and very soon we found ourselves more than waist deep under the snow. But we decided not to stop and we continued our daring adventure.
The only marks visible on the snow were those made by the skis. You could not see tyre marks anywhere. I felt very tired and requested Karan to stop for breathers. And when we sat down for rest, the pain in our legs muscles made its presence felt. But there wasn’t any choice. We had come a long way already so we picked ourselves and moved ahead.
One good part was that we came across a lake en route. Not that we could make out any difference as everything was frozen and covered with snow.
However we stopped here for a photo session of us and my bike with the frozen lake and imposing trees and mountains all around. At this very place, local people have constructed a hut specially for tired travellers to take rest. We didn’t go inside though. This was where Ashok bahiya was supposed to join us so we waited for a while. And true to his words, he joined us in a few minutes. And for the rest of the climb we had his guidance with us. This was his homeclimb after all.
We stripped our bike off its clothes for the rest of the climb so that it would be easier for her to go on. And we made steady progress before halting for a few minutes just 3 kms from the Hatu temple. We could not believe we were so near our goal and could not believe that we had made it happen despite the menacing snow and weather. And this was also the place where I left my bike behind as we thought that further climb would definitely kill her. It was a sad moment but had to be done.
The last 3 kms were more of walking, stumbling, falling, and crawling in the snow. But we were continously encouraged by Ashok bahiya who did not have a trace of fatigue on his face. We played with snow a little to take our mind off the pain in our bodies. And it helped.
Also, the breathtaking view of the Kinnaur belt was always there to distract us from the freezing conditions. This was where the water we carried in our bottle started to freeze up as well. We had covered our shows with polybags to keep the snow out. But melted water still seeped in and was hurting our feet so much that we were afraid they would fall off at some point. In the meanwhile, sun was shining on the tips of the other mountains. We could see the sunlight but not reach it.
But anyways, our mission was now about to be completed. Finally after what seemed like days, we reached the Hatu temple at 7:30 PM. With the batteries of the camera running low, I only managed a dim signature snap of the temple. But a voice in our head constantly kept on telling us “We did it!”.