Getting out of the car, I was greeted by the camp’s managers warmly. And lots of chilly winds hitting the head straight, the warm Mountain Hardwear Dome Perignon hat made of Polartec 200 fleece and Gore Windstopper fleece picked up from REI of not much use in the conditions.
Located at an altitude of about 14,300 feet, my travel planner had advised me to break journey here on the way to Leh to get better acclimatized to the altitudes. Turned out to be a bad tip. For one, I could have done Jispa (where I stayed the previous night) to Leh in one day had I started early – provided of course the journey did not see any unexpected delays. More importantly, Sarchu was at a higher altitude than both Leh and Jispa. Why stay here then? The only reason why one needs to stay in Sarchu is if one is going to Tso Moriri from Jispa; Sarchu is the only place to stay en-route during the long journey. Else one should make a straight run to Leh. (Sarchu is technically in Himachal Pradesh, located on the border with Ladakh. But for all practical purposes, it is like being in Ladakh only)
Anyway, the manager asked me to take it easy and not walk around much. And stay indoors. I obeyed him as much as I could but it did not help matters. I got hit by Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) by the evening. Making it the longest night of my life. It was cold, and the howling winds were threatening to blow my tent away. I was lying in bed, with the body in a state like it was suffering from a flu or a viral fever. I was asleep and awake at the same time – and counting the minutes in my watch waiting for morning to come. I was supposed to be drinking a lot of water – but it had become very cold to drink in this weather. And how was I supposed to go out in the cold in the dark to discharge all the fluids I was taking in? The Catch 22 situation punched me in all ways it could. And this was all in the summer month of July.
Dawn did break eventually, and I was on the road as soon as I could after breakfast. Only for my troubles to continue till I reached Pang where an Army doctor helped me get back in shape. Even now, thoughts of the night in Sarchu give me the jitters. Not that it’s going to stop me from going back though.