10. A journey into Tibet – Kailash parikrama from Derapuk to Zutulpuk

July 2012

Previous posts:
A journey into Tibet - Kailash Manasa Sarovar
1. A journey into Tibet - At Kathmandu
2. A journey into Tibet – Mountain flight
3. A journey into Tibet - Manakamana
4. A journey into Tibet - Kathmandu to Nyalam Mu
5. A journey into Tibet - Rest day at Nyalam Mu
6. A journey into Tibet - Nyalam Mu to Zhongba
7. A journey into Tibet - Zhongba to Manasa Sarovar
8. A journey into Tibet - Manasa Sarovar, Darchen and Ashtapad
9. A journey into Tibet – Kailash parikrama from Darchen to Derapuk

The second day of the parikrama is toughest where we need to cross Dolma La at 18,600ft. Total distance covered would be 22 km which normally takes 10-12 hours. Many people do not proceed further from Derapuk and return back to Darchen due to the arduous trek on day 2.

Climb after Derapuk
On the previous night, I was trying in vain to sleep. I could hear something. It was my own heart beat!! I could even hear the beating in my ears. Upon checking, I see that it was above 100 beats per minute. A symptom of altitude sickness!! Panic set in and I wondered what to do at that remote place where nothing is available. The urge to shout for help was high on my minds.

Trail on the second day
Luckily my mind worked in such conditions. I started to analyze rationally. Until now I had no symptoms of altitude sickness.  Everything was perfect. I had walked with ease that day. There were absolutely no issues till I went to sleep. This sudden increase in heart rate did not fit into logical scheme of things. I slowly started to know the real reason behind this abnormal heart rate.

East face of Kailash at the far end
If you surf internet, you will see people providing scary information about Dolma La. Also, our guide had mentioned few hours back about two Indians who died in Dolma La couple of days ago.  All this had made me to think only about negative stuff during sleep resulting in increased heart rate. It was the time for the positive mind to wake up and take control. I told to myself “If you cannot climb tomorrow, nobody else will. Every year hundreds climb Dolma La. It is not an impossible task”. And within few minutes I was relieved to see my heart rate jumping back to normal. It’s all in the mind!! And a peaceful sleep followed.

Rocky path starts towards Dolma La
Sherpas wake us up at 6AM. It was still dark, cold and windy. With shivering bodies, we quickly finish our morning activities and prepare ourselves for the arduous journey. We are served with hot Uppittu for breakfast which tasted great!!

Trail is well maintained!!
The trek starts at 7:30AM. The sun was still coming up when we start walking. The weather was cloudy and I hoped my five layers of cloth would be sufficient. The climb today is harsh. No option for warm-up. The trail climbs up immediately after Derapuk.

Dolma La (on the right side)

It was not an easy task. Slow walks with frequent but short rests should work. Unlike previous day, I get tired quickly and have to gasp for breath. Walking at 16,000 ft is not a joke. Whenever I sit, porters would encourage me with “Dhire dhire chalo”. Seem like it is the only hindi word they know!!

When I look back, Derapuk is somewhere below. I feel happy and ask Sarangatu to show Dolma La. He just tells “Very far”. I trudge along.  The area is full of boulders but fortunately a well laid path helps us a lot. I was relieved to see everyone having trouble climbing up!! I see myself overtaking people again even with gradual walk. That was good.

The weather was cloudy but fortunately there was no rain or snow. While sunny weather would make the climb difficult, rains or snow would make it dangerous. We were lucky to have this weather. On the flip side, the east face of Kailash was not fully visible. All that we could see was a huge glacier coming from the base of the Kailash parvath.

East face of Kailash covered in clouds
After about 2 hours of climb, we reach the base of Dolma La. The climb so far has been hard but now it becomes tough. It is a steep climb to the top of the pass. At 17,000 feet, the demand for oxygen is more. Each step taken feels me heavy. The climb turns difficult as we go up. Oxygen levels starts decreasing even further.  I take ten steps and immediately stop for rest. The progress is slow. I see the people on horse start to catch up. They are all smiling and I do not like them. I feel that they are laughing at my decision to walk!! “Beware, your tough time starts now”. I say to myself.

Prayer flags on top of Dolma La
It took me about 2 hours 40 minutes from Derapuk to the top of Dolma La pass. This was the destination I had in my mind when I planned for this trip and I had achieved it. The feeling simply cannot be said by words and only had to be experienced. For me the trip was over!! The return journey (a long one) would start!! My porter asks me to pray for some time and I promptly follow his advice.

As I mentioned earlier, the tough time for the people on horses starts now. The climb down from Dolma La is extremely steep (Almost vertical). It is too risky to sit on horse at such places. They have to walk down for 3 km by themselves. It was extremely tough for them. Lot of people needed assistance and I could see chaos among people. The descent should be as quick as possible since staying at 18,000 feet for long cause serious problems.

People had problems in Dolma La. Two people collapse on top of the pass due to drop in oxygen levels. Sherpas immediately address them with oxygen cylinders. Fortunately, they recover but had to be carried down by Sherpas. If not for Sherpas, I was sure that there would be casualties. They just went up and down helping people.

Feeling happy after crossing Dolma La
Soon after Dolma La, we see a small lake. It is called as Gauri Kund and looks spectacular. People consider its water as pure and collect them. Though the lake looks very near, it is about 500 feet down. If you require water, Sherpas or porters would bring it for some money.

After Gauri Kund, we had to cross a small glacier. During July, that was the only point where snow would be left.

Climb down is hard on knees but not difficult. After one hour of climbing down, I reach the valley below. There are some tea stalls where we can have some food. I was hungry and had my lunch there.

Path to Zutulpuk after Dolma La descent
After 30 minutes of rest, the long journey to Zutulpuk started. The walk was mostly on plains with slight descent next to a stream. But it seemed to be like eternity. Climbing Dolma La was easier than this long plain stretch. A new problem made my life difficult. Sherpas had carried drinking water from Nepal. Each day we were provided with that water to drink. But during trek, they used the water from the glaciers. I had no problems on day 1. But now, my body refused to take that water (The boiled water from glacier had a strange taste which I did not like).  Dehydration started building up which made me tired.

Finally at 2PM, I reached Zutulpuk. I took bottled water from the only shop available there. It was 3 times costlier than in Darchen. But I had no other option!!

I was the first one to reach the camp. I had taken 6.5 hours which was much lesser than I estimated. It was time to sleep. When I got up at 4PM, I see that people were just trickling in. The last person arrived at 7:30PM!!

There is no much activity to be done in Zutulpuk. Just eat and sleep.