Kanchenjunga Expedition- Finally land in Ramche (Day 16)

A domesticated Yak grazes in the vast fields of Ramche

5-September –We land in Ramche Finally
Ramche is beyond what i expected.  A very expansive and scenic place. The moment I land here I am quite taken in by the vast landscape surrounding the broad strip of landmass where our orange tents are pitched (the Sherpas have ordinary tents-red , blue-grey-for themselves unlike the North-Face’ tents we are given)

Glacial lake in Ramche and the snow-capped Himalayas beyond.

No sooner do I land around 10-30am, Gary hollers for me from the mountain on our south and persuades me to climb it up for a vantage view of the next sortie. I am reluctant but his enthusiasm is infectious and I find myself ascending the almost 75 degree climb up the mountain. The slope is mottled with small green aromatic shrubs intersperced with bright small flowers-blue and yellow-in bunches and singly. I have no rolls and Neel Chand says he has them neither. This time he says they are in Tapleyjung. I am irritated by his indifference and ineptitude.  Anyway Gary lends me a Kodak film and I shoot a few frames from our vantage position.

Dr Upadhaya and Major Chauhan sun themselves in Ramche. The sun rarely showed itself in Ramche. It was perpetually engulfed in fog and mist.

However I am lucky to be in Ramche as the weather `packs up’ soon after . I am in the third sortie –today’s second and no other sortie comes through bedsides the two today. This was my first helicopter flight today and it was not as spectacular an affair as I expected. The M1-17 helicopter we come in takes a load of only 2,000 kg- 2tons until ramche (and only one ton to Base-Camp). The weight of freight is cut down to half as the altitude increases, something to do with the thin air up there. I weigh 80kg with my rucksack and two cameras and a handbag. Every item is meticulously weighed in –weather man or container-before the Russian pilots and their Nepali counterparts lets them in.

Ramche, as the altimeter of the avuncular Mahi Ram, who is incharge of everything electrical and technical in the camp, is at the precise height of 4274meters. The temperature was 8 degrees when we sat down to dinner. The humidity was 76.8 and the windspeed 4km per hour.

Reflection of the distant peaks in the Glacial waters of Ramche.

South of where we camp is the mountain Gary and I climbed about a 200 meters. On the North is a ridge –around 200 meters beyond which is the Yalung Glacier. We climb this ridge in the evening and I get my perhaps first view of a glacier. I am not sure if I saw any glacier during my six day tour of Spiti almost 15 years ago. I can barely tell a morain from a glacier and I wish I had studied a bit on the subject. This glacier, I am told, we will follow though our three day trek to Base Camp, looks like just a crushed mass of white stone. There are a few puddles of pale snot-geen water under which Gary tells me is the glacier.

Bonsai Rhododendrons growing on the slopes of the mountains in Ramche.

The moment we land we get a view of a tapering , majectic snow-capped peak which seems very close. Doctor Upadhaya , who landed today with the first sortie says it is the Kabru Peak. There are two Kabru North and Kabru South. I still have to get a consensus from the army guys on which of the two peaks is Mt Kabru. This is a over 7000 meter peak and the Himalayan Montaineerin Institute in Darjleeling  practised climbing on this peak. The peak comes into view as and when the mist lifts from it but that is very rare. In the evening the mountain tops, around us mist over and the mist slowly envelops entire Ramche valley. The mist here moves over like thin cotton wool. As evening nears-Ramche assumes the ambience of an idyllic hideout it is. The Yaks decends from the mountains and swarm the level ground, heading towards the general direction of the two stone huts, where the herders stay. All night long the male Yaks snort and grunt, keeping me alarmed and awake. Our tent is on the outer edge of the camp.

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