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Old 17th April 2009, 02:30   #76
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Stunning pics there. Its not advisable to stay for 2hrs at that height, without proper acclimatization. Good that you kept well, more so, because you were the sole driver and the roads are treacherous.

There is a lake beyond Gurudongmar, called Chola-mu or Lhamu-so. There is a trek route to this lake via Chopta. Did you enquire whether there is any jeepable road to this lake. Someone told me that a 4x4 can make it to the lake.

This is also the time for rhododendrons. Did you get any at Lachen?

@BP: This is always a better time, as also Oct, than going to Gurudongmar in December.
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Old 17th April 2009, 08:31   #77
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Originally Posted by maddy42 View Post
@jaysmokesleaves I think i know where your next destination would be to:-)
Looking at your previous travellogue i am so sure plans are being made.
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Originally Posted by adc View Post
Yeah whers next JSL??
Am thinking of going to Uttaranchal in June/August followed by Ladakh during end of Sept.

One question - Is it possible and wise(weather wise) to do Sikkim & Bhutan in June?
What will the weather be like then ?
Also waiting for HVK to return from his trip to see what wonders he brings from the far east. Then I may alter my plans.

Last edited by jaysmokesleaves : 17th April 2009 at 08:32.
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Old 17th April 2009, 10:00   #78
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Originally Posted by jaysmokesleaves View Post
One question - Is it possible and wise(weather wise) to do Sikkim & Bhutan in June?
What will the weather be like then ?
Please rule out eastern Himalaya in June or any time between end May to October. You cannot drive there for more than a few km without landslides blocking your way. Question is how do the people there survive and get their stuff from the plains? They survive on a concept called transhipment. That is, trucks bring goods upto one landslide point. Porters physically transfer the goods to another truck standing on the other side of the landslide and this way the goods (and prices too) keep moving. Also most shops stock up well ahead of the monsoon.
On important routes the army is deployed on an emergency basis to clear landslides but even then getting stuck for a week or so isn't unheard of even on so called VIP roads. The less VIP roads like in eastern Bhutan stay cut off from the rest of the world for the entire monsoon season.
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Old 17th April 2009, 11:41   #79
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@adc,
Pics says lot more about the area you traveled.
Thanks for sharing those pics of unknown countryside of India.
I don't think i may travel this side of India in my life, god knows.
But your travelogue has given us opportunity to have look at this countryside through the pics you posted.
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Old 17th April 2009, 12:28   #80
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It is looking better at this time of the year than what we saw during December. The colour of the lake is just too good.
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Originally Posted by Saurabh M View Post
@BP: This is always a better time, as also Oct, than going to Gurudongmar in December.
And the best time being around May-June - all clear views, no clouds but then you will miss the snow quite a bit on the way and also the rhododhendrons of Yumthang valley.



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Originally Posted by razor4077 View Post
My health permitting, how about we join forces in your next trip? I think you mentioned Ladakh in Sep-Oct. My Scorp's been itching to do a good trek!
Definitely, no problem, and we do have also JSL [with 4wd Safari] from the West side. Late Sept to mid Oct will test the 4wd in some places since that time it start snowing in the high passes and very few tourists - love this situation. And what better safety net for me - two 4wds out there if I get stuck or slide to a ditch!!

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Originally Posted by planet_rocker View Post
hope to reach there in my dreams and lets hope the dream comes true someday.
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I don't think i may travel this side of India in my life, god knows.
Hey, why not, this is cheaper than any Ladakh tour and will also take less days than any type of Leh tour - with my self drive I completed the 10-day journey [4 days just stayed at Gangtok for permits] home-to-home with total money spent of 17k for both us. With the tour agent it is still cheaper. Reach Siliguri [NJP], take a good tour agent, ask me if you need, and you are done with the N Sikkim tour in around 7 days at a budget of around 6-7 k per head, if toured economically.


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There is a lake beyond Gurudongmar. This is also the time for rhododendrons. Did you get any at Lachen?
Oh yes I knew about that place Tso Lhamu
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Just six kilometers away from GURUDONGMAR, this clear water lake is situated. Perhaps smaller in size than GURUDONGMAR, but its remoteness is unique. Most of the tourists visit GURUDONGMAR only, since the motor route through rugged plateau terrain is very difficult to navigate. Added to this, the low air pressure and continuous bone chilling wind makes the visitors a bit indifferent. Just above the lake there is towering DONGKIA LA (18900 feet) that separates cold yet mild weathered YUMTHANG valley with that of harsh plateau of GURUDONGMAR.
As said, this was one of the driest winters through all Himalayas, but suddenly wiht the last 1 month the whole weather changed, and what is being seen in April actually in February weather. So though this is the rhododhendron time, there was none this time - even at Yumthang. Locals said this time it will be around May middle what is seen in April middle.

As such also Tso Lhamu was totally blocked with ice and snow. Army cofirmed that . In fact Gurudongmar route just opened 3 days back after some period due to the bad weather. Also at Yumthang, no one was going beyond Shiv Mandir as it was all snowed out and similarly we could go till Zekuphyak and not till Katao. April weather was very strange this time, but we liked it anyway - the snow and the coldness.

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Originally Posted by jaysmokesleaves View Post
Then I may alter my plans.
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Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
Please rule out eastern Himalaya in June or any time between end May to October.
Ah!! If I were you I would do a 44 degrees C journey in June this year [after the election things are over] to Tadoba and all the MP forests to have the maximum sightings and zero tourists and maximum interaction with the forest officials for some real wildlife adventure. Head to a winter place in winter. Bhutan is best from around November to April. Try West and North Sikkim next year in April [me too most probably again] for the rhododhendron and snow at the same time - though this April it was all snow. And Uttaranchal should be done around February and March, again for the flaky snow and pristine beauty.

Chopta valley pictures next....

Last edited by adc : 17th April 2009 at 12:43.
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Old 17th April 2009, 13:09   #81
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First of all congratulations to ADC and family to have been able to do this wonderfull trip. I have immensely enjoyed watching the photos and reading the writeups, I am sure the enjoyment you guys would have experienced being there for real must have been manifold.

IMO this place takes the cake, I would rate this better than a trip to Leh/laddhak adventure vise.

OT:-Also the photos have made me realise yet again the hardships our Indian Army have to face in such diverse condtitions. So three cheers for them too. I wish the taxes that I pay would go to increase their salary, rather than lots of other things.

And in the end adc, man once again, the pics are mind blowing
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Old 17th April 2009, 13:38   #82
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Default Returning from Gurudongmar Lake and entering Chopta Valley

Returning from Gurudongmar Lake and entering Chopta Valley


Some return journey pics of Safari VTT
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1543.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1547.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1565.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1364e.jpg

And we cross the mine fields again on the way back
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1570.jpg

The dirt and mud
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1574.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1577e.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1589.jpg

Weather was taking a bad turn
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1551.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1603.jpg

And we thought, after all we have come so far and no visit to Chopta - asked the Army checkpost before at Thangu and they say that no one lives out there - just empty barracks and a day patrol goes over there and returns by noon time. And as we found out it is not tourist route and the few who go, dont go after 12 - we are heading out at around 2 pm with both having a growing headache though the child is okay and absolutely alert - foolhardy bravery as we found out

Last edited by adc : 17th April 2009 at 13:42.
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Old 17th April 2009, 15:32   #83
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Default Chopta Valley@14000 feet

Chopta Valley @ 14,000 feet

This is what we knew from the net and enticed us to go, though not at the appropriate time of the day

Quote:
The virgin Chopta Valley is located at an altitude of 13,200 ft in the Northern district of Sikkim and is virtually uninhabited apart from the seasonal nomads. As one of the very few accessible places in India, Chopta Valley can be visited from Magan through Thangu in about 45 minutes. Isolated from the rest of the state by lofty mountains, meandering rivers, unspoiled verdant forests and breathtaking scenic beauty, Chopta Valley is an unusual tourist attraction with its unique orchids, rhododendron forests and high altitude alpine vegetation. During the summer months, flowers cover the whole valley in multiple hues, vast green pastures, waterfalls and flowing rivers make it a beautiful place to visit. While in winters, most of the rivers freeze and the nomads return to lower areas with their yaks. The amazing bio diversity, scenic locations and pristine natural beauty coupled with a unique flora and fauna have made Chopta valley feature on the travel map

And this is what was also on the net and describes prefectly Chopta Valley what it was that day
Quote:
One road that goes leftwards from here to reach the mysterious, haunted looking CHOPTA VALLEY, known for its bone-chilling winds
The narrow trail was broken and this is the good part, other parts are all stones coming down from the hills - a very much landslide prone area which is frequently blocked.
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1620.jpg

And the motorable trail ends and is a dead end around Kalapathar at 14500 ft. For extreme treckers the foot track starts here for the punishing trek - Thangu-Muguthang-Chorten-Nyimala-GreenLake trek climbing steep at heights at 19-20k feet.
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1622.jpg

Chopta Valley
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1630.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1632.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1619.jpg

Deep inside Chopta, we see this - absolutely surreal, enchanting and what not. I was mesmerized and with the AMS-induced headache now quite nagging and bothering, I stood there watching this for a next couple of minutes - a waterfall frozen in the middle!!! First time I am seeing such a thing and its mind twisting at those heights.
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1613.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1615.jpg

Dont know what but all the signs out here was like - GET OUT NOW!! But the raw beauty, the black ice mountains, the fast approaching distant fog, the slow snow rain, the AMS headache all had an effect. We do not turn back and decide to go as much further up to Kalapathar as possible. However, it was all snow merging the road and ground and the edges of the road was not visible, and the snow-covered road becomes quite steep too. Had a hell of time backing so not to go into the rut - stuck overnight here and be the frozen tuna with killer AMS headache over here.
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1635.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1637.jpg

We are around 45 minutes now in Chopta Valley. Again both stop and watch that frozen waterfall, but then suddenly the light hail starts to fall. I look back and see a sight thats still etched in my mind. A front of fog with hazy black mountain background is just about 100 mtrs or so behind. It was amazing but sinister. Jump quickly inside, full wipers, and 60 kph on that narrow trail over rocks. It was dash of a lifetime and came at that intersection and what a relief as we reached Thangu - cant explain enough!!! The headache quite bad for wife and me moderate - Aftereffects of AMS was on full swing.

Just one photo of the approaching ice storm and then all hands on the steering.
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1647.jpg


We return back to hotel at Lachen around evening, tired and exhausted but amazingly the child is as fresh as he was before - for us a bit too much of adventure even by my standard, but all okay after very early good night sleep - next day all head pains gone and now off to Lachung[8.5k ft], our base for Yumthang and Katao at 14kfeet.

Last edited by adc : 17th April 2009 at 15:43.
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Old 17th April 2009, 16:12   #84
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Spine chilling! I'm mesmerised
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Old 17th April 2009, 16:29   #85
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Sheer mesmerizing pics! A frozen waterfall.. i can only imagine what someone can feel when he sees something like this in front of his eyes in reality! Hats off for such an adventure with your mean machine.
-regards,
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Old 17th April 2009, 17:07   #86
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adc, you saw similar altitudes on your spiti trip, and at that time you were at those altitudes for longer periods, but no AMS. Could the headaches be due to cold/Exposure(Heater vs cold outside) rather than AMS?
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Old 17th April 2009, 17:09   #87
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5 stars. I am speechless
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Old 17th April 2009, 18:44   #88
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Amazing!!

@adc - you are really an inspiration. I want to visit those places, I cannot wait. The pictures are too good!!

You are an ideal candidate for a Safari advertisement.

5 stars!!
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Old 17th April 2009, 20:04   #89
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
adc, you saw similar altitudes on your spiti trip, and at that time you were at those altitudes for longer periods, but no AMS. Could the headaches be due to cold/Exposure(Heater vs cold outside) rather than AMS?
As far as my understanding of the syndrome goes it can hit anyone at any point of time. Altitude and past history of scaling a particular altitude isn't important. Absolute altitude is not the only factor involved here, a host of other factors are also involved. Most critical is the speed with which you gain altitude. Acclimitisation plays an important, perhaps the most critical, role. Your blood pressure on that particular day can also be a factor.
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Old 17th April 2009, 22:15   #90
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OT:-Also the photos have made me realise yet again the hardships our Indian Army have to face in such diverse condtitions. So three cheers for them too.
Absolutely, the way they guided me and ever open with answers when I approached them speaks volumes about their training and the disciplined way the conduct their life. I do have some good photos with them and of course of their trucks.

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Originally Posted by suman View Post
Spine chilling! I'm mesmerised
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kandisa View Post
Sheer mesmerizing pics! A frozen waterfall..,
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Originally Posted by rkbharat View Post
I am speechless
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Originally Posted by PatienceWins View Post
Amazing!!
Absolutely, and again lets think for a moment - its around 2 pm, afternoon, and we have a frozen waterfall, whats like at 2 am????

While going back from Gurudongmar saw this spectacle. A avalanche of snow, ice, and mud water going down the slopes, just broken from some barrier high above and rolling down at great speed - another amazing sight.
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1676.jpg
Safari Dicor2.2 VTT-TMT 1.5year Grand OT[Extreme-Exclusive N Sikkim&Mandarmoni/Tajpur-img_1677.jpg


Quote:
Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Could the headaches be due to cold/Exposure(Heater vs cold outside) rather than AMS?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
Most critical is the speed with which you gain altitude.
Absolutely.

Spiti saw a max height of around 14.5K at Kunzum Pass and the most important it was a gradual climb from the Chitkul side. Moreover at Yumthang at 14k, none of the problems happened though over there we climbed around 6 k in 2 hrs. What I found out is that there is a whole lot of difference between 14k height and 18k height - after 15k every altitude rise counts.

If we draw an analogy like, it was like climbing from Manali [here Chungthang] to Khardungla[here Gurudongmar] in 4-5 hrs. Everyone gets hit by AMS, saw a couple of tourists real bad lying in the sumo backseats.

At 17-18k ft the body does not acclamatize and what made it worse was the very rapid ascent. The Chopta valley or Yumthang at 14k did not bring on the AMS. The AMS was brought on at Gurudongmar, we spent 2 hrs over there where normally the other few tourists that went was there for a max of 30-40 mts, just like they say in Khardung La - dont spend more than 30 mts. The AMS does not hit you like immediately, it brings on a nagging headache slowly and then rapidly. So the Chopta valley symptoms are actually that of what the body went through at Gurudongmar.

The outside temp afternoon time was around 3-4 C with high winds, but heater was not put on and was not needed, with all windows rolled up the Safari gave enough comfort plus we had the woolen sweaters and jacket on.

If it was night time surely the heater would have been needed, but then whatever be the vehicle, it will be punishment if someone gets stuck over there.

Last edited by adc : 17th April 2009 at 22:21.
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