Nanda Devi BC & Milam Glacier - Getting stuck in flash floods and rescued by ITBP

I would want to firstly thank the 14th Battalion ITBP headed by Asst. Commander R.K. Meena at Milam check post. Without their help and support I would be stuck in the Johar valley for quite a long time. He and his entire team were very helpful and supportive. I have got the privilege to learn and understand their functioning and see them in action closely. I am sure this experience is itched and will stay with me forever. 

7th & 8th June'13

Leaving Mumbai by the 5 pm flight I reach Munsiyari within 24 hours itself. Getting down at Kathgodham at 5:15 am on 8th was lucky to get a direct taxi by 5:30 to Munisyari.
Spent the evening in Munsiyari at Pandey Lodge, he assisted us in getting the required permits from ITBP. Meet with my regular guide and chalked out the finer details. Post dinner crashed early, ready to start the following day to Lilam. 
(For the permits one needs a letter along with address proof only. 3 copies along with originals to be submitted, ITBP returns back one copy for you to show to the post ahead. No photographs required.)

9th June'13

Getting down to Darkot
Left post breakfast by 9:30 am by taxi to Darkot. Reached a little before Darkot bridge within an hour and had to get down a small section on foot as road work was in progress. Crossing the bridge trekked to Lilam reaching there by 12:30 pm.
Route to Lilam

It was hot and sunny. Planned to go slow after the 24 hr dash the previous day, so as to ensure proper acclimatization. Reaching Lilam, pitched tents and relaxed the entire day.

10th June'13

Crossing waterfalls
Left post breakfast early by 7 am and reached Bodiyar by noon. Crossed the bridge and pitched the tent there. Came back to a tea-house near ITBP for lunch. Post lunch light rain had started, waited it out. By 4 pm once the weather cleared registered at ITBP, spent some time talking with the folks there and made a call home.

Trek route
Was informed about our intended Lawanghad route to Nanda Devi base camp being in bad shape. Few shepherds mentioned of few recent landslides in the route that week itself and advised against going there. Hindsight it was a blessing we meet and listened to them else would be stuck real bad.

Budiyar Campsite overlooking the valley up

Changed our plans to reach Rilkot the following day instead of Martoli as originally planned, as we would be approaching the base camp via the easier Pucchu glacier instead. 

11th June'13

Trek to Rilkot following the river up
Left early morning by 6 am and reached Nahar Devi by 7 am, had breakfast and moved ahead. The weather had by then turned bad and was raining throughout. Post Nahar Devi till Laspa bridge we had to walk slowly and had frequent halts due to heavy fog.
We had to cross three 100-300 meters long snow crossings.After a tea break post Laspa bridge climb we reached Rilkot totally drenched by 12:30 pm. Opted to stay in one of the houses instead of the tent as will need the tent at the base camp and did not was to risk it getting wet.

View of some snow peaks

Dried ourselves and had lunch after which visited ITBP for customary registration and calling. In the evening rains stopped.

12th June'13

Route to Bhurphu
No rain today. We left Rilkot by 8am.. post the slight climb up we reached the road to Bhurphu, it was a easy walk till Bhurphu. We took a tea break at the tea house before Bhurphu metal bridge and then walked to Pacchu.
Route to Pachhu through medows
The trek to Pacchu was through meadows with sheep and horses grazing. Reached Pacchu by lunch time. Pitched our tents and relaxed the entire day. We learnt that there would be a puja by the villagers at the base camp for goddess Nanda and were invited for lunch by them. It was a bright and sunny day lifting our spirits. Though at night rain had resumed.
Flour mill at Pachhu. Powerd by the stream                                              View from Pachhu campsite

13th June'13

Snow tip of Nanda Devi East
Route to base camp
Route to base camp
Route to base camp
It had rained all night in the morning the skies were clear and we could see the tip of Nanda Devi from Pacchu campsite. We left by 9 am post breakfast. It was a uphill climb mostly from Pacchu.
We reached our campsite approx a Km before actual base camp. We choose this for easy availability of water and wood. We camped at 3780m. Though it had not rained all day but by evening the rain had resumed and continued all through the night. The evening before the rain we strolled around the camp area and went to the base camp and returned.

14th June'13

Base camp & Pachhu Glacier beyond
Though the rain had ceased but it was foggy and misty. Reached base camp by 9 am and due to less visibility we trekked up some 3 Km into Pacchu  glacier from its snout hoping to get a clear view of the mountain but unfortunately we could not.
Entire Pachhu Glacier
The farthest we reached was 4000 m odd. We returned back to base camp where the puja was going on by the villagers joined them for lunch and then left back for the camp. The rain had again commenced by then. The rest day was spent in the tent itself as it was raining.

15th June'13

Descending from the base camp
It rained all night and well till 7 am, so skipped going back to the base camp and instead decided to go back down. We left at 8 and reached Pacchu by 10 where we had something to eat and decided to head to Milam for a day and onwards to Martoli.
Crossing over to Milam
We left Pacchu by 11am and reached Milam by 1pm using the glacier route. There is a small rope bridge which needs to be crossed which was daunting ! We reached Milam and went to register ourselves to ITBP. As we had entered from the village end, we had to do some explaining to the ITBP. Later at 4 pm we decided to visit the glacier as we had planned for a early exist from Milam for Martoli. We reached zero point and then went down some 2 km further down towards the river. By then it had started to rain once again. So after spending some time there we returned back to our tents. The rain intensity had increased and were totally drenched by the time we reached back.

16th & 17th June'13

Rain & Snow all day and night
The rain was nonstop both the day evenings we had some snow, in fact on 17th it was snowing since 4 pm all through the night. After spending a night in the tent, decided to shift into the tea house. Both the days were spent reading, playing cards and talking with the locals. Hardly ventured out due to the rain.

18th June'13

Waking up to clear weather
The sun was out, the weather had cleared. We decided to head down quickly to Rilkot as we were short of time now. We post breakfast visited ITBP signed out, they cautioned us that the way might be bad and to take care. We left ITBP by 8am. On the way the first obstacle was the Milam bridge though intact the approach route was badly damaged by landslides. Most the entire route to Bhurphu was muddy with multiple landslides.
Crossing the Bulju Nala
We had to cross the Bilju nala which as pretty daunting. We did it with the aid of a rope but had to cross it in waist deep water. The force of the water was quite a bit. On reaching Bhurphu we realized that the bridge connecting to Martoli and the Matorli to Rilkot bridge both had been washed away. This left us with an option to reach Rilkot only via Tola bridge. The small wooden bridge from Bhurphu to Tola had been washed away to but we spoke to the sarpanch and the villagers to help us erect a temp one. There was a operational GREF JCB present which made the task easier. The bridge erection was planned for the next day.

19th June'13

To be crossed to reach Tola
Early morning post breakfast we started helping in making the bridge. it was done by lunch. Was a great exp as most of the villagers including the women and the GREF officials along with us helped in carrying and placing the stones. Had a quick lunch and left for Tola. The initial route was through complete muck due to landslides, we found two dead horses on the way as they had got stuck in the landslide. The trek to Tola was even worse. Complete sections of the route had given away leaving huge craters. We had to twice trek down to the banks of the river cross and again climb up to the route
Bridge in progress...
. We reached Tola by 4pm. Thanks to the GREF officials who accompanied us to Tola, we were able to reach there. On the way to Tola we saw one small bridge was missing and the other was half gone. On reaching Tola like the pervious day we spoke to the sarpanch and the villagers to help us make the bridge. The GREF officials said they would return back the next day with more tools and manpower to assist. All we needed to do was get the necessary logs down to the bridge from the village. The evening was spent at the  village. Finally that evening we were fortunate to get a clear view of Nanda Devi and Nanda Devi East mountains.

20th June'13

View of Laspa from Tola
View of both Nanda Devi & Nanda Devi East from Tola
Nanda Devi as seen from Tola

To our horror most of the young folks were either leaving or had left to go to the higher reaches for finding Keeda-Jadi. We had to once again talk to the rest and convince them that this was urgent and it needed to be done. Post the bickering we finally made our way down to the bridge by 9am and reached there by 11am along with the logs. At the bridge the GREF officials were already there. That’s when we realized the logs would be short in size as the portion seemed small from the route above as compared to the actual gap.
We got logs of approx 15 feet in length the actual required was 22 feet. Such long logs were not present. Finally it dawned that we were stuck. There was no way down the valley. The Ralam route also had few broken bridge and the snow dump would have made it difficult to cross the high Brijdunga Pass. The Ralam valley also tends to get more rainfall compared to the Johar valley. So we were sure the damage would be substantial there too.
Luckily at the time of contemplation with the GREF and the villagers the ITBP Asst. Commander and his team reach us.
View of Nanda Devi East from Tola
They suggested us to come back with them to Milam as they were informed of the damage further down the valley and it was of no point trying to go down.  We paid heed to their advise and started going back to Milam. Post a tea break at Bhurphu we reached Milam by 3pm had a hearty meal. As hot water was present we washed and relaxed. That night the Asst Commander was kind enough to invite us for dinner. We were informed that the helicopter rescue would happen the next day. There were 6 foreigners and me at the camp. There were also 3 male local state trekker and one lady trekker. 

21st June'13

The helicopter did arrive at 9 am the 6 foreigners and the lady went in that, we waited our turn during the next sortie. Unfortunately later the weather turned bad and it could not make it. The day was spent getting acquainted with the systems at the camp, talking to ITBP.

22nd June'13 to 26th June'13

Trolley bridge between Pachhu & Milam
All 6 days were more or less identically spent. Except for the visits I did along with the ITBP. I had expressed my willingness to help in any way possible as there was nothing better to do. They were kind enough to accommodate me where every possible. During the 6 days I spent there, I went along with them for a medical camp in both Milam & Pacchu village. We made the trolley bridge operational between Pachhu and Milam to aid transfer of people and food stock. We made a sortie to Bhurphu too. Rest of the day was spent reading books from their library & playing cards. We played cricket two evenings.
Helicopter finally arrived to pick us up

Finally after few false calls of rescue, the helicopter picked us up at 4:30 pm on 26th and dropped us to Pithorghar. 

Spent the night there and left by 6 am next morning via share taxi to Haldwani and onwards to Delhi and finally to Mumbai.

This is the bridge which we assisted in making along with the villagers of Bhurphu and GREF officials. 
Panoramic view of Nanda Devi East base camp