The drama unfolds on the mountain slopes of Roopkund. A trekker, Taposh Giri, finds difficulty in walking near Patar Nachauni – a campsite on Roopkund trail. He is exhausted, and walking a few steps drains him out. He asks for a mule to take him further, towards the upper camp. However on reaching the camp at Bhagwabasa he starts feeling disoriented. And does not respond to any questions posed by the trek leader. He is fast losing out on oxygen and shows symptoms of AMS that soon develops into High Altitude Pulmonary Edema(HAPE). Recognizing the danger, trek leaders galvanize into action. And start evacuation measures to bring him down safely. Do they succeed?
Taposh Giri had biked from Haridwar to base camp Lohajung – from where Roopkund trek began. On the third day of the trek at Patar Nachauni, Taposh began losing energy. He felt exhausted. So he took the help of a mule to reach Bhagwabasa. At Bhagwabasa, on seeing his condition assistant trek leader Shankaran took his oximeter reading. The reading showed 41 – way lower than normal levels of oxygen. Immediate descent was necessary. And so Taposh was sent back to Patar Nachauni on a mule.
By this time however Taposh was showing symptoms of AMS. “He was feeling dizzy, disoriented and his replies were taking longer,” said trek leader Saranbir who was present in Patar Nachauni. He started him on a course of Diamox. And decided that Taposh had to descend to lower altitude camp. However when Saranbir asked the mule man to take him down, his response was,”Mules are not available and it is dark”. They had a fight but the mule man did not budge.
Saranbir again checked the trekker’s oximeter reading. He found to his dismay that it read below 40. Seeing the danger Taposh was in, he started running, carrying Taposh on his back. From Patar Nachauni the trail goes up. On this trail Saranbir hiked for around 500-600 metres carrying Taposh, who weighed nearly 80-85 kg. Fortunately around this time a mule arrived and Taposh was brought down to Bedni camp site.
At this juncture Taposh began showing signs of HAPE- a condition where the lungs fill with excess water and a person is unable to breathe. A doctor at the campsite saw him. And said that he would need to be hospitalized immediately. To recover from HAPE in addition to descent, oxygen also needs to be administered through a mask. So Taposh was made to rest in a forest hut. Along with Diamox, he was administered oxygen for two to three hours.
Around this time Saranbir informed trek leader Soumya Jyoti Mitra who was in Lohajung to take Taposh back to lower camp. ”The doctor has asked him to be evacuated as immediately as possible. As it is night time no helpers or stretcher is ready to come, in spite of me offering them hefty sums of money,” said Saranbir in anguish.
Seeing the urgency of the situation, Soumya Jyoti Mitra came to Wan from Lohajung. And from there reached Bedni with his team. “Normally from Wan, the trek to Bedni takes around six hours. But we finished it within two hours forty five minutes- running with an oxygen cylinder we reached Bedni around 1:30 in the night,” said Soumya Joyti Mitra.
With the help of a stretcher the team then took Taposh to Wan. Midway in Dewal, Taposh recovered, was taken off the oxygen cylinder and administered Dex. After reaching Wan he was out of danger. An ambulance then took him to a hospital in Tarali. The doctor there gave Taposh a clean chit.
All’s well that ends well. At the end of the ordeal Taposh says, “ Jis tarah se trek leaders ne matter ko handle kiya, vo mere liye apne aap mein ek acha anubhav raha (The way the trek leaders handled the whole incident was a great experience for me)”. He gratefully adds, “These people worked together and brought me down without causing me any stress. If I was alone I would probably have handled it badly. And so here is my heartfelt thanks to all of them.”