Day 2 is probably going to be tougher than Day 1 simply because of the fatigue factor and Wari La! We started out the day around 3 am about 4-5 kms behind where we wanted to start this day out. The 1.5 hour rest had revived Chris considerably. He was again looking alert and fresher than I could believe. The rest also helped Lavang, Tenzing and me revive ourselves a bit.
It was bitterly cold when we drove out to the point where we had staked out the earlier night around the 155 K mark. Chris got warmed up pretty quickly and started maintaining a steady pace of 5.5K/hour despite some light drizzle. In case you are wondering about this pace, do remember that this is at an altitude over 12,500 feet and steep gradient towards High Camp (15,500 feet). After about 2 hours, Chris did not look so good. He was coughing and breathless. He is such an experienced runner that he realised that something was wrong and immediately told me that he did not feel so good. I managed to contact Vijay Bhai from Core Crew on my mobile, who at that time was at the top of Wari La. He radioed one of the Medic teams and told me that they would come down and check Chris out. Chris and I decided that he should not continue further and he huddled into the car while we waited for the medics. By now, the light drizzle had turned to light snow and it felt colder. The Medics came and checked out Chris and thankfully decided that it was nothing serious as the lungs were clear. For a few moments, we were anxious because we thought Chris would be pulled out. The doctor decided that Chris had a throat infection and wanted us to monitor him closely.
Chris restarted a bit cautiously after bundling himself up in warmer gear. The light snow and winds made us all colder. We reached High Camp a little past 8 am and we tried to convince Chris to take a short break here. The man would not have it! After a few minutes of preparation, he decided to tackle the 13 Kms steep climb to Wari La top. As we started climbing up the last 10-12 kms to Wari La, Chris showed dramatic improvement. Somehow, his breathlessness disappeared and he started keeping steady pace as he walked towards Wari La Top. Thankfully, the clouds started dispersing a bit and we got some sunshine as we neared the top. The snow stopped as we hit the U-Turn at Wari La top.
We spent a few minutes celebrating the moment at Wari La top and decided to move down quickly to avoid further exposure to cold and high altitude. Chris was in good spirit and we made it back to High Camp around noon. We also managed to get a hot meal for ourselves though Chris chose to not eat. Though the afternoon and evening, we made our way back down Wari La back to Karu.
This was the 233 K mark. We continued on from Karu to Upshi on the Highway to Manali. This stretch took us through a deep gorge which is beautiful in the day time. However, at that time of the night, there was a lot of traffic. Old trucks and buses moved on the highway kicking up dust and belching diesel smoke. This was the only time in the whole race that I saw Chris lose his cool. He felt vulnerable as traffic moved too close for his comfort. After a while, we decided that it was safer for us to move in our crew car right behind Chris. This would give him a cushion from the traffic and better light so he could see the road. Our driver was not too happy about this as this meant that he would drive in 1st gear for couple of hours!
We had agreed that we would push for Rumpste camp (277 Km mark) before taking a break. Rumpste had a camp with rooms and tents and we felt that it would be good for us to take a longer break here. Unfortunately, there were surprises in store!
About 9 pm, Chris was showing visible signs of fatigue and was getting very drowsy. I realised that he was finding it difficult to keep his eyes open even as he walked unsteadily. I offered to walk with him and he readily accepted it. We did about 14 kms from Upshi to Miru village (261 Kms mark) at a steady pace of 5.5 – 6 kms/hour. I could sense that Chris was slowing down and would not be able to keep this going for much longer. Rumptse was still 15+ kms away and it was going to be a struggle. The decision was taken out of our hands. Just after Chris and I had crossed Miru village, we realised that our crew car was not behind us. After 3-4 kms, I sensed that something was wrong. I had to make a quick decision. I decided to leave Chris on the road with instructions for him to not move unless he heard from me and jogged back to the last point where I had left the car. Both Tenzing and Lavang were fast asleep in the car and for a moment I was furious! I managed to overcome this and realised that fatigue had caught up with the crew. We drove back to where Chris was and by this time he was also cold and very sleepy. We decided to stake again at this point and find a bed. Luckily, we found a homestay with a nice bed and warm blankets in Lato some 5 kms away. After a little bit of debate, we convinced the homestay owner to allow us to rest there for 2 hours for a princely sum of Rs. 300. We fell asleep immediately and slept for 2.5 hours. This was a turning point for us. Stuart had now gone ahead and we were pushed into fourth place. However, in hindsight, this was for the best as Chris probably would have not made it to Rumpste in that condition.
We got back to the stake point near Miru around 3:15 am and got ready to begin Day 3, and the final push to Tanglang La, last of the 3 peaks on this course