Day –I ,The Rendezvous Day
3rd Jun ,Haridwar,11.45pm
Height above sea level: 314m
It started with a train journey from Dadar terminal,Mumbai to reach New Delhi and a onwards journey to Haridwar from New Delhi station .Reached New Delhi on time .Boarded my connecting train to Haridwar. The train-Dehradun express was supposed to take 5 hours to reach Haridwar .So I retired to my berth and tried to catch up a quick afternoon nap .The train journey is always exhausting and time seems to take its own slow pace when you do long distance travel .Frequent station halts and hunger ,it became an nightmarish experience .Reached Haridwar at 4.30pm and the first best thing i did was devouring makke ke roti and sarso ka saag at the famous Punjabi food joint, Aahaar Restaurant . After filling up my tummy ,I rang my trekking partner’s phone , who had reached Haridwar few hours earlier than me .
I headed straight to Hotel Panama where my trekking partners had booked rooms for nightstay . Since we all meet each other on travel websites and a total strangers to each other except our names ,we went through a quick formal introduction round . This was followed by a tea break and more rounds of chit chatting .Some time to spare after dinner we walked to Har-ki-Paur ,the famous ghats on river Ganga at Haridwar . We ended our days by strolling ,clicking some group photos and shopping rations for our trek .
Har ki Pauri Ghat
Day –II, The Base Camp
4th Jun ,Loharjung,10.30pm
Height above sea level: 2630m
We left Haridwar , packing all our trek rations and logistics on to the prehired a 4*4 Maxx jeep at around 4am in the morning. Our driver -Tipu singh was our 5th companion for the whole day trip to reach Loharjung-our starting point for our trek .We crossed and meandered through some high very rise mountain passes and innumerable river bridges on the way . The road trip was tiring .Found dozing off in the rear seat like others an easy option .
Full Team( Me sitting on top of the Jeep)
Laxman Jhulla,Haridwar -from a distance
We reached our base camp Loharjung at around 7pm in the evening .There was a power cut in the village and the whole village seemed sleepy under the evening hue of sky .The night at those heights were dark and cold frosty breeze lashing our face made us to bring out our mufflers and monkey caps .
Word was sent out for our trek guide Mr Dev Singh by guest house owner .Our Guide came to our guest house after an hour and welcomed us with a confident handshake .Like a skilled old experienced mountaineers first thing he did is to quickly brief us on tomorrow’s itinerary. Showed us a map sort of thing and gave out the day wise detailed plans. He also checked us on our backpacks , instructed on the do’s and don’ts for tomorrow and advised us for having an early dinner and a good sleep.We were to start early tomorrow to reach Didina Village our next stoppage .
Day –III, Homestay Villas
Height above sea level: 2725 m
First morning at Loharjung village
The trek began and so does the enthusiasm among us for the trek .Left Loharjung base camp at around 8.15am,on a cold morning time . And off we went through the tough, rough and through the roads of village hinterland .Some hours later as the sun rose above forest cover, we all were tired and walking leisurely .And describing my state I was perspiring a lot and my rucksack felt too heavy. So i loaded my rucksack on to our hired mule to free myself .
Our Occasional stops turned out to be more frequent ones .The barren land and a gradual ascent started giving way to thick forest with thick foliage .It started getting more interesting with this changing landscape .There was so much of divine silence in those woods. Apart from our voices the only sound we heard was of our mules who were carrying our rations and stuffs , few wild asses ,an occasional hoot of peacock and sound of a distant flowing stream. We stopped to drink water on an iron bridge with a huge waterfall in its background. The water was so cold but sweet that i filled myself with the elixir. The ascent started getting more steeper and steeper after that bridge . Our guide said it’s will be more 2 hours climb from there to Didna village,our last stop of the day .We pressed forward after a while.
Mules Taking up our Ration
After crossing a small ledge that marked the start of Didna village we got to see the first house at Didna. From a distance the small village seemed beautiful ,perched on the slopes of the high mountains. The houses were well marked and all seemed to have their our terraced cut land . The farm land next to house was laden with paddy , gleaming with golden color under the evening sun .We reached our homestays which had a small clearing off the mountain patch and a beautiful garden in its front . Indeed a villa .
Our Homestay at Didina from a Distance
We were welcomed with some snacks and a cup of tea .The Sun was coming down . The home stay of ours had a nice vantage point with direct view of the Wan valley before us and a huge mountains with cloud shrouded tips. Lying back comfortably on a chair under the evening sky ,taking a big sip from his tea cup our guide pointed towards a patch of grasslands on the cloud shrouded tip way up in the mountain ranges amidst the forest cover .He said that’s where we will be heading tomorrow . We stared to that patch of light colored grassland and looking beyond the mountain,reminiscing the first day’s events we were enchanted by the play of light put up for us by the conspiring evening Sun and clouds.The orange evening hue and the white smoke coming out of the chimney from the tiny houses lying at far away Wan village made the whole landscape look surreal. A satisfactory day came to an end .
Day –IV, The Leopard
Height above sea level: 3354 m
We started from home stay at Didina around 8am , meandering through the mountain trails .Came across many small streams on route. I left some of my not so important stuffs like extra clothes and some dry fruits back at the Didna Guest house. It made my backpack little lighter and comfortable to carry .Soon we were cutting our way through Didina forest. Such was the thick forest covers above us that sometimes we could not even see the Sun. We all were dying to feel the warmth of the Sun . After some more 2-3 hours of ascent we could now see the Sun playing hide and seek with us through the tree cover .
Abhijit and Om(behind)
Finally we reached the lower reaches of the grassland .Ali Bugyal( bugyal here means grasslands) , got us mesmerized both by its sheer size and beauty . We have left behind the tree line and sitting there on the grasslands of Ali Bugyal ,we could see the clear demarcation of the end of the tree line and the beginning of the grassland. Everywhere In all four direction, anywhere we ran your eyes we were able to see only the grasslands thick green in color and spell bound by the sheers beauty . Now it’s only we and the grasslands. The climate suddenly turned out to be cloudy and with the sun shying off behind the clouds .
End of Treeline and start of grassland
Grasslands of Ali Bugyal
We pushed ourselves further towards our third checkpoint called Bedni .By then we were dead tired and extremely hungry after crossing the bugyals .Few hours after the Sun seemed to have played enough hide and seek with us from behind the clouds . And it came out with its full glory, bestowing us with its warmth and light ,that we were dying for .We got some leisurely moments walking under the shining Sun . I guess that was the only place where we had taken a lot of pictures of us. Nowhere else we were so relaxed to stop and take so many group pictures.
Up ahead we saw a ‘Z’ shaped path which seemed to me like the mark of Zorro on a distant mountain. Again a steep climb to traverse it . We reached a temple which as per our Guide DevSingh marked the end of Ali Bugyal .The path ahead began for Bedni Bugyal .The trail to Bedni bugyal started to take lots of turns with some more gradual increase in ascent . After climbing the mark of Zorro, it was almost a plain walk till Bedni.
The time was around 4pm when we reached Bedni base camp. Here I witnessed the most unusual play of nature . Some hours back the Sky was literally burning with Sun and now it started snowing . somebody said correctly “Mumbai ka fashion and yahan ka season kab change ho jaye pata nahi”.From a distance we could see our advance team pitching up our tents . We were welcomed to the base camp with a hot cup of tea. Ah ,what a welcome and the red tea was really pain reliever. We helped to pitch in the remaining tents and started making fire .Started with preparing food for our dinner using our rations .The climate was freezing and it was still snowing .
Sudden Change in Climate
Our colorful Tents besides the forest house(our kitchen).
Ranjan and Saikat went to their tents and we two-Abhijit and me stayed inside the forest house ,near to the fire place to warm up our freezed up hands and foots . The evening sun started giving way for moon but the snowfall never ceased. And Sun set . The night was unusually cold for us and the sudden snow shower furthered the effects of coldness .The temperature was near to 5-6 degrees . We thought this will be enough of experience for us .But the weather God was unfolding more surprises for us .With yet again twist of climatic affair,It started to rain !!!! Sudden rainfall damped our further plans to do some night photography .Instead staying inside the small cramped forest house seemed to be a better option ,where our cook was preparing dinner for all of us .The chilling night and the rain had pinned us down badly . To distract ourselves we helped our cook to make some chapattis and prepare red tea . After dinner we retired to our respective tents and dozed off in no time .
Few night clicks that i managed.
I do not know the time , but it may be around 2am in the night , Abhijit suddenly shoved me to wake me up. He in a hushed tone said he has heard something scratching on our tents .Initially i ignored , but when i heard some of this sound a sudden chill ran down my spine .We had heard that Leopards roam freely in these places .Our minds got blanked out on the possibilities of a Leopard . Somehow we pulled our guts and we peeked outside by lightening our torches . Could see nothing ,only pitch dark landscape and a pair of glimmering eyes at a distance . Was that a Leopard ? Abhijit asked me in a hushed voice .I didn’t had a answer . But before yelling out for help the pair of glimmering eyes simply vanished into the darkness . We guessed that could have been small mountain cats .We never came to know .
Inside the tent
The rain became incessant and the deafening sound of the thunders suddenly went loud .Felt like ,lightning might have struck somewhere near to our place . Rain damped our tents mats and drop in temperature made the matter worst . Some hours went by .I felt tossed up and choked up .Unable to sleep I inquired upon Abhijit in a low voice ,whether he is asleep ,or awake like me . Surprisingly Abhijit also was in similar condition as mine .The rain water had seeped into his side of mat and had wet his sleeping bag . After our spooky experience hours ago we both seemed to be feeling insomniac . We sat up and opened our tent hood, aimlessly looked outside of the tents .Started some conversation going , just to distract ourselves from our present pitiable situation .I cuddled into my sleeping bag trying to catch some sleep , but could not .The whole night it was like raining cats and dogs . A lot of nature’s fury was seen in a single night .It was a difficult and a long night for us .
Day –V, The Story teller
7th Jun,Pathar Nachauni,7.15 pm
Height above sea level: 3658 m
Don’t know when we got to sleep again ,but it was at around 6.30 am when our guide hurriedly woke us up. The rain had stopped, the dark clouds all gone and we woke to a clear sky .We had an amazing view of Mt Trishul in front of us ,fully laden with fresh snowfall and looked too serene in its white drape of snow .
We started up having our breakfast of Puri bhajji .Then we wrapped up all our stuffs and got ready for our today’s 8 km trekking schedule . We headed on our trail . Everyday the trek seemed to get from tough to tougher. Everyday we crossed a big mountain only to see one more bigger mountain standing tall in front of us and challenging . Random thought kept on popping in my mind “Why am i doing this ,why torturing my body and for what reasons am I here . I would have been better off lying on my cozy comfortable sofas in my luxuriously comfortable rooms , sipping tea and watching others taking the hardship, in the National geographic channel.” But the present reality was that ,we are there at a height of 4000m and we were anywhere 2 days away from the nearest village and civilization . The bitter fact was we had to push ourselves forward and returning back was not an option for us . The trek started taking a nasty turn, by becoming more tougher with each step .On way lasses of my boots broke and it added up to my already alleviated woes .Somehow I managed to hold up my boots on to my feats by using up my bag’s strings. Only good thing was we all were encouraging and cheering up each other .May be due to this we off loaded much of our trek worries .Laughing and admiring the nature’s canvas we finally reached our 3rd checkpoint base camp ,Pathar Nachauni.
Snow fall all through out the path
Pathar Nachauni Camp
We reached Pathar Nachauni at around 6.30 pm ,but the sun was still high in the sky .And the weather was still the same ,dry and chilling with intermittent snowfall .After pitching up our tents we got some time to capture some nice evening time snaps of the sky and got time to mingle with other trekking groups halting there at those big forest houses set up by the forest department . It was totally an absorbing experience, all sitting cozily around bon fire ,sipping hot tea under the night sky lit with innumerable stars and enjoying the lullaby stories involving stories of some Raja Maharajas .
Kidda Jadibutti- An Aphrodisiac used in some traditional medicine. A 1Kg of it costs 3L to 5L depending on Quality.
Our dinner was ready by the time these stories got near to its end . We enjoyed our dinner comprising of aloo parathas with pickle .The night view of the Mt Trishul and Nanda Ghunti were simply amazing .The whole mountain ranges and big snow filled mountains beyond were just glimmering under the moon’s light . A sight to behold .
Day –VI, The Summit Day
8th Jun, Roopkund lake,1.15am
Height above sea level: 5029 m
Start of the trek after crossing the Small dried of pond.
Our final day of our attempt to reach the summits of Roopkund Lake .With great anticipation for the D-Day, i slept a rather uneasy night .And as planned we woke up at 3am .Still felt sleepy and all the cold made me lazy and hasty .We were offered aloo parathas with tea .But no one among us was eager to eat their breakfast so early .So we requested our cook to pack up our breakfast .We started in groups . It was an awesome feeling from the start of our trek .Pitch dark night and billion stars studded sky ,the view above was just awesome . We all were walking with ease as we knew today to be the longest and the most arduous from rest of the day.
Kalu Vinayak Temple
With our Main guide- Dev Singh ,Support Guide Maninder Singh and our Pony wala
Our Lead Guide Dev Singhji leading
We reached Buguwasa base camp at 4.45 am . The tempt to attempt the summit in a single day made us to skip Buguwasa Camp .Otherwise it is advisable to spend a night at Buguwasa for acclimatization and then try for Junargali pass and Roopkund lake the next day . We reached Buguwasa advance base Camp after 1.5 hours of torturous back aching trek through twist and bends.
In the horizon I could see the sun rising slowly . The feel of warmth took some tension and fatigue ness off my head .From a ledge just after crossing the Buguwasa advance base camp site we witnessed the vastness and enormity of the Himalayan ranges The full view of the mighty Himalayan ranges was right before us ,snow draped and so serene. We took time off by just standing and staring the heavenly view before us . We pressed on after some time .
Halfway up just below 500m from the summit the weather started to get nasty .The wind speed increased and it started to snow again . Seeing the weatherman starting to play his part .We were in such a spot where we cannot think of backing off . IT was impossible to descend down and only way was up . Ranjan and me decided the obvious to push ourselves harder even if the weather turns hostile . For safety ,we tied yourself with ropes .The next ½ hours was full with tense and weather was testing us and everything in us . Each step had to be put very carefully . One single wrong step and we both would have gone down rolling some 1000mts .Self belief and confidence that what all we needed the most. We took rest as and when required .Amidst all these we both kept our head cool .
Final Push for Ranjan Da- Few feets away
Keeping ourselves focused ,motivated and encouraging each other we somehow reached to the most difficult and the most challenging part of our ascent (the last 100fts). The trail further up was all lost due to the fresh snowfall .Using Ice axe and crampons proceeded Inch by inch .The advance party who had already summited brought down some ropes . We tied ourselves to those and they supported us in our push for the summit .
The Revered- Roopkund Lake
Finally we summited at 1.35 pm . So elated and so breathless I could not describe that state of mine .After the congratulatory handshake with other trekkers ,I just sat there on a small rocky patch .It was still snowing and the landscape as far as I can see was white and heavenly .I was silently looking away towards the below meadows and the world far off . From the heights of Junargali pass the world seemed so divine and so surreal .Just Speechless . I could clearly see ,the distant snow clad mountain ranges appearing like rows of half open ,white lotus buds and slowly melting away from views in the mist and cloud ,sometimes there were vast stretches of green valleys and flowing streams of molten silver water and sometimes it looked like an white ocean . I got lost in that heavenly sight before me .So lost in the beauty and serenity of the place that uncontrollable tears started flowing from my eyes. The feeling and the rush was just overwhelming . We thanked our guides Laxman ,Dev Singh for assisting us to reach the summit We congratulated and hugged everyone else in our team .The next 30 minutes were time for clicking pics ,a lot of pics .
Ranjan Da , at Roopkund Lake
Roopkund from Height of Junargali Pass
The weather was still looking gloomy while we geared ourselves for our descend journey . The descent was some sort of fun-filled activity like we did in our nursery days .Sliding down on a slide .We slided as that was the most suitable and fastest way to descend down . At times we were sliding on our backs for some 50-100 fts at a time . It was a great fun. Reliving childhood days .Sliding and slipping on our entire return trail we reached the Buguwasa base camp at around 6.30pm. Then within next 30 min we started our final descend to Pathar nauchani some 7km from Buguwasa . The return was not filled with any thrill . It went uneventful as compared to the Summit . Being very tied we literally dragged ourselves the last few kilometers .The sun was setting in the horizon and it started getting bit colder again .Finally reached our camp. Others congratulated us . Ate my dinner and immediately went into a sleep mode .
Day –VII, The Easy descent
9th Jun, Wan,5.15pm
Height above sea level:2590 m
Now it was the pack up day ,and was the time to return . Our descend was a easy one and bypassing Bedni we took a another bend down through the forested area towards the Wan village .Nothing much to elaborate here ,just an easy descend. Some of us were literally running downwards , enjoying ,singing and passing pranks .The path took us through the big cedar trees forest and towards Wan village.
A small stream on way down
We came across a river on route . Seeing a river ,I could not resist myself for a bath . It was full 4 days that we all didn’t had a luxury to take a bath . The sun was right above us with its full glory .Water was cold ,very cold but that didn’t mattered to us . We took a full one hours .
We could now see a road ,ah! a motorable road. Our helpers were already there with our stuffs . Our taxi came and we loaded ourselves and our stuffs. Alas, now within 5 hours we will again be in to civilization and to our respective destinations , leaving behind the mountain ranges behind. I was filled with mixed thoughts .My mind was still there at those high mountains. Left with a heavy heart but with a promise to return back, soon .
The engine of our taxi fired up ….