Sunday, November 13, 2016

Roopkund- My second sojourn in Himalaya (Part 6)

Part 1: Preparation and Journey
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village
Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa
Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan (You are currently reading this.)

Finally the day for Roopkund Summit for which we were eagerly waiting arrived! We were given the wake up call around 2.45am. With stuffing ourselves with a bowl of sweet dalia each, we got much needed warmth in rather freezing weather outside. Different batches of seven members each were formed and each batch was assigned a leader. Proper instructions were given and we all set for Roopkund summit.

Trekkers from YHAI and Trek the Himalayas organizations were also hiking with us on the trail and in the dark, members from different groups got mixed into each other and leaders of these groups helped all the trekkers on the trail irrespective of their groups.

With torches on, we were hiking in unison. Soon, we encountered loose slush on the trail and we started losing our balance. Members of other groups had crampons fitted onto their shoes to get firm grip on the snow but unfortunately our group had none. Also, none of our trek leaders were to be soon. With very careful steps and utter precaution, we kept on marching.

Air was getting thinner as we were gaining altitude but every step was getting us closer to Roopkund lake.

Soon, day started breaking up and on looking back, we were mesmerized with the astounding sights. We were now literally above the clouds. Never in my life, I have been to such a dizzying height and the toll to reach to such a height felt very rewarding.

I was searching for Tushar Dada and Sanju Nana but they were nowhere to be seen. Lastly they were behind me and I never saw them crossing me. I got worried as despite waiting for 10 minutes, I couldn’t locate them in the crowd. Finally I saw them coming and later came to know that Nana had forgot to carry his camera along and he and Tushar decided to go back to the camp to bring it. That made them lose a lot of time.After getting united with my brothers, there was a spring in my gait.

Sporadic patches of snow now gave way to thick and absolutely white snow. It was next to impossible for us to hike with our regular shoes. Fortunately we spotted helpers from our trekking organization distributing crampons to our trekkers. I too was fitted with crampons. With these crampons on, I felt quite confident to hike on the snow.

As clouds were hovering below, locals asked us to hurry. Yesterday’s batch was not able to enjoy the beauty of Roopkund because of fog and overcast skies. We were praying weather to remain clear. Hearing advice from locals, I increased my speed and marched ahead.

God was really supportive today and ominous looking clouds hovering below retracted and weather remained absolutely clear. Shouts of euphoria coming from the close distance made me realize that Roopkund was now at a striking distance.

As I was taking the final strides towards Roopkund, a sense of accomplishment, feeling of ecstasy overwhelmed my mind. There lied Roopkund - the most beautiful lake in front of me in half frozen state. Most of the skeletons found in this lake were submerged into the thick sheet of ice but few were seen laid on the banks of Roopkund. I watched these skeletons from the distance without capturing them in the camera.

Amol, Vipin, Tushar and Ashwin joined me on the banks of the lake.

Tushar Dada rejoicing his fantastic achievement - his first Himalaya trek and a successful one:

Amol too in happy mood; his was also the first Himalaya trek and he also did remarkably well!

Vipin, already veteran of many Himalayan treks posing for the photo:

Ashwin, the swiftest hiker of our group:

After spending time on the banks of Roopkund, we requested our trek leader to  take us to Junargali peak but as the sun was out and ice was melting, he considered it to be risky and advised us not to climb any further. We were determined to visit Junargali but decided to heed instructions of our trek leader and decided to spend some more quality time in the vicinity of Roopkund itself.

Life above 15000 feet:

A small temple in the vicinity of Roopkund:

Group photo to advertise the banner of Himalayan Climber Trekking Organization:

Finally it was time to return. Descending was tougher on the ice. Neeraj Joshi took the lead and did pretty excellent job along with help of other locals by fixing the ropes at some stretches. Despite ropes, few members slipped. It was fun and scary at the same time.

After crossing the icy trail, we were soon on the dirt trail. We came across few local women and children ascending to visit Roopkund.Descent was quicker and we soon reached to our campsite.

We feasted on Omelette-Bun at a small snacks joint and gulped on the hot coffee. Stall owner was very nice and we kept chatting with him for about 30 minutes.

Team enjoying snacks and coffee:

As everyone assembled at the campsite, we started towards our camp at Bedni Bugiyal.

Vipin on the way to Bedni Bugiyal:

Vipin, Amol and Tushar at Ghora Lotani:

Nasik-Pune trekking group with Chandan Negi, our trek leader in the middle:

Amol enjoying the beautiful skies:

Nature was bestowing a lot of kindness on us and we got to experience another incredible evening on Bedni Bugiyal.

Visitors at our Bedni Bugiyal campsite:

With Neeraj Joshi (Owner of Himalayan Climber Trekking Organization): He was eager to learn more on photography and I passed on few tips to him.

Chandan Negi (Local trek leader who led our group)

Vishnu from Karnataka who gelled with our Pune-Nasik trekking group watching the spectacular sunset from Bedni Bugiyal:

Peak of Trishul basking in the golden rays of the setting sun:

Next day, we descended to Wan village through thick Oak's forest. My left knee started troubling me on this continuous steep descent and I was one of the slowest members of our group. Amol was accompanying me throughout. We got rejuvenated on a small stream and after that there was again a steep ascent. Humidity and heat increased drastically as we were approaching Wan village signalling the end of high altitude region.

Descending towards Wan Village:

Amol having fun in the forest:

Vishnu exhausted yet content:

Amol enjoying the half bath:

End of the trek as we reached to Wan - the base village:

From Wan village, we were escorted back to Loha Jung and later to Deval village. Next day we were back to Kathgodam in the Tempo Traveller of Bhuvan Rawat, the most well-behaved driver I have ever seen.

We had reserved one more day to visit Nainital but considering the traffic going towards Nainital, we decided to skip the plan and came back to Delhi. As our flight was next day, we decided to check in at old Maharashtra Sadan and visited new Maharashtra Sadan next day morning.

Beautiful new Maharashtra Sadan:

Return flight was on time and we were soon back to Pune, stuck in the chaotic traffic for an hour. We dropped Nana and Kiran at Shivajinagar before reaching to comforts of home, sweet home.

Roopkund trek truly was the most beautiful trek in my life. It had everything to offer. Walking on Ali Bugiyal - the highest meadow in the country was one of the exhilarating feelings that I have ever experienced in my life. Staying on Bedni Bugiyal meadow was enriching with one of the most astonishing sunsets I have ever witnessed. Memory of my little photography adventure on Pathar Nachani without hand gloves provided me ample indication how the life could be with frost bites and numb fingers. Unforgiving, hostile yet breathtakingly beautiful terrain of Baghwabasa has been imprinted in the mind forever. Lake of Roopkund, the most pristine and beautiful lake I have seen still gives me ineffable satisfaction. Most importantly, trekking with my dear trek mates including my brothers Nana and Dada made this trek truly unforgettable.

Thank you for reading the blog!

Do visit my home page to easily navigate to my other blogs.

Happy hiking!

Appeal: No litter; no plastic; no wrappers; keep the mother nature clean!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Roopkund - My second sojourn in Himalaya (Part 5)

Part 1: Preparation and Journey
Part 2: Lohajung to Didna Village
Part 3: Didna to Bedni Bugiyal
Part 4: Bedni Bugiyal to Pathar Nachani
Part 5: Pathar Nachani to Baghwabasa (You are currently reading this.)
Part 6: Baghwabasa-Roopkund-Bedni Bugiyal-Wan

Pathar Nachani Camp (12,818  Ft): Body had coped up well so far with the high altitude. High altitude had not altered anything except the loss of appetite. Without any headache and all symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Syndrome) away, trekking in Himalaya seemed blissful. But there was still more altitude to gain and there was still some uneasiness whether body condition would remain the same in the higher camp and on Roopkund summit. Our today's plan was to camp at Baghwabasa (14,117 ft.) before attempting the Roopkund summit the next day.

Morning dawned with ominous looking clouds. Trek leaders declared that weather didn't look favourable and there was possibility of thunderstorm. With anxiety, I just prayed weather to get clear. Already we had taken so much efforts to reach to this point and it would have been disappointing had the weather remained bad. Suddenly speculations of bad weather were put to rest as clouds receded giving way to golden morning sunshine.

Trekker from the other camp lost in the grandeur of Himalayan mountains:

We had requested eggs for breakfast previous night as regular breakfast items appeared more and more insipid as we were developing nausea for the food - partly because of high altitude, partly because of method of preparation. After breakfast, we packed for today's hike and posed for the photograph.

Nasik- Pune Trek Group ready for today's challenge:

Once everyone got ready, we started our hike in a crisp early morning. We hiked for 10 minutes and stopped at a location with few snacks' joint and campsite for other trekking group. We were out of communication for 2 days and we were ecstatic to find out that we had moderate mobile range to be able to call our family members. It felt comforting to talk to family members always worried about our safety. Reassuring them about our safety, current location and next plan, we proceeded further.

Finally we started walking on the winding trail which we were seeing our campsite since yesterday. As we were gaining altitude, campsite started looking tinier and tinier.

It is always comforting to have your elder brother as your trek-mate.

Tushar Dada on the trail:

Trek-mates enjoying the trail and happy to pose for the photo as per instructions from the photographer:

We couldn't have asked for better weather for photography.

Real beauty of trekking is that you get to spend a lot of time with yourself in nature away from the madding crowd.

Few white clouds were hovering in the sky and their shadows on the landscape had resulted in fantastic combination of light and shadow.

Last stretch of this climb was really steep and exhausting. Small photography breaks really helped me to pace my climbing and I did not experience any fatigue despite the dual burden of heavy backpack and camera bag.

It seemed to be the never ending winding route. After more than 2 hrs of hiking, we reached to Kalu Vinayak Temple - the highest point on the trail for today.

Kalu Vinayak temple

Nana trying his skill of blowing the shankha:

As we were able to locate our Baghwabasa camp from this location, we decided to spend a lot of time here photographing and soaking in the great sights of snow-clad peaks. Trekkers from other groups were arriving. This lady from the other group was stranded behind her trekking group and she seemed utterly exhausted. Still her smile was intact.

One of the most scenic tea stalls I have ever seen:

Kiran Bhai dreaming big:

Rugged terrain:

A beautiful trekker who happily flashed her smile:

Nana's energy is so infectious.

Few of our never tiring trek-mates climbed a small hill and posed for the photo:

After spending more than an hour on the small plateau of Kalu Vinayak temple, we started our descent towards our final campsite at Baghwabasa.

Before our campsite, we came across few more tents of a trekking group. We kept on walking further and came across a small cave flanked by stacks of rocks.

Amol sitting at the entrance of the cave:

Our campsite was on the rocky ground with uneven surface. But considering the number of trekking groups around, this was the best that our trekking group could have arranged and we settled for it happily. With the boulders around, the campsite looked like a deserted, forbidden and unforgiving place to stay. Only exciting factor that Trishul and other mountains loomed in front of us exhibiting their full glory and prospect of the next day where we would be in the lap of these mountains provided enough fuel for us to remain positive and excited.

Amol trying to touch the heaven:

Great skies:

Soup, Maggi, Samosa and tea followed one after another in the space of 1-2 hours to keep us well fed and awake. In between, when the weather cleared, we came outside and clicked ourselves on the backdrop of glorious mountains. Rest of the time, most of the trek-mates preferred to remain inside playing Rummy and UNO.I had a long stroll around the area, even climbed a small hill to acclimatise better for tomorrow's summit.

Panorama around our campsite:

Nana happy to pose for the photo:

Vipin, a very jovial and caring trek-mate:

Chandan Negi, our trek leader visited our tents in the evening and provided instructions for the next day. We had been instructed to get ready by 2.45 am and leave the camp site around 3.15 am. We knew leaving at such an unearthly hour would be daunting and challenging considering freezing temperature in the morning. As we had come so far and didn't want to miss any opportunity to topple our plan of seeing Roopkund in its full glory, we all agreed to adhere to these instructions.

We were soon given the call for dinner. Our food tent was slightly away from our tents and reaching to it was an ordeal considering many protruding and uneven rocks on the way.  With light dinner of Dal and Rice and some sweet, we decided to call it a day and retired to our respective tents. High altitude and prospect of just few hours' sleep made sleeping peacefully even more difficult. We chatted for a while in the tent and decided to have few hours rest if not sleep. Roopkund summit was ruling my mind as I tucked into my sleeping bag.