Friday 26 October 2012

Chronicles of Roopkund

Chronicles of Roopkund Trek  (October 2012)
“A peek into one of the most intriguing Himalayan treks”
Our Team At Roopkund!

A Note to the Reader

This piece of text is a personal recollection of the experience of the trekking expedition to Roopkund (13th October 2012  - 19th October 2012) with Indiahikes, an enterprise that conducts similar expeditions in the Himalayas. A total of 18 people (including me) were a part of the team. The rich experience of going on such a high altitude trek inspired me to document the various details of the trek for the benefit of others who wish to trek to Roopkund and also as a fond recollection of the trek for those who already had an opportunity to be there.
With a group as a large as the one I was in, there is an inherent difficulty threading up everyone’s experience to create an over all description, since there is a lot of variation in what each of us got to see and the way we reacted. So, I have written mostly about my own take on various details, and I hope you will be able to associate with my writing. Finally, I’d like to mention that none of the pictures included have been clicked by me. I conveniently left my camera at home for this trek. I have mentioned the source of the photograph wherever required.
The cover photo shows our team at the summit. The names of people in the order they appear in the photograph are:
Back Row:
(L to R): Deep Satyawali (a.k.a. Shortcut Man), Shakti Suryavanshi (a.ka. Hyderabadi), Vipul Vasistha (Team Leader), Gautam Deshpande, Chirag Anand (a.ka. CA), Arvind MA, Rajesh Parmar (a.k.a Commanderji), 

Front Row:
(L to R): Nitin Joshi (a.k.a. Panditwa), Saikat Adak (a.k.a. Ustad), Rahul Negi, (standing; a.k.a. Photographer), Utpal Yadav (a.k.a. Gabbar Singh), Dhanijee (local guide), Vikas Parte (a.k.a. munni badnam hui?), N.C. Puneeth (standing; that’s me!), Priyamvada R (standing; a.k.a. tiger lady) and Sujith S.

13th October 2012 (Day 1)| And… We set off!!!

From Katgodam to Lohajung

I had arrived at Katgodam at midnight on 12th October. After a good night’s sleep at the KMVN hotel near the railway station, I checked and re-checked my bag and set off to the railway station where the team was supposed to gather at 7.30 A.M. Some of the team members had already assembled there. In half hour’s time the whole team had assembled at the railway station. 18 people from different walks of life and different regions of the country… an interesting team up. A tempo and sumo were booked to take us to Lohajung. The journey would take about 8-12 hours, the driver said.
The ride to Lohajung was long and tortuous, if anything. If you are prone to motion sickness, I’d advise you to keep Avomine tablets with you on this journey. We stopped at a restaurant named Hotel Hill View for breakfast. Then we moved along the path to Bhim Tal, where there was a magnificent lake. Then came Almora, Kasauni, and then Deval. The man behind the transport vehicles was Mr. Raju Shah. We changed to a car at Deval and proceeded to Lohajung. It was about 8.30 P.M by the time we reached the Indiahikes base camp at Lohajung. It is located at a height of about 8,000 ft. 

Lohajung and Gearing up for the Trek:

The first thing I noticed back at Lohajung was the black sky studded with thousand of stars. We city dwellers certainly miss this spectacle every evening owing to all the pollution and lighting. In the backdrop appeared a bleak, yet majestic sight of Nanda Ghunti, a virgin peak. Before dinner, we had a briefing session by Mr. Ayan Brahma, who was the camp leader. The talk kind of cautioned us against the various possibilities that could occur during the trek. We were advised to purchase requisite gear in case we did not get it already. The temperature at the camp was about 10ºC that evening. The weather was very pleasant.
At the Base Camp, Lohajung (Photo Credits: Rahul Negi)
14th October 2012 (Day 2)| March to DIDINA…
The Trek Begins!
The next morning we were woken up at 6.30 A.M. Breakfast was delicious. We had puris and jeera alu. After another briefing about AMS and mild stretching and warm up exercises, we set off for the trek by about 8.30 AM. The team leader Vipul is an energetic guy, and he takes control immediately. Some of us had our rucksacks on the mules while the others were carrying them. The destination for the day’s trek was a small village named Didina, which was located at almost the same altitude (8,050 ft.), but on a neighboring mountain. To reach there, we had to go down about 4 kilometers into the intervening valley and then climb up to Didina which was about 5 Km long. We could see the place but it seemed so far away.
Short Halt at Culling
The initial walk was along a rocky path, and it presented us with picturesque views of various mountains at a distance – we could spot Mt. Trisul, Nanda Ghunti and some other hills around. From time to time we had to cross several streams of flowing water along our path. After walking about an hour we reached a small village called Culling. This was our first halt point for the day. I raced up the steep steps of a temple there to catch a glimpse of the mountains and valleys around. One can take fine photographs of the step farming along hillsides from this spot.
Fill Up Your Bottles at Neel Ganga
The rocky road gradually took us on a mild descent as we entered the woods. We were told that the next stop would be at Neel Ganga, which would be the lowest point of our entire trek, which is about 3 Km form Culling.  
On the route, we were shown a particular shrub and warned of its sting.
“Ye dekha? Ise Bicchu ki kaat Kehte hain! Isse sambhal ke rehna, ye kat leta hai to 2 din tak khujli hoti rahegi…” I distinctly remember our team leader instructing us. I guess I remember this so well because no later than a minute that he warned us, I felt a sharp sting at the back of my left hand. And it seemed he had described the effects pretty well. I was advised to protect the portion (stung) form moisture. People started experimenting all sorts of traditional methods like rubbing metallic iron, marijuana leaves (yes, the same weed… and they’re found in plenty over there!) and what not to no avail. I guess it simply needed its 2 days to heal.
The walk lead us down to a large iron bridge (called Raun Bagad) where people stopped to take pictures of the surrounding woods.
As we descended along the trail, the sound of flowing water got louder and louder and we finally caught a sight of the clear waters of Neel Ganga. The sight of water certainly boosted my energy levels. We filled up our bottles and crossed the stream.
Sparkling waters of Neel Ganga (Picture Credits: Rahul Negi)
Ascent to Didina – The Teaser
 Then we began a gradual ascent towards Didina. The walk was supposed to be around 3 Km long… just 3 Kilometers. May be I was out of touch, or may be I was simply not up to it, but found the climb very tiring. In an hour’s time, I was literally panting and out of breath. I’d ask the guide, how much more, and he’d say just one more kilometer.
“Ek kilometer sir, bas pouch gaye!” in Dhani-ji’s own words.
But that single kilometer seemed to never end. The route was steep and rocky through the woods. After what seemed like hours, we reached a small village. A yellow poster there read
“Loved Roopkund? Try Rupin pass”
What Irony.
Didina – Camping in a Village
As soon as we reached Didina, Maipat Singh-ji, who owned a guesthouse where we were staying for the night welcomed us. They served us with Buras or Rhododendron flower squash, a brilliant red liquid that was refreshingly energizing after the trek. Some one pulled out a cricket bat and a ball and we played the typical gully one-tip-one-hand cricket on the hill slopes till the ball was lost in some bushes yonder. In the evening, there were some ice-breaking sessions, where we got to know each other better after a round of introductions from every one. Every one seemed to have his own reason, his own passion that pushed him to take on this trek. Most of the people turned out to be IT professionals or finance people. I guess the IT guys really need some time off for themselves anyway. And, what can be a better way to spend a break than in nature’s own lap in the Himalayas!
Didina, at 2500 meters This was the first Camp site. (Photo Credits: Shakti Suryawanshi)
This was the last point where electricity was available (they used a generator set) and so, there was light in the evening as well. The guide showed us the hill right behind Didina village where we were supposed to climb the next day. I had to look almost skywards to spot the top of the mountain that was just the mid point of the trek schedule for the following day. It would be a nice little hike tomorrow, I thought.
Some people were busy clicking pictures, while I chose to play UNO cards with some of the others. Dinner was served at about 8 PM. It was the birthday of one of our team members, and she was made to cut a special suzi cake on that occasion. Man… I’d kill to have such a birthday celebration! By 9 PM we were all in our beds.
15th October 2012 (Day 3)| A Stroll in the Meadows...

Taking Off From Didina
The next morning, I woke up by 6.30 AM and freshened up. I brushed my teeth with salt, because it was hard to wash off toothpaste froth, as there is no sewage facility. After a quick breakfast we set off for the day by about 7.30 A.M.
The trek started off with a steep climb up a rocky trail through the village leading us gradually to the hillside. I clearly remember this day’s trek having two distinct parts. The first part was the trek till Ali Top, which was mainly through the woods, where we followed a course with moderately steep ascent. This part of the trek left us gasping for breath due to continual ascent. The trek leader had to literally motivate us by saying that food will be served at Ali Top. By about 11 A.M. the woody forests vanished suddenly, and all around me was a vast meadowland that seemed to stretch all around me. The climb seemed to get steeper and steeper.  It is convenient to keep walking diagonally along steep hillsides to reduce the gradient so that you don’t get burned out. I did just that, and finally, after what seemed like ages, I arrived at Ali Top.
Ali Top
May be I should rephrase that – I hobbled into Ali Top. And what I get to see filled me with awe. I forgot all my exhaustion and gaped at the pristine beauty of Mt. Trishul right in front of me, with all its magnificence. I reached Ali Top much ahead of the others, and was able to witness it against the bright and clear skies. I pulled off my shoes and walked barefoot on the soft grass. No brand of carpet grass ever feels like what I felt while I trampled over the soft dew laden grass there. Experience it to know what it feels like. That’s all I can say!
Mountains certainly seem to have a mood of their own. Even as I was watching, swirling dark clouds appeared and covered up Trishul, quickly obscuring the view. They covered up the Sun as well and chilly winds started blowing over the meadows. We had finished the climb for the day, and the trek to Bedni Bugyal from Ali Top was simply a 5 Km walk without significant height gain. The weather was closing, so the team leader ushered us to move ahead as quickly as we could. 
At Ali Top! The Meadows start here! (Picture Credits: Rahul Negi)
Ali to Bedni (Bugyals!)
In this part of the trek we had to move along a trail set across mountain ridges. The trail actually moves through Ali Bugyal that is one of the largest high altitude meadowlands in Asia. Together Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugyal form a pair of twin meadowlands, which stretch over several acres of land. As we walked I saw numerous sheep, grazing at the hillsides. The sounds made by these grazing animals are still fresh in my mind.
Even as we were walking, the weather seemed to get worse. The chilly winds continued and out of nowhere, suddenly small hailstones started falling from the sky. We stopped at a point and put on our ponchos. The walk to Bedni Bugyal may not have a lot of ups and downs, but it surely is one long walk across the mountain ridges, and it took us a good 2 and half hours to complete. It was during this walk that Dhani-ji told us the story of Roopkund. I guess it’s a good idea to take a detour here and give away some details of the legends and stories that the locals believe in.
The Legend Of Roopkund
Like many other mountains in the Himalayas, Roopkund is also treated as a very holy place by the locals of Gharwal. Legend has it that Ma Durga killed the demon Mahishasur at Bedni Kund, which is a lake in Bedni. After killing him, she rode her tiger and up to Bhagwabasa (which is a further up the trail) and walked bare foot till another lake where she took a bath as she was feeling very dirty after killing the demons. The lake has come to be known as Roopkund from the fact that while bathing she saw her divinely beautiful reflection on the clear lake waters. From there she walked up to Mount Khailas to join her consort, Lord Shiva. Thus, the people of Gharwal have treated Roopkund as a very holy place since ages.
There is however a more recent and rather dramatic incident that the locals here believe has occurred. They cite this to explain the large number of human and animal skeletons and bones lying around Roopkund, which can be seen even today. Radio Carbon dating reveals that these belong to around 850  30 AD.
So Dhani-ji tells us this story as we walk towards the Bedni campsite. I shall write a few lines in his own words, in fond recollection of his unique way of narration of stories –
“Hazaron sow saal pehle ki baat hai jab Kanauj ka ek raja hua karta tha. Wo bohut ghamandi tha. Apne saare sena, biwi, bacche lekar wo yahan pe devi ka darshan karne aa gaya. Par who bohut ghamandi tha sir-jee….”
Long ago, apparently there was a proud king of the Kanauj province who conducted an expedition to Roopkund to please Goddess Nanda Devi (Parvati). He traveled along with his army, his courtiers his wife (who was pregnant then) along the same path we were supposed to take, to Roopkund. In all his arrogance, the king was very careless in upholding the sacredness of the place. Despite of repeatedly facing bad omens, he continued his journey to Roopkund. Legend has it that he forgot to offer his evening prayers enticed by his three royal danseuses. This infuriated the Goddess and she burned three holes under the feet of these dancers to bring the king back to his senses.
In another incident, the queen gave birth to a baby in one of the caves near Roopkund. In Hindu mythology, birth is an unclean event, and the King had been arrogant by bringing his wife to deliver the baby in the Goddess Nanda Devi’s holy abode. The pregnancy ended in a miscarriage taking the lives of both the queen and the baby.
Even after all these warnings, the adamant king continued his trek to Roopkund with his army. Finally, when he reached the lake, the weather changed abruptly and there was a hailstorm with hailstones of the size of cricket balls. The unprotected army of the king perished under the impact of the hailstones, which an be seen even today, as the bones appear broken due to strong impact of some hard substance. Apparently, the king was the only person who survived the hailstorm, and Goddess Parvati appeared before him and cursed him that people of his race would have to visit the lake once in every 12 years, barefoot, clad in rags and with inadequate food supplies. Ever since, it has been a tradition to conduct the Nanda Raj Jat Yatra once in every 12 years. It will be conducted in 2013 next.
This is a broad outline o the story of Roopkund. More tidbits will be added to these tales at relevant points. Now lets get back to the walk to Bedni Bugyal.
Camping at Bedni Bugyal
As we descended towards Bedni Bugyal, the hail stopped, revealing clear skies once again. We reached Bedni base camp at about 2.00 P.M. in the afternoon. The camp was a pretty sight with colorful tents pitched at various spots. There were 3 huts, one of which was used for kitchen and cooking while the other two were available to us for stay. As we arrived we could see the staff playing cricket and volleyball on the slopes. I’d have joined them, had I not been so exhausted from the walk. Lunch was served soon, and after lunch we started exploring the surroundings.
Picture of the Camp at Bedni Bugyal (Courtesy: Rahul Negi)
Being in a high altitude meadow was a unique experience in itself. You’ll find acres and acres of area under grass cover all around and mules with bells tied around their necks keep grazing the grass there. The bells were literally chiming all the time. One could capture spectacular photographs of several snow-capped mountains from Bedni Bugyal. On one side was Mount Trishul, and Kali Daak. Then you can spot a small part of Nanda Ghunti. Farther apart were other splendid mountains like Bandar Poonch, Hathi Parbat, Mrig Toli etc. In the evening, mixing hues in the sky produced a brilliant purple tinge, which was reflected by these mountains at the horizon. Lasted just a few minutes, but was certainly a treat to the eyes!
In the evening we walked up to Bedni Kund, which was on a nearby hillock. What I saw there was one of the best views in the whole trek. The clear waters of the kund reflected the magnificent Mount Trishul, which shone resplendently in the sunlight. This is a must-see for everyone who camps at Bedni Bugyal.
The eye catching scene of Bedni Kund Reflecting Mount Trishul. Thanks Rahul Negi For this one.

We played UNO till there was some light and had our dinner when it was served. People were beginning to know each other better, and the evenings were the best time to discuss various interesting topics. The sight of the distant mountains raised up my spirits and I looked forward to the next day’s trek.
16th October 2012 (Day 4)| From Green Grass to White Snow…
Wading Through the Bugyal
I had a nice night’s sleep and felt fresh the next morning. It was quite cold outside. I’d put the temperature to be around 4-5ºC. I went over to wash my coffee mug and noticed that the water in the bucket had frozen to ice during the night. Thanks to the sleeping bags, I did not have to face any such adversities at night.
We started off on the trek by about 7 A.M. this day, for we had to reach Bhagwabasa, the next campsite before the weather closed. The trek on this day had 3 main landmarks, and as we moved along these I noticed striking changes in the landscape. The initial portion was a steep climb on the meadows. We passed Bedni Kund, and climbed up to a grassy trail on the mountainside. The climb was quite exhausting, and altitude had already started taking a toll on some of us. It was during this part that the trek leader had to advise 3 members of the team against proceeding further. In the thin mountain air, we’d go out of breath just by climbing up a few paces. The cold winds blowing continuously made the situation no better. But luckily for us, as the guide explained, the weather seemed to be very clear, and conducive for good progress. Some solace! We battled fatigue and kept walking for about an hour and finally reached a long trail that moves across the mountainsides to our first halt point, Ghoda Lutani. The place gets its name because horses do not go beyond this point. Its not as if there is an invisible wall that repels horses, but just that this is the spot where the grassy terrain suddenly changes to a rocky gravel path with very little grass. 
This is while walking up to Ghoda Lutani (Photo Credits: Shakti)

On Rock We Walk
At Ghoda Lutani, we saw a rock, which the team leader explained was user to indicate direction. As we rested, we met some trekkers returning. They told us that the weather was very bad at Roopkund, and they could not make it to the lake. Though it sort of shook us up a bit, we now proceeded with hardened resolve.
Rock which tells the Direction. Can you make anything out? Its called a Tairn.(Photo Credits: Shakti)
The next planned halt was at Patra Nachauni. We had left behind the grassy vegetation, and the change was so striking. And what replaced the smooth grassy terrain where one would love to walk miles just barefoot was not in so good taste. The trail here was lined up with loads of mule dung. As a trekker, you have only 2 choices – either you step on it, or you don’t. I chose not to, and that made my trek considerably harder. I now had to look for those rare spots untouched by the soft black dung-pellets, and tread along the complicated path made by these points.
After proceeding around 2 kilometers, we reached Patra Nachauni. This is apparently the spot where Goddess Nanda Devi had the dancers entombed. The three craters were nearly circular and symmetrically placed. If they had been made by some mechanical device some thousands of years ago, I cannot imagine what kind of primitive machines that did not use either oil or electricity could accomplish this kind of boring. May be miracles do happen!
We had some parathas and boiled potatoes here, and then resumed our walk. From here the path again turned into a steep climb. The dung on the trail still persisted. I remember slogging up the hard slope, taking breaks from time to time because my legs would not cooperate. I’d say to myself, “I am going to stop only when I reach that rock over there” and then it simply became a test of will power and determination. 
The Rocky Trail to Kalu Vinayak. (Photo Credits: Shakti)

Hitting Snowline!
It was almost 1 P.M. by the time we reached Kalu Vinayak. This was the highest point for the day. There was a small Ganesha shrine there. The guide mentioned that they believed that the shrine was natural and had always been there. Legend has it that Lord Vinayak stood guard at this point while Goddess Parvati took a bath at Roopkund. From here one can get a first view of the Roopkund crater across some mountain ridges. Someone blew a conch lying in the temple. The sound seemed to rejuvenate my energy levels. 

The more important detail that I should mention here is that at Kalu Vinayak, we hit snowline. The difference in the terrain was very abrupt. Even as we were resting at Kalu Vinayak, the sky turned dark, and cold winds started blowing accompanied with flakes of snow. It was the first time we experienced snowfall during the trek. We marched ahead now with our goggles and ponchos on. The change in temperature was very dramatic. I remember cringing inside my poncho to shield myself from the frozen surroundings. It was a good 1-kilometer walk on the snow with a gradual descent to Bhagwabasa campsite.
Camping at Bhagwabasa
Bhagwabasa camp hasd two huts, and a single kitchen tent, which completely stood on snow. We had to clear off the snow on our shoes every time we entered the huts. Once our bodies cooled down after the walk, we realized how cold it actually was outside. Whenever the door was opened, it would bring in chilly winds sending shivers down our spines.
The snowfall ended by lunchtime, and the sun shone bright in the sky once again. This was a nice opportunity to get acclimatized to the weather, as it would be nearly impossible once the sun went down. Everyone went outside, and got busy taking photographs, building snowmen etc.
We were shown the ridges that we were supposed to cross the following day in order to reach Roopkund. I had come all the way till Bhagwabasa; I had to reach Roopkund at all costs now. That’s what was running in my head as I studied the route over the mountain ridges.
Unfortunately one of my fellow trekkers had injured her knee and had to stay back at Bugwabasa. She would join us again on our way back. I had saved my energy for the following day – I knew it was going to be a long one, and would drain me out completely. The trek leader announced that he expected the team to start off for the summit by 5 A.M. in a single file. Everyone had an early dinner and retired to their sleeping bags.
Evening View From Bahgwabasa (Photo Credits: Shakti)
17th October 2012 (Day 5)| To the ‘Skeleton lake’ and back…

Climb to Roopkund
We were woken up at 4 A.M. in the morning, by the familiar call – “Indiahikes! Come and have your tea!” I got out of my sleeping bag and opened the hut door, and froze – the wind felt like a surgeon’s cold blade on my face. The temperature that night, I came to know had gone as low as -10 ºC! The experience of freshening up, and getting ready for the trek that day was a unique experience, and I am sure every trekker will agree with me on this. Hot tea and daliya (Indian for porridge) were served at breakfast.
We started out by about 5:30 A.M. owing to some delays in packing up and getting ready. It was still dark, and everyone was wearing several layers of clothing to survive the gelid weather conditions. The team leader announced that the temperature was about -4ºC.
The early morning walk presented us with some of the most spectacular sights of the Greater Himalayan Mountain Ranges far off at the horizon. The rising sun created a gradual red-to-orange-to-yellow texture across the sky which reflected off the snow capped mountains making them appear as huge chunks of gold in the diffuse dawn lighting. I looked at a fellow trekker and exclaimed, “ Calendar! Calendar!!” I couldn't  say more, I am not sure if it was because I was out if breath in the thin mountain air, or out of the sheer exhilaration at the picturesque scenery I beheld. I actually meant that these were the scenes, one usually finds on expensive fancy calendars. The grin on his face told me he understood what I meant!
This can go into a calendar! (Photo Credits: Shakti)

The group moved in a single file following the steps that were being cut in the snow by our guide. From time to time we’d come across particularly slippery or rocky regions where we had to proceed one-by-one cautiously, for a slip or fall could be fatal.
I could write pages and pages describing the trek on this day- it is all imprinted so vividly in my mind. Right from the small red flowers which were the only kind of vegetation on the frozen hill sides to the unique experience of walking on 10 inch deep snow and spotting pug-marks of some strange animal on the snow, it is something to experience, by actually being there. So, I’ll leave a lot of other details for you to imagine and cherish.
As we neared Roopkund, the climb became really steep. The final 10-minute stretch had an inclination of almost 60º-70º. Finally, a small red flag marking the finish line came into sight. I was totally drained out, the flag seemed to fill me up with some wild energy, and I broke into an erratic sprint on the snow towards the flag. We had finally made it!
The Lake That Wasn’t Spotted
The euphoria of finally reaching Roopkund lasted for a few minutes, after which I started observing the surroundings. We got a close up view of Mount Trishul, but we could not get a complete view. For that, one needs to go to Junargali, which is about 500 feet higher. Since it was already 9.30 A.M. the expedition to Junargali was cancelled (for going there one has to start off by 8.30 A.M. otherwise the snow melts making the walk very difficult).
On one side was a small Bholenath temple, where we all assembled for a group photograph. Farther along was the place where lake Roopkund was supposedly situated, now lying completely frozen and covered up in snow. There were bones and skulls lying here and there, quite as described by Dhani-ji while he explained us the legend of Roopkund. 
Bones spotted at Roopkund (Photo Credits: Rahul Negi)

We stayed at the spot for about half an hour. We had some alu parathas, that were arranged roamed around and took photographs and then got ready for our descent back to Bhagwabasa.
Descent To Bhagwabasa
We knew that the walk for the day was far from being over. The sun was bright in the sky but we still felt cold. There was an acute glare from the snow, and we were forced to put on our sunglasses all the time. The return journey was considerably difficult. Even though it did not drive me out of breath, the slippery snow reduced my rate of progress. By this time, the snow had gradually started to melt and the water formed a glistening sheen covering the surface. We walked back along the same path we came by and finally reached Bhagwabasa camp by about 1:30 P.M. in the afternoon.
But this afternoon was not like the other afternoons. Instead of having the usual leisurely setting that we had every afternoon at reaching the camp every afternoon, I noticed hustle and bustle, with people packing up stuff, quickly gobbling up lunch filling their bottles etc. Got reminded of Robert Frost’s famous line – Miles to go, before I sleep”. Though I was tired, I knew the gravity of the situation, if we did not start early, we would not be able to make it to Bedni Bugyal camp by sunset, then we’d have a lot of difficulty handling the team after dark. So, I crammed my stuff in my bag, and reported to the leader in a jiffy.
A Walk to Remember
The title may be a little over-dramatic (Nicholas Sparks might scowl at the parlance) but to me, it certainly was a memorable hike over 9 long kilometers back to Bedni. We started off from Bhagwabasa by around 2 P.M. in the afternoon towards Kalu Vinayak. It was a gradual ascent about a kilometer long. The snow was melting, but since the climb was not too steep, the walk was relatively easy. At Kalu Vinayak, we stopped for about 5 minutes to rest. I remember the splendid view of the hues of the sky at the horizon that blended together to produce a vivid yellowish red gloss. Sardar-ji our guide blew the conch again and we proceeded with the descent. The snow line had ended at Kalu Vinayak and now we were back on the rocky mountainsides. But I noticed that there were patches of ice along the path this time. Apparently there was a lot of precipitation in the last 2 days. Not that I enjoyed it a lot though. The ice mixed with the mule dung and took a brownish paste like consistency. Not at all in good taste (hold! I did not say, “not good in taste” I said “not in good taste”!) . 
The next halt was supposed to be Patra Nachauni. But it seemed to take forever to reach. I walked and walked and walked. I’d look around the surrounding mountains to try and catch a glimpse of the two green huts but got none. It was nearly 4.30 P.M. when it finally appeared, and I went inside, and sat down to rest. My toes were throbbing mildly with pain. When you move downwards, the toes take on all the body weight, and it almost becomes like a patience and endurance test if you keep walking long.
After resting for about 5 minutes we resumed the walk to Ghoda Lutani. As we were walking I noticed a huge cloud hovering towards our trail. It would severely hamper the visibility if it came into our path. So I began to walk faster hoping to reach Ghoda Lutani before the cloud would plunge us into darkness. Alas! Ghoda Lutani simply seemed to evade us! We knew that it was located at a curve where hillside took to a sharp convexity. I’d put in all my energy to reach the edge hoping to that’s where Ghoda Lutani is, just to find that the trail extended in the same fashion over to the next curve. It was so frustrating, that I actually wondered how I covered all this distance the last time, because even if I did, I did not remember being so impatient.
The clouds had covered the trail now, and we could hardly see 20 – 30 feet ahead of us. It was almost like living in a grey world.
We reached Ghoda Lutani by about 6 P.M. It was already quite dark by then. People had drawn out their torches. Due to the fog, we had lost track of where everyone was. I was with 5 of my teammates and the rest of them who were close behind us were nowhere to be seen. We waited for them for about 10 minutes, when we finally heard their voices and joined up with them. The remaining trek to Bedni was done using torches, for it had gotten very dark.
It was a unique experience, trekking in the darkness. We all walked in a single file, passing verbal warnings of the hurdles in the path to the people behind. Sounded something like “patthar hai”, “nala hai” etc.
We reached Bedni by about 7:30 P.M. in the evening. It was a long day, with over 12 hours on foot. We had descended about 4000 feet in a single day, but it still felt cold at Bedni. The temperature was about 3-4ºC. no one had the energy or inclination to stay up and talk – we all were pretty much burned out for the day. We had dinner, talked to the team leader to start the next day’s trek a little late and retired to our sleeping bags by 9 P.M.
18th October 2012 (Day 6)|back to so called “civilization”
Snakes and Ladders
The next day, we woke up leisurely, had our breakfast and set off by about 8:30 P.M. The weather was very pleasant. The destination for this day was Wan. The route was a single rocky trail that took us down the hillsides. If you’re wondering what the title for this section means, I am coming to it. All along the way, we had opportunities of taking numerous short cuts while walking down hill. I remember telling a fellow trekker “This feels like snakes and ladders!” May be the only difference is that there were no snakes and the trail seemed to be moving down rather than moving up. Whatever.
Taking Shortcuts. (Picture credits: Shakti)

On the way, we stopped at a point where there were hundreds of sheep. The shepherd was kind enough to let us take photographs with the cute lambs. Well… there I am!
There were hundreds of these. Literally. (Picture Credits: NC Krishna)

Anecdotes From the Walk to Wan
Neel Ganga, once again. (Picture Credits: Shakti)
By the afternoon, we reached Neel Ganga, which was the lowest point for trek on this day. Everyone took photographs and enjoyed the riverside for a while before proceeding along the trail again, which took to a steep course of ascent. It was about a one and a half kilometers but I guess we were habituated to steep slopes and so I just kept walking, till we arrived at a ridge called Rann ki Dhar. Over a distance, I spotted Mount Trishul, which was so close when we were at Roopkund. We had come a long, long way. The trek leader told me that this is the last time one can spot Mt. Trishul during the trek.
We continued our walk to Wan, which had the highest point in the locality that had motor connectivity. As we walked, we noticed a variety of interesting Himalayan vegetation including Buras Flowers, a variety of wild berries, fruits and strange looking flowers. There were also some primitive looking Cyprus trees that had a huge trunk. So thick that it would require about a 6 people holding hands to surround the base of the tree. I got to know that these trees were centuries old. Watch it to believe!
I am reminded of another curious incident.  While walking, there was a herd of cattle lead by a lady form the village that we passed by. The cattle all moved in a single file obediently. Suddenly one of the oxen in the group seemed to go nuts. I have my own reasons to believe that this was because some one in our group was wearing bright red track pants. The next 5 minutes were thrilling and gave me goose bumps.
What happened was, that the poor lady charged the ox with a stick to control it. The maddened ox stomped it hooves impatiently on the ground and raced towards us in top speed. To an imaginative eye like mine, the surroundings suddenly appeared to change to the streets of Madrid, where many a bullfighter either shot to fame or obscurity due to encounters with maddened bulls. I lunged myself to dodge the ox as it bolted past leaving a cloud of dust. Whoa! What an adventure! Sorry, no photographs!
We now walked farther down the road and reached a set of cement steps – a sign of re-entering the so-called Civilized World. Two TATA SUMO vehicles were waiting for us at the road. We noticed Marijuana growing openly all around in this area and exchanged grins.
Back to Base Camp
The ride from Wan to Lohajung was very bumpy. We crossed streams of flowing water, mitigated sharp curves and reached Culling, the village we had walked through on the first day of the trek. Form there we could see Didina, Ali Top one prong of Mount Trishul and Nanda Ghunti. It was all coming to an end.
In retrospect, I feel that the trekking expedition at the Himalayas is somewhat a humbling experience. The trek brings out nature’s vibrancy and beauty in a different dimension all together. What we miss out in our daily hustle and bustle at homes is probably priceless and can never be created or purchased, whatever be the amount of progress in technology or economy. I realized that with all my education, and qualification, I was may be a little more than an illiterate in those mountain trails. The knowledge of the local guides and the people living there and their intuitions about the weather and other things were as accurate as precise scientific judgments.
What kind of textbooks have they studied? None! I guess that’s nature’s own way of teaching her sons to sustain in this beautiful creation.
I shall sign off here with a bow to Bholenath ji (lord Shiva), for letting me and my teammates finish the trek successfully without any hassles and a note of congratulations to all my companions for making it to the top.


  1. hey..great work mia...aaiseich samjhdaari ke kaama karne ka...

    suprb details...once again i can feel the trek..superb

    but i have a complaint u didnt talk abt "BINOCULAR"..thts bad ;)

    1. Haha... I guess every one on the trek talked enough about it, so mentioning here would be too cliche, I thought ;) Hyderbadi baatan miss karru re.. trek me bohut maza aya merku.. :)

  2. technobot.... singer.... writer.... what else did i miss?

    awesome btw... i'll treasure this...

    1. Thank you utpal ji. I wrote it hoping that it would be useful to people who have already been to the trek, those who are planning to go, and even those who don't even know about treks! :)

  3. Nice puneet , Good writing , I felt the trek again .......

  4. Nice Blog post, Thanks for sharing good information !

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