Monthly Archives: March 2016

Roopkund Chronicles Day – 1 Loharjung to Didna

 

Nanda Ghunti glistens [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Day 1: September 28

Now, if you were to ask me just which were the most memorable moments of the whole Roopkund trek, I wouldn’t have to think too hard. Crawling out of the rajai on the first morning and staggering out on to the balcony in the morning chill to see the sun climb over the Nanda Ghunti peak is, chronologically, the first.

The second, obviously, has to be just after the last step up to the Roopkund lake and the first glimpse of the expanse of snow flecked by a tiny speck of water in the middle…dotted further by the clumsily trodding trekkers around it and, certainly not the least arresting, the sight of the bones propped up inelegantly here and there.

Finally, it would have to be the sight of the unsightly jeep that stood waiting for us as we completed the Roopkund trek and sauntered onto Wan village’s sparsely populated main market – signaling the end of the mission.

The team [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Repacked and breakfasted, everyone trooped out animatedly, on to the common area. The TTH poster on the balcony confirmed we were at a height of 7575 ft (2300 m). We stood in groups chatting, our backpacks sent away for loading on the ponies. Yes, we were part of the sub-group that opted to walk with only our day packs. There were moments in the trek when we, unconsciously, let it rankle us but I can assure you the occasions were few and far between as we negotiated steep ascents, thin air and tired limbs.

Soon, there was a staff member who thrust some chocolates, biscuits and bananas into each hand – fuel for the walk ahead. Finally, the time came when the trek leader, Raj Shahi, a handsome, affable and supremely fit Nepali mountaineer, sounded the whistle and, in a jiffy, had everyone’s attention.

After a show of raised arms and cries in solidarity and resolve, the group took to the path that marked the start of the Roopkund trek. It was 8.45 am. With our day packs on our back and the trekking poles pecking holes on the path, we were now on our way.

Starting point [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

 Our lungs were full and our limbs strong and we walked in twos and threes and some in larger sets and some still solo. Some were chattering away, some cracking the one off remark and some still in total silence.

From the village we started by descending down a mountain track. There were loose rocks and small streams flowing across the trail. We got our first lessons on how to climb down a slippery trail. Stay completely focused on where you place your feet. Instead of pointing your feet straight downwards, point your feet sideways and edge down slowly. Lengthen your poles, if you are carrying hiking poles.

[Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

The down hill path [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

We descended in a file, first with just a few steps separating each of us. In time, that was to yawn further and as we walked the trek, there were some way in front, most others filling the middle and a few that brought up the rear.

Countryside [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Trekking through the countryside [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Our three guides, including the trek leader Raj Shahi, spread themselves too – Pushkar, a cheery 40 something, stockily built Uttaranchali, was in charge of the front, Raj Bhaiyya with the larger lot in the middle and Amar, a young, lean local shepherding the tail.

The high of a trek had just begun and was working like a shot of energy drink and we did not quite require many a pit stop. We passed a stone bridge on the way, took a few snaps.

Stone bridge on the way [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Stone bridge on the way [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

It was a sunny day, and the heat was already taking a toll when we did stop for our first break at 10 am. Off came a few layers. We had taken this break at a clearing as much to rest as to take a few burst of snaps. Around us were the tall mountains that were only going to get taller as we pressed on in the next few days.

[Courtsey Ani & Sabari]

Our first official pit stop [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

An hour’s walk and we heard the gush of water. It was the Bedni Ganga. We hop scotched across a few rocks on the river bed to get to the other side.

Crossing Bedni Ganga [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Crossing Bedni Ganga [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Later we paused at the Raun Bagad bridge for a few snaps. We could also see a high water fall nearby.

Raun Bagad Bridge

Raun Bagad Bridge

From there on, things became more business-like and metamorphosed from a hike mode onto a trek. After crossing the bridge,  it’s a steep never ending uphill climb to Didna. This is physically one of the most challenging stretches in this route. The grueling trek up continued for another 1.5 kms.

Panting and puffing

Panting and puffing

At the end we had walked into the surroundings of our first night’s halt – Didna village. As we walked up the concrete pavement that led to the village, we found out that there were not too many people and houses around, but we spotted a shop selling basic stuff and a camp of another trek company.

Walking into Didna

Walking into Didna

Further up, a few hundred metres away, we trudged up to see a welcome sign, of our camp. It was 12.45 pm, exactly 4 hours after we had left our base camp. And we were @ 8530 ft/2600 m above sea level

Team at Didna [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

Team at Didna [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

The early arrivals were already catching their breath and the views around, chatting up and taking snaps.

Our camp @ Didna

Our camp @ Didna [Courtesy Ani & Sabari]

 Our camp was a typical Utharanchali stone building with two short storeys that had dormitory style accommodation waiting to be occupied.

And here comes our luggage

And here comes our luggage

We caught a bed each and rushed out to the lunch laid out on the table outside. Soon, the others too had trooped in and the whole team of 27 had reached ‘home’.

Beautiful Didna village

We spent the evening sauntering about, taking in the views of the hills around, walking around the village which had a dozen thatched houses and vast expanses of ‘Ramdana’ (a local crop) fields. The red sprawling Ramdana fields looked quite pretty from a distance. We also chatted up with Raj Bhaiyya about his exploits in the Himalayas, and, of course, the rest of the Roopkund trek.

In and around Didna

In and around Didna; Ramdana fields

Dinner was a happy affair – as much for its being a wholesome treat as also because we were happily hungry. Crawling into our cosy quilts, we could hear voices high and low, cracking jokes, talking of the experiences of the day and about what awaited us on the morrow. The best part about finishing the first day of any trek is the warm glow of having taken the initial step but also the delectable angst of what lay ahead. Go to Day 2

Day 1 in a nutshell

  • Day 1: Loharjang to Didna village
  • Distance: Around 6.5 kms
  • Altitude: Not much gain. 7575 ft to 8530 ft [2300 m to 2600 m]
  • Terrain: Downhill trek from Loharjung till Bedni Ganga for the first three hours. Steep uphill trek from Bedni Ganga to Didna for the last one hour.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Time taken: Around 4 hours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Roopkund Chronicles – Day 0 Kathgodam to Loharjung

Most high altitude treks start with trepidation more than preparation, budgeting, finding the right operator and, no less, getting the right group of co-trekkers. Ours too was no different. The question we asked ourselves was not long and was a hard hitting two words? Could we?

But such is the lure of a trek like Roopkund that the answer is usually a conclusive Yes. And then the flurry of activity begins. We tossed a well-researched coin in and decided to go with Trek the Himalayas, a Delhi based adventure and outdoor company.

For three full months, the treadmill, the stairs, the open road and a lean diet was what we thought we should be doing. Which, of course, we did not always! But come midnight of 26th September, 2014, as we waited in the dirty, dingy platform of Old Delhi railway station for the Ranikhet Express, we were a much fitter pack than we were when we drooled over the snaps of Roopkund we saw on the internet months back.

Day 0: September 27

I have always loved the first step I take at Kathgodam station. It was less about love for the place, per se, as it was about the excitement of hitting the gateway to the magnificent Kumaon Himalayas. The drive further, wherever it led to, was always the stuff that sublime holidays stand for. And this one, we knew, would be another one of those!

Finding our Sumos was easy – they came tagged.

The 222 km drive up to Loharjung, our base camp, was gradually ensconcing the traveller into a world of mountains and high altitude. As our vehicles sped past the still waters of Bhimtal and the sleeping town of Bhowali, the day was still filtering through the thick blanketed early morning mist.

A heavy breakfast, bouts of vomiting and doses of Avomine later, our road worn Sumos passed the small hilly towns of Someshwar, Kausani, Baijnath, Gwaldham, and Dewal before swinging into the little base town of Loharjung.

At this stage, we felt light and our backpacks lighter. As we stood on the terrace of the Patwal Tourist Lodge & Holiday Home, TTH’s Loharjung Base Camp, there were stars in our eyes and a few in the dark but clear skies above us. Before us, the snow clad peaks of Nanda Ghunti glistened like a large and friendly apparition, beckoning us. We had dumped our bags inside the small rooms and an extra layer of woolens were as comforting as the dinner spread the TTH team had laid out for us.

But first, the rites of passage. The larger group of 26 had all regrouped on the verandah and stood chattering and rubbing our hands, more from the chill than just glee. And then the TTH team manager welcomed us and got each of us to introduce ourselves, talk a little about the previous treks we had done, if any, and then laid out the ground rules for the trek. Dinner over, we wriggled into our rajais and made peace with our new environment and the next week’s plans were as much a part of that night’s dreams as were the glimpses of the day’s journey till the base camp.

Tomorrow, the trek begins. Up there, where the earth and the sky meet lies Roopkund – amidst snow and scattered pieces of skeletons. Who knows what happened yesterday but today – tonight – we knew we would sleep tight…and tomorrow would be the beginning of an adventure…a great one! Go to Day 1


Roopkund Chronicles – Prologue

Amidst the blinding white lay a clump of bones, propped up more inelegantly than it ever had been inside of a human frame, ages ago. Just how it came to pass that it still lay there in fresh snow in front of a troop of panting but relieved trekkers who braved the cold, the distance, the altitude and the reputation of a mysterious lake to stand and stare at it, is the stuff that great adventure trips are made of.

And that is what Roopkund is all about. Months of preparation and expectation, the bone chilling weather, the difficult mountain, the 4800 m (16000 ft) summit, the 53 km trek over 6 days, the wonderful company (of course!) and something that no other trek can promise – the unsolved mystery of untold deaths and the hundreds of human skeletons that adorn the rims and bottom of a hidden lake in the high Himalayas.

Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing our Roopkund Chronicles. Stay tuned for our moments of exultation, our lapses of consciousness, blissful mindfulness, fights with breathlessness, and being one with the precious stillness. The trek to the mystery lake begins here…..

For day wise stories click on the links below

Day 0: Kathgodam to Loharjung

Day 1: Loharjung to Didna

Day 2: Didna to Ali Bugyal

Day 3: Ali Bugyal to Pathar Nachauni

Day 4: Pathar Nachauni to Bhagwabasa

Day 5: Bhagwabasa to Roopkund to Pathar Nachauni

Day 6: Pathar Nachauni to Loharjung

 

 

 

 


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