Tag Archives: Loharjung

Roopkund Chronicles – Day 6 Pathar Nachauni to Loharjung

Day 6: October 3

On May 12, 2005, high-altitude mountaineer Ed Viesturs reached the summit of Annapurna, the deadliest mountain in the world in terms of summit-to-kill ratio. In doing so, he became the first American and the sixth person ever to climb all 14 of the 8,000 m peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen.

Ed Viesturs [Photo Courtesy Pinterest, National Geographic]

Ed Viesturs [Photo Courtesy Pinterest, National Geographic]

He is famous for his conservative approach to climbing – he once turned around from a mere 300 feet from the summit of Mt. Everest!! He is also famous for a popular and inspirational mountain quote, “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory. A lot of people forget about that. “. He wrote this in his memoir – No Shortcuts to the Top.

This should be the philosophy that underlies all mountain treks. After all, it’s only if you get down safely that you get to go back another time.

Pathar Nachauni camp

Pathar Nachauni camp

We were to begin our long ‘mandatory’ journey back from Pathar Nachauni to the base camp, Loharjung, today.  For going up the 22 km from Loharjung to Pathar Nauchani we took around 17 hours, spread across four days. The return journey was to be completed in a single day. We were to walk for 16 km and we were bypassing Ali Bugyal and Didna village and taking a different route via Bedni Bugyal, Patal Ghaeroli and Wan. We would descend from 12700 ft to 8028 ft (3908 m to 2447 m) in a single day. Incidentally, our return route was also the alternate route from Wan village to Bedni Bugyal.

This was our last day on campground. These tents had been our homes for the past few days. Even though I had some trepidation about staying in a “tent”, I was wonderfully proven wrong.

Our march from Pathar Nachauni begins

Our march from Pathar Nachauni begins

We started from Pathar Nachauni at 08.30 am. The first couple of hours were easy. We were retracing the same steps we had taken a few days back. We passed through Ghoda Lautani and passed onto the other side of the mountain.

The journey back – somewhere between Pathar Nachauni and Ghoda Launtani

With the promise of a much easier day on the trail with plenty of downhill stretches as opposed to uphill slogs, we thought we’d just sing and walk – we were proved wrong in a couple of hours.

On our way we met a lot of people headed up to Roopkund. There were frequent exchanges of “congratulations” and “all the best” amongst us.  At around 10 am, we got our first glimpse of Bedni Kund.

First glimpse of Bedni Kund

We had to climb down a moderately steep path to reach Bedni valley. We remembered we had seen a few trekkers from another group climb that route on our way to Roopkund. And we thanked ourselves that we did not have to climb that way. Climbing down was not that difficult. We had stepped on to the green carpeted Bugyal lands and were leaving the snow behind us. We passed the colourful camps we had seen on our way up and reached the Kund. Near the Kund were a couple of stone temples.

Stone temple at Bedni

Stone temple at Bedni

By 10.45 am, we had left the grass lands of Bedni behind. From thereon, begins the steep descent to Neel Ganga. The path was paved with cut stone.

The descent from Bedni begins here

The descent from Bedni begins here

Raj Bhaaiyya asked us to lengthen our poles. Climbing down was harder than we thought as we had to concentrate more, and had to keep a constant vigil on where we placed our foot. Descending constantly is not easy; it takes every ounce of energy and breaks your knees down. I was already feeling a bit sore beneath my toes.

 

The forest was dark and once in a while the sunlight took a peak through the canopy. But walking within the silent woods gives one an enchanting feeling…. the dry leaves crumbling beneath your feet to indicate your beautiful journey across the forest trail.

Oak forests of  Ghaeroli Patal

By 11.20 am we reached the forest camp in Ghaeroli Patal and had our mid-meal. After a quick rest, we were moving again by 11.45 am.

FRH at Patal Ghaeroli

FRH at Ghaeroli Patal

It was a shortcut time for a few – they abandoned the stone trail and went on a sliding spree across the mud and roots.

And I guess the ‘short cutters’ gained a lot of distance as we could see them far away down in the valley.

Spot the trekkers

Spot the trekkers!

There were small openings in the forest, and as you climb down, you get a peek of the villages through these openings. By 12.45 we got our first glimpse of Wan village…though it looked quite far off.

By this time we could listen to the rushing waters of the Neel Ganga River. We reached the river by 1 pm and spent around 20 minutes resting and dipping our sore toes in the cold water.

At Neel Ganga

At Neel Ganga

From the Neel Ganga River, it took another 30 minutes to climb to a ridge above Wan village. From there began the long journey across Wan village to a place where a vehicle would be carrying us back to the Loharjung base camp, 15 km away.

Walking into Wan Village

Walking into Wan Village

The village of Wan, with its numerous chickens, fluffy dogs and beautiful children with cheeks worthy of biting into, looked like any other Uttaranchali village.

We found villagers going about their tasks; it was evening, so most of the women and men were returning home after their chores. Children hovered around greeting us with Namasthes and then asking for chocolates and pens. One smarty guy wanted my water bottle!

Kids at Wan vollage

Kids at Wan village

As we neared the road head, we met a couple of ladies. One of our team members struck a conversation with them and one turned out to be the ‘Pradhaan’ (chief) of 8 villages, Usha Devi. She offered us fresh produce, juicy cucumbers from her field and tea. A head strong lady, she talked a lot about her life in the village and how she had worked towards getting a road built to the village, stopped people cutting trees on the mountainside, travelled to Lucknow to get her voice heard and to Delhi to give a speech on environmental issues.

Smt Usha Devi (left)

Smt Usha Devi (on the left)

By 3.30 pm, we’d reached the road head and our jeeps were waiting for us. We reached our camp in Loharjung by 4 pm.

When I finally limped up the staircase of Patwal Lodge and flung my backpack onto a corner of the dormitory, the realization that I had actually completed the Roopkund trek dawned upon me. At once, I felt fully drained, yet totally alive.

There was a special dinner ordered for us and we were given our certificates of completion, besides being asked to speak about our experiences.

The next day our jeeps came early and we began our long journey back to Kathgodam and then Delhi and back to our respective homes.

The full team at Roopkund [Courtesy Shivam Singh]

The full team at Roopkund [Courtesy Shivam Singh]

For the next few days, I was wincing whenever I had to climb up or down a step, a deep tan had taken over my face and my hands, my lips were chapped, and I had blisters on all my toes. I had walked 53 km in 6 days over mud, rocks, ice, grass, snow and horse dung, at low oxygen levels, with bare minimum amenities, without taking a bath and yet when I closed my eyes, I felt a calmness and serenity within. At night (and sometimes during the day!), I often hallucinated that I was marooned in a deep sea of white clouds, looking out at endless vistas of mountains stretching as far as my eye could see.

Our guides (clockwise from L to R) Amar, Pushkar and Raj

Our guides (clockwise from L to R) Amar, Raj, and Pushkar

This journey would never have been completed without the help of the friendly support staff from TTH – be it our guides, kitchen staff, porters and even the mules. Last but not the least these adventures wouldn’t have been as fun as it had been without the awesome company we had!

Uma, Ammu, Nithin, Ani, Sabari, Sree  and us – let’s climb another mountain!!

 

Day 6 in a nutshell

  • Day 6: Pathar Nachauni to Loharjung
  • Distance:  16 km
  • Altitude: 12700 ft to 7575 ft
  • Terrain: Gradual descent from Pathar Nachauni till Bedni Bugyal. Steep to moderate descent from Bedni to Neel Ganga. From Neel Ganga to Wan gradual descent.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Time Taken: Around 7 hours

 

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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


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