In search of the Mystery Lake- Rookund
“We never climb the same mountain twice!” After my last trek to the Kuari Pass in Uttrakhand, I decided to take on Roopkund this year. The lake has many mysteries drowned in it along with its hundreds of skeletons. Since there are no clear explanations to why these people ended up dying in Roopkund, there are many theories (or shall we say mysteries) circulating around the subject.
Reason for selecting Roopkund– Mmmm.. once again my carving for Snow and its altitude of 15,700 ft. I was pretty much sure that trekking in early part of the season, will be the most challenging stuff and decided to take it. To me trekking was not just clicking selfies for FB and insta..To me it’s self realization of how insignificant we are in the grandeur of Nature; it’s a self realization of one’s capabilities and a test of one’s endurance in the wilderness.
From being a What’s up guru ji to my trek mates whom I was yet to meet, I was pretty pumped up for the trek.
I ended up in Kathgodam, the night before the start of the journey. Madurai Muthu or shall we call him Mumbai Muthu, young IIM grad working in Mumbai was kind enough to share the accommodation. As per the regular itinerary next day we assembled at Kathgodam station to catch up with 3 more trek mates. In contrast to my last trek, this year many southerners were part of the trek, so it was easy breaking ice with everyone very early. The road to Lohajung through Kausani was beautiful with lush green trees, tea estates and water streams The adventure for two of our mates started early, since they had motion sickness in mountains and every twist and turn in the 12 hr long road journey tested their stomach. We reached Lohajung by sunset and Mt. NandaGhunti welcomed us with her evening charm to our guesthouse. By 7 in the evening all the participants have arrived at the guest house and we were served with smoking pakoras and hot chai. After our formal introductions our trek leader Mahindra Singh ( A.k.a. Mahi, MSD, Sardar) briefed us about the dos and don’ts of the trek before dinner.
Day 1: The Forest Trail
The trek train flagged off post breakfast with everyone pumped up in enthusiasm. Our three local guides
Amar Singh, Ghabar Singh and Buddu Singh showed up with bright faces. The trek was through thick forest with water streams cutting our paths regularly and steel bridges across them. This was the last time in the trek, when I was aware of the date and day (it was 14th May 2018,a Monday) and eventually lost track of time and date in course of the trek. As the day progressed everyone in the batch came to know about each other better. At almost half way to the first day, everyone was bewildered by the thought “Are we really climbing?” It’s because most part of the day we were descending in the forest to reach the Neel Ganga. After an ecstatic walk in the jungle among the
Rhododendron bloom with bright red flowers, we reached Didna; a beautiful little village in the lap of the Himalayas, coming to life in the summers when the season begins. On reaching, we were served with drink made of flower extract of Buransh (local name of Rhododendron).
We spent our evening exploring the village, meeting the farmers and regular acclimatization walk. Post sunset we were chatting politics, movies, global warming, fake moon landing, Einstein and what not in a lush green meadow near our homestay. That night was the last night which we slept in a comfy bed inside a brick walled structure.
Day 2: Maggi Points
Day 2 kicked off after a tasty breakfast. Oh wait! Food reminds me a person. Did if forget to mention the
name Sudhakar-the bro; a software techie from Banglore in his mid thirties. To put it simple he was the cement mortar of the batch that bonded everyone with his witty words and sporty attitude.
To everyone’s relief, we were only ascending through the forest. It was a long 11kms trek to reach our next campsite (infact our first campsite) Ali Bugyal. So we had our lunch packed from Didna. The terrain was mixed with tall coniferous trees and Rhododendron to vast green meadows.
We had our lunch in an open meadow alongside grazing horses. To my surprise, there are small shops (called Maggi points) that serve tea, snacks, eggs and Maggi to the hungry trekkers. We reached Ali Bugyal around 4.30pm. After our tea and snacks we had to go for our acclimatization cum water refilling walk, since water source is not available at camp site. The camp site was so blissful with herds of sheep and horses grazing around in the alpine meadows.
We spent the rest of the evening playing Antakshri with songs from Tamil, Kannada and Hindi and with “Why this Kolaveri di” being the show stopper.
Day 3: Rattling the tents
To be honest the entire 7kms trek to our next campsite has vanished from my brain, call it selective amnesia! This selective amnesia is primarily attributed to the hostile winds at the Patar Nachuni campsite at an altitude of about 13000ft.
From the meager memory I could recollect we crossed vast alpine Meadows with waves of ups and downs and Mt.Trisul visible at a far distance. Our tea time was struck with hailstorm for a good 20 minutes making the campsite muddy and slippery.
The hailstorm was followed by heavy winds rattling the tents like a devil. I guess no one slept sound owing to the severe rattling of wind and rain in the night.
Only good news we got on this day was that a batch of trekkers from Chennai have made it to the Roopkund! The first ever for the season. The previous batches could not make it to the summit because of the hostile weather. So we were more excited since the chances of making to Roopkund are brighter now.
Day 4: The Sangh Nath
“The clouds are passing through the snow cladded peaks..wait I am among clouds now, they are passing though me! Am I dreaming?” and I called out “Sudhakar, come out of the tent and watch this!!” The early morning scene was a total contradiction to last evening’s show; calm, pleasant and mesmerizing.
We started off our trek a little late, cause its only a 4kms climb for the day. We climbed though the rocky trail and during our climb we met trekkers coming down and cursorily enquired “How is the weather up there? Did you guys make it to the summit?” To our disbelief the answer was “No” from the trekkers descending.
Yet we hoped, the weather will clear out when we reach the summit base camp and possibly we will make it to the summit. After ascending for 2 hours straight, we could hear from a distance, loud and clear-“The Sangh Nath”
Amar Bhai upraised us that there is temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh on our today’s trail at altitude of 14,300 ft and that is where the sangh nath is coming from. The sound uplifted our spirits, and we raced our way to Kalu Vinayak temple; where Lord Ganesha abodes in solidarity with multiple Trisuls decorating his shrine. All of us gave a go to blow the sangh and none succeeded other than our Sathish sir(aka CM, Lawyer from Mumbai in his mid fifties). Everyone was astonished by his ability to blow the sangh, while we youngster went out of breath to blow it.CM was our Rockstar from day 1, with his never retiring enthusiasm.
The scenery have changed completly from what we have witnessed in the past 4 days. Its white, its mesmerizing, its snow from thereon. With gaiter on, we walked through the soft snow. I enjoyed every step of mine in the snow, playing and writing names on the snow. But I guess Vinisha, our Dentist in the batch enjoyed the most. She went one step ahead and started sliding(some people call it slipping and falling, but I don’t :-D) every now and then in the one hour long walk in the snow.
Can it get any better Oh Bhagwabasa ( I had to Google to get the spelling right). Camps pitched at such serene location, with water streams from the melting snow flowing between the tents and snow in the background. After lunch a bunch of our guys started exploring the place around and we walked few hundred meters in to the trail that we were about to take the next day to reach our ultimate destination. We could visibly see the fading trail in the snow leading to the lake.
We were more surprised when we spotted a rodent feeding on the grasses and moving elegantly between the rocks at almost 15000ft! Nature is truly fascinating!
The evening ended with introduction to our harness kit and spike aid to walk in snow and very strict instruction from the “Technical members” who decides whether we could make it or not. We withdrew in to our tents after an early dinner, to wake up at 2.30am the next morning The summit day!
Almost by 7.30pm, the snow fall started! This is the first time in my life I am witnessing snow fall. For the next couple of hours it snowed gently and steadily with occasional lightning. We were alerted by our crew not to sleep until the snow fall ceases and kept on clearing the accumulating snow on the tents. With this snow fall, our hopes of making to the summit has crumbled.
Day-5: The Fun day!
Its 2.30am! Guess what are you hearing outside the tents! “Guys come on.. WAKE UP! Its time.. Amaaar
Bhaaai.. Where are you??” It’s none other than our Sudhakar! To his disappointment, none came out. The game was over! The trail closed due to last night snow fall. The entire campsite is also covered with snow.
It’s official now, we could not make it to the summit! The snow crippled us from making it to the summit.. but it’s fresh snowww!! From playing an all out snow war to sliding in a slope, from dancing “Shiela ki jawani” in Hindi to “Otha solala”in Tamil, it was a whole different experience at 14300 ft!
Our fun came to an end(or we thought so!) when we were summoned for lunch at 11am! Post lunch, we posed for our customary group photo with the summit banner and started our descent while our hearts
ached to stay back and attempt the summit the next day. Since the next batch of trekkers were already on their way to Bhagwabasa we have no option but to descent.
As we started to walk through snow towards Kalu Vinayak temple, the magic happened. A very gentle snow fall started; it appeared as if we are walking inside the glass chamber of the ballet dance doll. Relinquishing to the serenity, I walked down with my heart feeling as light as the snow flake itself!
Down at Patar Nachuni, we were welcomed with hot chai and finger chips! Also as promised we were served Momos during our soup time. In the gap between our tea and soup- we took on the internet sensation “Jimmiki Kamal” to the dance floor. All the credits goes to our master Pavan(the S8 Pavan), a professional dancer come techie from Shimoga.
Day-6: When the going gets tough!
It’s the longest day in our entire trek, the never ending steep descent through the thick forest has put our knees to test. All the soreness vanished when we reached Neel Ganga once again in our trip. Our lunch was served hot in a small stall alongside the river; how often do we get to eat with your bare foots immersed in flowing ice-cold water, in a lush green surrounding.
To me, the trip ended at Neel Ganga. The next few kilometers, I was not really consious to my suurondings, instead rewinding all beautiful memories Mountains have offered me in the past 5 days!
People of the Mountains:
To begin with our trek Leader Mahindra Singh; a young energetic lad, who was very patient with us and
supportive throughout. Inspite of falling sick on the fourth day, he still continued with us! He was not a commanding leader, but a friendly commoner among us.
Amar bhai, Ghabar bhai and Buddu bhai the three local guides formed the pillar for the entire journey. Friendly, funny, courteous and actually sweet. Even we taught Ghabar bhai to impress tamil girl with the phrase “Vinnai Thandia Varuvayaa”
Pawaan Singh-the farmer we met along with his daughter reaping crops at Didna village. They are cultivating at such high altitude and with great difficulty to feed us-the trekkers! The entire crew from our cooks, camp managers, and local supporting staffs, I feel thankful for all of them for making these 6 days of my life into a “Memory of a Life time!”
The journey didn’t end here, hope I will make it to Roopkund someday!