THE ROOPKUND LAKE TREK
Life till now has shown its various faces..ups and downs…love hatred…family…friends..but offlate i have come across a desparate desire to explore places i have never been.I should not particularly label it only as a desire..rather i have stepped into the stone and have actually felt the way it feels when u stand on top of the mountains..awefully inexplicable scenarios which can only be seen and u can only grasp a glimpse of it to store it in the memory of your mind .The reason being beauty can never be captured even by a high defination camera..the desire and the hunger going on increasing and I am finding it really difficult to hold myself in this artificial world. I want to run and embrace the air that blows in the mountains.The throtling and bustling of trees…the gurgling river stream that flows by the mountain side..it tastes heavenly..anything and everything in the mountains has such a personalised touch…the people there are so natural..in their traditional dress they look so beautiful..the half spoken hilly languages that the kids spoke..everything seemed like refreshing.Even that the hilly stony roads were quite harsh on us..and climbing up and down the stony roads were quite a test but yet every thing seemed so lively .. that i forgot the pains that i had ..i loved the mountains so passionately and i wanted to go back to the himalayas.Only the eyes can behold the beauty it has come across..i love you himalaya…and promise to come back to your more and more.
Since childhood only I was always very much fascinated by the scenic beauties of nature. Till I was in college I didn’t even got the chance to step out of my place and experiences new things in life. Belonged to a very middle class family where the prime lesson we were taught is to study hard and establish yourself. I was no different …till the time I went to college..My first encounter with the Himalayas was when I was in college ….once I literally cried my heart out to convince my parents to go to Kurseong….the hills… my roommates place….thanx to her coz that was the time when I for the first time experienced a new me …the passionate side of me… the more I saw the giant hills the more I was engrossed into it…I came back but that wish that again oneday I will come back..remained somewhere within me…..years passed and I graduated and got into job but never did I forget that wish I once dreamt of…I wanted to go to the top…I wanted to go to places where no one has ever been…During my career I tried few small treks that excited me more and more until I took the largest leap I have even taken towards my untold desire…The Roopkund Trek at 16000 ft..
The RoopKund Lake
For months I used to surf and find out these places of untold mystry and unbelievable scenarios that will take your breath out…I used to see the places and tell my mom that once I will be clicking a pic in the same background…but my mother used to always in a way discourage me as I had breathing problems since my college…but this trekking thing…this climbing up the Himalayas..somewhat got into my head …I became so crazy for it that I used to dream of mountains..then finding a similar lot was people was not so tough for me as some of my friends shared a similar mindset…so we shopped and shopped all the trek materials..…and jogged..and exercised and did everthing we could to meet the trekking standard…until the D day came.
It was the 18th of May 2015 ,reached Kathgodam station in early morning 5am, where car was waiting for the entire batch to be taken to the basecamp at Loharjung . Kathgodam is in the foot of the Himalayas and I could see the mountain sleeping at a fair distance…was pretty excited to think about whats going to happen…waited for the next 1 hour and the entire team of 22 arrived.
People belonging to different part of the country of different age group were my group mate…I thought we were all different in each and every way except one..and ie the desire to climb high and experience something beyond thought…We started our journey to Loharjung that is roughly at 8000 ft height. We will halt there for that night and the next day early morning our hike will begin…Next 8 hours we were going round and round the spiral roads of the mountains and ultimately reached basecamp at around 7pm when it was totally dark.. Loharjung is a small village where we halted in a small house arranged for us..The weather was very nice…That night we met our trek leader and we were introduced to each of our team mates and then off to bed as from the next day we need to
work hard and high!!
Its 5 am…I could hear the voice of few outside my room…there voice seemed filled with excitement..but it was cold and I did not want to leave this very comfortable status of mine inside the blanket…waited few minutes but curiosity got over my luxury..I jumped out of my bed and went out side…The entire range of mountain so big was standing in front of us…I was totally awestruck…!!!Unbelievable stretch of Himalayan range was in front of me..the weather was misty and cold… Later Hurried up and freshened ourselves..then we had a series of demonstrations of the entire trek for the next five days….
The beginning of our journey….
Day 1 : Loharjung to Didna Village (6.5 Kms) The day started early with lots of energy and joy as we started walking through the lanes of Loharjung..As a daily to do the villagers were standing and watching us…as if we were the warriors going for a war….we started leaving the village and proceed towards the unknown trails…by the side of the mountains…We knew it will be a walk today of
6kms..until we reach Didna..It was about an hour, we were enjoying the walk when we came across a huge landslide.That was the only trail to get to the other side of the mountain but the trail has got completely destroyed by a massive landslide..and we will have to cross that . Our blood pumped with excitement..we had 3-4 guides to safe guard us..We watched as few experienced guys used their smart techniques to cross the slide. And then one by one we did cross it..there was an instant when I was crossing the land slide, I stepped on the unbalanced stones and pushing myself forward I placed another feet on the next stone..it was then that the stone I placed my feet onto just slipped down and I lost my balance and leaned forward to
avoid myself from falling .We had supporting teams mates who helped me and saved me.Then we crossed the entire landslide very cautiously one after another. But that 15mins was so breath taking and so thrilling that we wondered what would happen next.
Snap capturing my step slipping in the Landslide
Next the trails were of small descend and steep ascend…within an hour I was losing my breath and climbing with a bag back these steep ascends was making me run short on my breath but the desire to see whats next kept me moving. As the day proceed the bushy trails were quite tough and I was unable to move any further ,I was continuously sipping water and having toffies to boost myself with energy but the bag was really tough to carry. Ultimately it was around 4:00 pm that me and my friends reached Didna.We had a small cute hut waiting for us to rest..We were damn tired and hungry as well. Our body so tired and we had pains all over us. It was difficult to move and I wondered how will I walk the rest days.!! We gasped the rajma chawal served there and went to sleep.
Didna was the last village we had in our journey and the last home stay beyond this we would have all camp stay in all the halts..Our trek leader in the evening briefed us of the next day show and that our next hault will be at Ali Bugyal.
Forest trails on the way to Ali Bugyal
Day 2: Didna to Ali Bugyal (10.5 Kms ): The day started with a cheer and we begun our walk one by one. Today I was a bit more happy because I had managed to transfer my bagpack to a mule .My performance in the first day was not at all encouraging so after getting rid of by bag I was mentally charged to do much better. Today we were gonna experience the rare scenic faces of nature..the Ali Bugyal was considered to be the largest meadow in Asia…we climbed ascends and crossed forests covered with oak trees and rhodenderons and when the walk had almost turned monotonous that we reached the top of that mountain ….we could see how many ranges we had come across and next to us was a never ending up and down stretch of meadows..and then we know it was the Ali bugyal..
Ali Bugyal, the largest meadows in Asia
All our monotony and tiredness vanished as we saw what was infront of us…our pace increased and we enjoyed like never before… away from the harsh reality of life..here we had the reality that was so beautiful..I wondered…” who said life is tough , its just that we get entangled to a wrong place..only if we know where to get happiness and peace we have the key to live this life..!! I never felt so overwhelming ..as if I was unable to hold the beauty I was seeing with these two eyes ..Oh if I had some more credibility to hold this view for this life time and I wished I could have shown this to my mom and dad.
We walked 2 hours ….and it was never ending…you look front and look back both ways to have a long stretch of meadows and you wont be able to distinguish the two sides…ultimately we could see our camp at a fair distance and we were running to rest… ultimately came our Ali bugyal camp and we were like dead of hunger…
The night at Ali Bugyal was quite a terror for me as I had some unusual to experience. The evening we were all together when the local guides narrated us the significance of the names and the story behind the Roopkund lake..It was told that once Goddess Parvati visited Himalayas and she didn’t have her mirror with her so Lord Shiva digged deep in the Himalayas with his Trishul and thus the lake formed. The water in the lake was so clear that it was like a mirror to mother Parvati and she can see her beauty in the reflection of the water..so called the ROOPKUND Lake..It was chilly and we had hot soups to warm us in the evening. Every night we were being checked by our trek leader our blood pressure and our oxygen level in blood. We were beyond the normal height so physical fitness was checked every night .Night inside the sleeping bags was very very troublesome …I could not move..but the
temperature and everything was tolerable so had a sound sleep at night until I woke up by a sudden push by my side outside the tent. My eyes wide open, I was trying to understand what just happened and then there was a peculiar sound by my side…I realised some sort of animal was trying to graze ..it seemed like a mountain dog or a fox…I jumped on my tent mate and shouted…my shrill voice made the animal run away….she was so scared by my voice that for few seconds she was staring at me with awe…and then we had a good laugh. I thought of my days a week back… so monotonous and routine packed and that today I am sitting inside a tent on top of a mountain in some 12000 ft height having night mares of some deadly mountain animals instead of my boring work.
I laughed at the sudden change in the situation..it was oscilating between the things I had to do and the things I loved to do….and now that I was on top of the world fulfilling what I always wanted to do…
I jumped of the sleeping bag ..my friends were calling me to wake up and come out…the sun was gonna rise in minutes and this sight, no one would actually love to miss…It was very cold and we came out of our respective tents and were brushing our teeth in the dusk….within few minutes experienced the sun rise…the sun came slowly up from behind the mountains and we could actually see when the rays first hit the mountains and was slowly slowly covering the entire meadow…once in a life time view….
The Sunrise..at Ali Bugyal campsite
Day 3 : Ali Bugyal to Patar Nachuani (5kms) The trails from Ali Bugyal was really challenging as we slowly proceeded the zig zag route going steeply up the mountain…the ascend was so steep that it was difficult to walk at a stretch…me and my friends were finding out different ways to keep our selves going…One of my friend told me lets walk 50 steps at a stretch and then rest for a while…the idea was indeed very intriguing and we started matching out steps in the same rhythm..Our trek leader was a great man … with jumping steps he used to go ahead of us. As we were going small small patches of snow were seen…which signaled that we were moving close to snow…and now this time the trail was level so we were walking fast …the scenes was so breath taking…we clicked pics to capture the memories…Today the journey seemed much more easy and crisp..as we advanced in the lower range we could locate the blue tents…now the pain was much subtle…as we reached our camp we found a huge mountain range was
standing straight and intact in front of our camp…I was so overwhelmed to see the scene…Back in home when I used to stand in my terrace and look straight I used to imagine huge mountain range infront of me…it felt like a dream come true…Patar nachuni made me feel I am at home….Another reason I loved the place was after so many days we found a shop that was serving omlets and our favorite maggi….It was at a distance but at that point of time we could do any thing for an omlet and a plate of maggi…!!!!The climate was very good …cold breeze blowing…and the maggi tasted heavenly…That evening we had nice chat and we sang songs… relaxed in the grasses …every where the grasses had small yellow and purple flowers all over..that gave a puple and yellow tinge all over. As the evening came over temperature started falling and it started feeling chilly..chilled breeze blowing..we covered ourselves with every possible clothes we had…at night in the camp we had soups and rice and daal…
While we were excited about the venture, we saw a few new faces around us…upon enquiry we came to know that they were the previous batch who summitted….but to our dismay one of them narrated the experience they had and that most of them failed to summit as the weather in Bagwabasa was such that they did not dare to go up…It was negative temperature in there and they had heavy snow fall…most of them were very upset because they could not summit…The news was not very promising…our confidence was at stake…but there was no looking back…it was a do or die situation for the entire group…we decided to move on as there was no turning back now…We wanted to be called the Summitters….!!!
Day 4: Patar Nachuani to Bhagwabasa 4Kms : Four of us were always the last to reach the destination..so today our trek leader asked few of us to start the trek early by 10 mins…so that we catch up with the rest on the same note…I had severe cough and cold ..for once I was covering all my face with caps n scarf but it was again suffocating so I was again pulling it off…My trek leader…
noticed me and asked me to avoid breathing through mouth as it will tire me up more. Then suddenly he turned to the group and said once we reach the top of this mountain …it will be entirely snow claded …!! The excitement of seeing snow for the first time kept our feet rolling and ultimately to reached to the top. The view was rather enchanting…one side you see the stony beauty of the Himalayas and to the other side the snow covered range…At this highest point was the Kalua Vinayak temple…We reached 14000 ft and was about to begin a new chapter…where excitement was many but challenges were the most…
At last we reached Bhagwabasa….it was all over snow and snow…and all the blue tents were clamped in the snow…It was so so cold… my feet was wet and it felt numb…I took out my boots and jumped into my tent…it was 12 pm…and the sun was high…we were enjoying the warm rays of sun…I got into the sleeping bag and felt asleep…After few hours we were called to assemble…in the bigger tent..I was feeling so sleepy and was having slight headache….But trek leader has something important to discuss… unwillingly I had to wake up and by the time we reached I saw every one was provided additional accessories for the final day….the crampons and the gaiters.
The Bhagwabasa camp site
I was having headache and nauseatic feeling so bunked acclimatization and slept for the entire afternoon…I didn’t want to miss the sun rays because the nights were gonna be sleepless..In the evening we , the entire team exercised because tomorrow was the Ultimate day…Then as the sun set we started feeling the chilled cold …the cold was overpowering us…we put on all the sweaters and pullovers one after another but still the cold was succeeding in misleading us…At night the temperature fell to -5 degree and I put on all the dresses I had in my bag and left my bag to shiver..All the dresses along with the sleeping bag could not make me comfortable and I was shivering of cold..A deep tension was building within me…I know I should sleep as we will start for Roopkund at 3:30am midnight but this cold was too cruel on me..infact on us…
The Summit Day: Day 5: (Bhagwabasa to The Roopkund Lake)
The warriors were all set to start journey at 3:30 am.The temperature was as low as it could be but we were lucky on our part because there was no hailstorm to block our way. One team mate was not fit to summit as she was having signs of AMC(Acute mountain sickness)..at exactly 3:30 am the whistle blew and we were asked to assemble…The trek leader asked us to get divided among a group of 5 each. There were 5 trek guides including the leader. Trek Leader would lead the way followed by 5 trekkers then a guide and following him were a group of 5 trekkers and so on. We were strictly instructed that we are not supposed to go beyond the guides either ways. There was a mild tension creeping within us…we were all ready to start the journey with crampons ,gaiters and headlamps…this time its totally dark and the trails were very narrow and was of snow…one thing that was good was no carrying
of bagpacks..we just carried water , energy bars to rejuvenate our energy and the most essentially our camera..We started to climb the mountains to catch up the snowy trails..we were marching one after another keeping our feet steady in the snow. Walking in snow was not as easy as it looks..its not easy to balance in the snow and there’s a possibility to slip on the snow but the crampons was a boon in disguise..it helped us to lock our feet in the ground so that we have lesser change of losing balance.The trail were so acute than we had to be dead alert all our way..any carelessness was not affordable..We know we were very near to the kund and the trails were so steep that seemed we were climbing 60 degree from the ground..Lights slowly crawled in and soon we could atleast see…
The steep ascending
As we proceed my condition was getting worse…I was having trouble breathing but still kept moving step by step…as we suddenly attained more heights I started feeling dizzy by the incredible heights and may be because I was having trouble breathing. By this time I was feeling so uneasy that the few meters now felt like out of the galaxy..My vision blurring…I could not bear to stand any further..i thrusted myself in the snow…I was so tired..countinuously sipping my bottle ..for an instant I felt I would not reach the top..I whispered “ I cant do it “…my guide thought for an moment …and offered me to take back..my friends worried..because I was the one who always wanted to summit…and when I said I cant no one said a word..I was quiet…thought I could not give up..now..but
each step is getting heavier than the other one..I resolved in mind I still have the potential..one of my friend hailed ” Yes, you can do it..Get up…!!!” my resolve strengthened and at last I got up with my trekking pole..I had to summit and it’s the mind that always win s…!! I resolved not to quit..I caught hold one of my fellow mate and continued…at last we reached the top and we could see the Roopkund at a distance. It’s a bit far descend and the lake was situated in a crust on the mountains …I could not hold back my tears..I Summitted , We summitted…!! We were standing infront of the Roopkund Lake..!! One of the other reasons I was crying was my feet was wet and had frost bites and it was paining like hell..hahhaaa!! The satisfaction we felt may be cannot be explained by few words and it would be beyond the capacity of the dictionary to try depicting it…
Next few minutes we had some food and was enjoying the scenaries…We could see the world infront of us..It felt incredible…
The returning was more tough than the summit but we were so charged up by the sight that nothing really mattered now…all we wanted now was to rest ….it was around 8:30 am and sun rays have started melting the snow…we were hurriedly going back as its risky to walk on melting snow..
Promise to come back..!!
We returned from Roopkund and it took around 3 days for us to reach Loharjung , our initial starting point..It was time for us to return to where we belong ..but we didn’t want to go back ….each one of us wanted to stay a little longer…the love we cherished in our hearts was forever and sooner or later each one of us will come back !!
I would like to thank all those people who made this journey possible..my 3 friends ,all the team mates, our trek leaders andguides..all our fellow mates who clicked such incredible pictures that helped me potray my thought so eventfully in this article.