Life had suddenly become very boring after college. After fighting the mental battle due to inflation, which delayed my joining Cognizant, I was so eager to go join and work for it.. Without giving a thought about myself, I got lost in the crowd. A routine life of going to office, working dedicatedly and come back home to sleep. Weekends saw me in the bar, with collegues discussing our boring life.. Then something hapened that changed it all.. I trekked beyond Roopkund.
Himalayas were not new to me having grown up playing in the foothills of it in a small town of Jaigaon, in Bhutan border. Going up this high was new, that too on a multiday trek into remoteness. I always wanted to, but could never make it with studies, and the bunch of friends which I had. Making a group and then actually get it done was so difficult. It never worked out !! Now I had a chance. Earning money definitely was the main support to go on such a vaccation !! The date was decided and with some more work at office, 12 day leave was granted too.. :-)
While packing my sack, I did not have any idea about what I was going to experience in coming days. Going with a group of immensely experienced Himalayan trekkers off-course made my job a bit easier. After 2 days of travel from Chennai to Lohajung, we were ready to hit the trail on day 3.. after which, surprises kept pampering me.
All trek pics by Arnab Ghosh. I didn't have a camera :-) Rather, camera was the first thing to buy after this trek
What do you expect from a trek?? .. A walk through the alpine forest, high altitude Himalayan meadows, a historically significant and mystery of the Skeletal Lake, crossing a mountain-pass more than 5150 meters and then a boulder laiden glacier.. Walking through the snow storm in a whited-out ravine... and what more?? Witness one of the ongoing China's drive for Keeda Jari (Yatse Gumba).... Experiencing all of these in your first trek becomes just an unforgettable experience of a lifetime. Not only that!! It also has set a high standard for the other treks which I did and would do in the future.
The Bugiyals(high altitude Himalayan meadows) were the first interesting landforms to be seen in this trail after trekking through the alpine forest of the Nanda Devi Biosphere. The first day's walk with the heavy rucksack on the back was a heavy task on my body, which started to ease off from the second day, and vanished from the third day, which was the most strenuous day till then, as it involved climbing the Junargali Pass after crossing RoopKund. After that, my body surprised myself with the way it adapted itself ! May be the rest of a day in Sheela Samudra did the trick.
I love being in the wild, and was living the best of my wild experiences. The trail on day 2 through Patthar Nachauni, Kalu Vinayak to Baghuabasa was proving to be difficult for me, raising doubts in my team mates mind but I knew I would complete it at any cost. When we reached Baghuabasa, it snowed, as if welcoming us and blowing away all my physical hardships suffered through the day.
The sight of Bugiyals did make me jump with excitement and forget everything I had left behind in my dwelling city, but it was the view of Roopkund, which changed it all.. Seeing human skeletons scattered around in the snow gave me some kind of a shock, as I had not done any pre-reading on Roopkund before the trek. Thank God I did not know about it previously, because that let me experience the true SHOCK within !!!
Suddenly things changed as we started to concentrate on the next big task - crossing the Junargali Pass. We were a group of 5 with 4 porters and a guide, making it a 10 people team. Half of the team became very busy setting up an anchor with an ice-axe, and we became serious and silent, concentrating on what we were required to do. The steep climb up was followed by another steeper climb, and then a gentle slope brought us to the top of the pass. Our shoes kept slipping and it was the rope which saved us. I was on the highest point of this trek - the top of Junargali pass at 5150 meters!!
Before the thrill of doing this strenuous task could settle down on its own, we were required to climb down the pass to the other side of Roopkund to Sheela Samudra. The down climb initially required some serious concentration due to steep snow-covered slope which was very slippery. It then slowly turned very irritating when the snow finished due to the small grass bushes which were irregular and very randomly patterned. It slowed down the down hill climb very much. Later we understood the caused of it.
On the other side of Roopkund, new terrain and new stories took over us. We got introduced to a new creature, who was a star in its own terms - 'Keeda Jari' or Yarsa Gumba. (learn more here). Its is the Himalayan Viagra, which the Chinese traders are very much interested in, and driving the economy in India as well. The whole surrounding village gets empty during this season(said only to be a month by locals, during june-july ) to collect these. Each of these sell from any price between Rs. 50 to Rs. 150 depending on the demand from the neighbouring country of China. All the grasses beyond Roopkund was seen to be irregular and randomly slanted due to the villagers crawling on them to search for The Himalayan Viagra. It was very funny to have noticed the people including our guides and porters. Wherever they sat, they scanned the area first. :-) They would listen to you and participate in a discussion, but their eyes will be continuously scanning the area... and the final check will be to lift up their bum to search if any of them lied beneath their seat !! :-) :-) and why not??? Dilip Singh, our cook cum half guide sat with us and was continuously scanning the area while talking to us, only sometimes lifting his head to look at us :-) ... without any success though... However, his final check didn't deny him that!! He lifted up his bum, and excitedly picked up one Himalayan Viagra!! :-) :-) He cheered - 'mil gaya, muje bhi mil gaya ' ( I got it, I too got it )
The rest day was very sensible. We reached from Wan to Sheela Samudra in 3 days, covering around 32 kilometer of distance, altitude gain from 2100m to 5150m to 4000m, with each of our sacks weighing atleast 14kg on our back!! Again it was a good place for acclimatization as well !! The whole day we spent near to the glacier, listening to the cracking glaciers, seeing avalanche come down to the ice fall, watching Nandaghunti and Trishul peaks, its shadows on the ground, and also few villagers crawling on the mountain slopes searching for keeda jari.. It was a very relaxing day.. :-)
To the contrary, the next day was just the opposite!!! We faced it all on that day.. first, we had to cross the Glacier, then it started to rain in which we again had to climb up the irregular grassy slope and again climb down to the other side in the rain... it then slowly turned into hails as we gained further height.. which eventually turned into snow storm. Our target was only few kilometers away, but the weather made it extremely slow.. There were no roads. navigation had to be done through piled up stoned which wasn't clearly visible due to the snow storm.. We had to walk up the river to Dodang, and it would not come at all.. Even our porters crossed Dodang and went further, as they lost their way!!.. We finally made it, and when we reached, we were all wet.. No dry woods to make fire as well.. :-) :-) That night was awesome!!!.. Dodang was simply un-describable. It was two huge rocks ['do' means 2, and 'dang' means rocks] side by side forming a cave. That night 5 of us slept in a 3 man tent :-)
The next morning we woke up to a white clear surrounding. It had snowed all night but the weather had cleared by morning. The view was beautiful... we looked back on our trail from there and I felt very much satisfied.. We dropped the plan to Ronti Saddle there itself due to weather. However, we went till Home Kund, walking on top of the broken ridge.. It was an easy day.
The trek down again had lots of stories to be told, but I would keep short.. It was a dangerous trek down through Chandaniya Ghat, in heavy rainfall. We camped under a almost falling rock in Latakhopri. Sutol would not just come in the next day... but when it came, we acted like hooligans... :-) We finished all the eggs of the only shop the village had. Even the vegetarians could not resist.. we also started negotiating for a whole sheep, but again, the keeda jari came in the way between us..(all males had gone up to the mountains to pick keeda jari, and the women members would not negotiate without them :-( ). I had put potato on roast, but our cook ate it without even telling me!!! or giving me its share... However, he had done a nice job by collecting some junglee shoots on the way, and I cooked it with eggs again.. :-)
Next day we trekked down to Sitel. When we reached Ghat, we were so hungry for non-veg meal, that we bought chicken and got it cooked in a hotel for all of us.. :-) an unforgettable dish... :-) Haridwar saw us eating whatever our eyes looked at.. and offcourse, our DADA BOUDIR HOTEL for typical bengali food. Delhi airport - KFC Bucket!!! :-) :-) and then the saddest part... separating and boarding the flight to CHENNAI... :-(
The Roopkund - Ronti Saddle trek was my first trek and offcourse what a trek it was... Life never remained the same ever !!!