Up there in the mountains,
Life was isolated but it wasn't messy...
There was breathlessness but it wasn't smokey...
Up there in the mountains
Yes, that's the only place where I meet myself...
After giving a lot of thoughts, I zeroed on Roopkund Trek and Junargali in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand as my next destination to hit on. I have no reason, in particular, that why Roopkund?? I wanted to scale 16k plus and there are much more 16000+ ft destinations but I decided to scale Roopkund this year. I booked my trek with Bikat adventures, one of the fastest growing community in trekking and adventures and I was fidgeted since then, until the day I was on the way to it.
Best season to go for Roopkund is May, June, September, October. To my schedule, June fitted the most.
The only thing that annoyed me is the traveling from Haldwani to Lohajung, the base village for the trek. This 10-11 hours long journey through the snaky road is really a cumbersome task. But at the same time, you will witness the adorable mountains flooded with pine trees and also could glance at snow-capped mountains hidden behind the clouds through the entire route.
HOW TO REACH
I boarded Ranikhet express which leaves Delhi at 22:30 and reaches Haldwani at around 5 in the morning. From Haldwani, one can find the shared taxi or the cheapest way is to catch the bus.
Ohh.. but wait, you will not find a direct vehicle to Lohajung. Instead, you will have to take a chain like from Haldwani to Almoda then Gwaldam, Dewal, and Lohajung. And also another option is to board a Delhi- Dewal bus which leaves from Anand Vihar ISBT at around 20:00 hrs. And while returning, the same bus leaves from Dewal at 8 in the morning. But it's a twenty-hour long journey in the bus... Beware of it.. :D.
** The Journey Begins **
I reported at Dewal where our stay was planned in a Pindari Lodge. We had a short introduction phase in which I met our trek leader Pravin sir, our local leader Thansing ji, our cook Krishna and Raju and other participants with whom I was soon going to befriend, Dushyant, Triveni, Megha, and Cambria. We had our dinner and discussed our eternity for the next day in brief. The grueling journey had an impact on all of us and we went to bed and I don't remember how many seconds it took for me to fall asleep.
I woke up with the beeping alarm and the curiosity of hunting down the trail was screaming in my head. We took our bath which was the last one for the next 6 days and we headed to the lohajung in a taxi at around 5 AM. All the things that I have been thinking for last few months about this trek were on the threshold. One hour long journey took us to Lohajung were we had our breakfast and our trek commenced with the prayers to God.
Today's trail was one of the breathtaking beauty. Through the forest of the pine trees and the Rhododendron (Buran's flowers in local language), we enjoyed this greenery with the every step, inhaling the fresh air that we don't get in the cities.
Thansing ji kept us leading to the trail. We had our packed lunch at the Didina village, the last village in the trail and the hunt for the trail for today ended as we reached Tolpani (9400fts), our campsite. Other trekking groups were camping far behind from us and we were the only team camping in the forest that gave us the advantage of witnessing the peace and gratification. We pitched our tents and I smudged down on the ground looking up at the apex of the Pine trees chuckling for no reason. I believe that when I smile cordially for no reason, that's the evidence of I being happy. After having the soup and pakode, we did some acclimatization walk and enjoyed the nature.
Pravin Sir awoke us at 5:30 AM. When I went to our toilet tent in which the pit was sculptured in the ground and I was like "shit!!!". That made us realize that we were truly out of our comfort zone. I have learned one very important thing in the mountains that there is no room for abashment. I still can't stop laughing when I remember how transparently and curiously we were asking this funny question to each other after coming out of toilet tent, "hey! How did it go?" And the answer was sometimes, "fantastic" and sometimes with a cheerless face, "No!!"
We did some Yoga with Praveen sir and had our breakfast which was "Aloo-Puri" I remember. Our today's trek was till "Bedini bugyal" which is at an altitude of 11800fts. We started walking through the forest and it was amazing. Few groups from behind overtook us and there were many groups which were there in the hunt for a summit like us. As we proceeded, we reached the mark of somewhat above 11000fts, above which trees don't grow. It was all windy and it was all beautiful.
We reached Bedini bugyal by crossing Ali bugyal at around 13:00 hrs. Ali bugyal could have been an awesome spot for pitching tents but I swear that all the tents would have flown away with the maddening speed of the wind.
Bedini bugyal was crowded heavily with the different colors of tent belonging to different groups. We pitched our tents and had our lunch and spent the remaining time getting mad at the beautiful mountains. It was all green I remember.
Today's trek was short though steep. We had to reach "Pathar Nachuni" which is at an altitude of 12800fts. It was white out all over and we couldn't see anything but the only our trail.
We were hoping for the weather to get clear so that we could see the peaks around but unfortunately, the weather turned even worse as we reached "Pathar Nachuni".
We were sitting in our kitchen tent and having our snacks and it started pouring like I had never seen before. Wind and rain trapped us inside the kitchen tent for the period of I don't remember may be 6 or 8 or 10 hours and our hopes of continuing the trek further were diminished.
In the night, the weather cleared a bit and we hoped that it will continue that way and went to sleep in our sleeping bags seeking some warmth in the chilled atmosphere.
Weather was again messed since the dawn and many of the groups had backed off and started descending down. Some of us also had the impact of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and we were about to give up and get down back to base.
I was still praying to the mountains so that they let us go up and reach the summit. Our prayers worked and the weather cleared. We left for the higher camp, "Bhagwabasa", the most beautiful place in the world I ever have been till now which is at an altitude of 14200 ft. But before that, we encountered "Kalwa Vinayak" temple, an ancient temple.
With blessings of the god, we reached Bhagwabasa by 16:00 hrs. Breathtaking scenario made us feel that all the adrenaline was worth it. After having our snacks and dinner we had to sleep little earlier as the next day was very important for us as it was the "Summit day".
We woke up at 2:30 AM in the dark and sub zero temperature night and left the higher camp with a minimum amount of luggage on our backs seeking for the summit.
Every single step was a mystery as it was all slippery snow in the dark. Though crampons helped us to stand straight on the steep snow trail, we were like holding our lives in our fist. Many trekkers from all the groups backed off on the summit day as most of them got struck by the AMS.
We reached "The Roopkund Lake" summit, 15700fts, at around 6 AM and the thrill and the enchantment and the gratification and whatever the word you name it would fall short to describe that feeling.
I regret that I couldn't have a group picture with my group as my journey was not over yet. I had decided to go another 750 ft above to the "Junargali Top" so I had to do it quickly before the sun shows up. Our local leader Thansing ji and I began to climb and then Cambria decided to continue with us.
That 750 ft climb was the extremely difficult climb which was almost 70 degrees steep and the oxygen level was about 60%. During that climb, I thought to quit for more than a couple of times but then I looked up at the apex and it automatically drowned me to it and boosted up my confidence. We three reached to the Junargali Top and I was feeling like the happiest person in the world. Also, I was proud that only I and Cambria were the trekkers who made it up to the 16500 ft approx., that day. There were two or three local leaders including our leader Thansing ji. We clicked ourselves to remember that moment, though nothing can capture as clear as eyes can do but I believe that no matter whatever changes might happen in the future, but the memory that I capture in the pictures will always bring up a broad smile on my face.
People who came to know that we did Junargali Top as well congratulated us and that feeling was awesome as well. My other friends in the group, Dushyant, Triveni and Megha were also happy for me and Cambria.
We carefully descended back till Bedini Bugyal camp the same day with the handful of memories that will never fade away.
Everyone was chuckling unnoticeably because everyone had earned the experience for the lifetime.
Today was the last spell of the trek and we were to reach the base village Lohajung from where we started our journey. Although it was last day the challenges were not finished yet as we had to descend long distance which was steep and slippery due to rain.
After a long walk we again got in touch with the forest and then beautiful Neelganga river where we washed ourselves. We finished our packed lunch and completed the rest of trek and reached Wan village.
We were happy and silent, just recapping the memories we had. We boarded on a local jeep which took us to Lohajung in an hour.
Well, I don't know how I'm supposed to end this journey in this blog just with bare words because, in reality, that journey will never end because I don't remember any day in which I haven't lived those memories for whatever short length of time it can be.
I came back to home with few injuries and sunburns that faded away with time but those memories are still going deeper in my heart.