Day 5: Ghora Lotani to Bhaguva basa
Far over the misty mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.
These lines from a Tolkien’s poem aptly sum up the mornings on our trek. Today it was no pale of gold that we were searching but a good spot to answer the natures call. We were up by 5 in the morning and after a mini trek of sorts finally found a pretty secluded spot away from the line of sight of the camp. From our YHAI experience we knew the best technique was to dig a pit, do the job and cover up the pit but unlike sarpass trek the ground was very hard here and digging a small pit turned out to be a very laborious effort. Breakfast as usual was served pretty early and finally after a round of warm up exercises the trek to Kalu vinayak temple began. The path from Ghora Lotani to Kalu vinayak is pretty steep and there is no letup of any sort in terms of the ascending gradient. Sandeep who had been trekking till now with his sandals due to a shoe bite continued doing the same.
We got some wonderful view of the Bugyals after climbing up for a couple of hours. The air was getting thinner as we moved up and the wind was also to an extent gaining speed, the weather started getting worse and a drizzle started. Cursing my luck, I took out my rain sheet and tried my best to cover myself and my bag. Krishna and Satish had slipped on their ponchos and were comfortably walking around without any kind of bother. The drizzle thankfully stopped after a short while and the sky cleared out to an extent. We encountered some villagers on the way who were collecting some roots which grew in these altitudes, apparently each root could fetch them more than 100 Rs. We reached Kalu vinayak in pretty good time and after paying our obeisance to the lord who presided on the Roop kund trek route we climbed the small hillock which is next to the temple. You could get an almost 360 degree pan of the area from this spot.
From Kalu vinayak we had our first view of Roopkund and Junargali, Of course we couldn’t see the lake since it is located in a depression on the top of the mountain but we could make out the saddle of sorts in the mountain in which RoopKund was present.
The trek to Bhaguva basa from here is pretty easy and is a gradual downward sloping stone paved path. I was wondering as to the reason for paths to be paved with stone at such a height and then I came to know about the Homkund Yatra, this is a Yatra that happens once in 12 years and thousands of people from the surrounding villages go to Roopkund and cross over Junargali to Shila samudra and then make their way to HomKund lake which is under the feet of the Nanda Ghunti mountain to make their offerings to Nanda devi. On the way we encountered our first snow patch of the trek and some of the trek members who were seeing snow for the first time in their lives were pretty excited. This stretch of the trek I did it alone along with the company of the mountains and the mystical nature of the Himalayas started to seep in through my pours. The mind finds a lot of peace when you listen to the silence of the mighty mountains.
We reached the camp by around 12 in the afternoon and promptly got into one of the Green hut like structures which were built by the forest departments for the trekkers. After resting for some time we got to know that we had to vacate one of the huts as it was booked by another group, being the relatively young guns of the group we had to vacate out the hut and move into tents. I had a bad feeling that the night was not going to be easy and the tent was not looking sturdy enough to braze out the night at an altitude of 4600 meters. For lunch we had maggi and everyone was very happy to have broken out of the Roti-Sabji routine.
During lunch our camp leader proposed doing Roopkund on the same day as the weather looked great but most of turned it down as it would have been very tiring to climb further up after having trekked so much, instead we spent our time exploring the places near the vicinity of the camp. One small group decided to go to a waterfall that was visible in the valley facing the Roopkund lake but they soon turned back as the way was too steep for comfort. Some of us just sat around taking in the beauty of the mountains and nature.
The weather suddenly changed color and it started to rain, we ran into our tents and within no time the rain had turned into a snow fall. Many then ran out to enjoy it; I spent some time enjoying the snow and then made my way to the relative safety of the tent. Snow had started accumulating on the top of our tent and we had to shake it off at regular intervals fearing the tent would collapse under its weight.
The snow fall finally stopped late in the night and the temperature had dropped to very low levels by then. Dinner was served around 7:30 today and I decided not to make use of the plates, instead took three rotis and put Bhindi sabji on top of the Roti and had my dinner. There was an egg curry as well but being the holistic person that I was, I stuck only to Bhindi. Sandeep graciously offered to share his plate and we both ate some rice from the same plate and which he later washedJ. Krishna was not feeling well and he decided to skip his dinner. The sky had not yet cleared up and the possibility of further snow and rain was very high. In the night, the rain again started and the temperature had hit rock bottom outside the tent. I snuggled myself into the sleeping bag and was completely oblivious to the surrounding until the next day morning.
Day 6: Bhaguva basa to RoopKund and then to Bedni Bugyal
The morning outside looked very bleak, the night’s rain had not yet stopped and the Roopkund area was completely shrouded with clouds. This was not an ideal weather for the trek and it looked like Roopkund was not possible today. We had almost given up hope of making it to the top when at around 7:30 the weather cleared out and the sky turned into its characteristic shades of deep blue. Ajoy decided that the weather was perfect for the trek atleast till Roopkund and since it was already 7:30, Junargali was ruled out.
In a hurry we started off without having our breakfast since it was not yet ready. The path was damn slippery due to yesterday’s rain and thin sheets of ice had formed over the stoned paved path. The initial part of the climb is pretty easy but after some time we started to encounter a number of small glacial crossings. Crossing over these snow patches is never easy and it is important to exercise your utmost caution. After the glacial crossing of more than 7-8 the path starts taking a gradual upward accent, at many places the mountain requires you to use all your fours.
The sheer drop on one side of the path sometimes rocks you back. Even without our bags this stretch was getting tough. I was having crampons which my brother had brought from his Korea trip but didn’t use it during the accent thinking that they will get damaged as there was not enough snow. After huffing and puffing on the high altitude for oxygen I finally seemed to have made it to the top. The last stretch was the most difficult as the oxygen levels here seemed to be pretty low and I was left gasping for it.
Finally I was there at the lake, the destination for which we had given six days of toil to reach and at an altitude of nearly 5000 meters. The lake was completely frozen and there was no signs of the innumerable skeletons, all of them were covered up by the snow on the lake. We spent close to 25 minutes sitting at the lake as the other team members were slowing making the final assault. The breakfast which was supposed to be carried by the porters was nowhere in sight. Finally after shooting some photos of the skeletons kept near the small temple, we decided to move back. Some of our team members had not brought their sun glasses and they were suffering because of the blinding light reflected from the snow.
The weather started to turn cloudy and we feared the worst, the breakfast had by then arrived but I was in no mood to eat it and then be stranded somewhere on the dangerous curving paths. I took out my crampons and decided that my life was more important than the crampons. With the new gear the climb downwards was pretty easy, many of the curves which had looked dangerous while climbing up looked less imposing during the decent. We had made a major mistake of not carrying our water bottles and hence I had gone without water during the accent. While climbing down we ripped open the frooti tetra pack which was given to us along with chocolates by the trek organizers and used it to drink water from the many streams we encountered along our path.
By 12 in the noon we had made our way back to the Bhaguwa basa camp, without food I was completely exhausted. After taking some rest we had our lunch and then we soon packed up to reach Bedni bugyal before night fall. We took the same path which we used for the ascent. For most part of this stretch I did it alone again enjoying the Himalayas all by myself.
Except for a place near Bedni bugyal where the wind speed became so fast that I had to hug the mountain, it was pretty incident free. By around 5:45 I had reached the Bedni camp and soon crept into a tent for rest. Others also made it in pretty good time and every one were in pretty high spirits after having completed the trek successfully. During the night we also had a camp fire in celebration.
Day 7: Bedni Bugyal to Wan
The four of us had decided that we would try to make it to Joshimath by nightfall and hence embarked with another group of 4 to Wan by 6 in the morning itself. The other group members were scheduled to start at 9.00. After saying our goodbyes we hit the road.
The path from Bedni to Wan is completely on a downward gradient except for a small stretch where you need to climb up. This trek was mainly through the dense forests and didn’t afford us any view of the valley or the mountains. It took us close to 5 hours to reach Wan and seemed to be an endless walk. The Wan village itself stretches by around 2-3 kms and our initial joy of encountering a house turned into despair as the walk continued to stretch on and on. Finally around 11:30 we reached the motor-able road and one of our porters who had gone ahead of us had a jeep ready. We reached Loharjung base camp after a ride of close to one hour on the curving roads of the valley. Lunch was ready and we had a sumptuous and delicious meal. After collecting our certificates from Ankit we embarked on the jeep which was arranged by Ankit to Karna Prayag.
Thus ended the memorable RoopKund lake trek. The organizing of the trek by India hikes had been good except for one complaint, about their habit of serving the dinner very late in the night.
Roop Kund is not an easy trek and it is necessary to have good physical and mental strength to be able to enjoy the trek. There is no fun in reaching the destination unless you enjoy the journey. I had a heavy heart while climbing down from Bedni to Wan as I was going to miss these mountains which had been my silent companion for the last 7 days.
Adieu, I say to the majestic Himalayas,
With a heavy heart and keeping tears at bay,
With a soul rested and mind at peace,
I walk back into the world after having been healed.