Fitness is important, so says the doctor. The saying becomes more important when you want to attempt a high pass between two beautiful Himalayan mountain valleys. The Rupin pass is at 15250 feet in the high mountains and connects the Rupin and Kinnaur valley. Even to this day local people use the pass to do their business such as sheep, goat selling etc. The journey through normal roads would be too long and also expensive, so it is the pass that they have to take.
“Look at these pictures of EBC, Oh Man this is simply fantastic”
These gasps of amazement from Krishna comes now and then. Once, such a session begins, it ends up taking a tsunami level proportion and literally throws you out of your feet. Like children dreaming of candies, the rest of the people get totally sold on to Krishna’s fantasies of the mountains. The planning for Rupin began after one such session.
“How about Pin-Parvati” I said
“Dangerous, there are crevasses and it requires proper well trained guides”, replied Krishna
“Best season is October, not now”. Krishna knows everything.
“Ok then ditch, lets go for Rupin pass with old India hikes”
“Hmm, Ok” replied Krishna
“Next year, we will go on our own” I said. Krishna wanted to go to EBC, but EBC is not for me.
Deal was done, Finally we were five people Krishna, Rasool, Sandeep, Arun and Myself.
“Dude Sandeep, book the flight tickets to Delhi”, Krishna asks in the email
“Yeah, No tension I have it covered” Sandeep replies. He goes ahead and books in Go-Air with Non refundable, no date change conditions and tickets costs 3k more than what it normally should. As an icing on the cake, he specifically asks for the plane to be devoid of any female hosts.
After a pretty dull flight thanks to the painstaking efforts of Sandeep we land up at Delhi airport.
Krishna goes to meet an old friend. The rest of us speculate on how friendly the friend is J. The four of us enter a restaurant thinking it is too clean to provide a decent tasting meal. Suddenly a mouse is spotted scavenging under the table and all of us are happy that the food would taste good. Finally the food turns out ok. Catching a noisily gasping and sputtering Marcopolo bus we reach terminal 3 and take the Metro.
“Ooooh, this is super”, Sandeep says
“Wow, this is international class” Everyone concurs. The metro was simply breath taking. On hearing our gasps a Train inspector comes running and asks us to keep our luggage in the racks. For the next 17 minutes, 5 grown adults were sitting like 5 wide eyed village boys who had seen a bus for the first time in their lives.
The Dehradun train was on schedule and we were on it well within time.
“Morning I need to get up early and finish off my daily routine” I thought and went into sound sleep.
I heard some chattering below, It was 5:30 in the morning, “oh let me get up and go quickly” I told myself. But lo-behold, we were almost close to the railway station. I was to be constipated for the rest of the day. With a heavy heart I came down to the platform.
“Where is the India hikes coordinator” I asked
“Who knows”, Sandeep replies
“Call him”, Krishna says
“Who has the number?”
I look towards Arun hoping that he may be better than the ETG specimens, but I was disappointed. No one had the number.
We now hope that the coordinator will spot us at the entrance and make our way towards it. Just before starting we spot Gedde (Literally the name means Root, but in slang language it means a dull dude, we call our friend Satish fondly with this name), coming our way.
Gedde, with his squeaky stop start laugh had decided to give us a surprise by not telling us that he was coming on the trek. His squeaky stop start laugh grows in intensity and vibration as he comes near. Krishna grabs him and tries to give him the boot. I wouldn’t have minded giving a couple of stamps of my own. After bashing Gedde for being a Gedde we decide to go on, but Gedde has the number of the coordinator. Coming alone makes a person more careful J.
“Bhaiya, how much for one room for one hour” Rasool asks
“450Rs”, Bhaiya replies
My eye balls and also the other balls fall off hearing the price. After finding the coordinator we had decided to rent a hotel room to finish off the unfinished business.
“500 Rs is too much, 200Rs is what we will pay”
“Nothing doing, 400 Rs is the last price”.
Looking at our constipated looks, Bhaiya knows that we don’t have any other option. We take the room. 400Rs for a filthy room with a filthy bathroom was too much. But not many options available for us anyway.
|The Hotel room|
The Jeep/Bolero zips through the mountain valleys, Lush green Yamuna is flowing besides us as we make our way up the hills. With a couple of breaks for breakfast & lunch and one break for a bath on the Yamuna, we speed through to the campsite of Dhaula. In the midst of pine trees was set the beautiful campsite. A quick snack of pakoda’s and soup was waiting and we spent no time in polishing it off.
Lokesh our camp incharge comes and introduces himself. He says a 5 minute briefing session will follow. We are happy that it will be only 5 min and agree to be present on time. I take out my torch and borrow tissue paper to run into the forests as soon as the briefing gets over.
|Camp at Dhaula|
“I have conducted trekking for 18 years in the Himalayas” Lokesh begins
“We have to respect the mountains or they will get back on to you” he continues
“Tomorrow will be easy trek only 7 Kms, after that I will talk only in terms of feet” he goes on
Blah blah blah
10 minutes gone
Blah blah blah
20 minutes gone
Blah blah blah
The bloody sun light is also gone
“In the Himalayas snakes are present and we should be careful” he drawls
Oh god, Now I have to worry about snakes also when I go out in the dark.
Blah blah blah
10 more minutes gone, before a porter comes and says dinner is ready. Thankfully the porter has saved us the night.
Got to know that plates were not enough and I had to wait for it. Grrrr, I don’t know with what set of organizers I am spending my vacation. After a session of night photography and a forest visit, we were all set for the night in the tent. I, Gedde and Krishna went in one tent and Rasool, Sandeep and Arun took another.
After a restful night, again in the morning Krishna and I went in search of a suitable spot. This problem of searching for a suitable spot is always an issue, the spot has to be completely out of view and it has to be clear of flies and insects. We have spent almost half an hour on an average everyday searching for the right spots.
This time there were no free caps from India hikes and I had to borrow a cap from Arun.
Seeing this Gedde comes and asks
“Mithun, you have not got your cap” Gedde asks
“No, I thought India hikes were going to give” I reply
“Mithun, I think you are becoming like Chethan, depending on others” Gedde says
“hmm”, I think Gedde is talking is too much, I make up my mind to kick him hard in the night when he is asleep.
Trek meanders along the river Rupin, and this river will accompany us for 5 days of the trek. The Icy cool blue waters just rushes past the hills making a hell of noise. We traverse through narrow pathways along the river, sometimes going at significant height and sometimes going just along the river.
|The Beautiful Rupin Valley|
“Oh man, not again, I don’t need another break,” Sandeep says
“Break, stop…Need to wait till everyone comes” Our Guide says
“Who is left out, I think everyone is here”, Sandeep says
“No, let us wait” Guide replies
We wait, even though all the members of the team are there. This way we took some 4-5 breaks unnecessarily killing time and eventually skipping lunch.
Finally the temple tower of Sewa appears, everyone is busy taking photos when this chameleon comes out and fearlessly comes near me and poses.
|The Sewa temple tower|
|The Bold Chameleon|
Finally we reach the camping site next to the roaring river. The scene is picturesque and the rest of the evening is spent in admiring the beauty of the place.
In the tent we sit and chat, Arun opens his pack of kadlepuri and we gobble it up…On hindsight we should have saved it up for higher camps.
In the night, we face some stiff challenges with respect to opening Krishna’s sleeping back and finally the work had to be outsourced to the other tent.
Day2 begins with a pretty bad incident. I had gone uphill to do my daily ablution and unfortunately broke my walking stick while digging a pit.
The starting part of the trek is on a Jeep track. Lokesh decides to make this portion a bit interesting and when we had reached a fork, he took us through a road which was going down. Finally after walking for a couple of kilometers, he takes a steep path to walk up to the other road which we could have taken directly from the fork.
The second half is peppered with steep climbs, the mountain scenery is more or less a repeat of yesterday and the never ending walk saps you out of energy.
|An Old Lady|
Finally we reach Jhaka at around 2. Today there was no way we could be denied our lunch. The camp is in a homestay, finally some shelter and a chance to escape from the cramped tents. 9 of us get into one room which is pretty comfortable with its wooden structure. I just hope that it doesn’t catch fire in the night and burn all of us up.
Lunch is served at 4 and it turns out to be rationed cups of Maggie. Everyone is outraged. You could see Hunger in all the eyes.
Bhagavat (Revolution) starts,
“India hikes were like this when I last came here, I thought of giving them another chance and unfortunately nothing has changed”, Laments Chandra ( a fellow trekker)
“We should do something about this, we can’t trek on empty stomachs”, Sandeep says
“Leave food, I’m more worried about safety, the way they have conducted the trek till now, I don’t have the confidence of going with these guys to the upper camps” replies Krishna
“Ok let’s talk with Lokesh, if he doesn’t give us firm commitments for improvements then let us ditch the trek”, Every one comes to the same conclusion.
Deepak (urf lookalike of Ravi) who is the leader of the next room says that he had the same discussion with his roommates and he takes up the gauntlet of talking with Lokesh.
Evening arrives with an acclimatization walk to a temple which is situated slightly above the camping homestay. With hungry stomach and simmering anger we trek up to the place. I was hoping for a briefing session where we could throw out our discontent. Fortunately/Unfortunately Lokesh chose to skip the briefing. A photo session with the kids ensues, possibly these kids find us strangers fascinating; they always stop at a distance and stare at us.
We walk back to have a good dinner served. There is no sign of Deepak belling the cat, finally I and Krishna go and call Lokesh in to our room. Krishna then embarks on one of the most diplomatic talks that I have ever seen him giving, finally Lokesh agrees to do his best and said he will improve the situation.
Ah ha, finally the issues being resolved, I decide to loose myself in sleep
“Grrrrrrrr, Grawg, Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”
“Oh my god, what was that” I think
“Grrrrrrrr, Grawg, Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”
“Bloody, two guys were snoring in a really over the top hooting way and the frequency was also resonating”
“Gawk”, I said good bye to my sleep.
On this day, the trek starts in the forest, before we encounter our first Ice patch. The patch is mixed with mud and dust, but still many of the trekkers who were seeing Snow for the first time tried to hit each other with small snow balls. Only after crossing the patch did I realize that we had actually crossed over the river. The rupin river flows under the ice patch. In the following two days we did this criss-crossing several times and every time it was on an ice formation that hung over the river.
The trek now is on the river bank and negotiating the stones turns out to be the toughest part. Concentration is a must otherwise there is every chance of stumbling across a stone.
A Sheppard is seen with a tent pitched in this god forsaken but beautiful place
|The Sheppards sheep|
“How is it going”, One of the trekker asks the Sheppard
“Mast, everything is fine” Sheppard replies
“For how long will you be here?”Trekker asks him
“I stay here for almost 8 months in a year”, the Sheppard replies
“8 months !!!, What do you do in winter”, Trekker asks
“In winter, I camp a bit down stream” He replies. He looks quite contented, living all alone in the company of his numerous sheep’s and goats.
The camp site finally comes into the picture, It is on a small grassy patch next to the river, this was Saruwas thatch. Nowhere near the thatches that I have seen till now.
Having reached at around 12 in the afternoon, we had lots of time to kill.
Most of the time was spent with six of us sitting in a tent and talking about Ravi J.
“Boss, what happened? Is the camera OK”, One guy asks
“Yeah, I guess”
“Nothing happened to the camera right?” Another guy asks
“Crap, I’m hit badly and these guys are worrying about my stupid camera” I think
“Are you ok”, somebody asks
“Ah finally, some humanity, some sympathy to a living creature”
In the night, I give myself a rub with Tiger balm and hope that I don’t end up with a bad back in the morning. Before I fall asleep, I spell out a parting curse for the acclimatization walk.
Sunny, bright morning greets us. Today Krishna and I end up taking a big walk to complete the morning job. Gedde as usual wakes up at 4:30 and completes his job in the darkness. With this being an all male group, almost no one had any qualms in sitting in the direct line of vision of the camp.
The trek continues along the river bank and we can clearly see the waterfall, the head of the valley at a distance. Clear transparent water greets us as we move upwards. There is no significant climb today and we make it to the next camp Dhanderas thatch without much of a fuss.
|Towards the pass|
|Clear waters of the Rupin|
In the distance a mother Vulture is teaching her young baby how to fly. Their lessons go on by climbing up the hill on foot and then flying down. Beautiful small flowers cover the grassy regions of the thatch. Melting water has made some of the regions slushy and muddy.
The call for acclimatization walk again comes, everyone in the tent groans, nobody wants to go, but we know Lokesh will come after us no matter what, so we totter out to climb another snow patch. I’m more careful this time and leave my camera behind in the tent.
|Upper and lower waterfalls|
After an early dinner we huddle back to the tent, the cold is now getting under our skins.
This was going to be a long day. Rain was pelting on the tent since morning.
“What will happen, are we going to trek in rain” was my question
“No chance, I will not move till the I can see the upper camp clearly” Krishna replies
Morning tea arrives to the tent, we ask the porter for updates and he says wait and watch would be the policy. There is no possibility of moving to the upper camp till the weather clears.
Finally the rain seems to have reduced in intensity and in no time the sky clears out. Deep dark blue sky with shimmering white mountains form the backdrop. Everyone is out and busy packing, I go about my job quickly and the march starts again. Rajmohan our technical guide says “the actual trek starts from here”. My heart sinks a bit, “what the **** had we done till now”
|Crossing an ice patch|
A steep icy slope had to be climbed, Rope is tied to the other end and hanging on to my dear life I climb. A slip would have seen me 50 meters down but wouldn’t have caused much damage, but still it was strenuous. I had hoped that after the icy steep was conquered the whole thing would be a cake walk. My back was slightly hurting and I was very careful with my steps.
After a couple of more ice walks it starts dawning on me that we were getting higher than the upper waterfall camp. The plan was to camp as close to Rupin pass as possible. Physically, I suddenly felt sapped to the core. I had a cold, but now there was a headache. Huffing and puffing I was still hanging on. Rajmohan was unusually strict today and he would drag the stragglers with ropes tied around their waist. Luckily just before all my reserve energy got used up we reached the camp. The whole camp was on ice and my first utterance on reaching the camp was “S***”
Maybe my utterances didn’t go down well with some of the gods sitting in the mountains and we ended up having a corner tent. The advantage of such an arrangement was we would be in line of fire from the fierce Himalayan winds all through the night. In fact, the winds were so strong that they pulled up some pegs of the tent as well.
A snow storm blew half an hour after we reached our camp and it continued well into the evening. The lunch was served in our tents and we could hardly eat sitting in such a cold climate.
“this is my last >15000 trek” Satish says
“Mine too”, I concur
Krishna also joins in and declares this to be his last >15000. Later at the Rupin pass he retracts the statement. Satish and Myself have stuck to our oaths till now.
|Camp on Snow, Image taken by Sandeep Prakash (https://picasaweb.google.com/123sandy)|
Sitting in a tent in a high altitude camp is a major torture, the tents don’t provide complete warmth and you end up getting the feeling of being slowly toasted in a freezer. I decide to take a leak and end up staying outside. Being outside proved to be much more comfortable as you would be moving and generating body heat whereas it is not the case when you are sitting in the tent.
In the evening Lokesh calls for aclimitization trek.
Both Krishna and Gedde share their anguish and decide not to follow the orders. I got out in to the cold snowing weather. Wearing my poncho I trudged on the snow, The group had already left and lokesh had not bothered about taking a count of people, so Krishna and Gedde were safe. Most of the group were standing at a distance of around 200 meters from the camp, a small splinter group had gone ahead and they almost went to the base of the rupin pass. The rest of us returned as quickly as possible. After coming back, I decided to stay outside so as to get acclimatized to the conditions.
|View from Ranti Pheri, Image taken by Krishna A G|
Finally after a quick dinner, everyone went to sleep, next day was going to be tough but the advantage was that we had already covered a lot of distance so next day technically should be easy.
The Rupin pass day had finally arrived. The weather in the morning looked cloudy without any stars. The morning work had to be done on snow and I’m sure that it will be well preserved for a long time J. The weather soon cleared up giving us clear blue skies and wonderful views. The trek began on an easy note, but still I was not finding it very easy, the cold had again taken its toll and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. Finally after a half an hours walk we came to the base of the pass. Now close to 150-200 meters climb had to be handled. Our Guide Rajmohan a fiery guy divided the group into two with the first group consisting of slow movers and the second comprising of the studs. I qualified very well for the slow movers team and we got the chance of first cracking the pass. No doubt the deadly studs were disappointed. We moved ahead but not before a warning from our Guide.
RajMohan: “Now listen to me carefully, Follow each other properly and don’t leave any gaps, If I find any gaps then I will tie a rope over that person and will simply drag him”
“Boss, and I thought I’m on vacation” were my thoughts.
|Attempting the Pass, Image taken by Sandeep Prakash (https://picasaweb.google.com/123sandy)|
The group moves slowly and steadily, everyone is afraid of leaving a gap. Some people sound him to stop if they felt tired, but the onslaught from RajMohan was relentless, he was a thorough task master, In the end many of the trek members thanked him for that and I was sitting puzzled with a “What the ****” expression.
Finally heaving and sighing we finally managed to reach the top of the pass. The place for which we had put up so much struggle to reach. We were at the top of the mountain and the border of two beautiful valleys, one side was the kinnaur and the other side being the Rupin.
Guides and porters spent time in praying to the gods who reside on the mountain passes, Lokesh thanks for the flawless weather that we had got while trekking by chanting the Gayathri manthra and finally it all ends with a lot of group pictures.
“One photo please” Arun requests Sandeep
“Wait a minute, I’m busy”, Looks like Sandeep has a bout of AMS, he usually becomes irritable at heights.
Every one is clamoring for a photo but unfortunately the photographers are busy shooting the surroundings.
“5 more minutes and we will start getting down” Lokesh announces
Desperation seeps in and every one starts posing in a hurry to get the photographs done with.
Finally with the object of the trek having been achieved, everybody had a smile on their faces, some had the look of relief and some were like, “this was easy, give me more”
|On Rupin Pass, Image taken by Sandeep Prakash|
The climb down to the kinnaur valley was more fun than we had anticipated. A couple of steep slides had our adrenaline kicking in. The guides decided to go as close to sangla as possible since we had negotiated the pass ahead of time.
Once the snow parts started receding the chances of sliding also became nil.
|Sliding down from the pass, Image taken by Sandeep Prakash|
Just before our lunch halt one of our porters lost his footing and fell down on a steep hill side. Luckily another porter who was walking below caught him. The porter had suffered a cut on his legs, thankfully it was not very serious and he could walk on his own.
Another incident that shook us up on this day was when two yaks attacked us. Most of our group were in the rear end when we were climbing down and the guides and the rest of the team members had gone ahead of us.
Then from behind, Doctor (fellow trekker) came running behind us without his bag saying a couple of yaks were attacking him. Nobody paid much heed. I was walking at the rear of the small group of 6-7 people when I turned around and saw two gigantic yaks coming running down at us. I yelled and started running, everyone were in a flash running like crazy, two minutes before we were all dead tired after walking for such a huge distance. We all ran at top speed towards a fallen stone home which was thankfully close by. Once reaching there I turned around, Krishna was running like I have never seen him run before and just a few meters behind the two Yaks were chasing him ready to strike, thankfully Gedde took a stone and threw it at the oncoming yaks and they got deflected and went ahead on our route.
After catching our breath, we decided to see if it was safe to go ahead, Gedde volunteered to have a look, he shouted that the Yaks were coming back at full speed. Everyone had picked up a stone for self protection and now we were on the path, looking at the incoming Yaks everyone again decided to run back to the stone hut.
“Lets put up a front here on the road itself” I cried out
Only Deepak was there standing, the rest had fled to the refuge
“We are only two, lets get back”, Deepak mentioned.
I also felt the same and we ran back to join the rest. The yaks came and we threw the stones like hell. Thankfully none of them hit them. They ran up the hill, leaving the route free. By this time couple of people from our trek group who were coming behind had picked up the Docter’s rucksack. Rajmohan also came from the front and he was like what was all the fuss about.
The explanation he gave was that the Yaks like salt very much and usually villagers travelling on this route would feed them with salt, for this reason the Yaks come running whenever they find humans. But we were not convinced, All of us were sure that the ferocity by which the Yaks were running after us clearly indicated some nefarious intentions.
Thankfully we reached our camp in Upper sangla without further incidents. The mobile signal was back and everyone were busy chatting with their near and dear ones.
In the night we had a camp fire and everyone had to sing a song after introducing oneself. A bought of night photography followed with some stunning pics.
|Kinnar kailash at night, Image taken by Krishna A G|
The final day in which freedom and liberty was to be found had finally arrived. The trek was steep and took us a couple of hours to reach the sangla village. Then after a strenuous climb we finally reached the guest house that was booked for us.
After taking a bath, I felt simply refreshed. The supposedly hot water was just above freezing cold and it gave me a light temperature. I sort of felt disoriented for the rest of the day.
|Image taken By Krishna A G|
The jeeps that were to take us to Shimla finally arrived in the noon. The Xylo that we had picked up didn’t have any space for keeping luggage and we had to keep then in another jeep. Totally four jeeps made their way to Shimla.
“Mithun, Video…look at the beautiful mountain valley”
“Rasool, Keep clicking”
Gedde was getting on to my nerves and also that of Krishna and others.
“Nothing of the scenery will come” Krishna kept telling but Gedde wouldn’t listen. I decided to give away my window seat to Gedde as soon as we stopped next. My disorientation didn’t afford me the luxury of keeping awake and clicking photos.
The valley was really beautiful. The whole scenery is very similar to that of the route to Badrinath. With steep valleys and the river flowing far down below.
For lunch the driver stopped us at a dhabba which he said was very good. Getting inside we got to know that only meals was offered and Rajma-chawal was the only item on the menu. After having suffered in the hands of Rajma chawal for the last 7 days during the trek, we were in no mood for another meal of rajma chawal, but there was no other option. Finally we sighed at our fate and got on with it. Once the meal was served, the whole complexion turned on its head. The meal was simply superb, A simple meal but very tasty. Finally we knew how a well made Rajma-Chawal tastes.
A tyre puncher saw us fall behind the other vehicles, the driver had no idea as to getting the spare tyre down from the Xylo and if it were not for the technical brain of Sandeep, the guy would have taken a long time.
We reached Shimla late in the night at around 10. The others were still thinking of what to do. Even we were caught in the dilemma, Our initial plan was to go to Kalka and stay in a room there, In the morning we had a train ticket booking from Kalka to Delhi. After a whole lot of confusion as to what to do and running here there starting from searching a room to hiring a taxi to taking a direct bus to Delhi, none of our efforts paid any results, finally tired we had our dinner at a small place near the bus stand which was crowded like hell. In the end we ended up in hiring a taxi till Kalka and I had the opportunity of sitting awake with the driver. Finally reaching Kalka at 2:30 in the night, finding a room was a major headache as almost all the hotels were closed down and nobody was ready to open up for us. In the end, One of the watchman at a hotel called up the hotel owner who showed us a decently spacious room.
|A temple at Sangla|
“Bhaiya, you look decent and well read, what are you doing roaming around at 2:30 in the night” The hotel owner asked Krishna
Our Krishna had the dubious honor of explaining our situation to the hotel owner.
Without any further incidents we reached Delhi by around 4:30 in the evening
“Lets directly go to the Airport” Krishna said
“No, lets go to some place and have some good food”, Rasool replied
Notwithstanding the glare that Krishna gave we proceeded towards Connaught Place. We had only 1 hour at our disposal and getting there itself took around 15 minutes. Finally after having a couple of Bhel puri’s and a Milkshake we were back at the Airport.
And finally by Midnight we were back home, sleeping on my own bed felt really heavenly for a change.