Since 2011, I have been doing treks, going on adventure journeys, cycling expeditions to the Himalayas. It was during the preparation for one such journey that I explored and achieved the levels of physical fitness that I couldn’t possibly have thought of before. That being said, no matter how physically fit you’re, Himalayas can (will) present you challenges that will require you to stretch beyond anything you have had done on the Plains.
With the added benefits of peace, beauty, purity, isolated picturesque locations, people; adventure travelling in the Himalayas has almost become a part of my life.
The Roopkund timeline
Day -45: Home
“I am packing my rucksack. Preparing for a gruelling 75 minutes workout session. The bag is weighing over 16kgs. 6 AM, stadium stairs, listening to motivational, high tempo songs, doing stairs with the 16kg rucksack on my back. Again and again and again. Suddenly, an ultra-high tempo song starts playing. I have to match the beats. The speed of climbing and descent suddenly increases. Just after 2-3 climbs and descents, I am out of my breath. This happens at least 10 times (me going out of breath) within 70 minutes. The whole body is shaking after the whole session.”
Day -1: Delhi
“A day before reaching Kathgodam, I am in Delhi. The rush, pollution, noise, traffic, climate almost makes me too eager to start the trek.”
Day 0: Kathgodam to Lohargunj
The unforgiving, back-breaking journey that may last from 10-12hrs depending upon the weather and road conditions. At the end of the journey, I almost felt like I have completed the most difficult part of my trip. Of course, you will witness picturesque mountains, rivers, valleys. But overall, you will probably be very tired after this road journey.
At the end of the day, we were introduced to our trekking team and fellow trekkers. All of them are strangers to me. At least some of them will be my good friends after this trek.
Day 1: Lohargunj to Didna village
The start of the trek was easy, downhill descent. We were losing altitudes. That only means one thing. You shall have to face uphill, steep climbs later. Anyways, it didn’t take long before we reached a point where everyone started taking pictures.
We were soon into forests. We were surrounded by incredible flora and fauna, including wild strawberries, hash leaves, leaches. And then, it started. The steep climb that I was talking about before. In every trek, there comes a point which will make you aware that this is not some picnic or usual holiday destination. This was that point. The group was stretching out. The trek leader, however, did a very good job of keeping the group together. And then, around 3PM, we were at Didna.
The houses of our home-stay were well-insulated. We had loads of time, time to socialize, relax, acclimatize. These things are an important part of a trek. Regaining calories, water, oxygen burnt by your body.
Day 2: Didna Village to Ali Bugyal
Before going to this trek, I had done little research and read details about the trek. I like the element of surprise. I was to be surprised soon on Day 2.
I have been to 8 previous Himalayan journeys. So, forest trails, natural water sources, snow trails, mountain views, valleys aren’t that big of a surprise for me (even though these always make for wonderful, pleasant landscape views). One peculiar thing about this journey was greenery. It was everywhere. The whole environment seemed so fresh, pure. Maybe because this was my first trek in the month of September.
As we were gaining altitudes, tree lines started decreasing. And suddenly, after one such steep climbed, there were no trees on our level. Instead, the whole ground and landscape were covered with green uniform grass, colourful flowers. We had reached the vast meadows of Ali Bugyal. 100s of acres of land was visible and any land above a certain altitude was covered with uniform grass. This was a big surprise for me. I have never seen such a beautiful natural landscape in my life.
We camped at Ali Bugyal (1st day of tent stay). The night sky was crystal clear with the mind-boggling views of Milky Way Galaxy.
Day 3: Ali Bugyal to Patar Nachauni via Bedni Bugyal and Ghora Lotani
Another day, another walk through Bugyals (meadows). The weather was perfect. Pictures were perfect. Most of us were still in the awe of the vastness and greenery of the landscapes.
The altitude was increasing, the temperature was decreasing. But I never noticed those things. I was absorbing the views, taking pictures.
Our campsite, however, was in a challenging spot. The day got windy and chilling cold by 5 pm itself. I knew nights and mornings were going to get more difficult from now. Even basic tasks like going outside for bathrooms became challenging.
Day 4: Patar Nachauni to Bhagwabasa via Kalu Vinayak
Easily the toughest day of the trek. For some reasons, my body was dehydrated (stomach infections) and I wasn’t drinking enough water. So finally, the trek presented a bit of physical challenge that I always carve for. The climb to Kalu Vinayak (Black Ganesha temple) is very steep. Group was taking rest every 5 minutes. Hardly, anyone was taking pictures. But the climb didn’t last long. We prayed and rested at Kalu Vinayak. I drank a black tea and was refreshed again. And looking around, the meadows were gone. The landscapes were totally different.
After reaching Bhagwabasa, the time had come when we needed thermals (low temperatures, cold wind). Our campsite had a clear and spectacular view of Mount Trishul.
Next day was our summit day. And the most difficult task for the summit: waking up at 3am. I clearly remember my late night (early morning) summit walks from previous treks. I knew we all had to go way out of our comfort zones.
Day 5: Bhagwabasa to Roopkund to Junargali to Patar Nachauni
I was so excited about the summit, I wake up even before 3 in the morning. I was ready by 4:30 am. My oximeter readings were quite low in the morning. So, I had a strategy for the summit climb this time. The last summit, I rushed through the climb without drinking much water. That was a mistake. This time, I planned to move slowly, taking deep breaths, drinking water in between. This helps in maintaining optimum oxygen levels in the body. The strategy worked. The climb to Roopkund was slow and steady. All of our team reached the lake by 6:45. The lake was all dried up. But, we got to see the famous skulls, bones of Roopkund dating back to around 800AD. There are legends and stories behind these bones, which the locals do the best job of narrating and I won’t spoil it for you.
There is a pass above Roopkund lake called Junargali. Altitude at Junargali is above 5000 metres. That was the final point of our summit. The climb to Junargali is very steep and quite challenging. Along with my previous strategy of slow and steady, I played motivational Hindi songs along the way (Chale Chalo, Sultan, Kandhon se Milte Hain Kandhe). And literally, at the end of the 3rd song (Kandhon se Milte Hain Kandhe), I reached Junargali. The other side of Junargali lies the great Mt. Trishul.
You rarely get to see 7000 metres plus peak just in front of you right from its base. The view of peaks gives you a sense of humility in front of the Himalayas. You, see such huge landscapes, such clean air, tiny human presence. Yet, the people you meet (even the strangers) will greet you and willing to genuinely help you.
Now, we had to go down to Patar Nachuni campsite. Going down is the most fun part of the trek for me. But another surprise was waiting for us. After Bhagwabasa, it started raining. All of us wore our ponchos, raincoats. The trail became slippery, muddy. I have never enjoyed any descent in my life as much as I enjoyed that descent to Patar. The reason being, I love rains. My teammates were dreading the descent, descending slowly, carefully. But I on the other had enough practice and training. “I am the king of descents, this is so much fun.” My exact thoughts that time. And truly, I reached Patar 1.5hrs before anyone else (along with trek lead). Our rain covers, raincoats weren’t enough. Many of our clothes, socks were wet due to rains. By the way, the rain didn’t stop.
Day 6: Patar Nachauni to Loharjung via Bedni and Wan
As usual, I was enjoying descending in rains. On our way back, I saw something incredibly inspiring and jaw-dropping. A nearly 75 years old gentleman was climbing up slowly and steadily in the rains with some other trekking group while I was descending. My sense of pride (“I am the king of descends”) was all gone.
But the rains, I had never seen such rains in my life. The wind was strong too. It reminded of the scenes from the movie “Shutter Island”. Around 4:30 pm, we reached Wan village (final walking destination). Wan is by far the most beautiful village I have ever seen. The people were so helpful, the kids were so kind and beautiful. All of them will greet you with smiles and “Namastes” on the way. My tiredness was all gone due to their happy faces and greetings.
Wan to Loharjung is 40 minutes by road.
Day 7: Loharjung to Kathgodam
The same back-breaking journey from where we started. This time though, the rains made it a lot more exciting.
Reaching Kathgodam, my phone picked up the network and started showing notifications after notifications. It made me realize what I missed and what I am going to miss.