After my failed attempt last season to conquer the Rupin pass, I decided to give it a try again this summer. My perseverance paid off. Not only did I conquer Rupin pass, I also got an opportunity to witness the awesome beauty of that magnificent trail. Unlike my last blog on Rupin, which ran to pages with my boring account on each incident, this time I thought I will just stick to posting the pictures. 'A picture speaks thousand words' says an adage. With my limited proficiency in English it is tough to explain in words the scenic beauty that the trail holds. Trust the new narration format will also make life easier for the readers.
21-May-2011: Dhaula - Our first campsite on the banks of the river Rupin
All the trekkers had got together at Dehradun. From there 3 vehicles carried the entire team onto the village of Dhaula. The route was Dehradun - Mussorie - Nainbagh - Damta - Natwar - Dhaula. A beautiful campsite awaited us on the river banks. We halted for the day there.
22-May-2011: The beautiful and pristine Rupin river. Throughout the trek, the river accompanies us
After submission of the fitness certificates, disclaimer forms and a briefing session, we started our first day trek towards the village of Sewa.
The next camp at Sewa
After a really tiresome trek on a scorching day for close to 8 hrs, we finally reached our campsite. Surprisingly after the tiresome walk, I had the energy for a game of cricket on the bankside. We all hit the bed after a sumptuous dinner
Next day morning we set out for our next destination, Jhaka. We were already told that todays trek is probably one of the toughest and gruelling one. It did turn out to be a laborious day with long steep climbs, punctuated with some real scary and risky, edge of the cliff walks. In between we halted at Bauta for our lunch break. The final stretch leading towards Jhaka is a steep climb which lasted for a couple of hours.
23-May-2011: The starting of the steep climb towards Jhaka, the hanging village
By early evening we reached the village of Jhaka. After a much needed rest, we went around the village to interact with the locals
The mountains and its uneven landscape don't deter these kids from finding a place for a game of cricket. Unlike playing in a terrace, wherein if the ball is hit too hard, it falls down below for someone to collect it, here a powerfully hit shot will take the ball all the way to the valley deep down.
One more tasty dinner marked the end of the day for us. Next day morning we started towards Saruwas thatch. considering the first two days of tough trekking, the path to Saruwas thatch was a relatively easier one with gentle walks in between climbs/descends. After trekking through the jungles, the trail suddenly opened up to showcase a huge valley. It was a sight to behold. It was our first encounter with snow on the trek. Beyond this, it was just snow all the way till the last day of trek. Despite enjoying the scenic beauty of the place, the walk never seemed to end with no sight of camp nearby. It was again only by evening that we could reach our campsite.
24-May-2011: The route leading to Saruwas thatch
The Saruwas thatch campsite, again by the river Rupin, but a half-frozen one !!
The evening time was spent by an extended session of Acclimatisation walk and training on snow-walking. It was followed by a game of cricket, before it was interrupted when the sky opened up to throw ice cubes at us !! Yes, it was a hailstorm which pushed all of us into the tents for a brief period
People getting trained on snow-walking
Porters - our life saviours
25-May-2011: After a freezing night's sleep, we started towards lower waterfall camp. From hereon, it was mostly walking on snow. On flat surfaces it was relatively manageable. It was in those slopes and elevated passes that we found it tough to grip the surface with our boots.
The full team
This picture gives an idea of the kind of climbs that we came across
After a couple of hours we were suddenly told by our instructor that we have reached the campsite. It was a pleasant surprise for all of us. We couldn't believe our ears. The first three days saw us clocking an average of 7 to 8 hours of trekking. So a couple of hours of trek looked like a holiday for us. We had the whole day to enjoy the beauty of the location. Since the terrain was too slopy, we could not continue our daily dosage of cricket. Hence we had to resort to a game of cards. Playing cards on the open meadow, surrounded by the great himalayan ranges felt like being on mother nature's lap.
The two waterfalls seen in the middle, far off in the mountain was our next day destination. That's the place where the Rupin river is formed.
Enjoying a cup of hot soup
Acclimatisation walk, to avoid AMS (Acute Mountain sickness)
The best place to be in, during freezing condition, the sleeping bag :-)
26-May-2011: One more bone-biting cold night came to an end. Early morning 7 o clock saw all the trekkers ready with their backpacks. It was a tough day ahead, not in terms of distance, but the terrain since it was all snow walking.
This was the first steep, tricky path that we came across. We had to use ropes to keep ourselves from slipping. A line was formed so as to use the same foot marks left behind by our predecessors. It was a snail-paced walk. The photo does not really depict the steepness and slippery conditions.
Nearing our destination, the upper waterfalls
Our instructor. A mountaineer for the past 18 yrs !!
On the edge @ 13000 feet !!
The valley deep down below, that's where we had started the day's trek. Shows the altitude that we had covered.
Our next camp at upper water fall
The kitchen tent, pitched at the edge
A look back at the path covered in the past two days
A top angle view of our campsite
27-May-2011: Needless to repeat, the campsite being located right on snow indicates the kind of cold temperature that was experienced. At night, it very well dipped below zero. As per the schedule, the next day was the all important trek to cross the pass. Since it was a tough day ahead, that too at an altitude of 15K feet, it was decided that we will start off as early as 3 in the morning. Early morning at 2 we were greeted by the porters serving chai at our tent door step !! No words to express their sense of duty. However, a sudden heavy downpour of rainfall compelled us to have a prolonged sleep. Finally at 6 o clock most of us were out of the tents, gearing up for crossing the pass. At 7 we started our trek. The picture below is one of the many precarious diagonal crosses that we had to make in slippery snow. The altitude, sloping trail combined with slippery snow made the crossing risky and tough. Thanks to the porters and guide's helping hand, we all could cross all such places safely.
The moment we crossed the above place, tiny, white feather-like droplets started falling on us. To our greatest delight it was the beginning of the snowfall. For some of the first-timers, who had never experienced snow-fall before it was a joyous moment. The fact that we were standing precariously at an altitude of close to 14k feet did not stop us from celebrating the moment. Little did we know that the fall will start becoming heavy and hamper our trekking pace. As seen below, for the next couple of hours it was snow fall all the way. With already the entire trail completely carpeted with white sheets of deep snow, the fall added to the poor visibility ahead. It was a memorable experience to walk-through such a trail.
There were hundreds of sheep crossing our path, thus creating a easy trail for us
The white blanket !!!
Nearing the Rupin pass
The right side corner top is the Rupin pass. It was almost a 70 degree climb to the top
On TOP OF THE WORLD. The Rupin pass @ 15250 feet !!!
After a struggling, tiresome walk for 4 hours, we finally conquered the pass. All the 6 days of hardwork had paid off. This is what all of us had aspired for. This is the magical place that pulls trekkers from across all corners of the country, a few from abroad also, to have a visit. This is the destination for many mountain-lovers. It was such a satisfying feeling to have set foot on a place which was a dream destination for many. After a round of prayer and photo session we started the descend towards Rontigad
It was a sharp descend towards Rontigad. In some places we slided down to fasten our pace. However, any miscalculation in judging the slide route will turn out to be dangerous. As seen below in this photo, if we do not slide in the correct direction and posture, its a direct fall down into the valley (look at the right side). No chance of any survival.
The path seemed like heading towards clouds !!!
Meeting the clouds !!
Finally we could see some grassland. And precisely thats where we pitched our camp
28-May-2011: It was the last night in tent for all of us, marking the end of the trek. By this time everyone were looking forward to reaching the city at the earliest, since the trek was already over. We all assumed that next day was mere couple of hours descend towards sangla valley. However we were in for a surprise. For me personally, it was one of the toughest day of trek. Not even the sharp, steep climbs had tired me as much as these descends had. It was taking a toll on my already arthritis affected knees. The fact that the trek was almost over had a pschological effect on all of us. The mood had changed from enjoying the mountains, to looking forward to reach civilisation.
The trek finally ended at the beautiful valley of Sangla, bordered by the Kinnaur kailash ranges. It was late afternoon by the time we reached our destination. After a sumptuous lunch it was time for a team briefing wherein each of the trekkers shared their experience of past 7 days. Finally, the certificates were distributed for each members. It was a good gesture by IndiaHikes to have designed a certificate to mark our accomplishment. We bid farewell to each other and boarded the evening bus to Shimla thereby marking the end of what was a memorable travel experience. Me and my friend halted at Delhi for a day to recuperate ourselves and caught the evening flight back home.
First thanks is to IndiaHikes team. I have two reasons to thank them. One is that, they were the one who introduced me to this wonderful option of nature exploring by trekking and second is the way the Rupin pass trek was organised this season. It was their trekking invitation last year during september that made me attempt my first Himalayan trek. Unfortunately things did not go too well due to torrential rain and weather conditions and I had to comeback halfway quitting the trek. This time, the Rupin Pass trek was amazingly organised with no hiccups. Wonderful accommodation, great food and the most helpful support staff. For people who wish to kickstart/pursue their passion in trekking, I highly recommend IndiaHikes. Considering the quality of accomodation, food and the kind of routes that they take you to, I think they are the most economical option. Anyother organiser might probably charge you that extra buck or probably compromise on the quality aspect. With a fair bit of mountaineering experienced staff to ensure our safety, you can count on IH to conquer the heights of himalayas.
My second thanks is to my friend Mohan. When we venture onto something like trekking, unless you are high on passion with regard to mountains or a crazy nature lover, its tough to do the walk alone with no one to accompany. A friend will not only be a helping hand during those tough crosses or climbs, but also will be a companion with whom you can have a chat with, all along the trail. 7 to 8 hours of continuous walking daily in the jungles and hills, talking to him on all the topic in the world made the walk less strenuous. The occasional stops to throw the camera at him and pose for some photos, sitting down for a break to catch our breath and wondering to each other why the hell we chose such a tough trek and invited a punishment onto ourselves, the night time chats spent inside our cozy tent with a torch light hanging on top to serve as the tent light were some of the memorable moments we had together.
There were lot of lessons learnt during my two trek to the Himalayas. Trekking is not only about nature-watch. It also teaches you lot of things. Endurance, perseverance, understanding our own country's varied culture and lifestyles, crisis-management, getting to meet people from various walks of life & share eachother's experiences, explore & appreciate the abundant beauty of our own country etc. Apart from all these, there were a few lessons on how to approach a trekking programme. They are
a) Trekking is not a sight-seeing picnic : Trekking should not be taken lightly as if its a picnic. One shouldn't be carried away by the wonderful scenic photographs that are shared by our predecessors. It has its element of risk, risks that might probably even take your life. You ask a mountaineer and he would say "Anything less than fracture will not be considered an injury". When you are trekking in groups, do not expect people to bother to stop by and attend to you for minor injuries, because they themselves will be struggling to move their way up in the hills. Also, before venturing into any trekking, be aware of what kind of hazards are bound to happen in the trail. In most trekking routes, there wont be access to medical facilities. The first aid kit being carried will be the only doctor available. The least that can be done is to evacuate you by carrying you all the way down to the nearest civilisation which might probably take more than a day if you are caught deep inside the hills. Hence it is better to be mentally prepared to face such dire situations just in case.
b) Fitness is the key : Do not take chances if you are physically ill-prepared for a trek. You will not only be risking your own life, but also will be spoiling the program of all the participants who had turned up to have a good trek. It is a must that you should be physically fit to counter the difficulties of the trail. Unless you are fit, you will not be in a position to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding. Fatigue will take over your thought-process. Hence it is advisable to start off your fitness preparation atleast a couple of months before the day of trekking.
c) Must carry items : A good pair of shoes with solid bottom, sweater and thermal wears, gloves, sun-glass (other than blue coloured), rain-coat, branded trekking bag, basic medical kit, 3 to 5 pair of socks, toffees, a pair of sandals, wet-tissues and other toiletaries. All these are a must, considering that you undertake a himalayan trek that stretches for around a week. DO NOT compromise on the quality of the shoes and the trekking bag. Imagine a situation wherein you are trekking at an altitude of 10K plus somewhere in the high slopes or somewhere deep in the forest when suddenly your boot sole is ripped off or your bag shoulder is torn off. Would you really want to encounter such a situation ? Hence, be generous in doing that initial investment for a good pair of shoes and trekking bags. They last for long and have a decent warranty period. Quecha, Wildcraft are some of the brands that you can consider.
d) Do not over-burden yourselves : In both my treks, I did the grave mistake of carrying more than 15k of weight in my bag and suffered a lot. It took a toll on my back and neck. It is advisable to keep your bags as light as possible. This will make a hell lot of difference during your steep climbs and descends. Do not keep stuffing your bags with unnecessary things. Carry only the important items. Cotton clothes generally occupy more space. Hence lookout for someother material which is easy to stuff. Try to save space in any given opportunity. Soap sachets instead of bars, mini size toothpaste instead of the regular are some of the ways. Also avoid carrying hi-fi gadgets, costly watches etc. Try to stuff everything in your trekking bag. Do not carry more than one bag, even if the other one is going to be a small camera bag or anything else. Its tough to have one more bag hanging onto your neck or shoulders (other than your main trekking bag).
e) Always its way forward : When you are in the middle of the trek and you feel that you do not have it in you to make it till the complete trek, think twice. Being a person who had quit half-way during my first trek, I know how big a mistake it turned out to be. When we are as a team, doing a trek its always way forward. Believe in you, believe in the team and try to move forward instead of quitting half-way. The first two days of the trek will always be difficult since it will take time for the body to get accustomed to the drilling of 8 hrs of hardship. Hence do not jump to the conclusion that its impossible ahead. It will be tough no doubt, but its easier to achieve it when we travel together as a team by helping each other out. By returning back, you run the risk of making it all alone, thus losing out on the support that you enjoyed along with the team. However if there are any injuries that forces you, then its better to call it a day.
f) Walk at a steady pace : Its not a running race out there, wherein the winner gets rewarded. Do not try to compete with your team mates. Walk at your own pace, however try not to distant yourself from others so much that the entire team is way ahead and you are snailing behind last. It can sometimes be demoralising or demotivating to be left far behind all others. It will also mentally make us feel negative that probably we do not belong here and have done a mistake by choosing this trek. Hence maintain a steady pace. Avoid frequent stops since that will hamper your momentum. Try walking continuously as much as possible and breaks if any, keep it a to a minimal timing. As much as possible do not sit down during your breaks. Once you sit down its tough to start off again and gain the same momentum.
g) Eat light : Based on my own forgettable experiences, I feel its better to have a light meal. Just because the food is tasty, do not stuff yourselves with loads of item and encounter an embarrassing situation wherein during the middle of the trek you are made to lookout for a place to shit or an even worse situation of running in the middle of the night to unload yourselves. The latter situation is not only tough to handle but also risky since in the hurry to attend the nature call you might trip over a stone or worst case fall of from an edge (if the camp is putup on a cliff side). Hence its outright necessary to have utmost control over our body's timing for nature call. It might look to be a funny point, hence can be easily ignored by many.
h) Do not litter : One of the primary reasons for places like Rupin, Roopkund etc being so beautiful is, because they are not inhabited by human beings. Hence they are allowed to retain their pristine natural beauty. Any human intervention results in spoiling the natural flaura and fauna. If we want to enjoy naturally scenic places like these it is our duty to ensure that we do not litter the surroundings. Needless to say, avoid throwing plastic items. Retain it with yourselves or handover the same to the organisers who will find a way to dispose them off.
You might all think that "Just two treks in his life and he is giving advice to others as if he is a pro". Of course am not a professional mountaineer. But for someone who is looking to do his/her first trek, I do not want them to do the mistakes which I did. Ensuring the above are followed will probably help you to have a safe and hassle-free trek.