We had just reached HomKund after a days trek from Dodhang Base Camp. Summit of Nandagunti Peak 6527 m was glittering in the yonder and peak was mirrored in the glacial pond. A sweet aroma was lingering around. Suddenly Cahin Singh our guide through trek dashed to ridge nearby and held a green plant uttered this Gogul…sir jee…. with pollen grains and incessantly began to describe about the medicinal properties of plant .
This trek can be divided into 5 parts. The photos of each of the section are in the links below (click on the name of the 5 sections)
The real good photos of the Roopkund trek (clicked by Sushruta) are here.
Photos of the Rupin Pass trek (clicked by Sourav Agarwal ) are here.
Dhumdharkandi Pass Recce (6th May - 9th May) : The intention was to cross the pass. So, I landed up in Uttarkashi, where I met my friend and guide Naveen. Naveen did not know the route to this pass nor did I. However, we still decided to go. Went to Jhala, a place in Gangotri Marg between Bhatwari and Harshi, from where this trek starts. We started from Jhala and reached Kyarkoti campsite in 2 days. The walk is along the Sian Gad river. There are numerous landslides one has to cross. After the first day itself we encountered snow and there were several snow/glaciated slopes that we had to cross. We camped on snow on days 2 and 3. On the 3rd day (8th May) in the morning we recced one path. The snow was knee high. In the afternoon we recced another path, trying to find the route. In the afternoon Naveen stopped after a point, judging it was pointless as there was no cairns to indicate the direction of the the pass. I went along for another 3 hours wading through waist deep snow (as it was afternoon & the snow had become soft). It seemed like the right path but then there were 3-4 dips which could have potential passes or ways to the pass. As I was not able to determine which is the route, I returned to our camp @ kyarkoti. Since we did not want to risk going on the wrong path we decided to call it quits and headed back to Jhala in 1 day (4th day). From there we headed back to Bhatwari in the evening. In hindsight I should have probably taken a local guide who has done this route, or should have taken a GPS or a contour map (instead of relying on the cairns). Anyway I have no regrets about not making it to DDK pass as I knew given the snowfall this season and the timing (early may) it was at best a 50-50 chance of making it (with a guide) and without one the chances were even less. However, it was fun exploring on ones own.
Dayara bugyal - Gidara & route to Dodital (10th May - 12th May) : On 10th May we started from Bhatwari and drove up to Barsu by 8:30 a.m. This was a territory known to Naveen. From Barsu we walked upto Dayara bugyal by around noon and then decided to walk further for another hour or so to till we reached a small lake/pond. Dayara bugyal offers good views of peaks like Chaukamba, Draupadi to Danda, Banderpoonch & Jaonli. We saw Pachendri Pal, 1st Indian woman to scale Everest, who was leading her 1st group from Tata Steel Adventure foundation for this year. They run several large groups on these programs. Next day we headed for Gidara. There was heavy snow and post lunch we were traversing through heavy snowladen ridges. I slipped a few times in the snow but was able to arrest myself. At one point Naveen slipped. As he did not have an ice-axe he was not able to arrest himself. Though he tried to dig his heels several times he kept slipping and had almost reached the edge of the cliff from which there would have been a serious fall. Luckily a few metres from the edge the snow was deeper and his heel kicking helped him stop. Later on he told me he was contemplating getting rid of his sack as he was slipping down. By this time it had started snowing heavily. I had not put my gloves on. By the time I took my gloves out of the backpack my hands were so cold (and maybe a bit swollen) that I was not able to put my gloves on. The snowing was also so heavy that it was hurting our bare skin (face/gloveless hands). Also, there was n o place to camp as we were traversing a snowy slippery ridge. We continued for another hour or so in the heavy snow. After sometime Naveen asked me if we could camp. I was surprised as I could not find any spot. He went down the slope to a small area which was flat enough for a tent, albeit covered with several feet of snow. Later on he told me that he had seen gujjars camping in that area before. We beat the snow and pitched our tents in the falling snow. As there was no water point we had to melt snow for our water and to cook dinner. The stove was lit inside the tent -:). It continued to snow heavily into the night. We both caught whatever sleep we could after 8-9 hour day as we had to get up intermittently to clear the snow on our tent. Luckily, the next morning it was not snowing. however, we were sitting in a sea of snow. Given the snow it might not be too prudent to get to dodital via Gidara. We had 2 options :- 1) To fold up our tents etc, go to Gidara (which would have been about an hours walk given the snow conditions). In normal conditions it would have been a 30 mins walk at best. Then we would have to return to Dayara (the way we came yesterday). 2) We could return to Dayara without going to Gidara. I chose option 2 because given that we had been walking all along in snow (both during DDK pass trek and yesterday) there was not much point in walking in snow further to see a snow covered bugyal -:). When we returned (which was equally dangerous because of the surface snow) we took the route via the ridge. We went via Surya Top (an area so christened by Pachendri pal) and back to a place a couple of kms away (and lower) than where we had camped a couple of days ago. Oh, did I forget to mention that since the upper of my boots were torn my feet were absolutely cold and numb (both @ DDK and here). -:). It was another 7-8 hour day.
Dodital - Darwa Top & Yamunotri : (13th May - 15th May) : From our campsite near Dayara we descended all the way down to Assi Ganga through dense forests. After some time we could not find the trail so we followed the stream from a waterfall to the place where it met the river. The river was pretty wide and there were 2 huge trees which had fallen over the river. We crossed the river by walking over the trunks of these trees. From here there is a tiring ascent upto Manjhi, where we had lunch. Post lunch we continued onto Dodital - a straightforward hour and a half walk on a wide mule trail. The lake is very serene and the surroundings are really beautiful. The next day we walked upto Darwa Top. There were plenty of monals to be spotted along the way. It is a 2 hour walk upto Darwa Pass and nearly another 2 hours to Darwa Top. The route from slightly below the Darwa Pass to Darwa Top is completely covered in Snow. There was about 12-15ft of snow @ Darwa Top. After spending about 30 mins savouring the 360 degree views of the mountain ranges we decided to descend. We slid down the snow-covered slopes where possible. Again because of the snow we could not find any defined track. Also, given that there were no tracks it did not seem that anyone had crossed over towards Yamunotri this season (at least in the past month). After sliding over the snow we had to go through forests till we reached a river. Enroute we rested at a place which seemed like a garden amidst the snow, with all the flowers of different hues. We crossed the stream and then it was nearly continuous descent, crossing alpine meadows, gujjar huts and a couple of villages before we reached Hanuman Chatti. This was nearly a 12 hour walking day. The next day, 16th May Navin decided to head back to Agoda. I decided to head to Yamunotri - as it was just an hour away by vehicle. Having come this far it did not seem right not going to Yamunotri. I was not sure whether I would do the bali pass, so to keep my options open I carried my 20-25kg rucksack with me. Before I left for Yamunotri I had some exciting times at Hanumanchatti. I lost my purse while boarding the taxi to Yamunotri. I realized that just as soon as I got on the taxi. So deboarded the taxi after a 100 m or so and walked back and searched the road. My purse was not to be found. All the locals also helped me. They suggested I go to the police checkpost (which was closeby) and complaint. Just as I went there and was complaining the chowkidar of the checkpost came and returned my purse to me. He had found it lying on the road. I gave him Rs 500 and after sometime headed off to Yamunotri in a bus. It is a 5 km walk upto the Yamunotri temple from the roadhead. Given that this was Char-Dham yatra time the whole route was crowded (with a lot of jams). The palki (doli) wallahs and the horsemen, carrying pilgrims, often blocked the whole way. To add to this it also started snowing closer to Yamunnotri temple. So, I jostled my way past the crowds to the temple. After a quick look at the temple I returned. The descent was far less crowded. With this I have completed visiting all the Char Dhams ( Gangotri/Yamunotri / Badrinath / Kedarnath), though that was never my intention/goal. I think I reached Barkot that night (15th May).
Transit from Yamunotri to Roopkund trek : Returned to Uttarkashi from Barkot by noon on 16th May. Visited NIM in the afternoon where I met up with some of my Basic Course batchmates who were completing their Advanced course and also with some of the staff. Then went to Agoda with Naveen, who met me @ Uttarkashi. BTW, Agoda is a 7 km walk along a well laid out trail (to Dodital) from Sangamchatti, which is an hours drive from Uttarkashi. Had dinner with Naveen's family @ agoda on 16th and returned to Uttarkashi on 17th May noon. I had planned to go Srinagar on 17th May. However, all the buses to Srinagar leave in the morning so I bought the tickets on bus to Srinagar for 18th morning and stayed in Uttarkashi on 17th May. On 18th I took the bus to Srinagar and then a shared taxi via Rudraprayag / Karnaprayag to NarayanBagad. Since it was late evening I could not find a taxi to Debal. So stayed @ a lodge in NarayanBagad on 18th May. On 19th May morning I took a taxi to Debal (via Tharali) and a jeep from there to reach Lohajung around noon.
Roopkund (19th May - 26th May 2012) : This was going to be a new experience for me as my friend Vishwa, who runs his own adventure company called Summiters, had asked me to accompany a 11 member group of his to Roopkund as he could not make it with the group. The team arrived on 19th May evening @ Lohajung. However Vishwa did finally manage to accompany the group - a decision he took @ the last minute. The group comprised folks in the age group of 29-66. We set off for Wan, along a jeepable track on 20th May and then there was about an hour or two of climb before we camped. On 21st May we reached Bedni Bugyal - obviously a green campsite. On 22nd May we reached Baghubasa. After Kalu vinayak the path was covered with Snow. Since the mules could not go beyond Pathar Nachuni most of the stuff was left behind in the forest department huts @ Pathar Nachuni. The team proceeded with 1 day's rations and clothing to Baghubasa, which we reached in evening (around 4-5 p.m). On 23rd May we left for RoopKund early (around 6 :00 a.m). Of the 11 members (besides Vishwa, myself and the guide) 7 of the members reached Roopkund by 10:30 a.m. 3 of the more elderly members in their 60s decided to stop about 100ft below roopkund. 1 member (Dutch national) had a severe stomach problem and so he stopped about an hour's walk from Baghubasa. Since the route was snow covered we could follow the traditional route. We opened the route, which climbed up the ridge and then traversed along the ridge to Roopkund. This was the first group to get as many people to roopkund so early in this season. During the return the group slided down many of the slopes and reached Baghubasa by around 3:30 p.m. On our return we were welcomed by the group from "Trek The Himalayas" who were going there the next day. We had some food @ baghubasa and it was 7 p.m by the time the last member of the group arrived @ PatharNachuni. From here on it was a more leisurely travel. On 24th May we went from Pathar Nachuni to Ali Bugyal, 25th May to Didna and 26th May back to Lohajung. 27th May we took a taxi back to Rishikesh and I proceeded from Rishikesh along with Apurva to Dehradun. Overall the Roopkund trek is a nice trek.
Rupin Pass (29th May - 2nd June). After a daylong journey in a bus to Naitwar we (Apurva and I) took a jeep to reach Dhaula by 6 p.m on 28th May. On 29th May we trekked from Dhaula to Jhaka. In between we stopped for lunch at Jiskun. My friend Apurva came by Jiskun after an hour or so of waiting (he had missed the path and had to scramble up some landslide area). In between Sewa and Jhaka one has to walk for about an hour on a road that is being newly constructed. That part is not much fun. Apurva was definitely tired by the time Jiskun. However, on my insistence he climbed further up to the village of Jhaka. On 30th May we walked to Dhanderas thatch, a beautiful green campsite. The Indiahikes team was also camping at the same spot. Had a nice shower in the river. On 31st May we went to the upper waterfall camp which we reached around 2-3 p.m. There were some steep snow sections enroute to the upper waterfall camp. The campsite was fully snowed out so we pitched our tents in the Snow. The most interesting part was the waterpoint which was a good 100 m away and also up a steep snow covered slope. The porters from the Indiahikes team had slid the watercans down the slope from the waterpoint and had made the whole area like a slide. Apurva initially went to get water and slid down as he could not make it to the water point. Meanwhile I melted some snow for water for the evening coffee and soup. After Apurva's attempt I too went and managed to get the water from the waterpoint. As soon we hit the sack that evening it started snowing and it snowed through the night. On 1st June it was snowing till about 6:00 a.m. So, we lit the stove within the tent (not an advisable proposition) and had breakfast. We then marched onto the Rupin pass. Along with Apurva I also could help some of the indiahikes team to climb upto the pass. After the usual stint of photography we descended to Kandla village (on the sangla side). Since it was about 5 p.m when we reached Kandla we decided to camp alongside the IndiaHikes team. We headed to Sangla on 2nd June.
Transit from Sangla to Delhi (2nd June -3rd June) : There was a bus heading to Rampur from Sangla (@ 10:30 a.m). From Rampur, which we reached around 3:00 p.m we took a direct bus to Delhi, which we reached at 7:00 a.m on 3rd June. I managed to catch the karnataka express to reach bangalore on 5th June.
In addition to the paradise She shares with Siva on Kailas, Parvati has her abode on a number of other mountains. As Nanda Devi, the "Goddess of Bliss," She dwells in beauty on the lovely peak of that name in the Himalayas. The highest mountain in India outside the principality of Sikkim. Nanda Devi soars in alluring curves of rock and ice to culminate in a delicate summit, poised at 25,645 feet above a ring of snow peaks that form a sanctuary protecting the Goddess from all but Her most determined admirers. The only break in their otherwise impregnable wall of rock and snow is the terrifying gorge of the Rishi Ganga, one of the sources of the sacred Ganga, named after seven sages of Hindu stories, who fled the oppression of demons to seek refuge with the Goddess before departing this world to become enshrined as seven stars in the constellation of Ursa Major. Shepherds and porters from nearby villages who venture into the area believe that they can sometimes hear the sounds of these sages--drums beating, the blare of trumpets and the eerie barking of dogs. The few foreign mountaineers who manage to penetrate the gorge, inching their way along the sides of sheer cliffs that plunge thousands of feet into the river roaring below, find themselves in a paradise of gentle meadows filled with flowers at the foot of the sacred peak, which stands like a temple in the middle of the sanctuary itself.
Nanda Devi lies in Uttarakhand, the principal area of pilgrimage in the Indian Himalayas. Nanda Devi is a two-peaked massif, forming a 2 kilometres long high ridge, oriented east-west. The west summit is higher, and the eastern summit is called Nanda Devi East. Together the peaks are referred to as the twin peaks of the goddess Nanda. The main summit stands guarded by a barrier ring comprising some of the highest mountains in the Indian Himalayas (one of which is Nanda Devi East).The eastern summit earlier called Nanda Devi East is now also referred to as Sunanda Devi.
This region ranks second only to Kailash and Manasarovar in the degree of its sanctity for Hindus. Closer to the lowlands and much more accessible, it is visited by many more pilgrims, who come by the tens of thousands to bathe at Gomukh, the glacial source of the Ganga, and to worship at Kedarnath and Badrinath, lofty temples of Siva and Vishnu sequestered in narrow valleys beneath the icy thrones of the Gods themselves. The region is also the favorite haunt of holy men and wandering yogis, who come to follow the example of Siva and meditate in the sharp clear air of the heights, within sight of the peaks that lead to heaven and the goal they seek.
As the Goddess who resides on the highest mountain in the region, Nanda Devi has many shrines and temples dedicated to Her. One of the better-known ones is in the hill station of Almora, which affords one of the best views of the peak itself and the mountains that surround it. Although primarily a benevolent deity, Nanda can take on the form of Durga, the wrathful Goddess. The people of the region also view Nanda Devi as a benevolent source of life and renewal. According to ancient Hindu tales, a flood once covered the entire world. A sage named Manu was warned of the impending disaster and built a boat in which he survived. Vishnu incarnated himself as a fish and towed the craft to safety on a mountain peak. As the waters receded, Manu together with his family and the remnants of all living creatures went down the slope to repopulate the Earth. The people of Uttarakhand identify the mountain of the flood as Nanda Devi, and one local group, the Rajis, still regard the peak as the abode of their ancestors. According to one legend, the seven sages accompanied Manu and remained behind to dwell in the company of the Goddess.
It was while desceding on one of the ridges of Saath Kula during my trek to Dharansi pass in outer Nandadevi sanctuary I heard about this bug root by a localite who was searching for it. It was called Keeda jadi. Again during my sajourns in Adi kailash trek I was fortunate to see this with a tibetan llama at Gunji. Curiosity persuaded me to know more about this. It was Cordyceps and is sometimes known as the Chinese fungus called Cordyceps Sinesis ; or Caterpillar Fungus. It can also be considered to be the Yarchagumba Herb which grows in Himalayas at an alttude of 14,000ft, in the sub alpine pasture areas of that country. It is called Yarchagumba after the parasitic fungus that is valued for its tonic and aphrodisiacal properties in medicine. Some medical practitioners consider the Cordyceps sinesis very good for lessening phlegm, halting hemorrhage (otherwise called profuse bleeding), boosting your vitality and energy levels; and enhancing the resistance of your kidneys and lungs to disorders.
Himalayan Mystery Lake
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." -John Muir
The word ‘Roopkund’ illustrates images of a beautiful frozen lake amidst snow clad mountains and rock-strewn glaciers of Himalayas. With a perfectly stunning setting of dense virgin forests, lovely campsites, endless rippling meadows, crooning brooks, pretty lakes and views of ice and snow found among the rich folklore, Roopkund is a pulsating destination for tourists and adventure enthusiasts. This high altitude glacial lake in the state of Uttarakhand is truly a natural wonder. Imagine what it would be like to climb about 5,000 metres of a snow-bathed mountain and experience the chilling shiver of your adrenaline. Adventure trekkers breathe to find a location and setting as mind-numbing as this and the location cannot get any better for beginner trekkers.
The lake is approximately two metres deep and is frozen during most months of the year. It is during summers that the sun melts the lake and invites trekkers and pilgrims from all around the globe to the revered beauty of Himalayas. The sacred festivity of Nanda Devi Raj Jat takes place once every yearto worship the divine Goddess Nanda and throughout this stretch, pilgrims visit the region in a massive number.TheYatra is held during the months of August and September and itbegins from thevillage of Nauti near Karnaprayag and continues from Roopkund to Homkund. If you plan your trek well, you might get to participate in this traditional festival.
Roopkund is locally called as ‘Mystery Lake’and ‘Skeletal Lake’ because of human skeletons found at the bottom of the lake. When the ice melts, the skulls from these skeletons are easily visible creating an invincible mystery in the minds of the by-standers. What is it that is so gorgeous yet so mysterious about this lake? In the year 1942, a ranger from Nanda Devi game reserve H K Madhwal, was the first person to discover these skeletons. But the mystery of who are the people buried and why were they found in this gorgeous yet cursed lake still remains unravelled. Along with the skeletons many objects like rings, wooden artifacts, iron spearheads and leather slippers were found in this lake. There are numerable theories about these skeletons,most of them dating from to 9th Century A.D. to 19th Century A.D.
A visit from the team of NGC led to a series of investigation from scientists across the world. The mystery continued until it was discovered that the skeletons belonged to a group of unfortunate pilgrims who were trapped in a hailstorm. Since there were no physical damage or injuries relevantly found in these skeletons, the injuries on the skulls pointed fingers at hailstones as big as cricket balls subsiding on the shelter-less pilgrims.
This trip to Roopkund begins on your arrival to Kathgodam which is a small town in the district of Nainital. The enchanting trek that starts from Lohajhung paves way towards the River Neel Ganga or Neel Dhara that flows with tranquillity through the valleys of Kulling. The wildlife and flora of this place is immensely beautiful. MonalPheshant or MonalTragopanare the state bird of Uttarkhand and are quite commonly found in this region. Mountains goats or Bharals are also a frequent sight. The trails of the endless dense forests of Rhododenderons, oaks and pines are covered with brown leaves welcoming trekkers to this royal Lake.
The ageless green meadows that last for miles greet your way before gracefully merging with mountain sides. The small and big streams in the Bugyal region is a refreshing sight and you can fill your water bottles and take a relaxing bath here. Lush oak forests provide a golden pathway bewitching you to the very core. The weather changes as you gain new heights and ascent towards thin air often causing breathlessness and fatigue in trekkers. It is very necessary to slow down in such times and give enough time to get adjusted to these changes in the weather. You will soon see patches of snow coming your way close to the Lake. Towards the end of the trek, hard and slippery snow can be very consuming. During adverse conditions, you will need to carry ice-axes to cut steps in the snow especially if you are travelling with a smaller crowd.
The enriching experience of trekking in the serenity of Himalayas will heal your senses for a very long time making it the trip of your lifetime. You will see nature’s generosity at a whole new level and appreciate every ounce of it.