Monday, August 17, 2015

Through my lens - Roopkund trek, Uttarakhand

Roopkund is scenic trek in the Himalayas and a journey beyond imagination!  Through the route, the trekker can feast on varied landscapes and finally summit at the Skeleton lake 15,696 ft above sea level!

My buddies and I summited Roopkund on 6th June 2014.  We did this trek through 'Trek the Himalayas' (http://www.trekthehimalayas.com/TTH-Treks/Roopkund-Trek/).  You can read about the trek hereTill date this has been one of my most memorable travel milestones.  Not only was the trek a feast for the eyes (don't scroll down until you read further!), it was also a test of willpower and overcoming adversity. 

Scroll below for a photo essay of the trek.  

***Statutory warning: The photos below are stunning and contagious.  You may want to do a Himalayan trek real soon***

Where it all began! Delhi bound in Rajdhani express!

Day 1: 

We arrived early morning at Kathgodam station.  Thereafter, it was nearly an 8 hour drive from Kathgodam to Loharjung - through winding roads, river crossings and thick tree cover - our night halt and base camp for Roopkund trek.

Arriving at Kathgodam.  This is where the struggle to attend to nature's call began.
View from our breakfast halt enroute Loharjung from Kathgodam station

Views enroute Loharjung from Kathgodam
Playing with cute kids at our night halt at Loharjung

Day 2: 

We began our trek from Loharjung to Didna village at 8 am post a hearty breakfast and briefing from our trek leader. The trek involved initial 2.5-3 kms descent followed by 2 km steep ascend which tested our fitness (which wasn't great!) and willpower (we survived on this!). Luckily, after the tiresome halt, rhododendron juice, homely meal and a night in the cozy blanket of the home stay was just what we needed!


All the trekkers assemble at Loharjung accommodation before the trek
Villages throughout the trail
Posing at not quite the "One Tree Hill"
River crossing - With a little help from friends - somewhere between Loharjung and Didna village

Wiling away an afternoon at Didna village while trying to keep a poker face! All this to ensure we go not sleep in the afternoon, as per our trek leader afternoon nap will hamper our acclimatization.

Resting after an acclimatization session.  As a tradition, after resting and lunching at the base camp, we went for a small hike which was higher than the altitude of our base camp to get us trek-ready for next morning!

Day 3: 

One of the most picturesque day of the trek! We trekked through thick forest, foliage and then Bugyals (alpine pasture lands) as far as eyes could see to reach Ali Bugyal.  It was a long day of trek where we ate our lunch on the go.  Arriving at the base camp mid afternoon, this was our first camp with tented accommodation (all tents were pitched in advance as this was peak trek season).  The campsite gave us a majestic view of the snow-clad mountains and the drizzle followed by a rainbow was the highlight!

Getting trek ready! Lenses wearing lessons from the pro :D

Chilling in the bed of flowers!

Basking in the sun during our break!
Resting after the steep hike through dense forest - note the trees in the backdrop, that's what we walked through!
Being "Macro"scopic!

Mules carrying supplies and luggage.  They are a lifeline through the trek. 

Rhododendron

Trekking and chilling! All in a day's work!

Walking through trees and foliage

Just where the tree cover gave way to the Bugyals

Spotted - Stubby shrubs during our trail

A village in the distance

Bugyals overlooking the mountains

Gentle rise and fall of the land at the Bugyals
Edge of the Bugyal

Taking a break and soaking in the view from the Bugyals!

Isn't this Fairy-tale-like setting?! Wild horses grazing at the Bugyals

Me, Bugyals and the temple in the background

The ridge right before our descend to the campsite

Arriving at Ali Bugyal, our campsite for Day 3

When it rains look for rainbow!

Picture perfect - Sun shine, snow-clad mountains and greenery

Washed out evening at Ali Bugyal.  Our trek leaders were worried for our next day's trek. We, on the other hand, were enjoying the sudden change in weather!

A view to die for!

A stunning sunset after the rain

Day 4: 

On the 4th day we gained considerable height as we left the Ali Bugyal to get to Ghora Lotani.  The initial hike took us over a ridge where the wind was relentless. We experienced lack of oxygen and thinning vegetation.  As the ridge ended, the hike eased out and brought us to a clearing from where we could see rows and rows of snow-clad mountains!  Our target, Roopkund, was somewhere there.  Thereafter, we walked through arid mountain face where only miniature flowers grew. However, the rocks at the edge of the trail were stunning and seem to form patterns in the mountain.  

Our campsite at Ghora Lotani was at the edge of the mountain. We could see a zig-zag trail, our route for tomorrow.  That itself was enough to make us apprehensive, yet give us a high!

Starting from the start.  Passing through the Bugyals briefly.

Need I say more?! View from the clearing!

Posers will be posers


Walking the last stretch until our base camp!

I found my spot

Burst of colour in an arid landscape!

Day 5: 

From rock brown landscape, to trail sprinkled with snow, to the glacier crossing and ultimately blowing the conch at Kalu Vinayak temple, day 5 was a roller-coaster.  The trail seemed extremely busy and our trek leaders were focused on getting us to our final base camp at Bhagwabasa before lunchtime. After Kalu Vinayak, we struggled to walk through snow and it was a respite to get to the base camp.  The tents were pitched on snow, the wind was blizzardly and soon after lunch we practiced hiking with our additional gear (gaiters and crampons).  There would help us keep the snow from entering our shoe/ give us grip with the spikes to successfully summit Roopkund.  

The sunset from Bhagwabasa was magical.  Thereafter, we had an early dinner and hit the bed (more like sleeping bags) by 8.  Setting our alarm clock for 4 am, we prayed that night, as much as for a successful, injury free summit as we did for good weather.

At Kalu Vinayak

Rest time at Kalu Vinayak

Reflections
Our campsite.  Snow snow everywhere!

Funkiest cap award goes to....!

An afternoon of introspection and emotional hindi songs
Pitching out walking stick and the trekker cap.  Truly gearing up for Summit day!

The scariest loo. Yes, those are bathroom tents. Trust me, you'd rather go out on the snow than those tents.
In the meantime, the sun began to bid us adieu

This is what magic looks like from 4,304 mtrs above sea level!

Sunsets like these!
Walking on the edge to catch the last glow of the sun!

As Bhagwabasa slept,,,

Day 6:  Roopkund conquered!

We slipped, walked some more, gave us and walked some more. A display of sheer determination and teamwork later, 18 of us conquered the Roopkund summit! Everything around us, including the Skeletal lake of Roopkund was frozen.  At 15,696 feet above see level, the feeling of victory was unmatched! Our trek leaders/ support staff were kind enough to bring us breakfast of hot porraige at the summit.  

Everything thereafter is a blue, except my the incessant fear of falling off the cliff while descending!

My buddies and me! Celebrating birthday with Godiva!

Definitely not the most flattering photo :P

Killing it with the pose!

The victorious gang!
Roopkund summit - you beauty!

Day 7 and 8: And we all trek down!

I don't like descents.  As we descended over next two days, my knees were very unhappy, though my body preferred the warmer nights.  The landscape changed constantly - snow, brown mountain sides, bugyals, lush trees, foliage and finally to Wan village (passing through Pathar Nachunia).  On the way we met some friendly villagers, passed by campsites of other trek groups and adorable kids who wanted toffees (we were warned against giving them sweets by our trek leader). In true trekker's style, I took only photograph's and left only my footprints here!  Indeed a memorable trek and physically grueling too!

Bedni Kund at Bedni Bugyal

Temples made with stones at Bedni Kund, Bedni Bugyal
Transition moment, from mountains to Bugyals!
One last look at the trail we left behind!

Our final view of the snow-peaks made for a pretty reflection!

Stone temples at Bedni Bugyal

Wishing on a temple bell!


Campsite set-up by another trek group at Bedni Bugyal!

Happy flowers!

Portraits of locals

Sacred corners

Another campsite

The road, not quite, less taken

Mule-ing around!

Rivers want nothing more than to meet the Ocean!

River water caught in action!

Contemplation
Arriving upon this temple after leaving the river behind
Prayer bells
Step farming near the village
As we inched closer to Wan village....
... it almost felt like coming back to reality
The "Namaste" kid!
Such pretty cheeks!
The shy one...
The dish antennae explains it.
Wilderness gave way to Wan village!

The village boy

Pillars along the way

Hope
Pure joy
Moments of glory
Beating the odds
Teamwork
Standing tall!
Discovering Wanderlust!

Friendship!
Photo credit: Me and fellow trekkers!

7 comments:

Soumyendu said...

Hey, I think I saw a post on Roopkund by you sometime back. But these pictures look much better!

Except the multicoloured lettering, if you allow me to say so, for I believe the hills, especially the Himalayas, are living, breathing, divine!

Preeti Datar said...

Hi, yes you're right. I did another post about the trek (http://www.travel-o-graphy.blogspot.in/2015/02/roopkund-journey-beyond-imagination.html) which explained my experience with the group while completing the trek.

The present post is more about tons of photos and less about the narration. I shall bear the multi-coloured letting in mind, because hills definitely have a life of their own!

Soumyendu said...

Am glad you understand that. To me, the mountains, the ancient trees are all living spirits and there is an indescribable feeling of contentment when one is in close proximity to these venerable personages, something like being with your granny ma, if it could be stated like that.

You have thousands of pictures, as I can understand. Select a few. Break down a single post into a sequential series. Add maybe a dozen pics at most and I repeat, at most, for a single post. Add your honest thoughts, your feelings.

You are becoming an exceptionally good photographer. I hope you become an outstanding blogger as well!

magiceye said...

Lovely captures!!

jaipurthrumylens said...

great posts! Internet is full of travelogues detailing what to do, what not to do, first hand experiences, tonnes of pictures! The only thing that makes a difference is details of your personal journey, which in someways makes you feel as if its your own experience! I too trekked to roopkund recently and reading through your blog & looking at pictures was like a reiteration! nice post!

only suggestion would be a link up both the write up and pictures!

looking forward to some more interesting post!

Preeti Datar said...

Thank you for sincere suggestion. Point noted :)

Preeti Datar said...

Thank you magic eye

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