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My first ever Himalayan trek. . . Trek to the Skeleton Lake

Roopkund…   Himalayas. . . there are no words that can describe its magnificence. Before I start with my love for this place. . .some flash back. . .
It was a random day in the month of March and I was on phone with my best friend. He was talking about his marriage getting fixed and how tensed he is about life after marriage. That is when I saw a mail from Monisha for Hampta pass. We discussed about going for it and both of us registered only to know we were late (it was just few hours after the mail… phew.. so soon.. ). But I had made up my mind.. any event opens next for Himalayas, I am going to register right away.. and so came Roopkund. My first ever Himalayan trek.
Reading all the blogs and details about Roopkund…next possible thing in your mind as a first timer is.. Will I make it?? Don’t worry at all.. you will make it.. but yeah you need to start working on it. Thanks to our organizers (special mention of Gaurav) we were always followed up on our preparation. Those exercises and work out details you get on google is good and can be followed. The mantra was 5km in 45min. (take it up slowly and your body is a gem.. it just learns it).
Coming to the other preparations. There are lot of youtube videos and lists about what and how much you need to take. I won’t get in to it but some tips as a first timer I felt I need to share.

  • Backpack: Choose it carefully. Watch videos on how it needs to be selected. The length of your back(shoulder to hip) needs to fit well with your backpack length (you get adjustable ones). Best is to try them on and buy. Also the access point for small needs is very important (so you are not removing you bag every now and then). If you haven’t tried trekking with the backpack, then practice before you go.
  • Water pouch: Water bottles are fine for smaller and medium treks. I would suggest you to invest in a water pouch particularly if you are going to carry your backpack…very very useful.
  • Gloves: Ask and check for the temperature it can withstand (It is equally important as your jackets). Also the comfort of wearing it (you should be able to use your hands).
  • Floaters / slippers: It’s going to rain and it’s cold. So you are going to have your socks on but it should not get wet (considering the limited resource you have).  Carry something which you can easily remove/wear but at the same time doesn’t get your socks wet. (don’t go for a fully closed one, just in case you get a blister)
  • Socks: Let there be some thickness else you may get blisters.
  • Camphor: This helps when you have cold/ blocked nose.
  • Trekking Pole: It’s a good investment and helps a lot. (PS: try to fit it in your bag or if taking it separately, you can always check in it at the airport. Chances are high they won’t allow it as cabin baggage )

Now to our trek…
Few of them had left to Delhi a day before and the rest of us left on 30th. I finished my security check at the airport and was searching for the gate when someone called my name. It was Nasreen with Monisha and she immediately was double confirming that it was indeed me. Probably my expression made her to do that! I was surprised, she knew me but only later realized it was my back pack and watsapp profile pic which would have helped her. Slowly all of us gathered. We went about chitter chatter and Gaurav was repeatedly saying we have to take the train (from airport!!!). Apparently he had travelled by train off late and that was stuck to his mind. Soon it was time to take the flight. We took a groupie and then Veena and myself went to our gate for boarding where the rest went to their gate.
We landed in Delhi and had a funny situation. Veena and myself were at a T3 terminal metro station and the rest at Aero city metro. But we never realized it and went about calling each other explaining our location. Platform 1… no its 2. . .oh on the left of platform 2; how come we can’t see each other? At last it dawned on us and we took the metro to meet the rest at the next station.
We decided to go to CP for some shopping as we had enough time for the train at 10PM. Kirthi joined us at CP and we did some shopping. Time for dinner. Someone suggested a Gurudwara to spend time as well as have dinner there itself. We went about search for it and it was a beautiful and peaceful place. There my dinner turned to be a nightmare. I asked for little rice and the person gave me so much of it and apparently we are not supposed to waste food. I had to eat the whole thing right then and there (thanks to Veena she took some of it and stayed with me till I finished it). Oh God!! I am never going to take food for granted..!!!
We then went to the Old Delhi Station and the rest of the team was already there. We were so tired and sticky (Delhi heat), all we wanted was some fresh air and place to sleep. Gaurav went about being the TTJ and giving us option for seat. We selected and all of us were half asleep. 4.30AM we were at Kathgodam. We refreshed at the station and were on our way to Lohajung by Tempo traveler.

It was Aswan’s birthday and we stopped over by the river side and celebrated by cutting cake. What a best way to celebrate your birthday…feeling J Aswan :P We stopped for Breakfast after a while and few of us where precautious not to eat much as we were worried about vomiting. And Guess who took that trophy? Kirthi! poor girl she wasn’t herself for this part of the drive. Sathish had bought speakers and the fight for best song list was on, with Mamtha being the DJ followed by Nasreen and Gaurav. And God alone knows where Gaurav was getting all his energy… hmm. . .actually. . .may be God also doesn’t know.
Then came our lunch and we saw few groups returning from the trek. We kept staring at them. Their T shirt which they wore proudly (had some nice lines about completing the trek) and Moni had a particular observation… their nose was sun burnt. . . (I didn’t know then that I was going to be in a similar condition very soon). We spoke to some of them and took some heads up.

By 5.30 -6 PM, we reached Lohajung where we met our guides – Chander, Alam and their head Dinesh Roopkund. We were given a brief on the complete trek as well as our trek next day. We had a nice bath (the next few days is going to go without bath) and had a stomach filling dinner.
Day one, we did some stretching exercise with Gauarav taking the role of our PT master. Oh yeah he purchased a Whistle at CP and used it well! After breakfast, we were off to Didina village. We set the order of line and on the way, Alam and Chander kept us informed about the plants we should not touch and the Dantmanjan plant used for brushing teeth, Sona water fall, the local stories etc. The trek was easy except for the last trail, where few of us started feeling hungry. We were motivated to keep moving as hot Rajma Chawal was waiting for us. We reached the home stay and had nice hot lunch. We wanted to take a short nap, but were not allowed to as we had to get acclimatized. Rajalakshmi aka Raja was struggling not to dose off (I remember the Tom and Jerry show where Tom was so sleepy. . .ha ha ha :D)
We all sat together to start off with our chit chat. . .there was Kirthi (back to full form) shooting question over question, poor Aswan. And how can Gaurav lag? He started his question bank. . .we all updated K pedia and G pedia about us (Sathish your story is still not told… we will get to you.. soon.. :P) It was getting dark and our short walk was pending. Just when we were ready to go, it started raining. We dropped the plan. Then, Sathish opened his box of dry fruit and everyone attacked it. It was dark in no time and we all stepped out to see the stars. We went about guessing which star was what and if it was a shooting star. Nasreen and Aswan, our scholars, tried showing the Milky Way. Within no time we had shifted to the topic of photography. Dinner was ready and we had a nice dinner & went to sleep.
Day two, Trek to Bedini Bugyal started after warm up exercise and breakfast. The breakfast was green leaf veggie.. (which most of us didn’t like) and roti. But not to worry, we were getting Maggi once we reach Bedini Bugyal.. yippee! Our little trekker, Vaishnavi was super exited and wait for it.. so were the rest of us :P
The trail was through a forest, grass land and was reasonably easy. We had our lunch on the way and a lot of photo sessions. We reached around 2.30PM at the base camp. When we were almost there, we found a nice peak point and took so many photos giving all possible pose. As soon as we reached we were served MAGGI…
Then we all gathered in the staff shack and decided to play Uno. Nasreen, Sathish and Sampath wanted the game to be explained. I took up that job and the rest had to see my military personality… and I am sure I scared Gaurav :P We had played a fun filled game with Sampath forgetting he has to play next every now and then.. We girls won the match and were assured a comeback soon by the guys… We then went for a small walk towards the forest officer camp. We had our K pedia i.e our Keerti to be updated by asking all possible questions to the forest officers. Once updated we headed back to our camp and its already time for dinner and sleep.
Day three, we were up and ready to leave after breakfast. Our guide took us to the temple and told us the folklore about Parvati matha and her brother Latu Devta and then we started to trek. Its relatively easy stretch. Just one steep ascend at start & after that just plain land. We had enough time, so we took few longer breaks to take pictures. It’s a great view all the way, one can enjoy and trek on this day. We reached around lunch time at patharnachni. Our lunch was getting prepared. It was very windy at patharnachni & some shower here and there was enough to make the temperature go down. We had lunch and then deceived to play Uno, our great companion. But this time we didn’t get the kitchen staff shack. So we all got into 1 tent. We should have been around 10 of us in a single tent with space for playing Uno. God!! Poor tent :P but then it was cold also and we enjoyed stuffed inside the tent.
PS: The wind was so bad and the Mule didn’t like our toilet tent and so it was brought down by the mules J Thank god there was no one inside. 
After our game, we went for a short walk. There was network here and few of them wanted to call home. We saw many of them returning from Roopkund and as expected took some feedback. In some time it was dark and we had dinner and were off to sleep as tomorrow was going to be tough.
Day four, we started as usual and were told we will reach Kalu Vinayak at 14200ft and descend to Bhagwabusa at 14000 ft. This stretch is a lot to ascend till Kalu Vinayak. Gear up your energy and dry fruits as it’s going to help. We reached Kalu Vinayak at around 10.30AM. There is a small shop which sells Tea, Coffee and Maggi. After a steep ascending who would say no to Maggi? Veena and myself shared Maggi and a few others also had Maggi, Tea/ Coffee. A few were busy trying their hands at, blowing the conch with little success and posing for photos. PS: I missed the Bhramakamal which was apparently seen on the way.
We started towards our camp site at Bhagwabusa which was pretty easy with all descent. We reached somewhere before 12. Our tents were yet to be put up & so we waited in the shack. Few who knew about putting up a tent, helped the staff team in putting it up. Our little Vishnavi was super excited and wanted to play Uno. She did all the arrangements to get the shack ready for us to play. We had lunch and then started to play Uno. And this time the boys did win as promised!! Puff… just once. . .its ok :P
There was clouds all the while and suddenly we had the sun out and shining and we could see the beautiful mountains. All of us rushed out to enjoy the sun and take pics. It was real quick, the clouds were back. The sun kept playing hide and seek with us. But we enjoyed every bit of it. The other group had musical instruments and were singing. Kirthi and a few other went to explore and had some fun there. Few of us were back in the shack sharing stories of our childhood. Soon it was time for dinner and of course we had to sleep early as our final stretch to the peak was tomorrow and we had to leave early. It was planned we shall start by 2.30 AM and all of us needs to be ready. We hardly slept with power nap here and there. It was cold and we were excited. Though in a different tent, we were entertained by Sampath’s talk and Gaurav’s hmmms every now and then.
Day 5, the D day!! We were all up, and wondering to step out or not as we could hear the rain outside. If we go out, we can’t come in!! And then we hear someone shouting and calling out for us to come out of the tent. I was wondering if its someone from our group?? Why are they shouting? Why so much excitement? Then comes the word… SNOW… it’s snowing. . .and its Moni and Nasreen jumping around with joy!! J  Veena says I have seen enough snow it’s not that fun. I had similar experience, so we both were like, OMG snow!! Just after 15mins of snow the whole place is white. . .and we have kids all around (everyone becomes a kid… it’s so tempting.. :P) We could start only by 3…
We all started with the same order we started on the first day. Our guides, Alam singh Ji in the start, Dinesh ji in the middle and Chander ji at the last to help us if needed. All set and ready to move… Har Har Mahadev… Har Har Mahadev.. Har Har Mahadev..
We started with our head lamps on and carefully walked so we don’t trip. As we were nearing Roopkund it was scary walking in the snow. Dinesh ji gave us tips of how to walk on the snow. We were walking the duck walk (walk like a duck). Oh yeah. . .keep your gloves on. . .I thought I may not get the grip and removed my gloves and was trying to take support of the rock and started seeing my hands go numb and a bit dark. When I asked Dinesh ji if all was fine, he asked me to wear the gloves back and to keep my hands warm. Once we reached Roopkund, Nasreen who was behind me also checked her hands and realized they were going dark. She was in tears. Veena had some warm water and Dinesh ji checked if it was ok to use it and then told Nasreen to wash her hand with the warm water and asked her to keep her hand active and warm. In a while it was fine and Nasreen was back to her normal condition. The next thing she wanted to do was to take off her jacket to pose in the BTC T-shirt!! Dinesh ji asked us to not take off our jackets. 
We all posed to take pics with the jackets on. It was around 7 AM when we reached Roopkund & the sun was out by now. Dinesh asked us to take the photos fast and started towards Junargali. It was suggested we reach Junargali by 8:00AM max and start descending as the snow will start melting and we had a long day today. We started to Junargali with the same duck walk fashion. Though it was a small altitude gain, the path was steep and there were pretty scary turns. The guides helped us at such points and soon we were at the top. It was around 7.45AM when we reached Junargali. The beauty was breath taking. We were so happy to make it here.
I saw Moni taking a photo of Mt. Trishul. I got so excited, I literally ran to join her. We were at the tip of the mountain and lost in the beauty around us. Only after few minutes we realized there was nowhere to go. There was only one path (path we came) and we were surrounded by 3 sides with couloir. Oh God. . .those few seconds… I always thought I didn’t fear death and am very brave etc.. but nature teaches you lessons and bring you back to reality...me and Moni were so scared, we called out for help and Chander Singh came to our help. I was still scared to take the path which I happily came through without realizing what was happening a few other also wanted to join us.. we stopped them and Chander helped me move first followed by Moni.. When I came down the path I was in tears and was also laughing.. Nasreen saw me and she was so worried and surprised with my reaction… HELL… even I was surprised with my reaction… It was like I was scared that tears rolled down my eyes  but happy I didn’t die so happy.. wow.. I did want to live and not die. . .puff… lesson learnt..
There was a small temple kind of thing (I really don’t know what was there. I didn’t have the guts to go there and come back considering what just happened) the other side which everyone went to see and rang the bell and took photos. I stood where I felt safe and kept looking at others. I was kind of off for few minutes. Just standing there and looking at the beauty around was so pleasant. It was time to climb down as the sun was up and shining bright. The snow will start melting and it would get difficult to descend. So we all started with the same order. But it was never possible to maintain it. We started descending as we felt comfortable. I was behind Satish in the start and trying to follow him, but wait…I was skidding ever now and then, whereas Satish was walking like he was born and brought up right there…waaaattt!!! What’s the secret Satish?? Veena and Myself end up together with Dinesh around us to help. Veena skid and sat down and started the trend :P and how could I lag.. ha ha ha.. I skid some 2 or 3 times.. once shouting Mummy!! Mummy!! With the same crying and laughing together… And Dineshji was like… there is no Mummy and Daddy.. get up and stand straight… the more u bend the more are  the chances of skidding. I don’t know how many times the others skid… I was busy saving myself… :P  It seems funny right now but I admit.. it was scary…
I don’t remember the time but it took us longer than planned due to the snow. For around 3/4th of the distance we had snow and for the rest of the distance, it had melted and made life easier…at least for few of us. We reached back to Bhagwabusa camp at around 10.30 /11 AM I guess. Few were so tired they went and lied down. Ram was having a headache. I was drained out. Gaurav’s headache had vanished. :P (just the opposite of all), he was extremely happy we summit-ed and all of us were back safe and sound. I had a strange feeling of crying… I just wanted to cry… I was happy I did the summit but some strange feeling to cry was there... I didn’t want to do it in front of everyone so went a bit away from the crowd and stood there staring at the stone at my feet.. the thought of someone see me cry was not comfortable so I spent few minutes alone trying to control myself… But I regret it... I should have cried and let it out… (At least when I was alone) Apparently it’s one of the ways to let out whatever is inside you. I came to know Veena also cried and Moni said I should have let it out(I don’t know what is the right word.. it’s not like crying crying… but some strange emotion). Next time I will let it flow…
It was getting late as we had a lot to cover... we had to reach Bedini Bugyal before it was dark. We had our lunch and those who had to change, (remove the layers of cloth we had) did it and we started towards Bedini Bugyal. All of us walked at our own pace. Few were still energetic and moved ahead and few of us were medium paced and few slow. I started at medium pace and eventually became slow. When near Patharnachni I joined rest of the group. We took loo break and then at Patharnachni had some food (Maggi, Bread Omelet, Tea, Coffee etc). Energized we started again, with funny talks here and there. Though the rest of us were at different energy levels (anything except fully charged), Gaurav was at full charge. And his burps…!!! (how could I miss that) eat something and after few minutes (may be seconds) there is the burp, this was like the practice all through the trek. When near Bedini Bugyal we were not sure on the path… we asked the oncoming mule guy and was confirmed that we are on track. By the time we reached the camp it started getting dark but we managed just on time. If I did have a battery level indicator, it would have been screaming LOW in red and say “about to switch off!!” :P It was super-duper cold at Bedini, We were almost freezing. Most of us were inside the tent till dinner was ready. After my cold face wash I rushed into Moni, Veena and Nasreen’s tent. And as expected we could hear Sampath and Gaurav’s stories. We went about our girl talks and soon dinner was ready. We had dinner and were fast asleep.
At around 4AM I heard someone talking...seemed Gaurav.. It was cold and I started wondering if I should step out. Then I realized today we will be going back and next day I will be back in the concrete jungle full of pollution. God alone knows when I will get a chance to see the sky full of stars and the beautiful sun rise. I stepped out and saw Gaurav and Moni talking and Gaurav showed the photo he had taken of the stars. It was beautiful…and I didn’t want to come back. Slowly everyone started getting up and we had to take our team photos in the BTC T-shirt. So we got ready and started taking photos. It was so cold and we have to take the jackets off for the photos. I lost count on the number of times the jackets were on and off. One pose and run back to put the jacket on. Again and again till we took the photos to our hearts content.
We had breakfast and started the decent.  To most of our surprise, Mamtha was super-fast in the descend… :P Me and Raji joined hands in the descend. It started with Vaishu just mentioning about her studying Sanskrit, kannada and her other friends who choose French and we gave her so much Gyaan to her, in no time she got bored with us and went ahead all by herself…We reached the Neel ganga on the way and had some refreshing time. From there on the way we had Maggi and visited the local temple and reached Wan by evening. From there we took Jeep to Lohajung. After all these days we got to take a bath… yuppeeee…:P We all refreshed and had Samosa, Tea, Jilebi and did local shopping. Soon dinner was served and soon we were back in the comforts of our room already getting ready for our next day trip to Kathgodam.
Morning all of us were fresh and we left for Kathgodam in the TT. Me and Kirti took tablet to escape the vomiting feel. But I still had the problem of ghat section drive. Propably the tablet made me too drowsy or the sleep I had to catch up but yeah I never felt like opening my eyes. I do remember the vehicle stopping for shopping on the way. When almost half the way I started looking around a bit. We bought local sweets and had lunch on the way. We reached Kathgodam in the evening around 5PM. We dumped our luggage in the railway storage and went for dinner. Nasreen wanted all of us to have dinner at one of the places that was shown in TV but it was too far. So we roamed around a bit and decided the have dinner near the railway station itself.  Our train started at 8PM and we all settled in it. After the started to move we all sat together in one compartment and had a feedback session. We had some fun things to talk and some serious ones…Then we went to sleep.
We arrived at Delhi early morning at around 5AM. Mamtha and Ram had a late flight and wanted to meet their friends in Delhi. The rest of us headed to the metro station. I was heading to Noida to meet some of my family. Veena and Raji could not get off the metro (first time Delhi Metro rush.. :P) but managed to get off at the next station with me and went back to meet the others.
I almost missed my flight (was busy eating Aloo Paratha) but made it on time and I was back in namma Bengaluru… (without my trekking stick…L they took it off at the airport.. in the hurry I forgot to check it in and didn’t have time to go back).
Of all one of the best experience and I am already dying to go back to Himalayas again… see you soon…
PS: People used to western toilet, plz practice to use Indian toilets till your system gets used to the pattern… it’s really helpful (you know what I mean) :D

Written By      : Nadhiya Hemanth
Organized By  : Gaurav and Monisha
Date of event : September 30, 2016
Place               : Western Himalayas
Pictures          : BTC FB Page

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