Packed inside a high altitude sleeping bag in my tent, I was in a state of trance, partially asleep.
“Chalo ready ho jao sab, ek ghante mein hum Roopkund ke liye niklenge”, I heard Dinesh (guide) shouting and blowing whistle. I switched on LED lamp and started searching for my cellphone, It was 3am and the temperature was around (-) 6 degree Celsius.
Few trekkers from other groups were all set to trek; I assumed it by listening to their activities while sitting inside my tent. I wasn’t sure whether to join them for Roopkund and Junargali stretch or stay back with my friends. For nearly half an hour my brain and heart were arguing, thus leaving me totally confused. I even grabbed one of my shoes to go out but then I changed my mind and lied down.
Qadeer was suffering from severe headache, Monty got caught by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and Mukesh wasn’t sure whether he will return in one piece or not after climbing upto to Junargali.
I organized the trek and they joined me, how can I leave them alone at Baguabasa (4,300mts) camping site, I started consoling myself. After all if you are trekking in a team, you should stay as a team. I promised myself to have utmost fun this particular day so that even the slightest thought of missing out on Roopkund doesn’t strike my mind. At 4am as they left I went back to sleep.
I was on unapproved leaves and to save one more day we started the journey from Delhi early in the morning on 23rd June. This was for the first time I was travelling from Delhi to Rishikesh in the morning and it wasn’t worth it. Due to renovation at Kashmiri Gate, we had to take bus from Anand Vihar ISBT. We reached Rishikesh at around noon and then took a shared cab to Karnaprayag. This was for the first time Qadeer was trekking in Uttarakhand. I often tempted him by saying “Bas Rishikesh tak hai garmi uske baad toh thandi thandi hawa”, but I didn’t realise that summers were at its peak this time. After we crossed Rudraprayag it started raining heavily, eventually our bags got wet.
Our room at Karnaprayag looked more like a dhobi ghat when all of us hanged our clothes everywhere. Before coming for this trek I tried to contact people from Wan village and Lohajung but failed. The plan was already made so without any camping equipments we were travelling 500kms hoping that something will click at last moment.
Day 1 | The Long Day | Karnaprayag – Lohajung – Didana Village
Next morning we took cab from Karnaprayag to Tharali, then Tharali to Lohajung. While travelling in cab, Qadeer asked me which river is it. I started thinking. He taunted me “you have written content for eUttaranchal and you don’t even know the name of the river”. “Pindar River” I said and confirmed with the driver and voila I was right.
We reached Lohajung at 2pm. We started talking to shopkeepers for arranging a guide, porter, tent but nothing was working as per our needs. Qadeer was a bit worried because we have been travelling from past two days and still there was no sign of trekking.
Then luckily we got number of Narendra who helped us with all the arrangements. He said that he will reach Lohajung at around 5pm and then we will do night trekking to Didana Village. We reached Kuling in taxi and then started trekking at 6pm. The descend from Kuling to foot of the mountain is knee breaking which is followed by steep climb. By the time we reached the bridge at the foot of the mountain it already started getting dark.
The route is clearly visible with very less chance of getting lost. As it got darker the trek became for adventurous. I recalled memories from Rudranath trek (year 2008) when we walked final 2kms in complete darkness. In order to make the journey even more tough weather gods started showering us with rain. But finally we made upto Didana Village at 8:45 pm. After dinner we went to sleep in a local villager’s house.
Day 2 | Beauty of Bugyals | Didana Village – Ali Bugyal – Bedni Bugyal
Next morning when we woke up there were approximately 40 trekkers moving here and there, exercising and eating. As soon as I came to know that they will also be trekking to Roopkund, I got a bit disappointed because I knew the feeling of isolation and trekking alone in the wilderness will be something that I will miss out on.
Some of them started asking us whether it was us who trekked at night to reach Didana and with a wide smile on face we nodded yes. They were good to hang around, most of them were Bangalorians. I wonder why they don’t speak hindi, not even a single word. The trek started and we entered the forest. The soundtrack of Into The Wild was a big hit while trekking, it boosted other trekkers as well. I was complimented by other trekkers for my playlist, alas people with good taste of music.
Qadeer and I were way ahead but Monty and Mukesh were lagging behind. The insane side of Qadeer convinced me to walk through slippery and steep shortcuts to shorten the journey and making it more adventurous. Traversing through forests we reached the starting point of widespread Ali Bugyal. It was fun to pick wild strawberries as it reminded me of my Har ki Doon trek. Ali Bugyal is never ending. It is spread as far as our eyes could reach.
If you are planning to trek to Roopkund via Wan then make sure you visit Ali Bugyal as well, it is well worth it. Finally it was fun to click landscape photographs and Qadeer started enjoying mountain breeze. We waited for our partners at Ali Bugyal. Sadly they were last, ruining our reputation amongst other trekkers. From here on we trekked together.
Perched at an elevation of 3,354mts above sea level Ali Bugyal is an alpine meadow one must visit at least once in a lifetime. Even if you reach Ali Bugyal there still a long way to walk upto Bedni Bugyal, approximately 5kms.
I don’t want to provide false information about the distance of the entire route because I was unsure about it. And I disagree with the distance mentioned on different blogs and websites. Anyways it doesn’t matter how much you have walked just make your itinerary fixed with camp sites.
After crossing Ali Bugyal the route ascends to a ridge and the remaining route to Bedni Bugyal is followed by a descending trail. Bedni Bugyal is a beautiful camp site from where you get to see incredible views of Trishul Peak and Nanda Ghunti. Wild horses grazing at lush green meadows is a treat to watch. This is the point where you will get a water source, water is unavailable at Ali Bugyal (do carry it with yourself).
Bedni Kund was all dried up during this month. For capturing reflections of Trishul peak on Bedni Kund, plan your trek in August or September. However weather will be unpredictable during this time of the year, there are limitations to everything.
Day 3 | The Tiring Stretch and AMS | Bedni Bugyal – Patar Nauchani – Baguabasa
Next morning we started trekking upwards on an easy trail upto Ghora Lautani from thereon we had to trek on other side of the mountain. The wind grew thinner and clouds surrounded us. The route is easy upto Patar Nauchani. Patar Nauchani is also a gorgeous camp site but you have to be prepared to face cold wind. Next time when I visit this place, I will camp at Patar Nauchani for sure because it overlooks a virgin valley. After having maggi at Patar Nauchani we started the most difficult part of the trek – the steep climb upto Kalu Vinayak. This route is very tiring, it is important to take breaks frequently on this route. Climbing this steep route became more complicated when it started raining.
Kalu Vinayak is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and the idol kept here is carved out on black stone. Near Kalu Vinayak I saw ladies climbing on steep slopes of meadows trying to find something. After asking them I came to know that they are searching Keeda Jadi a rare kind of caterpillar mummified by a fungal infection found at altitudes between 3,000 and 5,000 metres in Himalayas. It is used in ayurvedic medicines.
The descending trail to Baguabasa is clearly visible from Kalu Vinayak. While walking on this rocky terrain you can see massive Trishul Peak, Roopkund ridge, Nanda Ghunti and splendid views of Himalayan Range. Baguabasa is perched at an elevation of 4,300mts above sea level on rocky surface. It is practically very challenging to camp in the high altitude of Roopkund, therefore Baguabasa acts as a base camp. The word Baguabasa literally suggests “abode of tiger”.
We reached Baguabasa at around 2pm and started pitching tent. We couldn’t eat much during lunch even though we were hungry, it might be the first sign of AMS, I thought. At around 4pm we went inside our sleeping bags to rest but as soon as we opened our eyes it was 6pm already, a sign which indicated our exhaustion. Later that evening I captured few landscape pictures and Himalayan peaks. Soon sunrays started piercing clouds turning the mountains into an enigmatic sphere. Baguabasa affords splendid views of the wide range of Himalayan peaks.
My trek buddies started feeling unwell due to AMS and the only way to cure it is to go to lower altitude. They made a plan to drop the idea of trekking to Roopkund and rather return back to Bedni Bugyal. Qadeer rightly said “Roopkund kahin nahi jaa raha, hum kuch saal baad bhi aayein toh Roopkund wahin rahega”. I agreed with his point but I badly wanted to praise the view of Trishul Peak from Junargali. I slept with confused state of mind but next morning I decided to stay with my friends.
Day 4 | The Most Entertaining Day | Baguabasa – Bedni Bugyal
At 5am in the morning when I saw trekkers on their way to Roopkund, I prayed to mountains for inviting me another time to visit this heaven. Next time I will probably head all the way to Ronti Saddle and trek down to some other location (desire).
Few more trekkers from other group dropped the idea to visit Roopkund and there was another guy who returned back after an hour from halfway because his nose started bleeding. After breakfast we started trekking back to Bedni Bugyal. The clouds started hovering below us when we reached Kalu Vinayak. The both side of mountains range can be seen from Kalu Vinayak. Qadeer, Mukesh and I chose to trek through the ridge and it turned out to be one of the most special moments of the trek. We didn’t knew where we are heading towards, just tricky slopes on the mountain top with bugyals on one side and rocky cliff on another.
We stopped by at a picturesque spot and started to shoot a music video. Pehla Nasha was the song that I played on speaker and Mukesh was dancing shirtless on alpine meadows. I still laugh while watching that video. I wondered how much happy I would be if I lived every day in such beautiful landscapes with nothing to do except praising nature.
Omelettes at Patar Nauchani were too good to resist, I was craving for omelettes from past few days. As soon as Bedni Bugyal came in sight we decided to walk the remaining distance barefooted on velvet meadows. Our feet finally started breathing after a long time. We were torturing them from past few days, surely a sign of relief for them.
After the round of maggi at Bedni Bugyal we started playing volleyball. At around 5pm trekkers from other group started reaching back to Bedni Bugyal. Their exhausted faces and fatigued bodies made us feel slightly happy about dropping the idea of visiting Roopkund.
While packing bag at home I was a bit reluctant whether to carry my tripod or not. My love for photographing nature in its truest form insisted me to carry tripod in the end but I could hardly take it out of my bag until this day.
Finally I got lucky, the sky was clear and stars were visible. At 9pm on that freezing night, I came outside my tent and set up my tripod to capture stars. There is no infinity (∞) mark on my 18-135mm lens so it was quite a task to set my focus at distant stars. So I focused on moon which acted as my infinity mark and then I started capturing the starry trails. The results weren’t exceptional but it fascinated me as this was the first time I was doing night photography of stars. I was completely satisfied with my decision to take tripod on this trek.
Day 5 | The Way Back | Bedni Bugyal – Wan – Lohajung – Karnaprayag
Next morning we were the first to start trekking back to Wan village. Walking through short cut trails maintained the speed with porters helped us in descending down fast. At the foot of the mountain Monty and Mukesh enjoyed a refreshing bath in a stream. The route was steep for few kilometres hereon. Before reaching Wan while passing through the village we were greeted by several kids who ran towards us and screamed “namaste” – the cutest Namaste I ever heard.
Also we met a handsome dog, we named him “sexy”. We reached Wan at noon and fed ‘sexy’ with biscuits and omelette. I wish he would have been our companion for the entire route, the journey would have been more fun then. We had to wait for other trekkers to drive in the cab to Lohajung. After changing cabs three times, we managed to reach Karnaprayag at night. Finally four ‘asli pahadis’ stepped back to the world of civilization.
Things that I learned in this trek
- If you are in a team, stay as a team. Or if anyone is unwell, do necessary arrangements for their health
- Move to low altitude if you are suffering from AMS
- Food is essential. We got weak because food provided wasn’t good enough
- Trust your instincts