We got to Delhi by flight. It was scorching 46 degrees and immediately I stopped cribbing about Bangalore’s weather being horrible off late. We had a train to catch at4 pm and since we were too late to book, we got non AC chair car in Kathgodam Sampark Kranti. The seats are smaller than that of an Udupi-Kundapur express bus. With heat wave caressing us until sun set, we were already exhausted.
Kathgodam (7th June)
We stayed the night at KMVN Kathgodam. This is a really nice place to stay, and is very close to railway station.
In and beyond Kathgodam, medical shops are not very accessible. Load up on all the meds before leaving, especially diamox. For people like us who come from lower altitudes, to fight AMS symptoms, diamox is a must. We started a course from Kathgodam. It is to administered at a dose of 250mg every day, for 7 days. It is important to take it at the same time, every day. Next morning, we met fellow trekkers at Kathgodam station and started our roller coaster journey to Lohajung in a jeep. These are never ending winding roads. If you are travel sick, good luck, because this journey lasts at least 10-12 hours.
Lohajung (8th June)
Lohajung is absolutely beautiful, but has huge electricity fluctuations. You can forget about hot water baths or in fact baths after you get out of Kathgodam. We were made to submit documents and were given some military style instructions by our trek lead Taarak who made us stand in a semi circle and chant head counts every now and then. A huge Pondicherry fan, he was great fun to imitate thanks to his funny accent. (Kyaa yaar, discipline yaar!)
Didina (9th June)
We left Lohajung in high spirits as it was the first day. We were getting used to the new shoes, so it was not the most comfortable trek. It’s initially downhill, then uphill, and downhill to Neel Ganga (where we filled our water bottles) and uphill again. This last stretch of uphill trek is very tiring. People were cramping up and some had blisters. So, make sure you are comfortable in your shoes. Quechua Forclaz 500 is beyond excellent. We were welcomed at Didina with rhododendron juice. A local rents his house out to Roads & Journeys. He has a really cute kid called Mannu. The house was cozy, but there were bed bugs. We got rajma chawal for lunch. In the night, jugaad king Sandeep arranged for Anda Bhurji. The toilets were more than what we could ask for but occasionally ran out of water. We went around in the evening and spoke to locals.
Bedni via Ali Bugyal (10th June)
This was the toughest day according me. To get to Ali Bugyal from Didina, it’s a 3 hour trek and the physical distance we cover is only 2.7kms. Imagine how steep it must be. We were out of breath in ten minutes. There were locals who were climbing up with so much ease, it was embarrassing. The locals go up the hills to look for something called keeda jadi – a caterpillar which is believed to have medicinal properties and is illegal to be captured but who cares, right. Once you get beyond the tree line, the meadows make you feel like you’re in some posh golf course. Air is already a little thin. We got our mini lunches there(chapati/aloo/boiled egg).
From Ali bugyal, there is a short steep climb after which it’s almost a flat terrain and a walk of about 6 kms. The best part about this walk was a boy who came running from Bedni camp offering us juice.
Bedni is absolutely beautiful a camp site and has an amazing view of Trishul mountains from there. The paramilitary forces were there for Roopkund visit as a part of their training. They were a chatty bunch and played cricket with us. It was quite fun! Bedni was the first time we stayed in tents and slept in sleeping bags. They are very warm. Toilet tents were good and had water outside stored in drums so we did not have to resolve to toilet papers yet. Food was okay-ish as usual. Diamox was making me slightly acidic so I had to eat digene. There are shops in Bedni that give you boiled eggs, maggi and anda burji so we did not have to entirely depend on camp site food.
Patar Nachauni (11th June)
The trek from Bedni to Patar Nachauni is not too tough. There’s an initial steep climb of about 45 minutes, after which it’s very gradual. We covered about 7 kms in 4 hours. The camp site is nice but VERY windy. It gets extremely cold in the night. After lunch, we trekked up to the hill on whose foothill the campsite is there. This was for acclimatization. After this trek couple of guys decided to not come to the next campsite which is Bhagwabasa. Our trek leader was sufficiently irritated with a couple of trekkers who spent time taking pictures on the trail and got to the campsite late. So if you are going on a photography tour, Roopkund is not the place for you. Not because it’s not scenic, but because sticking to timings is very important as the weather can be very unpredictable in the hills.
We met Vivian, the advanced mountaineer who takes care of the Patar Nachauni camp site and picked his brain on AMS and its symptoms. He knows quite a bit and talks sense.
The night at Patar Nachauni was interesting, as we played Antakshari with Taarak and Honey who were in the adjacent tent tell 10 pm, across tents! And we of course won hands down.
Bhagwabasa (12th June)
The climb to Kalu Vinayak, which is on the way to Bhagwabasa camp site is quite taxing. You can feel the air thinning. The chill air made my tongue swell, which made this climb very uncomfortable for me. Keep chocolates and dry fruits handy because it is crucial to keep on snacking. From Kalu Vinayak, we trekked somewhat downhill, on snow. This was probably where many people fell down for the first time. Some of those who weren’t on diamox had started to feel slight head aches. The sun feels extremely nice on the skin because it’s so cold so you do not realize you are getting sun burnt. Sunblock is a MUST. If you do not reapply often enough, you will come back with a nose that looks like a rotten apple.
Bhagwabasa camp was less windy and hence more pleasant than Patar Nachauni. It is important to wear at least 2 layers and cover your head all the time. At the same time, you should keep your ears open so that your body adjusts to the lower atmospheric pressure better and acclimatizes quickly.
We met the technical staff who would take us to the summit and were introduced to cramp ons at Bhagwabasa. The toilets in Bhagwabasa are very primitive – it’s an open pit and two stones on either sides. It is quite disgusting with all the flies in it, so you can choose to go out in public. Also, since there’s no water, we had to wash our plates with snow. This can make your fingers go numb so I would say that you should keep some paper plates with you.
We were given a very early dinner and asked to retire to our tents as the summit day would start at 4.30 am. We also experienced a snowfall which was quite wonderful.
Summit day (13th June)
We were woken up at 3.30 am, and given daliya to eat. We stuffed ourselves, even though there was no appetite what so ever so that we can have enough energy. The technical staff helps you put on cramp ons if you are a girl so that part was convenient. The climb on snow is quite steep as we gain an altitude of more than 1000 ft in less than one hour. I had acidity issues again when I was half way through so I got a little worked up when I started having chest pains. I was relieved after eating digene. Also, keep eating chocolates because you need all the energy that you can get! Some were struggling more than I did and were asked to go back but they chose to stick around. After climbing three hours, the view of Roopkund was very rewarding. Holding that banner up that said 15730 feet felt pretty amazing. We couldn’t see any skeletons because it was frozen completely. The Trishul range and Junargali peak behind look fantastic as they reflect morning sunlight. The technical staff told us the story of Roopkund and all the places nearby while we were at the peak.
The climb down was much easier, and we reached Bhagwabasa in about an hour and a half with sufficient breaks in between. We had highly talented technical staff who made shayaris on the spot so it was very entertaining. Also, we had a snow fight which was damn hilarious. We reached Bhagwabasa and had lunch by noon. We started to Patar Nachauni after lunch. Climb down was not too taxing. The moment we stepped into our tents at Patar Nachauni, there was a hailstorm. Thanks to this, we were served soup and chai in our tents. This was one of the most memorable experiences for me, sitting in the tent and watching the hailstones collect outside. One of the trekkers was feeling a little uneasy due to lack of oxygen so she was sent back to Bedni camp.
Back to base camp (June 14th)
We had a long day ahead of us in Patar Nachauni. We started at 7 am in the morning to Bedni. After the initial uphill climb it’s mostly downhill and comfortable. We started playing brand building and that just never stopped. From Bedni, the trek to Wan was through the woods. This is quite slippery due to the presence of dry leaves. Once we reach Neel Ganga there’s another short climb of half an hour that gets us to Wan village. From there, we had to walk about another two kms to get the the jeeps that were waiting for us. This walk was fun, with local kids saying “Namaste” so that they get the food that we are left with.
The moment I reached Lohajung, I rushed to the bathroom to scrub myself. I have never bathed like that before, ever. It was very liberating.
We were given certificates and took some mandatory group pics. We went and had maggi in the shop nearby. There was a sense of pride and achievement and that was very clearly visible while we spoke to the next batch who were leaving to Roopkund.
Next day, we were back in Kathgodam, after a 12 hour drive on those horribly winding roads. Okay that’s all.
- No it’s not easy. So if you do not have certain levels of physical fitness, don’t try it. Also, you need a lot of will power to get through this.
- Eat healthy and keep yourself free of infections. Keep snacks and dry fruits and make them last till the last day.
- Have at least 4 layers and a good balaclava. It is important to cover yourself. A nice strong trekking pole is a must.
- Keep medicines handy but do not eat pills like they are chocolates. Consult your trek lead before popping them and most importantly, tell him if you are feeling the slightest of uneasiness.
- Pack light. You can share almost everything but clothes. 2 tracks, 2 tshirts are more than sufficient. Keep extra socks.
- Use sunscreen and moisturizer appropriately.
It would be quite wrong on my part if I didn’t tell how much fun the whole experience was. While I was mostly focused on survival, I being my chatty self ended up getting to know quite a few people. The group was very diverse and thankfully not the one in which IT was a majority. People were into logistics, finance, med school and we also had Gundu, the 14 year old cool dude with us. Here’s to a great gang of fun guys!