Thursday, February 12, 2009

I have been to Sandakphu (Singalila route) more than twenty times but the last trip was certainly memorable.

We undertook the trip in November, 2008. The weather was fantastic. It was bright and sunny and the views from Tumling (the first night halt) and Sandakphu was brilliant. I had four Spanish
girls accompanying me - Maria, Rosalia, Jacinta and Ludi. Everyone's mood and spirit were lifted
sky high by the sheer magnificient views of Mount Kanchenjunga, Mount Everest and other peaks like Pandim, Siniolchu, Makalu and Lohtse to name a few.

Right from the day we started our trip from Siliguri to Darjeeling and the next day walk from
Manebhanjan we were lucky. The sun shone all day which helped us to brave the chill in the wind.

In fact the day walks were very pleasant throughout the trek.

The most remarkable thing during the trip was the enthusiasm shown by the 60 year old lady in our group - Ludi - who I am sure was the most energetic person in our group. She always tried to stay ahead of us during the walk and at the same time had the enthusiasm and energy to organize games during the evening hours at the trekker's huts. We had long dance sessions too at the trekker's huts during the evening hours where Ludi participated with the same level of energy shown by the rest of the more younger group members.

Not to forget the great service of our guide and my friend Mingma Sherpa who was always there
with ideas and a helping hand. You can always rely on Mingma no matter at what altitude you are

in the Himlayas. I am sure the people who accompanied me in the past will vouch for that.

I tried to take some beautiful pictures I came across on the trek.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The exciting Roopkund trek

Recently I along with my friend had been to one of the most exciting routes in the Garhwal Himalayas for a week long trek. The Roopkund trek is considered to be one the most picturesque considering it takes you to a height to about 16500 ft (5000 m) through some of the most beautiful undulating meadows, virgin forests, amazing campsites and awe-inspiring views of Mount Trishul and Nandaghunti.

Well if you have trekked in the Himalayas or planning to do one and you haven’t done this trek you should make it a priority to do this very soon.

The trek started from a remote place called Loharjung at an altitude of 8,300 ft (2515 m) in the Chamoli district of Garhwal Himalayas. The first day of trek took us to a beautiful village called Didna (which is almost at the same heightas Loharjung) where we stayed in tents on the green grass a little away from the main village.

The view all around was extremely beautiful. The campsite faced the deep valley that we came across to get to Didna.

The second day of the trek passed through one of the most spectacular meadows in this region called the Ali bugyal (bugyal in English is meadow). The stretch seemed never ending and was green all around. The beauty of the place along with the breathtaking view drove away the fatigue of the steep climb prior to arriving at the meadow. The campsite – Bedini bugyal - too is worth mentioning as it rivals the beauty of the Ali bugyal. Bedini bugyal offers the first clear views of the Trishul and the Nandaghunti peaks.

The more we approached Roopkund the more beautiful the route seemed to become. The place where we camped the next day (and we were the only group to put up tents there on that day) was also a spectacular place on the slopes of the lush green meadow called Ghora Lotani – mesmerizing in its sense of remoteness and the views it offered.

The next day was our assault on Roopkund which was another 9 kms away from Ghora Lotani. We started at 7 am after a hurried early breakfast. The initial climb up to Kaluvinayak at 14,500 ft ( 4393m) – where we touched snowline – was quite steep. From there the trail passed through Boguabasa (where one can stay

instead of Ghora Lotani but is all boulders and rocks which makes it difficult to camp) all the way to the final destination. The last mile was again quite steep and was over loose rocks and boulders which can sometimes leave you panting as the air at this altitude is thin. The most interesting thing we came across are these white weird looking so called flowers (see the picture above). Our guide said they are seen only at these high altitude places. I had trouble taking the pictures as they were away from the main route a little high up on the slopes of the mountains.

Roopkund is not visible until the last moment when you are on the edge of the last bend as it is like a big crater on the side of the mountain face. It is very big compared to the pictures I or you see on the different websites.

I was always curious to see the huge number of bones and skeletons littered all over the place near Roopkund. We were in fact extremely lucky to see them as normally they are covered in snow almost throughout the year. The mystery of the bones at such an altitude was recently solved by some scientists and a National Geographic team. They said the skeletons belonged to around a few hundred men, women and children who perished at the spot due to a severe hailstorm. Weather near Roopkund surely changes very fast which we also experienced.

We took the same route back to Loharjung staying one night at Ghora Lotani and covering about 16 miles downhill on the last day passing through Bedini and the virgin forest before ending up at Wan. From Wan we took a car to Loharjung where we took a well deserved rest that night.

We talked about the trek and the memories of it for the next few days.