We were really excited for our trek to Roopkund, undoubtedly the most popular trek in the country today. The day I decided to go for the trek, I was skeptical at first. This is because I had heard a different experience from every person who had done the trek before me. Some of my friends warned me about it being quite challenging. Whereas a lot of people claimed that it was fairly straightforward and easily doable without a guide. I had to decide it for myself and that was possible only after doing the trek. I was lucky that I got the chance to do this wonderful trek with the amazing Himalayan Freaks organization. The expert guidance from the trainers and locals made this a memorable experience for me.
We had been preparing for sometime as far as our own physical fitness was concerned. We also packed as per the rules of trekking and finally we reached the base camp of the trek, village Wan.
Wan is at a height of approx 8000 ft and is a beautiful village nestled in the hills of Uttarakhand. We met the entire team and had a round of introduction with the fellow team members and local guides. After this we slept looking forward to the amazing journey we were about to embark on.
Next morning we took blessings from the local deity and started our trek. Our first stop was supposed to be Ghairoli Patal at approx 10,000 feet. The climb was steep as well as straight in some patches. Overall, it was not a very easy climb till Ghairoli Patal. The trek was super scenic however. We crossed villages and jungles and beautiful waterfalls on our way. After resting for a while at a small Maggie Point we moved again towards our first official stop Ghairoli Patal.
On our way we met a lot of other trekkers and tourists. They were solo travelers and adventure enthusiasts as well as families. Almost everybody warned us about the snow condition and told us that reaching the summit of Roopkund in this weather was going to be impossible. This however, did not bring us down and we were positive that the weather is going to be okay and we will definitely complete the trek to Roopkund. Upon realizing that most of us were not very tired and since we had ample time in our hands, we decided to not camp at Ghairoli Patal and straightaway head to Bedni Bugyal, our first overnight camp.
Bedni Bugyal (at the height of a little less than 11000 feet) is one of the most beautiful bugyals (meadow) in all of Asia. One has to be there to believe their eyes as the beauty is surreal and outlandish.
A trek to Bedni in itself is an achievement after crossing steep areas and dense jungles and lots of uphill walking. Still the price one pays for the ethereal beauty is nothing.
Our dedicated kitchen team had already reached Bedni Bugyal before us. We were served hot tea upon reaching and then we found ourselves a spot to pitch our tents. Pitching of dome tents is quite easy and fun but the kind of weather we were facing made it almost impossible for the tents to stay. The wind was blowing at crazy speed and blowing our tents away. All of this was quite adventurous and to add to the icing on the cake we all did not even sleep in tents that night. We all huddled in a concrete hut at Bedni Bugyal with our sleeping bags. The experience was quite adventurous and unique for most of us.
Next morning post breakfast we started out for Patar Nachaniya (approx 12000 feet) our next camping spot. It was a less tiring and fairly shorter trek than from the day before and after walking about 5 kms we reached our destination. On our way we saw lots of other campsites of different organizations and trekkers. To my surprise even at such an altitude, there were shops and small dhabas around the campsites. It gave me great relief to see Maggie and Tea stalls around the campsite. There were many tourists exploring the beautiful place and clicking pictures. And still, we were warned by tourists as well as locals to not to try the summit as the weather was bad. And so it was! The weather in all of North India had been unpredictable and wild for some time. We were all still quite hopeful and we proceeded with the itinerary as planned.
At night we sat down as a team with the local experts and decided our plan of action. We decided that it was too snowy in the next camp Bhagwa Basa(14000 feet) to stay overnight and camp. Hence we planned to start our trek at dawn from Patar Nachaniya directly to the summit of Roopkund. All members were fit to go and really excited. Post dinner we all slept but hardly could sleep as we had to wake up at 2 in the morning and start at 3 a.m.! After some delay we managed to start at around 3:30 in the morning from Patar Nachaniya. After an hour of trek we reached Kelhua Vinayak temple. This was the point from where the real trek had to begin. It started snowing a bit and we wore our crampons to be able to walk on snow. As me moved ahead it was at first sheer pleasure. We were amazed to see snow everywhere and were very close to Bhagwa Basa. As we approached Bhagwa Basa we saw the permanent stations of various organizations over there. It is always an amazing feeling to see any kind of human sign in a remote snowy high altitude location.
However, the real march in the unknown snowy realms of the Himalayan peaks had just begun. And without wasting any time we started the trek to Roopkund. On our way there were sometimes disagreements between the leaders and other members. At times the weather looked so bad that the leader wanted some slower members to quit. But no one did and that is what the magic of mountains is all about. No matter how adverse the weather or the situation, in that moment all you see is the summit.
Our experience to Roopkund (16500 feet) can be summed as particularly unique as the weather got too bad and way worse than expected. It just did not stop snowing. The guides and leaders were also worried but the team was determined. Finally at around 8 in the morning the team after facing extreme weather conditions and technical challenges managed to reach the summit. It was an exhilarating feeling that is beyond any description. The banner of Himalayan Freaks at the summit was flying high and so were our spirits. We had made it and the best part was that no other team had managed to summit Roopkund in that season before us! We were literally the ‘route openers’ of this season and our joy knew no bounds! The beauty of the place was to die for.
They say that in the mountains descending is always harder than ascending because of a lot of factors like weather, sun, fatigue and simply overconfidence. A lot of times the altitude also takes a toll on health and the descent becomes a task. Now the bigger challenge for us was to come down to Bhagwa Basa safely. As we moved downhill we faced a lot of difficulty. It had snowed so much that our legs were immersing in the snow. The snow had not stopped falling since 5 in the morning and we knew this was going to be hard.
The main difficulty was walking in steep downhill snowy slopes without a rope. Some portions were so technical that a rope was fixed by the technical team from all members to rappel down. After rappelling down the tough patches we realized that there was one more big hindrance, the snowstorm. Called a blizzard, the snow storm basically is a combination of snowfall and high speed wind that causes a lot of accidents in the mountains. It was making it difficult for us to not only walk but even stand! It was like being slapped by piercing wind continuously for hours as we made our descent. The team stuck together at all points and did not lose hope.
Even in such grim situation we kept our cool as that was the first thing the local guides had warned us about, panicking. We knew that we had to calmly descend without making any mistakes. The time seemed to have stopped as the descent was only getting tougher. Each step seemed like a humungous job. But that is the deal with mountains. There is some magical source of inspiration that keeps you going. Finally with sore feet and heavily drenched in snow and rain, we reached the Bhagwa Basa campsite. It was so relieving to be back amongst other people. We were elated that all team members were safe and back. After hot tea we started our journey back to the base camp, Wan. Interestingly we were all so excited that everyone agreed to walk down to wan without any overnight halt. We were all not only excited about our achievement but also really excited to be back in the village to relax. After a long trek downhill and few Maggie and photo stoppages, we reached Wan at around 4 p.m. in the evening.
To be back to civilization from the remote mountains is a strange feeling in itself. We all sat together shared our stories and basically just were letting the whole experience sink in. Speaking to family and friends after days was also an experience in itself. That night we celebrated our victory with delicious local cuisine and thanked God for being by our side. We thanked the entire kitchen and support team and especially the fabulous and fearless guides of ‘Himalayan Freaks’ for making this experience a success. Once is never enough when it comes to a mesmerizing yet challenging place like Roopkund. As we left for our home next morning we looked up and decided that we will surely come back again.