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“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”

Standing on the last point till where we could reach with the Mt. Trishul on the Backdrop

Being an ardent music lover any opportunity to go on a trek now sounds like a melodious symphony to my eager ears.

Have you ever wondered how summits put one on cloud nine be it a saga of success or failure? If the answer is ‘NO’, then this story is for you. It’s a hat-trick for me, hat-trick with Himalayan Passion(HP), hat-trick in gathering experiences of ever inviting summits. It is the tale about the journey to the skeleton lake, ROOPKUND; about every road I had taken, about every obstacle I had encountered; so, buckle up as you follow my footsteps over the enormous and overwhelming Great Himalayas.

We were still in dark that pre-ponding the trek schedule was nothing but our destiny neatly designed by the beloved Himalaya. The program was about to start from Wan village from 18th May 2023 as per itinerary of Himalayan Passion. We reached over there a day before the starting date from Haridwar, the car was arranged by them.

Starting point of the trek, Wan. From Left:- Shailesh Ji (Shailesh Bidalia), Me (Aparna Sadhu), Mani Di (Manideepa Talapatra) & Trek Leader Dhrubojyoti Chatterjee

A short introductory session on 17th May’23 followed by next day’s briefing by our trek leader(TL)

Dhrubojyoti Chatterjee, who informed us that this time 3 of us Sailesh ji, Manideepa di and me constituted the team which would be guided by Negi ji. Warm hospitality of Negi ji in his homestay let us know that we were staying at his own home. After the dinner we got inside the warm blanket one last time before we belt up for the new season of ‘Khatron k khiladi ’from the next day.

Laatu Devta Mandir, who is believed to be the Guardian and protector of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, and brother of Ma Nanda Devi

On the maiden day we started our movement having heavy breakfast to Gairoli Patal (3200m). By the time our Trek Leader Dhrubo arranged the permit we took the blessings of Laatu Devta. The trail was through dense forest with gradual ascent and the sudden descents reminded us of steep ascents simultaneously. Our energy was at low ebb. The only thing to keep us motivated was the serenity of the oak forest, its wildness and the chirping of birds. This pushed us to our campsite after 6 kms walk. A hot delicious lunch welcomed us.

Gairoli Patal Camspite

After the lunch, Manideepa Di and I started to explore the surroundings. Suddenly a snow peak peeped out driving the clouds away. Lo! It was Mt. Trishul (7,120m) with its golden crest, declaring its supremacy. It was enough to understand that it was going to rule throughout the trail. A silent rivalry prevailed between the clouds and the sun to spend time with it.

Just imagine the feeling of staying in tents, under the canopy of large trees, in the middle of dense forest, under the vigilance of the mighty Trishul. All these were enough inputs to a spooky night!

Mt. Trishul Peeping during sunset from Gairoli Patal Campsite

The wake up call of our Trek Leader catapulted us to this world on the 2nd morning of the trek. We were wrapping up to move after sumptuous breakfast. Whereas the sunlit Mt. Trishul was also ready with its fashionable ice cap gifted by the clouds last night.

A herd of sheep accompanied our team from Gairoli Patal. The trail was well decorated with beautiful red, pink and white rhododendrons. A small turn on our way put us into the world of openness. The landscape changed all on a sudden outstandingly. The winds from snow packed mountain hit us in the sun and rejuvenated from the tiredness of 5kms of walk, continuing their journey towards endless plains covered by carpet of velvety grass. Right! we were in the midst of the Asia’s largest alpine meadow ‘THE ALI-BEDNI BUGYAL” at 3,354m.

Ali Bugyal

Such an openness drove us to do madness. It was again settled down after the next turn that unfolded the vast range of Mt. Trishul and let us know that we were still under its surveillance.

Being calm we descended towards our destined campsite Abin Kharak (3,450m). Lunch over, we headed for the most beautiful acclimatization walk of our trek. A great combination of meadows, rocky mountain coniferous trees clinging to the steep slope as well as the soaring peaks; so many elements contributing to the grandeur setting that must be looked around.

Clouds hovering over Ali Bugyal

Mountain weather usually suffers from ‘mood swings’. The sunny afternoon was immediately replaced by drizzling rainfall followed by gusty wind in the evening. Like the scalded dog dreads the cold water, it reminded me of the Kalijhar campsite in Phokteydara.

A dinner call of our Trek Leader made me notice the sky studded with hundreds of stars indicating a clear weather. But who knew that, they had come to bid us “Good night” one last time from Abin Kharak. Once we got inside our sleeping bags, after the dinner, the turbulent air shook the tent. Yelling out for Trek Leader in adversity is certainly more effective in trek than calling out God. They rushed into and fixed our tent.

Abin Kharak Campsite

Next morning (DAY 3) I woke up before the sunrise. The calmness in the dawn was somewhat indicating a long tiring night for the Himalayas. The sky was so clear like someone who clicked the refresh button. This morning was really unexpected after such a hazardous night.

Once we climbed up, to the Bedni Bugyal after the breakfast, for our next destination i.e. Patharnachauni(3950m) just 6.5 kms away, we found the glare of sparkling peaks at us. Panoramic view starting from left Jaonli, Gangotri, Bhartekunta, Kedarnath, Sumeru Parvat, Mandani Parvat, Chaukhamba, Balakun, NeelKanth ended up to our adorable Nanda Ghunti and Trishul, Maiktoli Devtoli, Mrigthuni.

Astonishing view from Bedni Bugyal (From Left :- Jaonli, Gangotri, Bhartekunta, Kedarnath, Sumeru Parvat, Mandani Parvat, Chaukhamba, Balakun, NeelKanth)

We could endure any mountain roar to get such a spectacle. Our movement continued through Bedni meadows and rocky terrain for 2-3hrs until a few forest officers restricted us. According to them, further movements would cost not only our lives but those innocent mule’s too. Moreover the path was narrowed as covered by thin ice which made it slippery. We were all at crossroad. A quick decision was taken by the expert Trek Leader. “Will you be able to wake up at 2:00 am for summit push?” Both Mani Di and I agreed instantly.

Like “ kuch v karega for Summit point!”.

Mt. Nanda Ghunti from Bedni Bugyal

In a nutshell, we will have to skip our next 2 days camping at Patharnachauni and Bhagwabasa and would attempt for the summit covering 20kms (up and down) in a single day. But prior to that Trek Leader Dhrubo and Guide Negi Ji would survey the trail condition to ensure our safety.

Bidding them bye till they made themselves invisible we got over it and founded ourselves at an elevation of 3800m. Descending seemed impossible for such novice trekkers like us. Me and Mani Di were each others only lifeline. We followed zig-zag steps to descent. On reaching safely to the campsite, we got to know that we were the part of “sweet crime” by camping on a virgin land, in the lap of Himalaya namely, Bedni Kharak .

Mt. Trishul as seen from Bedni Bugyal

No sooner had the tents were fixed than we jumped into our sleeping bags taking full advantage of the absence of “our guardian” in the campsite completely avoiding the acclimatization walk. Once we woke up in the afternoon we were all ears to know the trail condition from them, as they returned after inspecting the trail conditions and were assured that Roopkund was on.

By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late. Feeling unwell, sitting outside the tent, watching the vast Himalaya, the valley filled me with joy of being a part of the whole. Delving into the sky, I found a star spangled sky. A very tranquil atmosphere and a treasured silence made me curious. The tete-a-tete between the stars and the Himalaya were “Highly suspicious!” I could identify a few known constellations, stars and planets. A clear call for dinner reminded me of early sleep time, for next day we will have to start at 2:00 AM to 2:30AM.

(DAY-4) A wake up call at 1:45 a.m. interrupted the sleep but nothing else. Once I peeped outside the tent, some unusual fuzzy patch was beckoning me from a pitch dark sky. I stood out immediately of the tent. My eyes were glued to the sky. It was none other than our own Milky Way galaxy. Amazing! I met it last time in Nubra valley somewhat 5years ago. Mountains are not only beautiful in daylight. But night unveils the magical chemistry between mountains, stars and galaxies. The mystery of night with its language of love for the mountains fascinated me.

After a Maggie, putting our knapsack, keeping Milky Way as the eyewitness of our dedication for the summit, we started marching. Silent night and dazzling sky were my companions.

The snow trek demanded the microspikes and gaiters to be put on. The ascent was exhausting. regular breaks pumped us on the rocky path. Meanwhile we crossed Patharnachauni when the sky fainted its darkness.

On the way to Patharnachauni

Taking rest after crossing Patharnachauni

The terrain turned up to snowy ascent gradually which demanded rope up. Our Trek Leader tied rope and guided us for rope up system for the team and the guide stood at the end of the queue. We were running out of breath, slowly attaining the heights. Looking around and seeing the gorgeous snow patched Himalaya, even those meadows that we traversed the previous days was the only method to feel relaxed.

Astonishing view from the KaluVinayak Top (From Left:- Jaonli, Gangotri, Bhartekunta, Kedarnath, Sumeru Parvat, Mandani Parvat, Chaukhamba, Balakun, NeelKanth)

A few moments later before Kalu Vinayaka temple we got hypnotized by the majestic play orchestrated by the mountains, the sky and the sun. We were enthralled to see Mt. Chaukhamba and Mt. Nilkantha being the champion of the contest of getting the first sunkiss among the other peaks. The snowclad mountains radiated the gold. The sky was playing with orange, red and yellow colours. The view was anything to die for.

Astionishing view from the KaluVinayak Top (From Left :- Nanda Ghunti and Trishul, Maiktoli Devtoli, Mrigthuni)

Soon we reached KaluVinayaka temple, which was fully covered by snow. A mesmerizing view from

the height of 4400m. We could hardly see the top of the Kalu Vinayaka temple, as it was under the snow deposition, rather we caught the first glimpse of much awaited glacial lake and heaved a sigh of relief. This increased our adrenalin rush. It was only snow and nothing left in the trail. The Trishul massif was in front of my eyes. One could imagine the extreme clarity, the crisp weather and the stillness in the air which made the line of horizon clearly visible from such a distance. The mountain slopes were enormous and tremendous. It was a sight for a sore eye.

Enroute Bhagwabasa from KaluVinayak Temple

We continued our ascend towards Bhagwabasa(4300m) roping up which took around 1hr to cover 1km. The bleached mountain up ahead reflected the sunlight, dazzling our eyes as we moved closer to it. Since the inclement mountain had led to snowfall it had remained unblemished, not one soul had passed across the trail in this season yet.

The magic of indigo and white is not only created by Zuckerberg, but a parallel universe is here playing the same from a long time ago with the sky and snow.

Refueling us physically with chocolates we headed towards the mystery lake. The more we proceeded the more our footsteps were moving downward instead of forward. It symbolizes the depth of the snow which was increasing with each step we made. We had already covered 7kms and 3kms yet to be covered.

As it is said, the mountain decides whether you climb or not. We could not ignore the formidable mountain. Even if we could reach there, the remnants of the human skeleton could not be found due to snow. No matter how hard I prepare, Himalaya always set up a question paper (read as trail) out of syllabus for me. This time the mountain hazard came to me in the name of ‘heavy snow deposition’. “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.” I don’t know for how long this phrase is going to follow me. We were at touching distance yet it was illusive like a mirage. Standing at 4358m altitude we dropped down the summit march.

The last point where we could reach at 4358 m

Wrapping up the left over energy we decided to return willy-nilly. While returning I realized my extreme fatigue. I was too drowsy to put a single step. The snow had drenched me out fully. Roping up, our eyes were eager to have a sight of Lord Ganesha (Kalu Vinayaka) with that toxic mountainous lie ever, “Only 10mins left..!”, “After this turn only..!”, “ Just few steps more..!”

Returning back

A sudden tension on my rope alarmed me that Shailesh ji was hanging on it. A rescue operation was initiated immediately by Dhrubojyoti and Negi ji with the same rope, leaving me and Mani Di bare handed, standing in a state of imbalance on the melting snow. Suddenly, I found the mountains around me were in motion straight away. I threw caution to the wind and stepped forward to withstand my dizziness without any rope. “Mind your step..!” a shrill voice of Mani Di stopped me from dicing with death. Once Shailesh Ji was rescued Trek Leader took back his position and led us to Kalu Vinayaka temple. Somehow refueling ourselves we kept on moving till our hot packaged lunch arrived.

Meanwhile we found Mt. Trishul hid itself behind the cloud to freshen up with snow. Slowly we were parting from the vista of Roopkund lake.

The snow on our descents was melting quickly due to the sun, making the way difficult. I fell down a couple of times. So, I wrapped myself in cotton wool sticking to the footsteps of our Trek Leader. This helped me to reach our campsite safe and sound after 4hrs. Campsite revitalized us with steaming tea and snacks.

The big day was over. The gloominess of unsuccessful summit enwrapped us. Sharing experiences and rejoicing the moments dispelled our sadness. Covering a distance of 20km and attaining 850m height in 13hrs caused extreme tiredness, which led us to a sound sleep that night.

We managed a buffer day, so decided to camp in Gairoli Patal one last time on DAY-5. We would descend from 3500 m to 3000 m in 5kms on a single day. Enrouting Bedni Bugyal, a very familiar scene enfolded me. Aah! that’s the Windows XP wallpaper right in front of my eyes. This catapulted me to the state of euphoria.

Live Windows XP wallpaper from Bedni Bugyal

Stone shrine of Nandadevi beside Bedni kund, 2 snowclad peaks Mt. Nandaghunti and Mt. Trishul with Mrigthuni, Maiktoli and Devtoli were the elements to put the sacred touch in that secluded place. A gradual 4kms descent lead us to Gairoli Patal at around 12:30 pm. Not repeating the mistake, we grabbed the offer of spending a long leisure time with mountain. We

spend our last spooky camping night.

The trek had almost come to an end on the 6th day. We took a final leave from Mt. Trishul feeling blue and left for Wan village at around 10:00 am. Descending constantly was not easy; it broke our knees down.

Outreach Wan at 1:00 pm we had our lunch followed by a short mountain walk for the last time. Children fluttered around greeting us with "Namaste.....!". The evening was left for the closing session by Himalayan Passion by offering us the certificate of completion. There was a special dinner with local cuisine offered that night. After dinner we couldn’t ignore the call of warm blankets.

Morning unfolded exceptionally with the Negi ji’s call & hot tea. And then that tragic moment. Getting apart! We didn’t cry though it was over but smiled as it happened. Bidding adieu was not an easy task since a wonderful bond was established among one and all. Separation started with Negi ji at Wan, followed by Shailesh ji from Haridwar and rest of us left out for Delhi.

ROOPKUND is the name of the lake only but, its more apt for the trail. Each day of the trek is like the unraveling of a new story. Himalayas presented its different “Roop” of its own accord starting from meadows to dense spooky forest, rocky mountains to snowclad peaks, deposited snow to thin ice path: the trail itself is filled with enormous beauty. Roopkund trek demands not only physical strength but challenges our will power also, at the same time rewarding too.

May be we had not touched the Roopkund Lake as we planned, may be my bucket list not got ticked but as it is said, mountain will never leave you bare hand. We just experienced it. We walked 40kms, attaining an altitude of 4358m from 2500m in 6days. Touching summit point with no views is surely not enchanting, but unsuccessful summit attempts with stunning spectacle are achievements.

Bidding Goodbye to the mountains is the toughest part

It will be ungrateful on my part to conclude without expressing my heartiest gratitude to Himalayan Passion for kindling an eagerness in me for mountain treks. They just not only take care of the trek but arrange almost everything you need throughout the JOURNEY. Some ‘GENIEs’ were set out in the name of supporting staff. They always appeared with whatever we wanted, no matter whenever and wherever we were, they could turn a hostile land inhabitable instantly, just like that, even at 12000ft, either it in the middle of woods or in the middle of snow encompassing mountains they appeared with fuming tea and hot delicious cuisines. The mythological inputs about the trail by Dhrubojyoti (TL) brought another dimension in the trek field. One can

easily assume the dedication and labor they put to make a trek grand success. Dear TL and the guide Negi ji had drenched their energy out to investigate the trail condition beforehand so that, the team could reach the summit point safely on the following day without fail. There lies the aptness of their name ‘PASSION’. Above all, its really hard to find such foundation who empathize the sorrow of unsuccessful summits rather, sympathize.

Failure is not debacle but an ongoing process of trials and tribulations which we embraced in an open mind to attain holistic experiences rising above the terms-‘SUCCESS’ & ‘FAILURE’.

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