Rupin Pass – Some More Stories

Rupin Pass was different and magical for so many reasons. Though this was not the first time I was trekking in the Himalayas but this was definitely the longest time I spent on a trek. The adventures at Rupin Valley were unique and one of a kind. It would be quite safe to say that this has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life. And, at the same time it has been extremely rewarding and enriching.

I have already written two long posts on my experience but there are few more small stories, ignoring which is leaving me with a sense of incompletion.

So, here they go.

My Sore Ankle – I had a painful ankle all through the trek. I literally limped through the valley, up to the Pass. It started with the ankle bones rubbing against the shoe making it difficult for me to walk. This was resolved to a large extent when our guide, Rup Mohan, along with help from a trekmate placed a padding of cotton and taped it tightly to my feet. However, the ankle bone on the inner side of the right foot continued hurting and the cotton padding wasn’t helping. This got temporarily resolved when I loosened my shoe laces, though it caused me to trip and fall twice during the journey. Most of the time, I was in great pain while walking with my shoes on.

I tried everything that people suggested, hot water salt therapy, rubbing almond oil, some ankle exercises and even bizarre outlandish ideas like putting stones on either side of the ankle bone to keep it away from the shoes. Nothing helped. Desperate, I even thought of cutting off the ankle high of my shoe!

At Lower Waterfall (Dhanderas Thatch), Bhupender, our Trek Leader suggested cold water therapy by dipping my feet onto the cold glacial water of Rupin. My ankles went numb and provided some short term relief. Thereafter he wrapped a crepe bandage, folded my socks to provide additional cushioning, and loosened my shoe laces. That’s how I managed the rest of the trek. An uncalled for situation, that partially robbed me of few joyous and carefree moments.

The Milky Way – It was 3 AM in the morning, the final day when were up to go to Rupin Pass. We were trying to gather our courage to step out in the freezing cold. My tentmate stepped out first and called out to me to look at the sky. That was incentive enough to brave the chill and step out and it was mesmerizing. I always had a keen desire to see the Milky Way and there it was brilliantly illuminating a part of the sky. I couldn’t be happier.

The New-Born Lamb – Shepherds with their herd of furry sheep and bushy sheep dogs is a common sight at Rupin Valley. After all, this is a shepherd’s trail and they move their herds to greener pastures and back. Once, a shepherd came along carrying a tiny lamb while the rest of his herd followed. I chatted with him, clicked his picture and asked if I could hold the lamb. He handed over the lamb and I could feel it’s heart thumping rather loudly. Upon asking if something was wrong, I got to know that the lamb was just two hours old and was still trying to adjust to the surrounding environment. I was jubilant. The feeling of holding a new born lamb was extraordinary – something I won’t forget for the rest of my life.

Being Superstitious – On seven days of the trek I wore the same set of clothes. For some reason I got superstitious as everyday was turning out to be great. I didn’t want to upset the rhythm and decided to wear the same clothes. I must have been stinking but who cares!

The 24th Man  – One of the young engineers from VIT did not register with IndiaHikes on time but was keen to trek with his friends. So, he came along carrying his own tent, stove and other requirements. Thus, he was part of the group even while not being part of it. I remember us gathering around when he was pitching his tent for the first time like kids in a roadside magic show waiting to see what unfolds.

The Narrow Escape – A trekmate went exploring Dhanderas Thatch with his camera and while chasing a rainbow slipped and fell into the ice cold Rupin River. Thankfully he was safe except for a twisted ankle.

The Momo Fight – The greedy fight one evening at Udaknal campsite as people pounced upon the limited momos is surely something we’ll remember for a long time.

Anxious Moments of Oxymeter Readings – Every evening, our Trek Leader would summon us to measure our Oxygen level and anything below 80 would mean we need to descend. To maintain the level and ensure not being hit by AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), we had to gulp down 6 L. of water per day, not like everyone complied though.

The Trek Anthem – Our trek leader had a trek anthem that could charge up everyone like an instant shot of black coffee. It constituted a series of meaningless rhyming words that we uttered synchronously. Needless to say it was a lot of fun.

Fun Games – I always thought playing games on a trek is a sheer waste of time and mostly stay away from them. I’d rather soak in nature’s beauty all around me, something which I will not get in the city. This time I surprised myself by participating in many a game, played by the team. Company matters! Games like ‘Non-stop Nonsense’ was a lot of fun.

Perfect Weather – The perfect weather at the trek was nothing short of a miracle. Every day, except one, was bright and sunny with clear blue skies. It rained one day but was just a light shower that lasted only for 2-3 hours. Oh, there were sporadic light showers the next day too, but that was our rest day. Even at the Pass, we were greeted by a sunny morning with no wind. It was as though Mother Nature had conspired with the mountains to have us experience a blissful trek. I had read of snowfalls, heavy rains, hailstorms, and gusty winds at least one day during the trek in most blogs I went through. None of it happened for us.

Wonderful Company – Nature is, nature was, and nature will be but it’s only with good fortune that you land up with a great company too.

You are spending 9 days out in the wilderness experiencing the same hardships and the same exhilaration. Literally everything you do out there, you do as a team and often times these are people you have just met. Everyone is bound by one common goal and it only gets easier when you have easy going people with you. And, in a large group seamless camaraderie in a short period of time is rare.

A big shout out to all the fantastic people who played a big role in all the precious memories I now have.

The VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology) guys Sachin, Animesh, Rishi, Vikrant, Sid, Surjo, and Paarsh your exuberance and cheerfulness made everything so lively.

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The ‘Gujju’ trio, Anuj, Viraj, and Naitik, you laughed at yourselves and made us laugh too.

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The three men from Chennai, Durai Sir, Sunder, and Nedu, you were an inspiration to us all.

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The Bangalore trio, Rishu, Avi, and Sameer, you were the easygoing and the totally cool guys.

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Now for the solo ones.

Darshan Sir, your determination enthused us.

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P.C. Rajiv Namathirtham

Harsh, the solo ‘Gujju’, you were there for everyone and your gait made me fear that you might fall into the valley.

Vineet your enthusiasm for climbing every mountain on your way was contagious.

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P.C. Vineet Prajapati

Sri, my buddy in drinking gallons of water and always fiercely guarding your first position until you became a victim of ‘gender inequality’!

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P.C. Vineet Prajapati

Nayantara, your innocent laughter and warm hugs reassured.

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P.C. Surjo Dutta

Rajiv, my partner for the rejuvenating black tea breaks with mint, ginger, etc and also some of the most fascinating conversations was with you.

Sangy, my cool tentmate and partner in crime, you made life so easy.

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And, I remained the self-declared official garbage collector of the group.

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Now for the most important people, people from IndiaHikes.

Our Trek Leader Bhupender, those enriching conversations I had with you sharing our love and respect for the Himalayas and all the care you displayed to fix my ankle.

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P.C. Vineet Prajapati

Rup Mohan, you kept us on our toes always and awed us with your ease in every kind of terrain.

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P.C. Vineet Prajapati

Robin, an epitome of patience and all the fun I had with you trying to click the perfect selfies.

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Nitin, you were such excellent company as we trailed on the last day enjoying every bit of nature’s gifts and of course your tenacity to catch up with us even with that 20Kg backpack.

Rupin Pass – Nine Days of Paradise

The Mystical Himalayas Beckons Again – Part 1

Am I dreaming or is this for real! I questioned my wakefulness trying to comprehend the unbelievably gorgeous milk-white sprawling vista that lay before my eyes – a widespread fluffy blanket of untouched snow, sharp and pointed peaks of the Dhauladhar range, clear blue skies with no cloud in sight, early morning warm sunshine, and not a hint of the expected gusty winds.

The ecstatic bunch of us hooted and cheered at 15,380 ft. Our child-like innocent glee reverberated in the pristine surroundings. We couldn’t have asked for more but the mountains were extraordinarily gracious that morning and had another delightful surprise in store for us. A herd of sheep came strolling by with their shepherds and sheep dogs only to exhilarate the already intoxicated us.

This was the moment we were waiting for and all the days of long walks, difficult climbs, and cold weather was more than worth it.

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Pic: It was magical at the Pass

I was back to the Himalayas and this time I was trekking Rupin Pass, a notch higher in the difficulty level as compared to the others I had done so far. Moreover, this time I was alone. I was nervous as I signed up and was not sure if I could make it. My nervousness ensured that I was putting in an extra effort towards fitness – more on that later.

It was an early May morning, when a bunch of us huddled at Dehradun railway station. A quick round of short introductions and the vibes were positive. I was already feeling comfortable with the gang. It’s been sheer coincidental that so far all my treks to the Himalayas started from Dehradun. Hence, I was familiar with the route and even have a fair idea of the good eateries on the way. We bundled into tempo travellers and Boleros and proceeded towards Dhaula.

Day 1: Dhaula – The Beginning

At 5,100 ft, Dhaula was our campsite for Day 1. We arrived at Dhaula late in the evening after a long ride of 10 hours. Deep valleys and thick Pine forests kept us engaged all through the journey. The characteristic bright yellow tents of IndiaHikes were ready for us. (I chose IndiaHikes, once again.) The rapidly flowing water and the gushing sound of Rupin River was music to our ears taking off all the tiredness from the day’s ride. After a quick briefing by our trek leader and a more formal introduction with one another, we retired for the night with countless anticipation for the next day and the days to come.

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Pic 2: Our camp at Dhaula
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Pic 3: Rupin River gushing away in great hurry at Dhaula

Day 2: Sewa – Getting to Know Each Other

We started early and this was technically the first day of the trek as we walked up towards the village of Sewa. It was a long walk of 11 Km. through patches of undulated terrain surrounded by tall trees and a couple of steep ascents. Most of this day however, was through a rugged pathway, which is a road in the making. The surrounding greenery with the Rupin River appearing, disappearing, and reappearing in the deep valley made for an interesting walk even though the the sun beat down on us relentlessly.

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Pic 4: As we started off from Dhaula

As we trudged along, the large group of 24 people chit-chatted, breaking barriers, and learning more about each other. There were people from all walks of life. A big gang of young engineers who just completed their graduation and were yet to start their first job; a group of three men from Chennai led by an inspiring 57 year old, whose fitness regime put the rest of us to shame; a group of three friends from my city of Bangalore; the ‘Gujju’ trio who weren’t from Gujarat and who were teased mercilessly for all the eatables they got; and the rest, including me, who were solo travelling from various parts of the country.

However, very soon it was forgotten who belonged to which group as everyone easily blended into one large group.

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Pic 5: Towards Sewa – a section with the deep valley on one side and a narrow pathway on the other

At 6,300 ft. Sewa was a peaceful village surrounded by tall green mountains where we stayed at a small and cozy wooden homestay. However, what I remember of Sewa is the unique two-storied pagoda-like village temple that had medals and coins adorning its wall and the crazy mosquito bites leading to itchy rashes that affected most of us and healed only after we got back home after completing the trek.

Oh yes, I had a splitting headache too that resulted from walking in the sun all day long without putting on my sunglasses.

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Pic 6: The Pagoda-like temple at Sewa Village. Note the medals and trophies hanging on its wall. 

Day 3: Jiskun – Luxury at the Homestay

As we left Sewa, the pleasant walk descending through the forest trail delighted most of us. The trail took us straight to Rupin River that sparkled in the morning sun splashing the stones and pebbles as it curved gently to make its way behind the tall mountains. We spent a few refreshing moments beside the river before continuing our walk through the forest. And, now it was time to step over to Himachal Pradesh from Uttarakhand through the wooden bridge hidden in the jungle that separates the two states.

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Pic 7: The glimmering Rupin River in the morning sun
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Pic 8: The wooden bridge  between Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. On the right is Himachal Pradesh and left is Uttarakhand.

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Pic 9: The group posing on the bridge. Thankfully it didn’t give way under our collective weight.         [P.C. Sachin Vidyasagaran]
Soon after, we landed onto a dusty track snaking through the mountains, which was again a road in the making. The sun was merciless and I made sure to put on my sunglasses. My ankles had been hurting since morning and it got worse. It was the sides of my shoe that was rubbing against the ankles making it quite difficult for me to walk. I chose to ignore thinking that it would go away. I would discover the next morning how wrong I was!

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Pic 10: View of the valley as we walked on the dusty track towards Jiskun.

After a 10 Km. walk we arrived at Jiskun. At 7,700 ft., Jiskun was again a beautiful and simple Himalayan village, where everyone you meet greets you with a smile and a ‘namaste’. We stayed at a homestay, which had several very sunny and airy rooms – quite a luxury at a trek. The guys huddled into two rooms, even though there were several rooms lying empty. The four girls were smarter and selected two rooms giving them a lot of space to relax for the rest of the evening.

So far the trek seemed easy even though I struggled walking the long distances with my sore ankle. Next day onwards, it was a different ball game altogether.

Continued here…

My other Himalayan Treks: