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|29th June 2006, 22:33||#1|
Join Date: Mar 2005
Thanked: 5 Times
Har Ki Doon Trek
I had been to a trek up north, to a place called Har Ki Doon - literal meaning being "Valley of Gods"
Not a road trip, but I thought I should share with TBhpians. Its a bit long... but I guess its worth it.
The pics are here. Had taken a regular analog cam, fearing the rains, and the scanning is not upto the mark... so pls excuse the quality.
Youth Hostel Association of India – YHAI - Har Ki Doon Trek – 2006
May 10, 2006 - May 24, 2006.
An experience that gives you a high [pun intended ]
Day 1: Dehradun – 2200 ft.
We reached reporting camp Dehradun. A beautiful town growing up to a city. Pleasant weather. Unfortunately, we did not have much time in hand to move around the place, excepting the market where we bought an amazing pair of trekking shoes – a smart decision.
Had dinner at the camp, after an informal round of introduction and a formal one post that. Our group had 3 from Bombay, 2 from Gujarat, 1 from Jodhpur, 3 from Delhi and 10 from Solapur.
Milo follows dinner in the trek. Good for the health.
2330 hrs: After some usual TP and stuff, dozed off for an early morning.
Day 2: Base Camp Sankri – 5800 ft.
Good Morning – boy…. Ain’t that EARLY!
Got to the morning routine and pushed off to Sankri – our base camp. Its about 200 km from Dehradun – but takes around 8-9 hours.
The road is tricky. The bus went millimeters of the edge of the road… and when I say edge… it also implies the cliff [FONT=Wingdings]J[/FONT]. The fact that it did not go down assures me that I haven’t committed a big sin till now… else God had a chance.
But the view is worth every bit of it. We go up the Yamuna Valley. Then up Tons river, one of the major tributary of Yamuna. The rapids were a beauty to watch, surrounded by the mighty Himalayas. An amazing road to drive on, assuming you are skilled enough.
Lunch stop was at Purola. Had “pack lunch” – a term you would get too used to once you go for the trek. This was the last village in the region to have connectivity through telephone.
Then came an interesting bit. We convinced the driver and got on top of the bus for the remaining hour or so of the journey. The curves and turns and the wind in your face and the tree branches on your head…Damn neat fun.
Reached Sankri at around 16:00 hrs. Welcomed by the field director and others. Got to the tents and unwinded a bit. That was followed by the usual tea session. Had a walk in the village. The simplicity of life stuns anyone from a metro like Mumbai. One street defines the entire market – Ten shops, two eateries, one tailor, two doctors, one barber – Period.
Then came dinner – fairly decent stuff. Lastly, the “camp-fire” ceremony. This is a tricky part. It can be damn cool – if you have a group which is enthu – else it can be a real bad end to the day.
Day 3: Base Camp Sankri – 5800 ft.
Bed tea – why did the Brits invent tea… and that too served at 5 in the morning! Human Rights, anyone?
Had a light exercise – the definition of “light is relative”. It’s a jog for a kilometer and some free hand exercises. Then back to camp – breakfast – pack lunch – a really heavy backpack – and off to “Acclimatization Trek”.
This starts with Rappelling. A neat wall of about 25-30 feet. Great experience for first timers like me. Then you go for a trek in the nearby region. We gained about a 1000 feet.
We carried max possible load on us… turned out to be a good practice for the actual thing.
Back to camp. Dinner. Campfire. MILO. Goodnight.
Day 4: Juda Talao – 8,500 ft
Same ol’ stuff.
0630 hrs: Light exercises… and actually light for a change.
Off to higher camp one – i.e. Juda Talao.
It’s a distance of about 4 km from the base camp and an altitude gain of almost 2700 ft, implying a pretty high gradient.
Not difficult as such, but it was definitely tiring as we were gaining some good altitude and our bodies were not really accustomed to the entire funda of the trek. Difficult day for people who thought they were out for a picnic. We crossed a small village en route. That’s where we first asked people the Eternal Question – “Where is the Grass?” And we got our first view of the savior of sanity – Grass a.k.a. Marijuana – blooming in full glory in its kingdom.
The rest of the trek was pretty okay. Had a lunch break somewhere. Reached the next camp at about 1400 hrs. Then followed the “reporting and waiting for all” ritual. When everyone arrived, the camp director updated us on the schedule at the camp. And since rain was expected, we had to cancel a small nature walk nearby. But a few of us guys managed to go anyway, as one of us had been on the trek earlier.
We went to a small meadow (which also happened to be a feeding ground for wolves) or opening in the forest which had a good view of the snow clad peaks, but couldn’t get that, ‘coz of the clouds. But we did here a call of a wild animal. In all probability it was a leopard – which is local to that region – or a bear.
We got back to the camp in an hour. Then followed the soup and dinner and the usual Milo. Then after we got into the tents, the first rains, we met, started. These were accompanied by hailstones as well. Neat scene.
Day 5: Kedar Kaanta – 10,700 ft.
Up and ready to move.
A relatively longer walk today. About 8 kilometers and an altitude gain of 2200 ft. The gradient was not that tough. An initial part which was fairly steep, but the rest was quite okay.
Lunch point was in a meadow. There is this concept there. Since there are a lot of trekkers on that route, the local people set up make-shift stalls at certain points where they know trekkers would rest. They provide you eggs, tea, milk and Maggi. We got fresh milk at that particular one as there are no cattle further up. You have too stick to powder milk.
The walk can be a mix of heat and chill. The sun is hot as you have direct rays hitting you. The wind is cold because of the altitude. You are really warm because of the work-out. The sweat feels cold because of the wind. End of day, you are still guessing whether you need to keep your jacket on or not.
Reached the camp at about 1500 – 1600 hrs. It was a fantastic spot. A huge open space at the foot of the Kedar Kaanta peak. The high altitude grassland, also known as “Bugyal” ended in the valley.
For a second I thought it was a hazy image due to the clouds. But it was, in fact, a series of peaks the valley looked upon. Atleast a dozen small peaks in a row, one behind the other. That’s when the feeling of the altitude started sinking in.
As many places in the Himalayas do, this one also had a mythological link to it. This is the region where the Kauravas, from Mahabharata, are worshipped. There was also a Karna temple on the same ground. There is an annual fair held at the same grounds, where thousands from the region gather.
Personally, I found the place to have a spooky feel to it. Didn’t know why – but it did.
Day 6: Dhunda – 10,500 ft
We left relatively early, as the walk was quite a bit tough as well as long. About 12 km and we had to climb the Kedar Kaanta peak and get to the other side, along a ridge!
The initial couple of kilometers to the Kedar Kaanta peak was quite a climb - about three slopes and a gradient of about 75-80 degrees. A gain in altitude of about 2200 feet in less than 2 km! There was no vegetation apart from small sparse grass, above 10,000 feet on this peak.
Then came the beauty. Kedar Kaanta peak – altitude 12,700 ft – the highest point of our trek. All around you could see big, tall, might peaks – all snow clad. One side was the Himachal Pradesh range of the Himalayas; another side was the passes and the ranges heading towards Tibet; a third was towards the final destination – Har Ki Dun.
Moments to cherish through out one’s life.
The walk ahead was a very different one. It was a ridge. You could see the next camp, about 8 km away. The trail was along the mountain top – valleys on both sides. There were some real cross winds blowing across. Maintaining your balance and concentration was the key.
The rest of the day’s trek was quite the same. More of a descent – which though easy – needed more alertness.
Reached the camp at about 1600 hours. The weather was quite cold. Being one of the higher camps, it was closer to the snowline. Next to the camp was the first glacier we saw – a small one – a frozen stream to be precise.
The rest of the schedule was more or less the same.
One amazing thing was the water. We came across hundreds of small streams, rivers, waterfalls and different water sources throughout the trek. Every water we tasted had a peculiarity. Some were sweet, some mineral, some had a tinge of herbs, some were bland – but most of them were cold – and I mean intrinsically cold – not the freezer cold we know of.
The evening temperature used to drop to something like 2-3 degree Celsius – and that is disregarding the wind factor. If included the effective temperature would go down by another 5 degrees. And the fun part – we did not have correct “winter” clothes. A jacket or a windcheater and a sweater. That’s it. Grass – where art thou?
Day 7: Talouti – 11,700 ft
Laugh. We did. On ourselves.
Left the earlier camp all happy go lucky. Looking forward to a relatively easy walk – were made to imagine that. And it did turn out – an Imagination.
A tough initial part till lunch. Quite exhausting. Lunch. Rest.
Then came the real thing. For the next three to four kilometers, we had to cut and cross snow and ice on glaciers. This was basically frozen rivers on the mountain side, on the slope. A very dicey scenario. One slip and in all probability you can reach Delhi – via the Yamuna route. That was accompanied by the cherry on the cake – rain! And the complimentary wind and hail. What more can one ask for!
That was some true adrenaline rush. For once, we did not remember fatigue or tiredness or altitude sickness or anything. It was purely the “kick” of the thing that was in our minds.
The last stretch gave us some bad rains. Managed to reach the camp by 1600 hrs.
This being the highest camp of the trek, the cold was bad! We were in spitting distance of snow-clad peaks and the chill of the air could be felt to the freaking bones. Grass, anyone!
Dinner was at 1700 hrs. Off into the sack by 1800 hrs.
Day 8: Lekhathach – 10,000 ft
This was a cool stretch. Not tiring as most of it was downhill. Through some real dense forest. Humming some Beatles and Floyd.
Just a couple of kilometers before the camp was the Lekhathach village. Some civilization after 5 days. Nice.
Had some good tea and played some cricket with the kids. Cricket at 10,000 ft. Not Bad eh?
Reached the camp. Nice, small, relatively warm place. The best part was the next walk was even easier.
Relaxed. Had some great food. Grass. Laugh. Sleep.
Day 9: Seema – 9,500 ft
A small walk today, about 6 km. Left the camp at a lazy 9:30. Given the stamina and the pace of most of the batch, we could have reached the next camp as early as 11:30 am. But that would have been a pain for the camp director there.
So ambled our way – peacefully. Crossed a river on the way, where it was feasible to have a dip. The sun was out. Not that cold a water. Manageable rapids. Found a small pool in the rocks and had a good dip – after 7 days. Definition of “freshness” changed.
Halted at a village en route for an hour or so. Reached the camp as slow as possible, about 1530 hrs.
Seema is the common camp for the last lap. The return route being the same, earlier batches halt here. We met a batch which came back from Har Ki Dun. Had a nice chat. A couple of rounds of dumb-charades and singing etc. Followed by the camp fire. Milo and Goodnight.
Day 10: Har Ki Dun (HKD) – 11,500 ft
A long stretch of about 16-17 km and an altitude gain of about 2,500 ft. Started early – 0730 hrs. All geared up for a long and tiring one.
The first half is a straight incline. Takes a lot of stamina to push. People tried to hurry up a bit so as to avoid the rains – which used to strike precisely at 1400 hrs. We were at ease, discussing everything under the sun – business plans, relationships, cars, economy. Reached the tea point at around 1000 hrs. Had a nice breakfast as had skipped the morning one at camp. The view all through was fab! We were heading towards a junction of valleys, at a height of 1,500 to 2,000 ft above the rivers. The walk towards the half-way point was relatively easy. The lunch-point was a dhaba types joint. It was situated close to a waterfall, with the stream running under it. Talk of Prime Location.
Had a heavy lunch, so had to walk real slow post that. And also, the fatigue was catching up. The last quarter was bad. The climb, fatigue and now – rains – real hard rains with some crazy winds. All wet. Period.
A funny part was where we had to cross a small river, about 20 ft wide. The rapids were fast enough to pull an elephant along. The bridge was, well, two logs. And one of them believed in elasticity. Somehow fooled our own minds to believe that we were in the Russian circus and could cross it. Crossed it both ways (while returning too) successfully - that’s why I can call it funny.
The first guy reached at about 1130 hrs – now that’s stamina – fastest any trekker hads reached till date. The last group reached at 1600 hrs.
The campsite was a beauty. In the HKD valley, at about 11,500 ft above sea level. Two sides were snow peaks – the HKD peak (18,000 ft) and the Swarg-rohini peak (21,000 ft). The third side was the valley opening. And the last had a glacier, the Jaundher glacier. And a beautiful river flowing along the plains of the campsite. The water originating from the glacier.
The glacier and the peaks were about a kilometer or two of straight line distance from the camp. The ground temperature was about a degree above zero. The winds were freezing – Effectively leading the temperature to four below zero. In short – it was cold – freaking Cold! And we were wet. Survived that night somehow, thanks to the amazing sleeping bags.
Day 11: Seema – 9,500 ft
Next morning, we were in a wonderful shape to enjoy the location and sink in its beauty. The sun was up. The skies were clear. Yes – HKD is beautiful – really really beautiful.
Headed back to Seema real fast. Non-stop yet relaxed. Reached at about 1330 hrs. Lazed around and slept. Well… retreat has started!
We had met the batch immediately before and after us en-route to HKD. The batch pre and post those were at the camps. Met the later at Seema again. Usual fun and stuff.
Slept very relaxed that night.
Day 12: Taluka – 7,000 ft.
Left at ease after bidding farewell and wishes to the batch leaving for HKD. The walk wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. It was quite long. About 15 km or so.
Reached the Taluka village. Had a grand lunch there. Hogged on like crazy on eggs and stuff. The campsite was about a couple of kilometers from the village.
Nothing eventful, excepting a good round of dumb-charades.
Day 13: Sankri – Base Camp – 5,800 ft.
An easy flat walk of about 8 km. Almost a motorable road. Took about 3 hours to touch base at Sankri.
Had a nice bath and a shave. Were feeling human again.
Had a walk in the village. Realised the sensex had crashed.
Reload – Metro Life.
Day 14: Dehradun – Reporting Camp – 2,200 ft.
Back by bus to Dehradun. Called home to inform everyone of our existence.
Train to Delhi at night.
Day 15: Back to square one – Delhi.
One very different experience – provided a great break from the usual rut of life. Away from our mankind. Worth everything.
“Shine on … Crazy Diamond”
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