A lot of credit goes to the immense inordinate planning and research for choosing rupin pass over the others from the available cluster of Himalayan treks 😛 . The most befitting option for the first time Himalayan trekkers like us were Hampta pass or Buran Ghati as guided by Indiahikes. There was uncertainty of seeing snow during June in both Hampta pass and Buran pass as we pondered over different vlogs, blogs written by past summiteers. We chose Rupin pass unanimously over the above mentioned ones as it offers dynamic weather and landscapes throughout the trek although the videos and blogs were about to steer us to the other treks. We were group of 4 friends. Sumana, Akshay and me are colleagues in Intel. Abhi is a common friend to us who was interested in the himalayan trek too. After a lot of to-and fro changes and uncertainties, we finally booked with Bikat adventures due to their attractive discounts over the other trek groups. Nevertheless, I did ensure Bikat is good group to trek with, based on reviews online and feedback from my trekker friends down south in the western ghats.
Day 1: “Road Trippin” (Dehradun to Dhaula)
We started in a tempo from Dehradun to Dhaula at around 8 in the morning. We met our trek captain Sandeep and few of his entourage (Arvind & Krishna bhai). We chose Bikat adventures for organizing this trek. The ride was very smooth for most of the path till Dhaula except the last stint of almost 10-20 kms near to Dhaula. The last stretch of road journey ends into an imperishable sight of the ferociously cold Rupin river flowing besides the bumpy road. We reached the home-stay in Dhaula at around 5 in the evening. Dhaula is at an altitude of 5100 feet.
The river got us quite excited. I was planning on to take a dip as it’s a holy trail ahead :P. Once we reached the banks, we realized it was extremely cold furious waters. Once we were back to the home-stay, our trek lead Himanshu was unhappy with our unruly behaviour to venture into the cold water. We had a brief introduction by Himanshu about the trek, home-stay, group division while trekking up ahead. The group of 30 members were divided into two each of 15. We had our dinner, got introduced to our new fellow trekkers and our trek was supposed to start the next day.
Day 2: “BURN” (everlasting agonizing dry walk from Dhaula to Sewa)
The path from the home-stay extends into a long flat walk for almost an hour. There were few water streams on the way but none worthy enough to be considered as a good source of drinking water. Abhi was complaining about knee pain which I was concerned about. One of the trek leads suggested to keep a watch on him, because if it worsened, it would be difficult for him to proceed higher. He tried to keep his knees unbent which helped him recover a bit. Akshay was feeling quite comfortable despite his extreme lack of courage. Most of it was a mental reassurance from offloading the backpack. Shreyaa was comfortable except for her daypack bag which would deny to fit in her rucksack. 😛 .
The trail treads into a steep climb after a while. We witnessed a lot of villagers using the trail for their day to day activites. The nimbu paani from one of the shops enroute was a paradise to beat the scorching hot sun. The trail ahead surprised us with greenery and tall coniferous trees. It was quite baffling to see how quickly the landscapes changed.
We reached the next homestay at Sewa village. Our homestay was next to a Shiva temple which opens once in twelve years, quite contrary to the beliefs of the traditional cycle of worshipping in Hindu temples.
Sewa sits at 6300 feet. The night sky in Sewa was quite clear and dark for a perfect star gazing. Sumana spotted few shooting stars, which I couldn’t believe unless I saw it with my naked eyes. Nonetheless, we could spot an artificial satellite which was a bright dot continuously moving in the dark sky standing out of the other constellations and stars. Sanjeev sir helped us in identifying a couple of constellations as he was an experienced star gazer. I was not able to sleep well as the home-stay packed us all into a single room with very limited cross ventilation. Akshay and Abhi never complained about sleeplessness anyday, for they literally slept like maharajas!
Day 3: “Smooth Criminal” (Sewa to Jiskun)
Our trek leads informed us that there was a new rule to get permissions for all the trekkers before crossing to Jiskun. This meant that, we had to take permits from the police station situated in Kwar village.
Hence we started earlier than scheduled time. The views got better as we further strolled. There was a bridge crossing which demarcates Himachal pradesh from Uttarakhand. We were greeted by the thick tall trees covered forests as we ascended towards Himachal side of the mountains.
The lifeline of the whole village is this perennial Himalayan river itself. The dust storms near jiskun was quite grave. The clear skies topsy-turved into dark ghosts when we almost reached the Jiskun homestay. It rained emphatically for almost two hours. Jiskun sits at an altitude of 7700 feet. The Bikat crew explained us about AMS(accute mountain sickness) and other symptoms that crop up when the body can’t adapt to the altitude change, and how to cautiously try preventing it. It was quite frightening to learn about AMS considering this being my first Himalayan trek above 15K feet. Jiskun is the last village towards the rupin pass where you can shop for anything which is dire need. The batch was filled with first time trekkers who missed to carry few essentials like jacket and rain ponchos. It was a delight for them.
Day4: “Comfortably Numb” (Jiskun to Saruwas Thatch)
Much of the initial part of the trail was through thick coniferous green colourful forests. It felt like western ghats for most of this stretch. The place was filled with beautiful butterflies. I managed to capture a few through my lens.
The forest opened up into dirty snow valley. This is the first hint of snow starting from day 1. This was one of the longest and strenuous day. The trek continues through long meadows with rupin river flowing adjacent to the trail. The path is also crowded with lot of small boulder rocks which hurt the knees and make the stroll difficult.
This region is abundantly filled with rhododendron flowers.
Day 5: “Up and Up” (Saruwas Thatch to Dhanteras thatch)
It was the shortest day in terms of trek as we covered it in less than 3 hours. The end climb towards Dhanteras thatch was quite tricky and steep where the trails were narrow.
As advised by many, yoga and pranayama are beneficial for good blood supply (avoids cramps) and better cardio vascular adaptation at high altitudes. We tried to follow this religiously every day. The climb ahead in snow was supposed to be steepest in the whole trek. We learnt how to use the spikes to trek in snow. Some basic foot angle movements for transverse and vertical climb were taught. It was very important to imbibe this as some of the foot movements were quite counter-intuitive. Example: while descending in snow we have to step only on heels which gives us good grip, although it’s a human tendency to step with full feet for best traction.
Day 6: “Breathe!” (Dhanteras thatch to Upper waterfall campsite)
The day started off with an excruciating climb as it was the first time I was trekking in snow. The path was lead by Vijay(one of our best trek leads). Sandeep(captain) had to stay at the lower waterfall campsite as two people had to be air-evacuated due to knee injury and hypothermia (thanks to Sanjeev sir for his help in the air-lift). Vijay was calmly and carefully cutting out the the steps in the thick snow using an ice axe for making our climb very simple and the painstaking climb look like a cakewalk. For the first time, it felt like I was walking along the stairway to the heaven, both in terms of the fear and pleasure. The weather was also not in our favour. The climb started off with slight snowfall and sun trying to peep from behind the dark clouds. The weather worsened as we proceeded higher. The sight of the waterfalls in the snow mountains was a great delight to see.
The visibility dropped due to bad weather. Sumana complained of breathlessness as soon as we reached the campsite reckoning to the cold weather and not having insulated well. After insulating her inside the sleeping bag, she started feeling better. The whole campsite was covered in fresh snow from the continuous snow-fall. The weather seemed to be very gloomy till late afternoon. We were glued to the dining tent after the lunch and the scenes outside were bone piercing cold. As the saying goes: “If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine”. True in our case, we wanted to experience the snowfall only enough to enjoy the sunshine better.
It was exciting and perplexing to see the sun peep out of the dark clouds and make way for the summer heat. The environment soon changed into mind pleasuring clear bright skies. Some of us utilized the time to make a beautiful snowman. The snowman ended up looking like a ghost rider with red muffler instead of fire around it’s neck.
Abhi and Sumana are experts in Yoga and pranayama. Shreyaa and me had a wonderful session from them gurus, to keep ones mind calm enough to strike any storm ahead. Sounds like cliche’, albeit it was true. Pranayama brought in me a new feeling of self-reliance and uncanny calmness, although well within my senses 😛 .
As the night approached, I started feeling miserable of something I had ate previously. My stomach was upset. The cold kept me awake. The temperatures fell below freezing point. All I could do was loiter around in the pitch dark campsite. The skies were exquisite. I saw a couple of shooting stars. I tried to capture the starry sky with my mobile camera over-exposed.
Day 7: “Stairway to Heaven” (Upper water falls to Ronti Gad through Rupin gully)
The summit day was the longest day amongst all. We had to cover 12kms in snow. We started early in the morning around 4am. We put on our gaiters too, presuming soft snow to be present along the trail. The weather was in our dearly terms. It was heartwarming and welcoming to see such clear skies. The view from Raitha Pheri was amazing.
From here, we could see the Rupin Pass, which is a tiny white passage to the mountains on the other side (Kinaur Kailash mountains). The final climb to rupin pass was literally breathtaking. Abhi and Shreyaa were complaining about mild headaches, which might have been progressing symptoms from sudden altitude gain. I was trying to sip in as much as ORS and water possible to avoid dehydration and AMS.
The happiness and joy in me knew no bounds when I stepped on top of the pass. The view on the other side was awe-striking!
We spent around half an hour at the top gracing the beauty, congratulating each other for having completed the summit successfully, taking pictures etc. Rupin Pass is at an altitude of 15300 feet.
The descend towards Ronti gad campsite had multiple snow slides which was a lot more fun that trekking. The snow slides were the easiest and safest way to lazily make our way down. After some time of walking, the snow disappears into mountains of green pastures and snow caps.
I was extremely tired and was pacing as quick as possible to reach the campsite. The Ronti Gad camp was unique in it’s look and view it offered.
Day 8: “Why’d you call me when you’re high” (Ronti Gad to Sangla)
The last day of the trek was a plain walk for most of the time. As we neared the civilization, our mobiles started beeping after a week long detox from the cellular network. Everyone was busy informing their families about successfully finishing the trek.
Lastly to conclude, I cannot thank the trek leads (Vijay, Himanshu, Arvind, Krishna), cooks and staff with Bikat enough, for all the help, care and support they provided. I also feel rather lucky and fortunate to have completed the trek without any difficulties bestowed upon by the classic clear skies on the summit day that offered us a fair chance to complete the trek. Of All, I will not forget the amusing fun evenings with the fellow trekkers. It was nice to know a lot of new people with a common summit in their mind. Thanks to Namma Bengaluru mitron (Giri, Suhas, Sathvik, Arun), Rajarshi, Hyderabadi gang(Aman, Arvind, Rakshith), Vinay, Priyanka, Pooja, Mala, Megha, Sanjeev without whom the trek wouldn’t have been as much fun as it was! We left to Shimla from Sangla marking the end.