For the first time during the trek and of all the days, I slept blissfully until 3.30 am. I woke up, got ready, kept my sleeping bag aside and woke up Neha, once she was done she would wake up Pihu that way there was space for each one of us to get ready.
Imroze was with Manoj and Kuldeep in the tent opposite us and had told us the previous night to wake him up once we were up, we called out to him and set out to have our Chai. It was freezing cold even with our gloves and layers on.
Neha and I decided to do away with brushing our teeth and all that jazz. Up here in the mountains nothing mattered, you go according to the situation.
At 4.15 we had to force ourselves to eat breakfast, like literally push the food in our mouths, we needed the fuel. At 4.30 am we were given dry fruits and apple for the journey.
With our daypacks, headlamps and trekking poles we were ready to go at 5 am. The Delhi couple and especially that guy Gaurav was asking others for spare jackets! Now! These guys were unbelievable, how unprepared were they?
With Neha in the front and the faster guys at the back, and us somewhere in the middle we set out. We had to be at the summit between 7.30-8.30 am, once the sun rose up, the snow would start melting and it would get very difficult and dangerous and it would slow us down even more. We had to make it to the summit.
It was a 3.5 km climb to Roopkund. Ascending and Ascending slowly we moved along with our head lamps. Daunting, steep rocks that showed only one way, UP AND UP AND MORE UP.
The raw bare brown landscape stared at us, at puny tiny human beings trying to make our way through the mountains. After Roopkund, I can never say the word ‘Climb’ anymore, it’s arrogant for we can never climb them but only request them to accept us, to let us enter into their world..
And believe me Mr.Singapore with all his hilarious antics said something profound one day. He said in Switzerland, when anyone summits the mountains, they place a cross and say Thank you for accepting us, for letting us in and we must think and do the same. It was so true…
Slowly the lines started blurring, and as usual old habits die hard so within half an hour, the delhi couple with the nephew and Aunty-Niece combo overtook while there was a break and stood in front, ditto with a couple others.
Pihu’s dad Vimal and Mr.Singapore would suddenly stop and tell us all to pose for pictures. at one point I remember Bhim and I shouted getting fed up, Please stop taking pics! we got to move on man!!
A pleasant surprise came from the Kannada boys. For the first time, they continued in line and were at the back following people. Mountains do change people, at least some of them.
These boys who were taking big steps through the trek this time gave in. You can’t challenge the mountains, they were gasping, breathing, getting tired. We all were now..
In a few hours we would jump 2,000+ feet and we could feel the air getting thinner.We still had the beautiful weather to thank for but early morning also meant the dreaded ‘Verglass Ice’, this thin sheet of ice on the rocks was so deceptive that one slip would mean a serious injury.
We encountered Verglass a few times and walked carefully over it. After some time, each one was in their own zone. Walking slowly, going up and up, it was getting more trickier and treacherous. Very narrow, crossing through water, rocks on an almost vertical incline.
Whenever we looked on top, we saw some locals with their pants and flimsy tops and dupattas and making their way to Roopkund with a stick for support. We were nowhere up there!
Roopkund was a lake, a small one at that with legends, mysteries and folklore and right beside the lake were hundreds of skulls and bones and scientists had no clue as to it’s origins and history. Local Folklore spoke about a Raja (King) who perished along with his people here because of his arrogance towards a Goddess and locals revered it.
It seemed like forever and when we looked up there still was a long way up to the other side and then walk on a small ridge that would lead to Roopkund which was 300 metres below.
I started walking up slowly with Kuldeep while Imroze was with Neha. Slowly my fear of heights creeped up. The pathway was so narrow and so unstable I was having jitters, big jitters, I was going as slow as possible. Kuldeep sensing my nervousness started talking to me, encouraging me to neither look down nor up but to look ahead at the path.
I remember at one point I took a breather and tried hard not to panic, Kuldeep sensing it said Don’t worry I will keep you safe, you cannot stop now and get scared, just move ahead, nothing will happen. I am so thankful to him for the support he gave. If not for him, I would have got a panic attack.
Mountains can shake the bravest and here I was, a mere nothing trying to hold on to my nerves and sanity.
The front group were almost at the top and screaming and Kuldeep told me, there? Do you hear it? You are almost there! and yup slowly, surely, impossible to believe it’s true kind of stories we all made it to the top.
The euphoria we felt when we reached there was unbelievable! Just unbelievable! It was not just about reaching Roopkund, but to beat our own fears, beliefs, our physical and emotional limitations and reach there, yup that was it..
The other guys were going trigger happy with their cameras and already went down to Roopkund lake which was nothing much actually.
There was a landslide previously so what would have been a lake was a small pond with less water. We didn’t care nor did we go down. We were happy. Atleast Nag,Bhim, Neha and I were.
I remember the big hugs we gave each other. It truly was a moment to cherish and you can see it in the picture. For the first time, we happily posed, all 4 of us, just so happy to be alive, to do this and to do this together 🙂
Within 10 minutes of us arriving, Imroze said Guys whoever wants to summit Junargali should start NOW! Another 1500+ feet summit from Roopkund.
We didn’t get enough rest and Bhim, Neha and I were groaning but we had no time and decided to take up the challenge.
So except Shakalaka we all decided to do the Junargali Summit. Manoj stayed back with her and to keep watch over our daypacks. He had done the summit many times and for Kuldeep, Junargali would be his first time so he would be going with us. Neha said she would come as long as she could take it.
We set out for Junargali, the path looked clear as in there was visibility but still steep ascents over rocks and zig zag paths. By this time we got used to the altitude so it was just a matter of time before we would reach Junargali.
All my fear was about descents now. With my bad left knee and that little bit of fear of falling at this height, I decided to worry about it when we descend. Right now it was Junargali!.
Sumita Aunty walked in such slow steps that it was like following a baby and with her niece grumbling and complaining loud we decided to let them pass by till we could get some breathing space to do this.
In about 45 minutes we finally reached Junargali and a BIG BIG surprise awaited us!
If I thought Trishul was magnificent from Kalu Vinayak, one should see Trishul from Junargali! Magnificent, All encompassing, it’s as if you could reach it and touch it!
Junargali’s summit was a small ridge, a cliff sort but the views surrounding it was breathtaking…
I know I know I have been using that word often but in the Himalayas, there is no other way to describe it.. What can you say when you look at this magnificence? It was like being in a dream.. Did we do this really? Are we really watching this? Experiencing this? You question your own existence.
It was all worth it , so worth it. Worth the cold, worth the aching body pains, worth the headaches, worth everything. As Metallica belted intensely,’ Nothing Else Matters’..
My phone camera stopped working at Roopkund because of the cold and I wasn’t bothered by it, Bhim was taking pics and that’s all that mattered. So whatever pics you see in this blog, full credit to Bhim.
And yup Neha made it to Junargali! That strong girl for all her ‘let’s see how far I can go’ did it!
Imroze was elated! We would be the first team from Indiahikes where the entire 24 member team made it to Roopkund and 23 to Junargali!
He was also the first Trek Leader from Indiahikes who led a full team to Roopkund and back. I remember him hugging us and giving us a High Five. We felt happy with our own little history we created 🙂
It was time to head back after the euphoria, bidding a goodbye to Trishul with a longing look, we descended from Junargali slowly, a little more confident. My descent was slow but the fear was not as much as I thought.
Once we reached Roopkund, the weed guy Subham went berserk again. The idiot went ahead and brought back a skull from the lake! We were like What the hell are you doing man?? Leave it where it belongs!The locals revered it and in no way could we disrespect it! Imroze was losing his patience and so were we. When will people learn to respect other cultures and let it be?
It was time to go back… And slowly we started descending our way back from Roopkund with a sense of achievement. In my heart I thanked the mountains for keeping us all safe, yes even the idiot ones.
The Himalayas accepted us wholly, gave us perfect weather to do the summit and even go up till Junargali.
Usually Junargali was always a might or might not happen case and Imroze previously told us to keep our expectations low when it came to reaching it. It all depended on the weather and it happened. There was so much to be thankful for.
We were on our way back to Bhagwa Basa to pack up and get going. But something happened after the summit as we started walking back.
We changed… Our perspectives changed, our view of looking at life changed, we were not the same anymore..
The people yesterday and the same people after reaching the summit were definitely different and you know what? We didn’t know that yet…