Har Ki Doon Trek Day-4

Har Ki Doon Trek Day-4

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Har Ki Doon Trek – Day 4 – The Heaven on Earth

Last night sleep at 10,000 feet (data taken from the Doctor’s watch) height was comfortable with nice dreams of me acting as Anakin in the movie Star Wars. The consultant once joked that I looked like Darth Vader in my Quechua poncho. The poncho is blue colored and comfortable to put on and off. It also saves my bag from rain. I first time used it during our first day trek when drizzling had started.

I would later learn while coming back to Osla village during descent when it rained moderately with heavy wind blowing that this poncho flatters a lot in wind and thus expose my clothes to rain water. I would also know that it’s better to walk light as the body gets heated up during physical activity. During rain wearing a poncho, the condition becomes much worse. Although, I did not suffer any heat stroke or something but I will have to be careful in the coming treks as I was wearing at least one jacket most of the time even in the hot sun.

I must have woken up two-three times in the night owing to change in dreams and the bells of cattle grazing around the tent sometimes coming so close to the tent that I could hear sounds of grazing. I woke up at the sound of the birds chirping around and it’s again just 05:30 am. Outside its cold and the water much colder but we have to brush with that only. Some of us used warm water to wash our faces. We were ready soon, knowing the whole procedure of emptying out tents, submitting carry mats and sleeping bags and getting ready for breakfast at the earliest. The breakfast was chapatti and chola. Even though I ate it full, I was hungry and was enjoying mixed dry fruits on the whole day trek.

Scenery on Our Way to Har Ki Doon
Scenery on Our Way to Har Ki Doon

This day the climb is not tough but a mix of ascent and descent. At some places we walked like we are walking in a park. Our second trek leader shows us a faraway grove of pine trees near a snow covered mountain which is Har Ki Doon valley and our final campsite will be behind the grove. This motivated us all and we walked faster  with less number of rests in between.

Snow Capped Mountains -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Snow Capped Mountains — Har Ki Doon Trek
Snow Capped Mountains -- Har Ki Doon Trek
On the Ridge Looking Upon The Banderponch Range — Har Ki Doon Trek

 A number of beautiful sights were waiting for us today. Herds of numerous lambs and goats come down on the trail, flowers of various colors, streams formed due to melting of ice on the mountains and more pine trees.

A waterfall on the way to Har Ki Doon
A waterfall on the way to Har Ki Doon
Goats and Lambs Coming Down to Meadows -- Har Ki Doon
Goats and Lambs Coming Down to Meadows — Har Ki Doon
Flowers at Har Ki Doon Trek
Flowers at Har Ki Doon Trek
Snow Capped Mountains at Har Ki Doon
Snow Capped Mountains at Har Ki Doon
Ice melting into Water -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Ice melting into Water — Har Ki Doon Trek
Flowers on Har Ki Doon Trek
Flowers on Har Ki Doon Trek

We reached base camp walking leisurely after ten kilometers at around 02:00 PM. We had heard that the last group of Har Ki Doon trekkers of Indiahikes had to face bad weather with rains at this point. We were lucky that the weather was clear and the Doctor said it is expected to remain clear for coming two three days at-least. Well, he was right and the next rain we encountered was on our descent from Har Ki Doon camp site.  Lucky again, Eh!

Beautiful View on the Way to Har Ki Doon
Beautiful View on the Way to Har Ki Doon

Har Ki Doon camp site is 11250 feet or 3429 meters (again referring Doctor’s watch). Our tents were set up in this very beautiful cradle shaped valley, by the side of the river in a grass covered clearing. This time we were taught how to make our own tents. It’s fairly easy.

Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Camp Site — Har Ki Doon Trek

This time I am not going to take any rest or wear woolens till night. I will either keep standing or walking so as to acclimatize with the environment. It has got other benefits also like I will use this time to make myself familiar with the place. All the pain seems to be gone now and only peace remains.

In East quite close to us, we see Har Ki Doon peak, on its left side across the valley Hata mountain is visible and the valley is known as Hata valley. We had come from the west. In north, climbing up a little hillock strewn around with rocks and boulders we could see the pathway to heaven. The fabled mountain from where the Pandavas took for their journey to the Swarga (heaven), Swargarohini (6250 meters) is seen from the hillock.

Swargarohini-I peak -- Har Ki Doon Trek -- Courtesy Professor
Swargarohini-I peak — Har Ki Doon Trek — Courtesy Professor

There is this beautiful valley with river, streams, pine trees, large meadows in which we could see cattle grazing far away. As we look much farther East we see the ice of glaciers climbing up to the top of the mountains. The mountains are like play-field for clouds. Imagine clouds clinging to the top of a peak like softy ice-cream. Clouds lazily resting on the couch of ice formed on the peaks. Some clouds want to climb up the mountains but are too slow. This game of clouds becomes much visible in afternoon and evening. I along with others sit their quietly meditating on the scene. This is what we all came here for, to have a glimpse of this heaven on earth. We spent a good amount of time exploring the place.

Har Ki Doon
Har Ki Doon
Swargarohini Valley
Swargarohini Valley
Swargarohini Valley
Swargarohini Valley

Doctor has time and again sensitized us to the problem of logistics such agencies face on trek. It is the most difficult thing to arrange. So just for information, our tents, food, sleeping bags and other stuff was carried by seven-eight mules. The support staff comprise of eleven people including our guides. Each of the two guides remained at the first and the last position in the line. The staff was well adapted to the environment. Most of the time well-mannered, polite and seem to enjoy their job. They rarely seem to get angry or frustrated.

The last day promised Pulao (Veg Biryani) was served in today’s lunch menu. We ate it heartily and filled ourselves up to neck considering the huge delicious quantity they prepared.

Three very important issues we discussed during the evening talk were:

  1. Garbage on Himalayan Trails: From the beginning, Indiahikes sensitized us all about the importance of keeping trails garbage free. They gave each one of us an orange bag and instructed to keep all our garbage in these bags. Additionally, they motivated us to collect any garbage found on the trails weather it belong to us or not. In my knowledge there was none of us who littered around the trail or camp site. At every camp site they dig a hole in the ground where they buried all the garbage collected including kitchen waste. But, we were more concerned about the less informed trekkers who just threw away plastic wrappers without giving any thought. I believe that everyone must carry a garbage bag along, collect garbage and bring back to the nearest town where it can be well disposed.
  2. Lack of First Aid Training Among Trekkers: This issue was brought forth by Doctor. He said there is a need to train everyone about First Aid including Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation. In situations such as we were in nearest medical aid may be hours and days away. By the time the patient reaches Hospital, his condition should be made stable or improved using First Aid treatment.
  3. Global Warming: We read a lot in newspapers and watch on television about the increase in Global Warming. But, the place where this effect is most visible is Himalayan glaciers. Gajji informed that about a hundred years back the Jaundar glacier which was about nine kilometers away from zero point was much closer during this time of the year. Slowly, it has receded as the ice melts faster.

Even at his height and cold, I faced no health issues and this good health will continue for the whole trip.

Camping at Night -- Har Ki Doon Valley
Camping at Night — Har Ki Doon Valley

In the evening, we see that some enthusiastic boys from the staff carried a dry log of wood for campfire. They started the campfire and we all attended. Here, first of all they sing and dance round the fire with the local staff boys. The boys advised us to keep our voices low. I don’t know whether they feared that wild animals may get attracted to our camp site or simply they did not wanted to disturb the peace of the valley. Later, all were back to Dumb Charades which was our favorite past time in the night. Actress, Professor and Mary were the star players of this game. It seems as if Professor and Mary know almost every other movie and Actress can act it out quite well. The competition was good and we all enjoyed the game.

While the others were playing around the fire, I asked Professor to bring his camera and tripod. I took him at the top of the hillock and we tried to night photograph Swargarohini. We had little success. We came back to near the bon-fire and clicked the photographs of our group around the fire. We also clicked some pictures of the night sky and in one picture the result was acceptable.

Stars at Night -- Har Ki Doon Valley
Stars at Night — Har Ki Doon Valley

In the night we were served dinner after which I had a peaceful sleep that night except for a dog barking for an hour until he was scared away by Musician.

Har Ki Doon Trek Day-3

Har Ki Doon Trek Day-3

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 Har Ki Doon Trek – Day -3 – Deep Into the Wilderness

We woke up to the sound of birds at about 05:00 am fresh and filled with energy. I went out brushed my teeth in the cold water, a difficult thing to do. I went to the forest with an axe, a bottle of water and some toilet paper.

Completely fresh, I washed my face and head in the running water of the river with a face-wash which I asked from Mountain Man.  It was a cold but refreshing feeling. We did some stretching exercises in the morning to gear up for the coming day. Before breakfast, we were advised to empty out tents, pack sleeping backs and submit carry mats. On the whole trek, my objective was to get ready for walking as early as possible and emptying out the tent was the first and last thing to be able to do so. We were served breakfast of cheela and daliya which I ate sumptuously considering their high fiber, high carbohydrate and fat content. We got ready for the trek and moved on towards our next camp site.

Moving On Towards the Next Camp Site - Har Ki Doon
Moving On Towards the Next Camp Site – Har Ki Doon
Seema Village -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Seema Village — Har Ki Doon Trek

By the time I was writing the day’s first entry it was 09:30 am and we had covered approximately one kilometers by-passing Osla village and reaching Osla Guest House which is situated at 2769 meters (9000 feet approx) above MSL. Surrounding peaks are beautiful. And even the peaks close to us were seen covered with snow. Fortunately, I was not having any breathing problem, but my backpack was giving extreme pain in my right shoulder. I adjusted my backpack straps in which Gajji also helped me and things were much better now. It became comfortable then and I followed the same arrangement for the whole trek.

Osla Guest House -- Har Ki Doon Trek

When we move forward, on the point of crossing the river, there is a hanging bridge. One has to cross the river for Har-Ki Doon. For other expeditions to Bandarpunch range, Black peak, Bali pass and further to Yamunotri one has to go straight ahead without crossing the bridge.

Bridge after Osla Village - Har Ki Doon Trek
Bridge after Osla Village – Har Ki Doon Trek

Here we cross the river, and suddenly climb becomes riskier and steeper. When this stretch of about two kilometers was over we enter into a wheat field. There is this agricultural field whose one side the mountain is rising much higher and we have the idea that we have to climb further. On the other side there is this valley in which river is flowing. The view is amazing. While coming back from the same route from the top we see wind moving grass in such a way that it forms beautiful aurora like patters of green shades.

Wheat Fields --- Har Ki Doon Trek
Wheat Fields — Har Ki Doon Trek

Mules took another path up in the mountains as they would have damaged the crops in the field. But, the comfort was short lived and we again pulled ourselves up the mountains. Gajji was true to his words that today’s climb will be tough and it was. Fortunately, the distance was less though it was evenly tiring. On a decent near a stream there was a concrete bridge, a tea/maggi shop. We stopped here and had our packet lunch. It contained two chapattis and fried lady-finger. The lunch was limited as we were informed that the camp site is nearby. By this time we all understood that the term ‘nearby’ by these guides means at-least two to four kilometers although they make it sound like its just a few hundred meters. So, considering this I ordered a Maggi too which cost Rs 30 only. The Businessman informed that Maggis are quite famous and their prices are directly proportional to the altitude. During his YHAI National Trek to Sar Pass, he had the opportunity to have a Maggi plate in Rs 100.

After, giving rest to our muscles and lungs, we started the much steeper climb again. This must have been a hundred meters climb but quite steep. Climbing it must have been the most difficult part of the trek. But, the reward was incomparable. As soon as we reach the top, it opens up in a meadow and about hundred meters flat we can see our tents waiting for us.

Our Camp Site - Har Ki Doon Trek

I was too tired to walk and walked real slow to avoid unnecessary exhaustion. Most of our group was ahead of me, some had even put their bags in their tents and some enjoying the scenery sitting on a big rock at the edge of the mountain. Few were behind me. As soon as I reached the base camp, I was first fascinated by the natural beauty. There is this deep valley, in the North we see fresh snow-covered peaks and forests of pine trees. Far away in East we see a full range of high peaks including Black peak and Banderpunch range. Gajji told that a team has gone for an expedition at Black Peak. He himself has summited Black Peak twice. In West direction, from where we came, it was worthwhile to wait for the sunset and see how it looks in the Himalayas. Behind us, in South direction, we see hills from where the path leads closer to Har-Ki Doon, our next day trek. The beauty was transcendental.

Our Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Our Camp Site — Har Ki Doon Trek
Following Day Morning at our Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Following Day Morning at our Camp Site — Har Ki Doon Trek

I came to senses when I started feeling sudden surge of cold and headache. The feeling of cold when we stop moving is most evident in Himalayas then at any other place and it’s quite sudden. When you are walking everything in fine, as you stop you start feeling cold. I had to wear one jacket, one fleece, two t-shirts, gloves, cap and woolen muffler to feel comfortably warm. But, there seemed no cure for headache. This was the time I thought I will return back. I don’t want to face this again. I am not fit for cold and heights. Since, it had started raining by then, we three – me, Mountain Man, Business Man were in tent and I told them about my condition. They sympathized. It was late afternoon and I was in my sleeping bag with all my clothes on.  They were discussing about much difficult treks and I was feeling like let me go from here. I thought I had made a mistake coming here. Outside, the rain had stopped and people came out to discuss mountaineering and trekking. I could overhear them discussing mountain accidents and related movies like Vertical Limit, 127 hours and Into This Air. I was much afraid then. The same discussion was going on in our tent. Then the point came up that only those who have strong will to live, survive in the mountains. It was a very important realization to me. I decided to complete the trek first.

I remember our Ground Co-ordinator telling the formula of 1-1-1 to check if one has headache due to Acute Mountain Sickness or just due to dehydration. The formula is taking one Dispirin with one Liter of water and waiting for one hour. If the headache diminishes, it was only dehydration and if persists there is a possibility of Acute Mountain Sickness.I will see two days later in Hata Valley, the highest point of our trek at Har Ki Doon that Mary suffered severe headache when we were in snow. She asked for Dispirin but none of us took it along as we had to come back to our camp by afternoon. Fortunately, Consultant had Crocin which she took with ample amount of water as was advised by Professor. She starts feeling confortable by the time she reached back to the camp.

When I was eating Maggi near the stream and the concrete bridge, Gajji informed that we will be served Pulao when we reach the camp site. But, a very unexpected thing happened. Some mules did not stop at the designated location of our camp site. They moved ahead much near to Har Ki Doon at higher heights. Due to this logistical problem, to our disappointment we were served Maggi again when we reached the camp with no sign of Pulao in dinner also.

Me, Professor, Jain, Mountain Man and Curator watched sunset and clicked some really beautiful photographs of that evening. Professor had brought his tripod which will prove to be very useful in low light photography. He and Mary told they have purchased this tripod especially for this trip.  I saw a very small Buddhist shrine made up of carved wood and coins inserted by devotees in the cracks of the wood. You can see coins of 10 paise and 20 paise in these cracks. There is no deity or symbol in the shrine but a blue colored flag depicting the figure of Buddha meditating with sutras written in unknown language are present. The staff boys told that the shrine is present here from the time even before their grandfathers.

Small Buddhist Shrine -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Small Buddhist Shrine — Har Ki Doon Trek
Himalayan Ranges Visible from Our Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Himalayan Ranges Visible from Our Camp Site — Har Ki Doon Trek
Our Tents at Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Our Tents at Camp Site — Har Ki Doon Trek
Setting Sun -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Setting Sun — Har Ki Doon Trek

I was back in my spirits. In the evening, Gajji asked if anyone had any medical problem. I informed him about mine to which he replied remove all your excess clothes and feel comfortable in the weather. He gave example of Mountain Man who was wearing only the basic clothing. I felt confident and removed excess clothes. Later during discussion with Doctor about my fear of cold and about my condition, he said Cold won’t kill you just wear what you feel confident in. He himself always wears a balaclava and socks as he himself is quite sensitive to cold but is not afraid.

Raindrops on Our Tents -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Raindrops on Our Tents — Har Ki Doon Trek
Professor taking photograph of the Sun Set -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Professor taking photograph of the Sun Set — Har Ki Doon Trek
Himalayan Ranges Visible from Our Camp Site -- Har Ki Doon Trek
Kaala Nag (Black Peak) and Bandarpoonch Range Visible from Har Ki Doon Trek

We were served tea, snacks and tomato soup. Tonight, the dinner was Lauki (Bottle Gourd) sabzi, chapattis, dal and rice served with sweet dish of Sevaiya. The food tasted delicious. Considering the cold and tiredness, I don’t remember any bonfire lit or games played.

So, I gave a thought to how my body was behaving in such situation. I had some breathlessness in the last two kilometers of ascent on the first day of trek. Today, also the last kilometer gave me some breathlessness to which Grillinctus is a constant partner. But, now the breathlessness part is completely gone.