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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Snowsome Tales 4: The Final Leap

Till now:

8 brave people go on an arduous trek. Battling Himalayan might they reach the Valley, The Valley of God, only to be blown away by its beauty. As they make merry in their rest house during the night, a storm gathers. The next morning they abandon their plans of going further up and instead run downwards in heavy snowfall, with any signs of habitation a day's trek away. By the time they reach the Osla village the weather is all well again. The simple village life and beautiful village girls leave them mesmerized. As the night gathers, they prepare to sleep hoping for a relaxed and uneventful trek the next day. But does that ever happen in the Himalayas?

Part 1: Har Ki Dun

Recap of Names: Gj, Chaccha, Dollover, Twigman, TobeBabu, Mr. McK, CA, I



I remember, when we were climbing up everyone kept to the kitchen, huddled around the fire, while I stood outside, in the pitch dark, where sound of the river flowing below drowned all the voices coming from the kitchen and where sight of the galaxy above drowned all other thoughts of mine! However, this time people were not in a mood to just let the night be. After dinner Dollover suggested that we take roles and enact Mahabharatha. A bonfire was lit and everyone took parts. I loved playing Dritrashtra for reasons beyond this blog. (Side fact FYI - he is believed to have died in Garwal Himalayas!)

Night gathered on, some slept in the rest house and some (Gj, CA and Yours Truly) in tents on the outside. I still fail to understand how can you not sleep in tents while on trek! That's just ridiculous! I mean, take that night as an example - 11PM I zip others in their sleeping bags, somehow zip myself, only to find that I've lost my glove in the process. I unzip myself and shuffle everyone else to find it. I find it - zip myself again - where's my cap now! WTF! 3 AM I am woken up by ghastly winds. I somehow sleep. 4 AM I wake again. Winds have ceased but something's up outside. Damn! It's raining. Why aren't we floating then? It's not rain it's hail! Double damn! I try to wake others. Someone murmurs what can we do against nature. Contented, I sleep.


6 AM we wake up. The guide comes for a second time in two days with a long face saying that we better hurry. This day his face was even longer than the day before. I can sense that. It's hail-ing outside. But hello, we don't skip 'The Call' again. Yesterday it was snowing, today it's raining: howdy it's my fault. Irritated, I take the resthouse by storm. People sleeping in blankets are tortured with 'cold hands on the bare back' technique yet again. Someone hurls a shoe at me. I answer the call anyways...


Deprived of our breakfast we make hurry! I cover my head, feet and bag with polythene. On the previous day polythene helped keep snow off our luggage, but I was less hopeful for that day. Water is far more treacherous! No one, except Gj, had any sort of rain-coat or even rain-cap. Who expects it to rain during the end of December. But well, there we were, and it was sleeting and raining like cats and dogs or any other animal for that matter.

Rain Rain Rain


As soon as we left our resting place and entered the narrow mountain paths, we encountered a long flat sheet of ice, glowing dully under the overcast sky.

Safe escape

So here's the thing about ice - you cannot walk on it. Neither your Woodland nor your Reebok can do anything: infact, they will cause you to fall just like when you first went ice-skating. Oh, and before I forget - unlike skating there's no second chance here. The gurgling river below would be more than happy to take you to your ultimate destiny.

Crampons could have helped, but o'course we had none!

The same sheet of ice existed even when we were climbing up. Then, Gj, all alone and quite ahead of us all, had a close shave. On reaching this place, he noticed that a micro strip of land on the left edge of the path was not covered with ice. Ignoring the possibility of falling in the river beyond the left edge, he thought that the micro strip would give just enough grip for his left foot. However, before he could even take his first step a mountain girl shouted at him for being a complete dork! Gj mused for a while about telling that he was an IITian and a very high ranked one, but decided against it and let the girl save his life.

To my utter misfortune, when I reached there was no beautiful mountain girl waiting to become my dame in shining armor.

I noticed a little sand sprinkled on the entire surface which I thought might just give me enough grip to walk on if I keep my feet steady. I started carefully stepping on my two, slipped a little, tried to find something to hold on the right edge - nothing but ice! A few steps and I was down on my four. 1 more step and I was lying there with my entire neck-downwards body making contact with ice! I tried to move but I was clearly slipping. For once I had no desire to innovate, and I safely put my foot against a small stone protruding on the left edge and waited for help!

Soon I was rescued by a porter who in his good wits realized that we don't have as gifted feet as his. Everyone teetered while crossing however, it was Twigman who fell headlong. Shaken by this incident, he shouted at our Guide to increase porter strength from current 2 to a total of 8. "Every sane man in his Himalayan pursuit should never ever carry his own bag. Or any bag for that matter", he declared, seething.

Porter, save our soul

Understanding his emotional trauma, Gj and I decide to completely ignore it, and invited only 2 additional porters. We were determined we would carry our own bags (and possibly persuade other to carry theirs)! Twigman initially swore at us for doing this to him, but soon cheered up. Until o'course when he fell again! (The Journey Back)

Anyways, during our downward expedition, there were no laughs as all of us took a detour and crossed the ice without people falling everywhere...


As we descended further sleet turned into rain and it rained the whole way back.

From what it was 3 days ago, the landscape had completely changed. Suddenly all rocks and trees had turned into a shining shade of green. The dusty trek had became a mess of mud, often slippery. It felt as if we were trekking somewhere in rainforests of Amazon!

Well, you look so different!

As we trekked on I realized that there's some kind of correlation between precariousness of the situation and our trekking speed. The incessant rain has filled everyone with a sense of urgency. No one took any break or complained of being tired; we just kept walking, up and down through the mountains and forests for straight 6 hours. Oh, I just loved it!

Soaking wet, we reached Taluka and were instantly greeted by steaming hot tea. We gulped down cups after cups, changed into dry clothes, dipped our hands in some fine Dal-Roti and were good to go! We had hired a jeep to take us to Sankhri and further to Dehradun from where we would catch a bus for Delhi. I could see myself being transported from the lands of dreams to the land of metal, concrete and horns! Sad, I was.

Ek garam chai ki pyali ho!

Apart from what I was wearing, which too was only partially dry, everything else in my bag was wet. Everything. Soaking wet. And I thus completed the next 15 hours of journey shivering. Finally, I reached home and slept for 12 straight hours, ate my dinner, and slept again for 10 hours. Bliss. If you ask me. Pure pure bliss. That's a Himalayan journey for you ~ Hope the next one is as exciting!


  1. Loved reading this last post of the journey. You write well.

  2. Oh thanks :D

    Hopefully many more travelogues coming up! :)

  3. Good one... Dangerous but Thrilling and Exciting experience to Himalayas

  4. Actually muddy tracks becomes better if they are wet (better grip et al); but stony tracks become much more dangerous in the same condition > this leg of trek was mostly muddy; so it was fun doing chap-chap!