It was 2.30 in the morning when the chaos outside my tent woke me up. I could hear people calling out names to each other ensuring their friends and co-trekkers are up as well. Today was the D-DAY for them all. For today they climb the summit , where the mystery lake of Roopkund lies in the lapse of snow and ice.
People from all around the country have come for this trek called roopkund. A small lake cradled at 16,500 feet in higher Himalayas in the state of uttarkhand has brought all of them together. Some of them are into the busiest jobs , some in highly reputed posts , students with burden of education and expectations and some old who have lived their almost life. They are of different habits, tastes , choices , gender and perspectives. Some are young and wild , some are wise and clever , yet , today there is no discrimination among them , when it comes to the enthusiasm to climb Roopkund and achieve something they seek.
Oh I forgot to tell you about myself. I am the twenty-two year old lad who has been enlisted to help this people climb the final summit. They call me the technical snowcraft expert and I teach , instruct and help them to reach the lake at the summit. Other than this I am the common eye who has witnessed a lot of emotions play and seen pains washed away from their eyes , on this journey to Roopkund , our final destination.
As I came out of my tent , all the participants were out already , beaming with enthusiasm yet shivering from the sub zero chill. Its is the last hour of midnight and temperature hits the lowest at this point. My thermometer showed minus fifteen , but , some of the trekkers acted as if it was minus thirty or more , shivering violently. I could feel the bitter cold chill on my face as I walked out in the open from the warmth of my tent.
The sky looked clear as usual. For the trekkers it was amazing. You could see billions of stars nestled as clear as your reflection in a new mirror. And by the middle ran a whitish culmination of cloud of shinning stars , which is the milky way galaxy running from one horizon to other , I helped some the trekkers to understand. Their eyes were wide , as wide as a child receiving their first toy. I understand this emotion of witnessing such extravagant clear night sky for first time or after a long time , as I have been the same when I first joined my job and was placed here.
By 3 am, all of us , the trekkers , the support staff and me were ready to venture for the final climb to the summit. But before we start I gave a short briefing , motivating them and instructing the Do’s and Don’ts while climbing the snow and ice. After some prayers to the respective Gods , we started off under the stars with no natural light to guide us yet. Thankfully , technology has enabled us with powerful torches which came handy.
chill was too much for some of the trekkers , as I could only see a part of their eyes revealed and all other body part covered in four layers of wool and cotton. Some were rubbing their hands even after wearing gloves , and some were only puffing out white smoke from their mouth as we started the gradual climb. Most of them still shivering.
The final climb to roopkund takes us from our campsite of bhaguwasa to the lake and them summit the peak called junargali and then return back to campsite again. Roopkund is around 4kms from the campsite and one must climb up around 4000 feet to reach the lake and another thousand more for the peak. In the end of May now, snow is all around and should be so till the end of June. Bhaguwasa campsite put up on snow and the trail from here to roopkund is cut through or made by breaking the ice. That’s our job to form the way and lead the trekkers their safely and well.
As the climb slowly gets started , the chill is not anymore felt so much , until you stop for a breath or rest for sometimes. I try to teach the trekkers about this , to ensure warmth you must keep on walking slowly and not stop much. Some follow others lag behind yet they walk for now.
At chirbasa , the trail vanishes , the snow is too much. The new layer of snow which falls often in the evening storms covers up the original trail and it is up to us again to break the snow and ice and make a route to roopkund. I and my staff get to work. With ice axes , we turn by turn break and make a way. The snow and ice is hard as the sunlight is yet to come up and loosen it up. Though it helps in walking actually on tougher snows but breaking it and making a way out of it is hard work. It is a tiring job and the only time when I feel like what am I doing in this godforsaken land.
Anyways our human train again starts moving with us in the front making the way and the rest following slowly. The speed gets slower and slower , as we are treading some risky patch. The slope is of sixty degrees or more here , and , obviously the trekkers are scared and we are worried too , as one slip and you might end up down is the abyss. Many of them are virgin to the snow and ice and hence they fear more the unknown white that lie as far as our eyes can see. It is like a sea of white that we must tread across and hence , its a challenge for lots of them.
We hold hands of the trekkers who are weaker and more frightened than others , some realise for the first time , they too , what we call “ vertigo “ . Most of them are serious and does not utter words much as the climb is tiring and needs a lot of concentration. After all , as I have warned them earlier , the mountains do not let you say ‘ sorry ‘.
Tension starts to creep in , thinking , if we would be finally able to help all the people reach the summit and back safely. Everybody has job stress , don't they??
countinued next time .......
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"