If you’re off on the Rupin Pass trek in May, then this lesson on crossing the waterfall will surely help you.
From afar, the waterfall might not look like much of a challenge, perhaps an hour’s climb. It is only when you get up close and your Trek Leader tells that your goal for the day is to reach from the Lower Waterfall to the Upper Waterfall, that the enormity of the task hits you!
View Rupin Pass trek
There is more than one way to look at and discuss this colossal artwork of nature – the Rupin Waterfall. Picture by Jothiranjan
What are you dealing with?
The stretch between Lower waterfall and Upper waterfall camp site is a beautiful example of a moderately challenging trek route, with an added dose of thrill if done in the month of May.
The waterfall is a true giant. It flows through some deep crevasses, producing a great sound and copious amounts of mist. Negotiating the waterfall may present a few challenges to experienced trekkers and novices alike, depending on the amount of snow and the weather.
A climb through a steep stretch of 2.5 km that zigzags through ice bridges and bare rocky slopes takes one to the top of the waterfall.
9 Tips to descend safely on a trek
How do you tackle it?
Begin your approach from the true left side of the watercourse. This stretch is best done in the early hours of the day, when a hard and stable snow condition minimises the risk of an avalanche.
After hiking for 500 metres through steep snow slopes, take a left turn. This point is the only dangerous patch on the whole trek.
As the main crevasse is not visible from this point of the trail, it may seem a relatively safe place at first glance.
This misleading appearance of the trail makes it doubly more important to plant your step really cautiously and correctly. You’ll be walking along a crevasse with the waterfall thundering over you. Make sure you watch your step.
So, how exactly do make sure that you do not lose your foothold on a steep snow slope? Well, it takes some learning, patience and just a bit of adjustment in the way you walk. Let’s talk in a case by case basis.
Snow bridge on the way to Lower Waterfall. Picture by Vishwas Krishnamurthy
Case 1: Snow is hard, feels almost as hard as ice. But actually it is a thin layer and will break easily.
In this case, use your titanium-tipped trek pole to puncture the icy sheet and get an anchor first. Slightly stoop forward while stepping. Make sure your first step is always with the foot closer to the wall. Relax your body, keep your weight on your back leg.
Hit the snow three/four times with the other leg and break the icy cover to make a hold for a smallish step, a bit of practice will surely help. This obviously renders the going slow. Using micro-spikes in this situation is the best solution for even the first time trekker.
Case 2: Snow is hard. But every time when you step you hear the faint sound caused by the displacement of snow underneath the sole of your hiking shoe.
That, in effect, is enough to hold your full body weight. You just need to trust the sound and make sure to stoop forward. As you stoop forward, your knee needs to be slightly bent, so the body weight hangs in equilibrium, keeping the centre of gravity right beneath your stomach.
Case 3: Snow is soft, sun is out. Your feet only goes in for 2 to 3 inches when you take a step.
This is perfect for a hike. It will slip less even on the steeper part, given that you use the edges of your shoe to get maximise perch.
Case 4: Snow is very soft. Knee deep when stepped upon.
Making a progress is very tough in this situation. A slip is rare.
The second stage
After you cross over to the head of the lower waterfall, you come face to face with the next stretch of the waterfall.
Here, the trail crosses over the ice bridge to the true right side of Rupin and starts to climb towards the head of the upper waterfall. The trail climbs up a steep snow-covered slope. Patches of bare rock and moraines appear. The rocks here could be slippery. Although navigating them don’t pose a serious threat, caution is required.
After an hour of steep climb, the upper valley of Rupin (13,300-14,500 ft) slowly comes into view. A look back at the U-shaped lower Rupin valley is as rewarding as the climb itself.
View from the top of a waterfall on the Rupin Pass Trek. Picture By: Kanishka
View Rupin Pass trek
A chance to learn about geography and history
The trek also presents scope of understanding the Himalayas in greater detail. After the last ice age, as the earth became warm enough, the last of the great glaciers disappeared, except for the polar ones and the ones situated at the highest altitudes. The Rupin waterfall presents the opportunity of finding out the deep creases and crevasses of its now disappeared glacier.
Millions of years ago, this waterfall was a glacier’s ablation zone, that fed the glacier with ice and moraine.
Today, the sprawling green meadows that we see after monsoon are result of that deposition of moraines, which consists of rich alluvial soil and eroded stones full of minerals.
So, the thrill of the hike, the surreal set up of the magnificent waterfall, the ever-present forces of nature, the stunningly beautiful landscape of the approach to the top of the waterfall together provides a unique charm to the trail that is unparalleled. It presents a true opportunity to the trekker to know the country better, both geographically and historically, at the same time pushes one to the road of self discovery.