On any Himalayan trek, one is made abundantly aware of the raw power and sheer force of Nature. However, on my latest trek to Har Ki Dun, I learnt first-hand what the phrase “vagaries of Nature” meant!
It was a pleasant sunny afternoon when we reached the Har Ki Dun campsite right at the foot of Mt Swargarohini. The valley exuded so much peace and serenity. I was very happy that Indiahikes has two days at this camp in the itinerary! We felt so at home in the camp that we played cricket for a couple of hours. The trek leaders and kitchen staff joined in too!
There was a stream right next to our cricket “pitch.” Whenever the batsman hit the ball into the stream, the poor soul fielding on that side had to retrieve the ball from the freezing waters of the stream. All fellow trekkers will be familiar with the painful experience of dipping their hand in the cold waters of these mountain streams!
Being from Bangalore, I have the habit of checking the weather daily. The forecast for that night was mild snowfall. This was the first time most of us, including me, would be experiencing snowfall. We were looking forward to it excitedly. Finally, true to the forecast, at 7.30 pm it started snowing. One of our trek mates was so delighted she sent up a prayer that it should never stop. That night we all thanked our stars for letting us experience a snow fall.
The next morning, we woke up and stepped out of our tents to a visual treat. There was snow all around. We couldn’t contain our excitement. We were like kids in a candy shop, playing with snow and acting silly.
But turns out, the weather gods took my trek mate’s prayer seriously. We were stopped short.
The weather took a turn for the worse. A heavy blizzard set in and we were forced to retreat into our tents. We had to continually push out the insides of our tent to clear the snow that gathered on our tents.
Through the day, we hoped the weather would clear. But even until evening, there was no sign of the dark grey clouds moving away. The condition did not improve. That’s when our Trek Leader decided to evacuate us from the Har Ki Dun valley. We had to be moved to a safer place.
Without allowing panic to take hold of the situation, all trekkers were directed to get their essentials and bags packed. It was 8 pm when we started our night trek to the new camping spot. We were to be moved to a government guest house that was being constructed about half a kilometre from Har Ki Dun campsite.
We wore our headlamps and followed our Trek Leader in knee deep snow. The kitchen staff who doubled up as porters in the absence of mules helped carry everyone’s sleeping bags and other gear to the new location. We were thankful to the team who helped us even though it wasn’t their job.
It was a long and restless night as no one knew how the weather conditions would play out the next day. All of us slept late hoping for the snowstorm to die down. Quite a change from praying for the snow fall to never stop!
The next morning our Trek Leader sent an Assistant Trek Leader to assess the situation at the Har Ki Dun campsite and tell us about the feasibility of getting to safer ground. He gave us a green signal in about an hour. We reached Har Ki Dun valley to find all our tents submerged in snow. What happened on the camp looked scary. It was a relief knowing that we were evacuated to a safer place at the right time.
The kitchen staff amazed us again by providing breakfast and packed lunch in such weather conditions.
Finally, after walking through knee deep snow, we reached lower grounds where conditions were more favourable. We were comforted by clear grounds with warm sunlight and dust.
The immediate thought that came to mind was – “That is enough snow to experience for one lifetime!!”
But now that I think of it, I want to experience it all over again!