Roopkund: An untold story in the Himalayas

Last season, I spotted a small yet fairly significant story during the Roopkund trek. The two salient points about this photo story are – environmental change and industrious people, who are the backbone of this trek.

In the year of 2015-16, due to the El Nino effect and rising global warming, the Indian Himalayas experienced very little snowfall. This practically disrupted everything – from low agricultural produce to further receding of glaciers. Glacial run-off in the Himalayas is the largest source of fresh water.

After speaking to our staff at all the campsites on the way to Roopkund, I came to know that Pathar Nachauni and Bhagwabasa were the most severely affected campsites when it came to availability of clean drinking water. Up until last year, our boys at Pathar Nachauni never struggled to fetch water. This year, the task was monumental.

Pathar Nachauni itself is quite a notorious campsite – with extreme wind conditions and torrential rains. I was told that the underwater springs were drying up due to less snowfall. Hence, Narendra, Santosh, Dhan Singh, Dishu and Raviraj had to go to the bottom of the valley to find a new source.

This summer they had spotted one good source, which dried up within a month!

Roopkund-Water being filled from a new found underground source at Patar-Indiahikes
Water being filled from a new found underground source at Pathar Nachauni campsite on the Roopkund trek. PC: Anuja Gupta

They were shocked to see this change. Finally, one day, while cleaning the campsite surroundings, they  spotted a source at the bottom of the valley. After much discussion with other trekking groups at Pathar, they finally decided on fetching water from there.

For smooth running of operations at a campsite, facility of water for toilet and drinking purpose is crucial. Nathu Seth and Tanni Seth were the most efficient camp managers at Pathar Nachauni and Bhagwabasa.

The boys had to make 50-60 trips down to the bottom of the valley, one after another, with a gerican of 40 litres saddled between their shoulders. It was a sight to see. Most trekkers wouldn’t know how arduous it is to carry a load of 40 litres up and down 60 times in a day, everyday for 60-70 odd days. On learning this, I quickly went up to Santosh and Narendra, young lads of 20, to find out more about this painstaking task. For them, work is worship. It in their blood to be untiring, but they were worried and saddened by the state of nature.

Roopkund-Boys carrying the gerican back to the campsite-Indiahikes
Our staff carrying the gerican back to campsite. PC: Anuja Gupta

They asked me to inform the trekkers to understand the water situation, and use it judiciously. I gathered my trekkers for an acclimatisation walk and Green Trails work only to show them a reality which isn’t a scene from an environmental documentary. They were flabbergasted by the sheer grit and back-breaking work of our support staff.

Roopkund-Our boys filling water at patter-Indiahikes
The boys filling water at Pathar Nachauni campsite. PC: Anuja Gupta

The following morning, one trekker caught fancy to the idea of attempting to lift the gerican of water. After a few feeble steps, he gave up, deeply embarrassed. He was filled with respect for our young chaps at the campsites. He also later shared his moment of truth with fellow trekkers.

Roopkund- Pathar Nachauni Staff- Indiahikes
On the left is Santosh Bist, 18 yrs old, who is a helper at Pathar campsite and religiously fills water. On the right is Narendra Bist (Nari), 20 yrs old, who plays multiple role at Pathar campsite. PC: Anuja Gupta

The Himalayas are surely the most formidable and unrelenting mountains in the world. They constantly teach us to be most humble and egoless, but knowingly or unknowingly, we are disrupting their kingdom and plunging towards the stairway to hell. We have to learn to respect the resources Mother Nature has given us. Without being preachy, I as a global being, urge our trekkers to be respectful and diligent towards our environment and its umpteen resources – so that the Himalayas and its bounties can be enjoyed for centuries to come.

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Anuja Gupta

Anuja Gupta

Anuja Gupta is a Trek Leader at Indiahikes. She has eight years of experience as a Photojournalist. Once a press photographer in the busy streets of Mumbai, she ventured to the Himalayas to capture a different world altogether. That's what connected her to Indiahikes. Now, she leads treks, co-ordinates them and also captures stories through her photography. You can write to her on anuja@indiahikes.com

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