Thousands of trekkers and pilgrims have trekked to Roopkund and beyond Junargali. So many photographs taken, reviews penned down and blogs posted – each with a unique perspective. So, there was only one question on my mind when I left for the Roopkund trek – which part would I like best?
I’ve been trekking for the past 5 years. I’ve done a few fantastic pass-crossings at Rupin Pass and Hampta Pass and a few summit climbs such as Kedarkantha. I’ve even done the Kashmir Great Lakes and Valley of Flowers treks. But amongst all these, Roopkund stands out as the best. Without a second thought, I knew this was the best trek I’ve done. What made me decide? The glorious twenty and twenty three-thousanders – Mt. Nanda Ghunti and Mt. Trishul.
You get as close as possible to Mt.Nanda Ghunti and Mt.Trishul at Junargali, which is a sharp ridge line rising above the crater lake that is Roopkund. These two peaks turned out to be more than just two peaks at the horizon on my Roopkund trek.
Right from Day One, until we reached Junargali on Day 5, my main focus points were Mt Nanda Ghunti and Mt Trishul.
What was so fascinating was that right from the base camp Lohajung, at 7,700 ft, I could see these peaks peeking from behind the mountains, towering, empowering yet inviting. Tiny white specks touching the sky, really far away. They were 5 days away from Base Camp. I inched closer every hour, huffing and puffing, battling freezing temperatures, praying for no rain or heavy snowfall (praying for only harmless snowflakes), no accidents, wishing for only clear skies and clear views.
At Camp 2, Gharoeli Patal, Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti once again stood there, staring at me, almost daring me to get up close. The morning on, I woke up, emerged from my tent into the sunrise. The heavenly figures stood there, bathed in the golden rays of the sun! I almost bowed down to the view, but I could get much closer to the peaks. I was not ready to bow down yet.
That day, I trekked towards the beautiful meadows of Ali Bugyal, where I saw more significant ranges – Neel Kanth, Chaukhamba, (meaning four pillars) Haathi Peeth (elephant’s back) and Bandarpoonch. I lost sight of Mt. Trishul and Mt. Nanda Ghunti, but they didn’t lose me. They were back soon enough, at the Bedni Bugyal campsite.
On the next day, they were completely amiss at the Pathar Nachuni campsite. The conspicuous zigzagging trail and a long steep ascent took me to Kalu Vinayak temple, where suddenly the peaks rose into view – my snow-clad comrades closer than ever before! I couldn’t help but pull my camera out. You cannot keep from capturing this for later view.
Somehow, the trek kept getting better and better, as we approached the Bhagwabhasa campsite. Seeing the mountains basking in the evening rays of the sun was a terrific sight! Clouds flew in and out of the campsite, leaving the camp freezing at -3 to -4 degrees C! By now, I had only one night and a few morning hours away from Roopkund and Junargali,and consequently, my two tall companions.
The beckoning continued at 4 am – the pitch-dark narrow path was lit by my head lamp, with the pole guiding me, my body still shivering with 5 layers of clothing, 2 socks, thick gloves, a balaclava and a neck warmer. I began the slow march to the summit. Not a sound or a sight to be distracted by. Just me and the trail a few feet ahead.
In around an hour, the black air turned into unreal dawn. Looking ahead I could see the edge of the Roopkund crater. I inched up and reached the edge of the tarn. What a beautiful place it was! But I wasn’t done. After all, Junargali beckoned – my real calling.
I don’t know if it was my sense of anticipation or excitement, but despite my tiredness, I made it to the ridge of Junargali in half an hour. I didn’t want to look up yet. I looked back – all the way I had trekked to get to this point, through forests, above the treeline and above clouds.
I finally turned around, half expecting the peaks to say, “Ah You made it!”
And my god! There they were – Mt. Nanda Ghunti at 20,700 ft and Mt. Trishul, at 23,360 ft. I had to look vertically up to get a full view! The proximity was mind-blowing. I probably stood around 700 m from the peaks. That’s not even a kilometre! I almost had my hand outstretched trying to touch them.
Just that one hour atop Junargali, standing amidst these heavenly figures made the entire trip and my involvement in the trekking world worth it. Five days of toil in early winter, trekking 52 km, standing at 16,000 ft, in the breathing space of these Himalayan wonders – I felt every bit blessed as I could possibly be.