"Why did I cry at the Rupin Pass Summit" is a story of an Indian solo traveller who narrates his journey and the emotions he felt on a high altitude trek to Rupin Pass
I could hear voices from the top, cheering and celebrating. It was not over for me yet. 100 meters seemed very far. I was in no mood to celebrate
It had been more than 6 months since my last trip - Solo ride along the west coast, during the last week of December 2017. The only travel I had was during the Travel - Work - Travel routine on the weekdays, and riding away to a nearby restaurant for a healthy breakfast - sometimes brunch on the weekends.
After saying goodbye to 2017 on a high note, in 2018 I had a plan to go for a winter trek like Kedarkantha (which is an easy-moderate trek) during the first quarter. As I got gobbled up by the routine, dropped the idea of a winter trek and started making plans for a rather not-so-easy trek Roopkund, as I wanted to raise the bar from Sandakphu 11,500 ft to something around 16,000 ft, really a high altitude trek.
|A fellow trekker and my friend looks at this beautiful sight in awe|
One thing I have learned over the past couple of years is to enjoy and be in the present, not to get tied up in the bonds of the future! No bonds, no restrictions. One day, while contemplating about life, I hear a notification sound. I unlock the phone to see that I was added to a Whatsapp Group "Rupin Pass"! Needless to mention, everyone in the group was planning a trek to The Rupin Pass. Although there were times when I thought I might have to cancel, I didn't. I just made up my mind and was up for it. It
|A temple near Sewa which opens once in 12years|
Day 1: Dhaula to Sewa - 9 km - 5500 ft to 6300 ft
Cut to the first day of the trek from Dhaula to Sewa, as we began from the base camp, I was already irritated by the hot sun, the sweating, the light backpack which had turned heavy all of a sudden, and the DSLR cam hanging around the neck. The first day is always a difficult one - or rather should I say, all the beginnings are always difficult? I was struggling to make peace with my backpack, and it was yet to become a part of me for the rest of the trek.
After a couple of hours, I found myself trekking at a constant pace, yet I usually stayed back in the group. I love to take time, look around, and take things easy. In the end, it is not about finishing early. It's just about completing the journey, while you enjoy every bit of it. We saw the first views of the valleys and livelihood below us. It was pretty much dry today except for a few droplets of rain at the lunch. The view was good and occasionally we passed through small neighborhoods among the mountains. I was just getting comfortable with my backpack, and we reached our camp for the day after trekking for about 9 km. I was happy I was able to complete it without any issues, and that the backpack had become a part of me by now!
I was gradually forgetting about the perfect life, and getting used to the present life with no wifi, no 4G, yet the connection was strong.
|Villages as seen from the trail on Day 1, towards Sewa|
|Local mountain kids - always curious!|
|A horse grazing a field nearby|
|Maggi 'n' the mountains|
|A neighbourhood along the trail|
|Campsite on Day 1|
|Into the wild!|
Day 2: Sewa to Bawta - 8 km - 6300 ft to 7000 ft
Sewa to Bawta was a little difficult than the first day's trail. This trail followed the Rupin River all along. We trekked at an altitude from where we could see and hear the gush of the turquoise blue river flowing down at the feet of the mountains. It was such a picturesque sight and to have trekked this trail is an experience in itself.
I would regularly stop to take a picture of the flowing river and the small huts by the side of the river, sometimes the bridge connecting the mountains on either side of the river. After every few yards along the winding hilly trails, the same scene would look much different, forcing me to think if someone had cast a magical spell in those last few yards, or was the place so magical all by itself!
READ ALSO: Trek to Sandakphu - The Eastern Himalayas
|Can you spot the trekkers on the trail?|
Sometimes when you are at some place truly magical and so soothing, you can actually feel the vibes of that place, and you know it's working its magic on you; be it for that short duration you stay. Mountains, especially The Himalayas is one such place for me!
|Bridge crossing from Uttarakhand to Himachal Pradesh|
|Between Uttarakhand and Himachal|
|Let's have a cup of tea, shall we?|
|And now some Maggi!|
|Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana ( Prime Minister's Rural Road Scheme)|
|Beautiful! Ain't it?|
|Can you imagine how small we are?|
Day 3: Bawta to Jhaka - 6 km - 7000 ft to 8700 ft
Next day trail to Jhaka was rather a short one, but it was really testing with its steepness. We crossed from one mountain to the other and trekked slowly looking at the valleys and the river flowing far below us. It amazed how high we had climbed in the past two days. We were at the campsite at Jhaka by afternoon, from where the trek was gonna get more challenging, and it was now the really difficult trail was to begin and we could only be as much prepared - mentally!
|Old shoes, new places! What more do you need?|
|Beauty! A local woman carrying her child in a sack|
|Up above the world so high!|
|Where is the camera dude?|
|With the gang!|
|Having a chat with the local elders|
|This is what happens when guys go shopping together! 😆|
|A temple at Jhaka|
Day 4: Jhaka to Dhanteras Thatch (Lower waterfall) - 11 km - 8700 ft to 11680 ft
The journey to Dhanteras Thatch was a unique one. It entailed some of the most picturesque scenes of the trek. This day consisted of a lot of ascents and descents. Each up and down just like in our lives, brought something different! While the highs gave us an opportunity to look at the vast landscape in awe, the lows presented itself with a yet another picture of the same flowing river we heard and saw from above. But only this time we could feel the cold waters of the Rupin river!
|Moving towards the blue cold waters|
|Ah, that bridge 😍|
Eating lunch on the boulders by the side of the river, and quenching the thirst with fresh water flowing directly from the Himalayan mountains was another feeling altogether. I ate my lunch in silence looking at the river in front of me, while my mind was deeply engraved in the thoughts of more deeper subjects including the purpose of life. For those odd 20 minutes, I felt free - so did others. So free that if I could just close my eyes for a second, I would feel myself flying! Just about the time when the heart said "I need more of this", our trek guide signaled to pack up and leave as the day's journey still had a lot more in store for us to discover.
READ ALSO: A complete guide to Leh Ladakh bike trip
|Purest water, straight from the mountains|
|Blue waters of Rupin!|
|We click a selfie, while our trek guide waits for us|
The terrain after the lunch point was mostly boulders and rocks with an occasional plain land which lasted only as long as the blink of an eye. As we moved closer, the first-timers were excited to see a small patch of snow on a small mountain beside us. But I waited eagerly in anticipation of something bigger, and something that would move me! Meanwhile, the rest of the group had moved a little further and as always, I found myself taking my own time and walking at a pace that I was comfortable with! Needless to say, I was the last one!
READ ALSO: My first ever Himalayan trek
The final stretch of the day was exhausting but equally rewarding. Perhaps a notch higher! After a tiresome stretch through the boulders, was something which has to be the best my eyes had ever seen! The eyes lit up like never before. It was love at first sight! In front of me was what seemed to be an endless carpet of lush green grass delicately decorated with tiny yellow flowers which lay among the grass. On either side were these huge scaly mountains and far ahead of me were three waterfalls one above the other. Yes, one above the other. We all sat on the grass somewhere away from the camp, just wondering about the prowess of mother nature. And when it was time, we slept in the most beautiful campsite ever!
|Breathe in, breathe out, move on! 💚|
|The triple waterfalls|
|Arrived at the campsite|
|Trying things with my DSLR|
With just 2 days remaining to the summit, along with excitement, a little bit of nervousness and a little bit of uncertainty came a little bit of fever as well. There was no way this fever would bring me down now. I had a dose of the tablet to bring the fever down. Some of the other fellow trekkers also showed symptoms of altitude sickness (AMS - Acute Mountain Sickness) and they were suggested to drink lots of water and walk around the camps to acclimatize.
It was the only day when we would see our campsites for the next day. Seeing one of our fellow trekkers flying his drone until the next campsite at Upper waterfall, I am sure many of us had this thought, "Only if I could fly!" Good things take time and demand much more effort.
Day 5: Lower waterfall to Upper waterfall - 3 km - 11680 ft to 13120 ft
The trek towards the Upper Waterfall started rather slowly climbing over small boulders compared to what we saw on the previous day. After a while, we were slowly crossing the snow bridge formed due to cold water from the falls flowing underneath. We crossed the snow bridge hoping that it wouldn't collapse! After all, it is just the water molecules tolerating all that weight.
After another couple hours of toiling through the steep mountains, as I slowly walked to the top of the last hillock, the campsite slowly unfolded from top to bottom in front of my eyes. Finally, the campsite has arrived! Sigh!! I was at a height I never trekked before; 13,000+ feet above sea level.
READ ALSO: Adventure solo ride to Kodachadri
|Crossing the snow bridge|
|Halfway through the day's trek|
|You shall pass 😀|
|Campsite at Upper waterfall|
|Probably the remains of a Himalayan Yak|
|My fav click from the trek|
|At the top of the falls|
|Flowers and the valleys below|
The weather was unpredictable. It was clear when we arrived at the camp, and in an hour or so, it was super cloudy and rained hailstones in the evening. As if the things were not worse, the trek leader informed us that we would leave for the pass (summit) at 4AM, which meant that we should wake up before 3AM, finish morning routines and leave the camp sharp at 4 o clock in the morning.
The crew took the oximeter readings and those who got less than 80 were strictly told to drink lots of water and walk around the camp until the level came back to 80+. Some even had symptoms of acute mountain sickness but were monitored and taken care well by the crew. Luckily all of them recovered, and good to go the next day.
READ ALSO: The most humble Mountain People I have ever met
Day 6: Upper waterfall to Rupin Pass to Rontigad - 11km - 13120 ft
The next morning on summit day, (well, it classifies as a night ) I woke up at 3AM, and as soon as I stepped out of my tent, I looked up at the sky and wow!! What an amazing sight! I could see the milky way extending from one horizon to the other. It felt as if we were under a big blanket of stars! Only if I had the patience and equipment (tripod) to capture it on my DSLR. But then again, what better camera than your own eyes and the storage like that of a heart! That scene would remain in my heart forever!
|This is how it looked (Representation pic, not from Rupin)|
I started at the front when we began from the camp, and in a very short time, I was lagging. I was feeling my shortened breath. Once in a while, I would stop to take a few deep breaths and proceed. It was really difficult climbing the rocky mountains for the first few hours until the base of the Rupin Gully. The shoulders were aching a bit. The co-guide was really motivating and helpful and would often give a hand while walking over the slippery icy rocks. I felt that each step was a struggle. Nonetheless, it brought me closer to what I had come for.
READ ALSO: Solo Ride to Thirthalli, Offbeat beaches, Yana and Sirsi
|Rocks literally! PC: @anirudh_puranik|
|About time for sunrise! PC: @anirudh_puranik|
|Long way to go! PC: @anirudh_puranik|
|Snow everywhere!⛄❄ PC: @anirudh_puranik|
|Scenes for a lifetime PC: @anirudh_puranik|
We were now at the base of the Rupin Gully. From here, it was hell. If we could cross this, it would be over! But not that easy you see, when you are staring at a snow wall inclined at 50-60 degrees at you. A wall so high, even looking up at it will just demotivate you. The idea was to look at the ground and climb. We wore the micro snow spikes over the shoes and were ready to climb.
|Look at the inclination! PC: @anirudh_puranik|
We were clearly instructed to follow the footsteps ahead and not to overtake the other. It was after an extremely exhausting half an hour, I could see that I had reached the end of the snow wall. Yes!! I did it - I thought. The joy lasted just a second until I looked at the other side, and realized it was nowhere close to ending. It looked like another 300 - 400 meters from where I stood. It was dead steep, and the melting of snow made it even more difficult to climb. The weather was growing crazy. It was freezing cold, and the strong winds coming our way through the pass added to our woes. My body was exhausted. Climbing every single step seemed like a mission. The weather so harsh and the winds so cold, it was pricking the open areas of my cheek. My mind had gone totally blank. I had just one thought - to go ahead and climb the next step. I had forgotten everything apart from that thought. I even slipped while climbing a step, and was very lucky that I managed to get my hand back on the ground, just in time.
|Happy coz we don't know what lies ahead! PC: @anirudh_puranik|
After a grueling 15-20 minutes, I could hear voices from the top, cheering and celebrating. It was not yet over for me. 100 meters seemed very far. I was in no mood to celebrate until I reach. I thought I would celebrate only when I reach the top. Many of my friends were already there, and a couple of them just behind me. I took the final step to victory and I was on top. Just a moment ago, I wanted to shout in happiness and celebrate, but now I found myself all teary-eyed. I could not control the tears blurring my sight. I saw my friend Anirudh standing there cheering me, waiting for a hi-five. But as I walked up to him, I hugged him tight and cried. I felt a flurry of emotions within. There was no stopping. I was sobbing and crying like a baby. I let it all out and calmed down a bit after a minute. I felt that all the anger, the baggage of the past and present went down along with those mighty tears. I felt stronger than ever before. The tears took away some pain for sure, and definitely made my heart feel lighter than ever before!
Its been quite some time, and even now I have no answer to the question, "Why did I cry?"
|Into the void! Last hundred yards! PC:@anirudh_puranik|
|Me at the summit. You can see an idol of Neelkanth (Shiva)|
|Tired, but happy faces at the summit!|
If you found this interesting or want to know more about the trek, say hi in the comments below and let me know what you liked most and how would you want me to improve. Or if you have any direct questions use the contact form to connect with me, or you could also connect with me on my Instagram handle @little_detours. See you again with another blog on my solo trip this year. Until next time, keep watching, keep traveling.
I am gonna leave you with a 360 video I made on the Rupin Pass Trek. Please do subscribe to my YouTube channel if you like it.