A memorable trek – DAYARA BUGYAL
A memorable trek
TREK THE HIMALAYAS (TTH)
22-Dec-2019 to 27-Dec-2019
We were all excited about the trek when we landed at New Delhi airport on the 21st of December, Saturday night. The temperature here was around 15 deg. C and dropping and a few of us already started feeling the cold. We travelled overnight by train (Nanda Devi Express) and reached Harrawala. (This place is near Dehradun as Dehradun station was closed for construction work).
We had booked this “Dayara Bugyal Trek” through “Trek the Himalayas” an Indian trekking company, popularly known as TTH. From Harrawala, we reached out to the TTH coordinator for a pickup and soon after a while, a Tempo Traveler stopped in front of us holding the registration number that was messaged to us earlier. It was around 08:30 AM. We got into it and started our journey. There were 6 of us from Bengaluru and 3 more from Mumbai who were picked up at Dehradun.
From here on, we had a long journey with tons of twists and turns until we reached our guest house at Natin village. Our driver was an expert in driving and took us safely through the mountains. On every turn, we saw these huge green hills surrounding us. The scenic beauty was eye-popping.
After half a day of the journey, we started seeing glimpses of mountains clad with snow beckoning us. Almost at the end of our journey, we were surrounded by these gigantic mountains and were isolated from the hustle and bustle of the human population. We reached Natin around 6 pm and unloaded our backpacks. We had a warm welcome from TTH trek leaders Joslyn and Naveen. They showed us the way to our rooms. Much-needed snacks and tea were ready for us. Because of heavy snow at Kuari Pass, 20 trekkers were rerouted to this Dayara Bugyal Trek, so our team strength became 29. We walked back and forth for a while and gathered for a briefing as instructed. Natin belongs to Uttarkashi and the temperature here was already 1 deg C and we were at an altitude of 7000 ft. We had a quick intro of everyone and a briefing from trek leaders on what to do, what not to do, what preparation was made by individuals to stay fit, what’s tomorrow’s plan, safety precautions, rental collections etc. It was an interesting team of all ages and from different walks of life.
From here on we were in the hands of Trek leaders. It’s a tough task to manage a team of 29 on these isolated mountains. Kudos to the leadership! They were observant and supportive throughout the trek. We were introduced to amazing cooking staff and there is a reason for that. Food and sleep play a very important role while in the mountains. Our head cook was knowledgeable about what to prepare and when. We had roti, dal, and chawal for dinner and left for our cabins and a few had a nice sleep overnight.
Day 2: Knock knock – came from the cooking staff at our doorsteps and morning tea was ready at the dining hall around 6 AM. One after the other trekkers started waking up, having tea and finishing their morning routines. All of us had breakfast consisting of oats, milk, and pour and around 8 – 8:30 the team was ready for the first day of the trek from Nation to Gui. Water is a very necessary element here and the trek leaders ensured that everyone carried their water bottles. I started with my camera gear on my neck and backpack. We took a group picture, a few offloaded their bags to mules and we started walking towards the hill.
We met a local elder person and he wished us good luck! Initially, I thought this would be ok uphill and later on may be a steep one. To my surprise, the trek started with a steep uphill…wow! I started liking it as it wouldn’t be challenging coming all the way so long and doing a relatively flat or easy elevation trek. Within a few 100s of meters, we were climbing so high that we started sweating and removing our layers one by one. I removed my jacket and fleece and started climbing uphill. On the way, I was able to spot a local bird. As this was a winter trek, I didn’t plan to carry a telephoto lens so I couldn’t get a close-up view of the birds. We were walking inside a forest covered with huge trees. A cool breeze welcomed our faces. Lips started breaking. We stopped here and there every half hour or so to catch our breaths and capture the views and moments. We reached a small pond area where we took a decent break and enjoyed the spot. Mules had their drinking water. After around 3 Kms we spotted our first snow patch. Soon, we were welcomed by stunning views of SREEKANTH and the rest of its neighbouring peaks. By this time we are already walking on snow. It was almost mid-day and we continued our journey. We entered a little open space and the depth of snow increased gradually. The track was already made on snow by the TTH team. We walked along playing with the snow. Around 1:30 PM we reached our campsite. We relaxed a little, and then identified the location and started pitching our tents with the help of trek leaders. We started keeping our socks and wet clothes to dry on the branches of dried plants. Had lunch, moved around and by 4 pm the temperature started dropping. We redressed ourselves with multiple layers on top of thermals. A few of us stayed in the main/dinner tent to avoid sleeping during the daytime and also to beat the cold. Had our tea and snacks around 6 pm. By 7:30 – 8, all of us gathered for dinner. We were lucky to get a sweet dish as a part of dinner every day. For instance, halwa, kheer, Gulab jamun…etc. Our oxygen levels were checked. Everyone’s level was good enough. The toughest part was sleeping at night. The temperature went below 0, -1, -2 deg. C and still further down to -10 deg. C. Most of them had a sleep-break-sleep pattern.
Day 3: Even though we were awake around 6 am, most of us were in tents waiting for the sun god to show mercy. The support team was kind enough to serve tea at our tents. After tea one by one started coming out of the tents, warming ourselves a bit and getting our daily routine done. Today’s trek was a small stretch to keep the team active and get acclimatised. So, starting time wasn’t critical. We had breakfast, packed our luggage, and unpitched our tents. We had photo sessions with tents, a few exercising, and a few relaxing baths in the sun. Around 10:30 am we left Ghui and marched towards Chilapada. The entire stretch was hiking in snow inside the forest. At one place, we crossed this frozen waterfall. It was a treat to our eyes. By now, one of our team members had an ankle sprain. He was struggling a little to walk. We stopped at a spot and our trek leader pulled out the first aid kit. Wrapped gauze around the ankle and the journey continued. Somehow, here few of us got cell phone signals. The team had a quick talk with their near and dear ones. Within a few minutes, we reached our campsite. By now the team had a better experience in pitching tents. We flattened the snow as much as possible, pitched tents in rows and then had our lunch. A few of us started playing catch and throw with a tennis ball. Sun was going down, we changed our dresses (added thermals) and it was time for a tea break. Our trek leaders asked us to gather around and came to us with micro-spikes and gaiters. These were very much needed for the next day’s summit trek. While having tea we got an explanation of how to use them and we tried them ourselves as well. Then the surprise part was the announcement that tomorrow’s breakfast is at 4 am and the trek would start at 5 am. Everyone’s lunch would be packed in a backpack. We were both excited and worried about the trek so early in the morning! The distance was roughly 16 KMs up and down altogether. Around 7:30 pm our oxygen levels were checked, we had dinner and went back to our tents to sleep early. By now most of us had ourselves better acclimatised and knew how to put tents in place, and how to properly use liners and sleeping bags. All these helped in getting a good night’s sleep. Ah! I forgot I am not sure however rubbing eucalyptus oil onto feet seemed to help in keeping our feet warmer.
Day 4: It’s early morning 3 am. Chilling cold it was. I woke up, got ready after a while and was out of the tent close to 4 am. Others too started getting ready. Wearing gaiters and micro-spikes on top of shoes took enough time. Everyone got their lunch pack, was well protected with the layered dress, strapped our headlamps and started marching towards the summit a little past 5 am. Our walkway was more than knee-deep snow. We followed in the footsteps in the dark walking slowly one step at a time. It was a complete uphill climb for more than an hour now. We saw a glimpse of red light behind the mountains and the time of the day was around 6:45 am. It was a wonderful silhouette view with dramatic sky colours. This is the time I pulled out my camera gear and put it on my neck. Captured a few moments and moved on.
Within a few minutes, daylight showed up and we were at our first pit stop “the Maggie point”! This is a small local hut where one could get chai, noodles and other snacks. Here it is, we could see the huge White Mountains right in front of us. It looked so close and as if we were at its height. The snow depth was around 2 ft here and we were at a different level now with a lot of snow welcoming us and mountains all over and nothing else. From here we had the treat of Bandar Poonch and Kala nag peaks getting their first light. A few of us had quick chai and continued our trek. I was lucky to capture the morning sun rays coming out from far away white Mountains with the trekkers in the foreground. By now, we had entered the “bugyal” region of our trek. These would be blunt lush green meadows during the non-winter season. The sun was shining so bright that one can’t dare to look at it. Everyone pulled out their safety sunglasses to protect their eyes. The snow was so soft and white we couldn’t take our eyes off them. Further down the trek, these snow bugyals were looking like pretty white dunes.
We were able to spot the Dayara peak now. The last section of the climb added one more step to our adventure. “Rope climbing time!” Yes, for 50m or so we were supposed to climb using rope to reach the summit. We took turns, one after the other and finally everyone made it. Interestingly, one of the local dogs from Natin tagged along with us and climbed up to the summit! No words to say, it’s a different feeling on the top. You forget all your hardship on reaching the summit. Majestic and breathtaking views of the great GANGOTRI Range overlooking peaks such as Bandar Poonch, Kala nag, Sreekanth, Gangothri-1, Gangothri-2, Draupadi Ka Danda (DKD), Ganauri…etc. We were now 360 degrees surrounded by gigantic peaks! at 12,100 ft. and the time of the day was around 10 am. Everyone enjoyed this moment in their own way.
After a while, a call came from trek leaders for the return journey. It was challenging for many of us to climb down using the rope. However, with the help of our well-experienced TTH trek leaders, it was made easy. The return journey was around 8 KM pretty much downhill. Had a good break at “Maggie point” at noon. I looked back and felt as if the mountains were summoning over again.
Everyone had their choice of food. Headed down to our tents and around 3 – 3:30 pm we were at our camps. As we had a long trek from early morning most of us had a good sleep at night.
Day 5: Next morning, we headed back after our breakfast. By late noon we reached the guest house at Natin from where we started. Celebration time now! We were so happy that the entire crew reached the summit and came back safely. We received our certificates and everyone shared their piece of experience.
Day 6: Next morning, we headed back to Dehradun/Haridwar and then scattered around as per individual/group plans. Dayara Bugyal trek opened up the doors for many of us and paved a way for reaching out and adoring the grandeur of the Himalayas.