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Saturday, 22 January 2011

Snowsome Tales 1: Har Ki Dun

Har Ki Dun: The valley of God

It was fairly cold outside. What else do you expect when the valley you stand upon looks on three quarters of an arc to the mighty snow clad mountains of the Bandarpunch range of the Himalayas.


Swargarohini peak, the 6300m high ladder to heaven, the mythical place from where Pandavas and Draupadi ascended to heaven, stood at a stone throws distance. It is one thing to look at high mountains in pictures, another thing to see them rising above the surrounding mountain ranges, and a completely another thing to see them - right there, in your face, and checking them out all up: from base to peak!

By the time last of our men arrived, the light had melted into darkness and the even though the moon was faint, the white mountains became blue, and green trees dispersed enough of the available light to leave nothing for us to see but black patches. And my thoughts were such:
I don't know why, but I can feel sadness creep
from behind the imposing you, and flowing thy
Out and out, engulfing me by
Sadness, nhy
Jealous, am I!

There were two places where we could sleep in the night - rest house, or camp!

I wanted to camp under the starry chilly night. And I had a reason for wanting to keep away from the comfort of the rest house: we had reached our destination - Har Ki Dun, 3 days after starting from Dehradun. However, the ascend had been fairly easy presenting no real challenge or sense of adventure, but only blindingly beautiful views. I thus wanted to bear the chill of night in pretext of testing my capabilities. And here's the thing - trekking in mountains is not just about admiring nature, but more so about finding yourself, physically and mentally. When you push hard for long in thin cold air, the pain and numbness reach to the extent that they drown all other thoughts from your mind: worry, guilt, pride, stories of past, present and future and leave you free!


However, as the night wore on, along with everyone else, I comfortably settled in the forest hut. I suggested several audacious plans of getting up early and trekking further on to the Jaundar glacier, which immediately got enthused nods from a few group members (Gj, Chahha, and Tobebabu); however each of those were turned down by our guide as infeasible to be done in a day!

With the beauty of Valley of God seeping into us, we became, I became, content of the idea of spending the beautiful morning dancing around sunshining river and guardian mountains of the valley.

Trying to absorb the beauty

Moreover, the room of the rest house was direct from yellow leaves of a British book. The wooden flooring and bed by the fireside took me to to the Colonial times. Soon enough a heap of firewood was lit and the glow enthused my spirit. I couldn't believe it - I was actually sitting by the fireside in the Valley of God, oh a feeling ran through me that is hard to describe! I wrote that it is amazing to write that I am writing by the fireside! Half of us (Twigman, Tobebabu, Dolllover and Mr. McK) had already slipped into cozy beds and quilts and were cracking loud bratty jokes, incorrigible to those sitting by the fireside - lost in a dreamworld while listening to tales of mountain villages from our porter! I wrote:
Har Ki Dun is a pure bliss which can be enjoyed without any sense of adventure – you just sit here and admire the beauty: the rocks and boulders jutting out at places most unthought-of, long straight pine trees growing at the top of otherwise absolutely barren mountains, snow blowing off magnanimous peaks all of which stand nonchalant of the gaping mouths of young travelers feeling dwarfed by the humongous rise of theirs, and the finally the river: it’s water casting different mystical spells when under Sun, Moon, Stars or even a plain dark overcast sky. How do you capture all this in your eye, ear, heart or brain? Only if each of your thousand million pores opens up, you can encompass in some small measure, the beauty which is present here
While I was thinking that they should seriously think about renaming Cloud no. 9 to Being at 3-3-6-5, our guide and porters readied the dinner for us: steaming hot rice with steaming hot curry! I dipped my fingers into them, without caring for spoons and started eating hungrily only to be done in a plateful! All the time when you are climbing during the day you think that you're going to eat so much, but when you actually start eating there's only so much that you can eat!

However, the worst comes after eating - washing your plates! Every single time I did that, it felt like - one more second and my fingers might need an amputation. The innocent looking water turns into a Satan potion the minute it lands on your hand, and ere long you've to rush back to fire! Therefore you can imagine how difficult might it get if you forget to pack a roll of tissue paper for other needs!

After dinner it was time to once again snuggle into quilts, or sit by the fireside and get lost into dreamworld. This time, however, we tried to kindle the fire ourselves, to our utter failure. Porters came to our help, and this time I carefully observed how they kindled a fire. The trick is to form almost a pyramid of wood and put small pieces connecting the larger pieces of wood to transfer the fire. Other trick is to constantly take out ash and put in new pieces of wood. And the trickiest of all - to blow into the fire when it starts to waver. It's poignant to see how quickly the fire starts asphyxiating once ash starts to block the flow of oxygen causing an untimely, fast and leg-kicking death! However, more often than not you blow stupidly enough to either cause the fire to stare back at you saying - dude!, or to cause ash to fill the room. The worst of all is to suck the air after blowing hard, without turning your face. Get ready to cough your way for next 5 minutes until large tears well up in your eye!

Rookie Fire

A rookie's guide: Make a base of T1 with the center filled with small twigs/grass/paper. The larger you want your fire to be, place more of T1s over each other, finally on the top of T1 place T2, with the T2 wood much thicker than T1s. Place T3, or simply long twigs connecting various thicker wood to transfer fire. Blow from the base. Don't suck after you blow! For completion sake: keep distance, extinguish it once done, and google after reading this to find exact info!

The Junior Woodchuck Guide

Anywho, by and by the wood got all burnt up and once again cold started engulfing us. As much as I hate to waste time, I hate to share a double bed with 4 people, 3 of which were worthless engineers, who couldn't apply their nutty brains to suggest until 5 AM that we should sleep with head-feet direction reversed for every alternate men! I hate the experience more so because once asleep the uncaring ones sprawl their legs flat into others territory and shamelessly snore!

After 5 AM, I slept astoundingly well , only to be woken up at 7AM with loud cries of snow! I quickly got out of the bed, with only a few warm clothes on and ran to open the door and join in the celebrations going outside. A cold wind blasted on my face as I opened the door, what else was I thinking, but hey - Dreams do come true, in the Valley of God...the valley had turned white, overnight! [to be cotd.]

The Morning After

Snow White

Story Continued:

Read about last year end trek: Finding Frozenland


  1. Your descriptive style of writing is really top notch, a wonderful experience shared!

    But you didn't explain why you didn't take the tent? Others refused to be as courageous as you?? ;)

    Waiting for the next part!

  2. Thanks man!

    We thought that, the few of us who were deciding to sleep in tent, should sleep in rest houses so that, we can get up at 6 and start our audacious trek to Jaundar glacier! We were pretty sure we would - the thing looked so near that we could see it!

    But eventually by around 9 PM it was declared infeasible, and by then we had comfortably settled in our rest house!

  3. Great post. I have been up till Bheem Pool, and a up a couple of mountains, but haven't got closer to Swargrohini.

    Looks like you had a fantastic experience.

    Could we see the images in larger size, though?

    And yes, waiting for the next post :)

  4. Thanks Sosha...Next posts are already there :)

    Thanks for the suggestion for photos...I felt the same way. However, I am not sure how can I increase the size...

  5. Don't know how Blogspot works, but you can re-edit a post and resize images in WordPress. You might want to switch.

  6. Thanks for advice! some manual changing of size in HTML code worked :)