After a hurried meal of khichdi we promptly went off to sleep. Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny on Gogina as we set off for the first leg of our proposed 40-km climb to Namik glacier at an altitude of 4,200 m.
We had planned a modest 6-km ascent on the first day to get used to the mountains, so were in no hurry. As we left the village behind and climbed up the forest trail, the refreshing mountain air tickled my nose lending wings to my expectations.
The Climb Begins
Everything was beautiful. The green meadows, blue sky, sometimes rocky-sometimes smooth path, green trees, chirping birds…it was like a chapter out of a story book. My several months of gymming in Delhi seemed to be serving me well, and when we took a break by the gurgling Ram Ganga East river to refill our bottles and snack on chana and mishri, it did feel good.
It was past noon when we reached Namik village and we pitched our tents at the “maidan” above it. The children, just back from the village school, hung around our tents especially attracted by our six German friends.
Next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast of bread, cheese and boiled eggs prepared by our four porters, we set off for the “real” climb.
It was much steeper now, but surprisingly enough, the cleaner air and the shady forests of oak and cedar made it even more enjoyable than the previous day.
The strong roots of trees that crossed the narrow mountain paths before branching into new trees were enchanting.
Despite the steep climb, we reached our destination, slightly above a shepherds’ meadow called Dhal Dhauk, well before evening.
We spent the night at a trekkers’ hut, all 11 sleeping bags crammed into one room. It was quite cold at 3,300 m, but the tightly packed room kept us warm as it rained through the night.
So Near Yet...
Next morning was special as we celebrated our friend Verena’s birthday with a delicious sweetened roti cake, colourful mountain flowers and songs in three languages. It was getting colder and the air rarer as we trudged up.
The snow covered peaks of the Himalayas were getting closer and we tried to walk faster in anticipation. The treeline slowly disappeared and the path became rockier.
Suddenly, the two mules that were carrying our tents, gas and food, refused to move on, terrified by the jagged rocks that lay on the path ahead. We decided to leave the mules behind with their owner and carry some provisions with us to our night halt, Sutam Khan, about 2 km away, from where we would have trekked the next day to Jogi Udiyar, and then finally to the glacier.
But it was not to be. Two guides who had gone ahead for a recce as we sat for a meal of packed paranthas reported that there were enormous patches of snow ahead that we couldn’t cross. A little disappointed we decided to walk up to the snow and did some snow walking holding ropes just for entertainment.
Camped on the top of a ridge at 3,700 m, it proved to be the coldest night I have ever experienced. My teeth rattled as I stood around with the others for our dinner. The full moon shone on the white stones as Amit, my husband, recounted stories about camouflaged snow leopards. Deep in the night when I was forced to come out of my tent to answer nature’s ill-timed call, I could swear I saw at least two wild beasts staring at me from behind the rocks.
When Time Stopped
The next morning Mother Nature decided to be generous and lifted the veil of clouds to display the most awesome view of Himalayan peaks one could imagine. Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trishul were all resplendent with the sun shining on them as we turned our heads almost 180 degrees for the panoramic snow-view.
As we had extra time now and enough provisions, we spent two relaxing days in a picturesque meadow just below Dhal Dhauk. We took leisurely walks in the rhododendron forest, chased foxes and played Thai football in the mornings. In the evenings, we sang by the bonfire, sipping schnapps that a friend’s parents had sent all the way from Germany.
It seemed as though time had come to a stop and our lives, as we knew it, ceased to exist.
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