Rupin Pass Trek – 30th Bday Celebration Trip
Rupin Pass trek covers the path along the Rupin river starting from where it cruises through the villages to where it originates. The highlight of the trek is the changing picturesque landscapes every day. Expect to see grasslands, meadows, mountains, valleys, glaciers, rivers, pine forests, lush greenery, and huge snowbound patches with zero greenery when you reach the pass. Sceneries change throughout the walk but what remains consistent is the gushing sound of the Rupin river. Though I would not consider this trek as an easy one, but the key to make the experience enjoyable is to absorb the nature and calm your mind. Different people have different ways to do it. For me it was breathing in the fresh air and soaking in the sound of the river. Those who have not been to Himalayas before will realize how majestic these mountain ranges are. As I say, leave your ego aside and trek like a river that cuts through the mountains. The more humble you are, the easier your trek goes.
This trek was very dear to me since it was a gift to myself for my 30th birthday and I had never done a trek of this magnitude before. In the hindsight, I am so glad I made this trip; it was a life changing experience.
THE LEGEND OF RUPIN
Legends have it that there was a wicked snake by the name of Rupin that sliced the Himalayas with its tongue thereby paving the way for what we know as Rupin river today. It was killed by a God called Poku Devta who would demand sacrifice of a human if one had to get his wish fulfilled. In today’s date the human sacrifices don’t exist, but the locals still sacrifice goats to appease Poku Devta. It is believed that whoever looks at the Devta’s idol will die in few days. Therefore, prayers are offered to Him by the pundits facing their backs to the idol.
DAY 1: CAB RIDE TO DHAULA
We started off with the cab ride from Dehradun to Dhaula, where our base camp was set. A beautiful road journey it was. We covered around 250kms on the road enjoying the view of Kempty Waterfall, pine forests and rivers such as Yamuna, Tons, Rupin & Supin. It was my first experience of seeing white waters from the glaciers and I was thoroughly amused. We took quite a few breaks on the river banks to enjoy the icy cold glacial waters. Rupin & Supin rivers were the only ones that had clear water, so if you are planning refill your bottles, get it done here.
After reaching the campsite (a homestay), we had some refreshments & were briefed about the general dos & don’ts about the trek.
DAY 2: SEWA
Bidding adieu to our warm hosts, we set off on our walk to our homestay in Sewa. Slopes got easier after a few stretches of hilly climbs in the beginning. This was probably the easiest of all the walks throughout the trek, considering both gradients & altitude. We reached Sewa before noon. We were happy to see a stretch of a land that the locals used as a playground; and so did we J. It was a good opportunity for all of us to break the ice and know each other better.
Later in the afternoon we took a walk to a temple nearby which had an interesting ritual. The temple opens only once in a year in September. And when it opens the locals have an extensive celebration when few people go into trance, something that indicates that Gods have entered into people’s body making them do things that a person would be incapable of when in normal state.
DAY 3: BAWTA
Early on we started our walk to yet another homestay in the pleasant Bawta. Intertwined with some hilly climbs, lush greenery and river crossings; this was a beautiful trail to explore. There came a rocky bed near the Rupin river that was a breathtaking sight and also a good place to ‘monkey around’ J. Yes, I said ‘monkey around’ since this will be one of the initial days when the energy levels are still high, temperature is moderate and gradient is easy. The sight of leaves glittering in the sunlight in the atmosphere untouched by pollution took my breath away. I could watch it forever.
This is the day when we crossed over from Uttarakhand to Himachal. Electricity & BSNL network were on the top of the mind of the fellow trekkers. The other interesting aspect of this day’s walk is the road trail in between 2 forest trails. Snowcapped mountains seemed closer than before, but Rupin Pass was still not visible yet. After the end of the road trail, on the other side of the river we could see extensive orchards other developed agricultural lands with step farming.
As we enjoyed the relatively flat gradient for a while, we encountered the surprise that was waiting for us: the hill that we had to climb to reach Bawta. As the porters tip-toed through the steep ascend, we took our own time to climb it. Thanks to the cool breeze that helped us recover in no time and prepared us for the further walk.
Bawta was the 2nd most beautiful campsite after the lower waterfall, in my opinion. What I really liked is the view of amazingly variant vegetation in the Himalayas. On one side we could see extensive stretches of step farming, while on the other side we could see the rocky slopes with minimal vegetation. Still further we could see the majestic snowcapped peaks. The evening walk around the homestay was absolutely pleasant. We walked down to a school where the kids were thrilled to play kabaddi and take pictures with us. A scenic trek with smiling faces can only lift your spirits up. Although I don’t consider myself a pictures-person, but the kids’ excitement made me take a few with them.
DAY 4: UDAKANAL
We got our packed lunch for the way and we set off on our walk to Udakanal through Jiskun and Jhaka, the famous hanging village. This was one trail where I think the landscapes changed the most. Farm lands to pine forests to dusty trails to rocky patches, to bridges we saw it all. There was one stretch that reminded me of the forests shown in the movie Avatar!
Udakanal was memorable for many reasons: a) this is where we got our first tent stay, b) the temperature dropped suddenly giving us a glimpse of how cold it was going to be in the forthcoming days, c) the only campsite where we had bonfire!, d) the proximity to the Rupin river.
DAY 5: UDAKANAL TO DHANDERAS (LOWER WATERFALL)
Shivering in the cold, we forced ourselves to finish our morning chores and set off for the journey ahead. Glacier walks were the highlights of the day. For most of us it was the first experience. Snow is my least favourite thing in the world because I find it so difficult to balance myself on it. I was worried. Thanks to the porters who made it so convenient for us by digging steps in the ice and teaching us the techniques that came of so much use later in the trek. We took the first snow slide on this day as well! Amazing fun it was.
There was one patch after a tiring rock trail that was so close to the river. The stream was shallow and calm, so we took off our shoes and splashed into the icy cold water. After spending some time here, we started for our beautiful campsite in Dhanderas.
I found Dhanderas the prettiest of all campsites. Thanks to the season we went in, we could see huge stretch of green meadows. Though there was couple of spoiler alerts from rain, I took off for a long walk after the rain subsided. This is the most peaceful walk I have ever taken. Aside from the meadows, there were many anonymous yet beautiful waterfalls in the mountains and glaciers were melting into small streams meeting the Rupin river.
Dhanderas, Lower Waterfall Campsite – Faint sights of the anonymous waterfalls in the mountains overlooking the meadows
DAY 6: UPPER WATERFALL (ALSO MY BDAY CELEBRATIONJ)
The day started really well with birthday wishes coming in from the fellow trekkers. It was a shivering cold morning warmed up by morning tea and warmth in people’s eyes for my birthday J. As much as I hated to leave the beautiful Dhanderas, we had to move on to the next campsite, i.e. the upper waterfall. We could see our destination from Dhanderas and it seemed to be an impossible task given the steep climbs in between. Determined to the core of my heart, I started my walk for the next campsite. We were welcomed by more glaciers and hilly climbs. Thanks to the tips we received the day before on walking on glaciers, I did lot better. I was not scared of the snow as much now. Every time we took a break, I could not help looking back at the beautiful meadow stretch in Dhanderas. After some hard climbs, we made it to the campsite in the upper waterfall. The seemingly impossible task was nailed!! 😀
The trek leader made us give back rubs to each other and helped us with some stretches. This was followed by the best ever massage that I ever received in my life given by Holly Portman, a fellow trekker from the US, on the occasion of my birthday. More was to come. The kitchen staff whipped up a special fruit rawa cake, again undoubtedly the best cake ever, in the evening. I got my first bday gift from a good friend I made in the trek! This could not get better.
In the whim of elaborating the birthday celebrations, I don’t want to miss out on talking about the beauty around there. On one side there was the gushing upper waterfall, where one can see the blue waters that you see in pictures / paintings and feel the mist of the waterfalls. On the other side one could take a walk by the calm river and enjoy the view of mountain slopes covered with fresh white snow. Wrapped in layers of warm wear I took off for a walk absorbing this gift that nature had tossed into my basket on my birthday.
DAY 7: THE RUPIN PASS AND WALK TO RONTIGAD
This was the longest and the most tiring walk in the trek. The difficulty was not because of the gradient but because of the walk through huge stretches of snow. Though snow on this day was soothing and beautiful to look at, the walk was difficult and tiring even with micro spikes on. We were happy to have expert help who watched us like hawks and were a good company for the walk at the same time. Unlike other days, the trek leaders were very strict about slow walkers leading the pack so that no one loses the drive.
After the strenuous traverse through the snow, came the killer climb right before the Rupin Pass. And I made it! 15,250ft: Done.
To be honest at this point my heart was pouring with bitter sweet feelings; a mix of sense of achievement and realization that it was all coming to an end. However the show must go on and so had to this trek. We spent about half an hour there, bid adieus to the few of the members in the trekking lead team who had to help another batch and moved on for Rontigad.
Walk to Rontigad started with few exciting snow slides. If you ever do the Rupin Pass trek, don’t underestimate the snow walk after you cross the pass. It is no less difficult and tiring. But of course the adrenaline rush one gets after reaching the pass helps. After a long tiring 11km walk in the mountains we reached the campsite of Rontigad. If you are lucky, you can see yaks here. One could see the Kinnaur Kailash peak from here. By this time the trekking bug had already bit me and I could not help thinking, “can I trek to this peak some day?”
DAY 8: SANGLA VALLEY
It was the last day of the trek. We started a bit late than other days. We knew that the most difficult day was behind us. It was going to be an easy 8km walk in warm weather. Crossing the gushing Chitkul river, we reached the Sangla valley. It is only now I started noticing the soreness in the body. The thrill of the trek had taken my mind off the pain and soreness completely till this point of time. Some of us had to start for their next destination the same day while some were staying overnight in Sangla. We huddled for the last time for lunch, exchanged contact details promising to be in touch and bid good byes.
FEW THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO DO THIS TREK
1) Physical fitness is going to make the experience much more enjoyable
2) Proper breathing will help you recover faster from the tiredness
3) Drink as much stream water as you can; it helps to gel in with the environment much better
4) Take a walk in the campsites. Do a favour to yourself and don’t get into the tents the moment you reach the campsites. It will be cold, but put on your warm clothes and take a walk around. It’s not every day you see nature’s beauty like this.
5) Don’t shy away from calories, however don’t over eat. It is a strenuous physical activity, you need those carbs. But overeating will make feel bloated. Best way is to carry some light nutrition supplies with you.
6) Hydrate well. You might not feel like drinking water in the cold, but you run the risk of getting cramps if you don’t. Try to have lime water if possible. It hydrates as well as helps in digestion.
7) Stay away from the bichhu shrubs on the way. They will give you bad itches, although they are not dangerous.
8) Don’t climb on to the roof tops in the homestays. The locals have a belief that it brings bad luck.
9) Keep your decibels level under control when in the mountains. The locals won’t appreciate it since they believe it worsens the weather.