Just imagine this itinerary:
Day 1: 9 hours drive + 5 km trekking
Day 2: 15 km trekking + 9 hours drive back home
Sounds crazy, right? Well, this is how our first trekking turned out to be.
Day 1: Base Camp
We wanted to start our trekking journey with an easy trek. So, we chose Nag Tibba. But, it is not as easy it is said to be. I would personally say it is a mid-moderate level trek.
Trek for Nag Tibba starts from Pantwari which is about 3.5 hours drive from Dehradun. Ideally, you would take a bus or train to Dehradun and then reach Pantwari from there by road. But, since it was all last minute planning, we were not getting either. That’s when we got this crazy idea to do a road-trip from Delhi. We could reach in Pantwari in eight hours if we left early and avoided Delhi traffic. Plus, we would get to drive in the mountains and enjoy the scenic Himalayan views. The plan was to start at around 4 AM, so as to reach Pantwari around 12 PM.
Unfortunately, I could not sleep at all that night. I always have issues sleeping the night before any trip (because of the excitement, probably). At around 3 AM I woke up my wife, who was sound asleep, and told her that I could not sleep at all. I said that we could leave now, instead of 4 AM, and reach the Base Camp early and rest there. She was a little worried if I would be able to drive sleep deprived like that. There was no other option anyway, so she agreed. Last minute preparations took a lot of time and by the time we left it was around 4.45 AM (late again).
So our journey started, but was shortly halted by another problem. Our car broke down in midway. It had been making a strange sound for some time and by the time we figured out what it was (a loose tyre) we were somewhere on the Upper Ganga Canal Road. The day hadn’t risen yet and we were stranded on a deserted road. I fixed the tire as fast as I could and continued with the journey.
My sleep deprived eyes were finding it hard to concentrate and Google Maps had mind of it’s own. However, when finally the Uttarakhand roads began we forgot about all these problems. It was magical. Driving alongside Yamuna River, on smooth roads covered with lush green forests, and among the grandeur of the Himalayas - it turned out to be the most beautiful road trip we had till date. We stopped again and again to appreciate the mesmerising views along the road.
After numerous stops, we finally reached Pantwari at around 1.30 PM. Our guide had been waiting for us. We were late and others in the group had already left. So, we quickly had some breakfast and began our trek.
It wasn’t as easy as we had thought, especially when we were carrying our luggage and had not opted for a porter. The climb was pretty steep (at least from a beginners point of view) and the trail was all stony. Every now and then we were taking some rest and drinking water. Luckily our guide was quite a talker and kept us engaged throughout the trek.
As we climbed, the views kept getting better and better. The air was cool and sun was warm - which was helping in relaxing ourselves. Each time we looked back, Pantwari looked smaller and farther down the mountain. It showed how far we had climbed and motivated us. We kept pushing ourselves to keep going. First checkpoint was a water point where we refilled our bottles and took five minutes rest. There we also met other members of our group which gave us little confidence - we were at a decent pace and had caught up with them.
Soon, we were back on the trek. By now, we had grown pretty tired and each step was becoming difficult to take. The lack of sleep was also affecting our pace. But, we weren’t thinking about when we will reach the destination. We were only concentrating on keep going and enjoying the views which were becoming more and more mesmerising.
Around 5 PM we finally reached our basecamp. We were so happy to see it. Those tiny tents setup right beside a cliff between those gigantic mountains - it was a perfect place for the camp.
Basecamps had been shifted little south because of constant snowfall this winter. Normally they would be about one or two kilometre more northwards. It was good for the first day - but it also meant we had to cover a lot more distance the next day.
The arrangement and camp facilities were better than we had expected. We got chai and pakoras at around 6 PM which was the most awesome combination in that cold weather. Later, we also got warm soup and pop-corns after sunset and dinner later at around 9 PM.
There was also campfire organised which gave us some relief from the cold and a chance to get in touch with other trekkers in our group.
We went to sleep at around 9.30. The plan was to start our trek to the summit at 6 AM the next day.
Day 2: The Summit
Next day, we woke up at around 6 AM, as opposed to 5 AM as planned. That night we had one of the best sleeps in recent times. The fresh air around especially contributed to it. Last day’s exhaustion was all gone and we were ready for the long day ahead.
Last night temperature went down to -5 °C. As we would realise later, it was because of snowfall around the summit which resulted in this easy trek turning out to be a lot more difficult.
Our plan was to start trek at around 6 AM, but we got late and started at around 7 AM.
The trek was turning out to be easier than yesterday - mostly because we weren’t carrying that much weight. We had left our bags in our tents and were carrying only water bottles and the camera equipment.
Initially, the trek was through a thick forest. It was probably the first time we walking among the high tree cover. The silence of the forest was hypnotic. As the morning was rising, birds were waking up and their tweets were echoing all around. It was such an amazing feeling to be so close to nature. Slowly, as the sun rose, the light came filtering through the trees and what a view it was!
About one and a half hour into the trek, we got the first glimpse of snow. It was the first time we were seeing snow and we were so excited. I was literally jumping like a child on small patches of snow.
Snow on the lower parts of the trek was old, and therefore had become hard and slippery. That is why walking on them was becoming difficult, especially without spikes in our shoes. As we climbed higher, snow cover became denser and finally entire area was covered in snow. Everyone stopped there immediately and started playing in the snow. Some made snow man, some played with snow balls and some simply engaged themselves in getting as many photos as possible. It was so much fun.
But, it didn’t take us long to realise that the snow was going to make the trek really difficult.
At one point, the path divides and one goes to the summit and another to the Nag-Tibba temple. We decided to go for the summit first.
As we climbed, the snow kept getting deeper and deeper. It was becoming really difficult to climb now. Since such snow is generally not expected in this trek, we didn’t have spikes for our shoes (which would have helped a lot). Our hands had started freezing (we didn’t take gloves either). Our shoes were all wet and frozen. Our energy had depleted. However, our guide kept pushing us. He was constantly motivating us and helping those who had fallen behind.
“How’s the josh? High sir!” this was what we kept shouting whenever we felt demotivated. It had some kind of magical effect - helped us push ourselves.
On our way, we met some people from other trekking groups who said we wouldn’t be able to make it to the summit as the snow is too deep. At some points, it was almost three feet deep. It was a little demotivating but we had promised ourselves that we would try our best to reach the summit. Last leg of the trek was quite steep too. All in all, it wasn’t an easy trek.
The summit finally became visible. It was just a matter of time when we would be at the top. And, when we finally reached the peak - we were dumbstruck by the view. It was the first time we realised how it felt to be at the top of a mountain. We were at top of the world! We could see Nanda-Devi, Kedarnath, Badrinath and Thalay Sagar peaks from there. In the end, it was all worth the effort!
“The best view comes after the hardest climb!”
After spending around 20 mins at the peak, we started our journey back to basecamp. For the first time in our life, coming down proved to be more difficult than going up. Going down, our shoes started slipping and we were falling every now and then. Our hands had literally frozen and swelled.
After some time, we had stopped feeling anything and we were just going on our own. After almost four-five hours of the climb down we reached basecamp. We had a quick lunch at around 4 PM. The camp had been packed up and everyone was ready to go. We wanted to rest but clock was ticking and we had to reach Pantwari as soon as possible. So, immediately after having lunch we left for Pantwari.
Our feet were paining like hell but we kept pushing ourselves. Around 6.30 PM we reached Pantwari. We had successfully completed 15 km trek in one day!!
Now was the big questions - what should be done to reach back home? We surely did not want to stay in Patwari. So, we decided to at least try to reach Dehradun and there decide what to do. We could stay overnight in Dehradun or somehow push ourselves to reach Gurgaon.
I put some Iodex on my feet, drank a RedBull and started driving to Dehradun. After about 3.5 hours we reached Dehradun. We stopped at a cafe to take some rest and decide what to do.
Searching for hotel and settling there would take around one hour. In that, we could cover a good amount of distance. I was well awake because of RedBull and the coffee we had at the cafe. So, we decided to continue our journey.
We reached Gurgaon at around 4.30 AM. I was happy that I was able to complete the journey, but I wanted to sleep now! Went straight to bed and fell dead asleep.