A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass

Tripoto
3rd Oct 2015
Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The preparation for a Himalayan trek started in May. It was to be me, Anoop, Sourabha, and Harsha. For Sourabha and Harsha it was to be their 1st exposure to the Himalayas. But we were at loggerheads; Sourabha wanted to go to Rupin, Anoop had his heart set at Goecha La, me and Harsha were indifferent. After much deliberations it was to be Rupin Pass. Without much adieu we booked our slots in the trek by June end, and flight tickets were booked by July. Excited we!

We got all our hiking gear from our friendly neighbourhood Decathlon store. The plan was to be like this:

1. We travel to Delhi early morning on 30th Sept, roam all day.

2. Travel to Dehradun on 30th Sept with Nanda Devi express, and reach early morning. From Dehradun we go to Rishikesh for adventure sports, and stay there on 30th Sept and 1st Oct.

3. Bungee jumping on 1st Oct and roam around Rishikesh at night and

4. Do river rafting of 24 Km stretch, return to Dehradun by evening, and rendezvous with the Indiahikes trekkers on 3rd Oct morn.

We had an amazing time loitering around Delhi, doing bungy jumping and river rafting in Rishikesh (described in a separate blog post).

Day 1: A Long, Twisty but Serene Ride

We reached Dehradun railway station at around 6:30am. Anoop and all the other trekkers were already there (sans Mahendra, Jaggi, Hrishi, and Vishwa, who went on their own the previous day). Some nice lemon tea, a group pic and we were on our way to Dhaula. 3 vehicles were carrying 16 people.

Ahoy Sangla! You have visitors

Photo of Dehradun Railway Station Taxi Service, Muslim Colony, Lakkhi Bagh, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

The weather was sunny and the roads hilly. We were to cross Mussoorie on our way, and the hill station was visible quickly. Since it was Saturday Mussoorie was jam-packed with holidaying people and honking vehicles. We stopped near the Kempty falls for breakfast. It was good to have some steaming "Maggi", coffee, bread-omelette, and parantha on the table. With twisting and hilly, narrow roads the journey was beautiful, with Yamuna flowing alongside. We crossed numerous small villages on the way slowly drifting away from civilization. We stopped at a point to enjoy the flowing Yamuna, even though we knew we were running late.

Day 1. From top clockwise; a. Mussorie b. Kempty falls c. Yamuna river d. Anoop quenching his thirst in a flowing river e. The trio f. Yamuna from a distance g. Twisty roads h. Approaching Purola

Photo of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

We reached Purola by around 2 pm for lunch. Interestingly this road is also known as Har-ki-Dun road as it also leads to Sankri from where the Har ki Dun trek starts. Purola is a bustling town where we bought supplies. I was surprised to see a hotel in such a remote town.

Purola, midway through on Day 1

Photo of Purola, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Soon after leaving Purola pine forests became more prominent and dense. We have crossed Mori. The air got chilly and the roads bore the shadows of the pine trees. With the soothing songs at the backdrop Dhaula was not far now.

Mori, where the pine forests just got denser

Photo of Mori, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

We reached Naitwar, and then Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary. The views to our sides only got pristine. Here we decided to get on top of our pick-up vehicle. Yes, on roof-top! The roads were extremely bumpy and we had to anchor our feet on the rails. We sang along in our hoarse voices, clicked photos and videos. Amidst all this we reached our first campsite, Dhaula.

Prahlad and Raj received us. The campsite was mesmerizing, with the Rupin river flowing alongside. Wow!

Nearing Dhaula

Photo of Dhaula, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

On top of our pick-up vehicle. That was some fun!

Photo of Dhaula, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Rupin flowing with emerald greenish water right next to our camp at DhaulaThe beauty of the campsite was beyond our comprehension. Everything was so calm and beautiful. Time suddenly slowed down. I wanted it to slow down more.

Photo of Dhaula, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Mahendra, Vishwa, Hrishikesh (Yes, there was 1 more Hrishi in the group. And I thought I had a unique name. We also had 2 Sourabha in the group BTW), and Jaggi had already reached, on their own. I felt it was a bit cold for a 1st day. Quickly we got introduced to our trek lead Rick, as well as trek guides Prahlad and Arvind. We introduced ourselves to all the fellow trekkers, and sleeping bag liners (which I lost later) and micro-spikes were given to us (just in case we had to traverse snow bridges). Also to note there will not be any phone signal for the next 7 days; just us and the mountains. Yayy!!!

Of all Ramesh sir, Sanjyot ji, and Piyush sir had the most experience trekking in the Himalayas. Dinner was served; we all crawled back to our respective tents for a well deserved sleep. For tomorrow was going to be the start of a great journey...

Day 2: Let the Trek Commence

We woke up by 6 am, and tea was served by 7. It was exactly the morning you'll crave for; lush green surrounding, a fiery Rupin river with sparkling emerald green water flowing, and our fluttering orange tents. By 8 am packed lunch was ready, our bags packed and we all lined up for our destination was Sewa. We marched on, crossed a bridge and our long hike started.

Day 2 begins with a march towards Sewa

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The 1st day of a trek in the Himalayas is always exciting and trekkers are eager to explore to find out what's in store. Its also the most tiring (mostly) day of the trek normally since people just started out and need some time to acclimatize to the new topography. Concrete jungles were suddenly replaced with green mountains with small waterfalls jotted everywhere, rushing people were replaced with smiling villagers, and honking cars were replaced with horses, mules, and sheep flock. The changes were unprecedented but necessary.

Shortly after crossing Dhaula we were amidst lush green valleys on one side and villages on one side

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The trails were quite steep initially, plus we were walking on a hot day. The trail was through hamlets, step farming, pine forests and some intricately designed wooden houses. Around 5 hours in the trail and we stopped for lunch.

1st day was hot and tiring. Initial trail was quite steep. We passed through various villages to catch our breath

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Lunch was ice cold by now. Sewa was not far now (well, that's what they said and we thought). Carrying your own backpack can be a painful decision, let me assure you. We also met a lot of beautiful kids who'll run to you asking for candies. Bhai, bhai bhai... Namaste! Mithai hai? Now if someone comes to you like this then who wouldn't budge. There you go, take all these that I have now. In fact ye bhi le le!

The last pic is of Sewa village

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We reached Sewa by around 3pm. The gents would sleep in the homestay while the ladies will be in tents. Quickly all our trekking shoes were off. What a mighty relief! Anoop took out the tennis ball and Frisbee to play around. The moment the tennis ball was out cricket HAD to be played. And when its cricket there won't be any love lost. Even if it means playing at an altitude of 6,300 ft.! You have to give it to the love for cricket; everyone was so involved that they started to fight with each other. It was hilarious to see as me and Sourabha watched them play.

The rooftops of these houses are made of slate-rocks

Photo of Sewa, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

High altitude Cricket at Sewa

Photo of Sewa, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Our homestay at Sewa. The rooms were incredibly warm, even though the temp outside at night dropped. The spot where I'm sitting had an incredible view of the valleys ahead

Photo of Sewa, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

It got dark, and along with it came some hot tomato soup and popcorns. Wheee! Now the problem in these kind of high altitude treks is that dinner gets served by 7-7:30, which we are not accustomed to. People go to bed by 8:30. We decided to stay put for a little longer.

While Mahendra and Vishwa tried to capture star trails (I also tried but gave up pretty soon once I realised it ain't my cup of tea) me, Anoop, Harsha, and Sourabha just lay there on our backs staring at the starry sky and milky way, while the rest snuggled inside their sleeping bags. We sang in our donkey voices, joked and laughed to our content and counted shooting stars; all this under starry black night and a milky way. To good to be true!

Sewa in various colors

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Day 3: A Long, Tiring, and Arduous Day

The start to a day on a trek starts pretty early. Everyone is normally up by 6am, and trek ready by 8am. Today also we carry packed lunch. Our destination today is Jiskun. Rick promised us that we will just love Jiskun. We'll have to wait.

We started off and soon arrived at the Sewa temple. The temple has the design aspects of Kinnauri culture. It remains closed and opens only when God comes. Yes, only when God comes! Hmmm!

The temple at Sewa

Photo of Sewa, Uttarakhand, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

The trail again enters pine forest with a gradual descent. Out of the forest and the Rupin river welcomes us once again. And we all were straight in the river! But wait, the water is freezing here. We came out of the river at twice the speed to what we entered! Brrrrr! But this was an absolute beauty of a spot.

Don't go by their facial expressions. That water was freezing!!!

Photo of Rupin River by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of Rupin River by Hrishikesh Baruah

Quickly back on the trail and we reached a motor-able road; Gosangu. The road is rocky and the sun was right up on our head. It was no fun to be back on the road again. While we continued on our foot it only got hotter throughout the day, and we had to keep ourselves hydrated more often. For obvious reasons this part will be least liked during the entire trek.

The bridge that takes you from Uttarakhand to Himachal

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We enter a motorable road. Pretty flat and boring I would say

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We had packed lunch in between much to our respite. My shoulders were hurting like crazy now. Moving on and we now have to ascend. Already out of energy we carried along. This was turning out to be a tiring day. We did ensure to keep refilling our bottles wherever we could find a water source/stream.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We stopped for some refreshments. Hot tea and soft drinks arrived much to everyone's joy.

Refreshment break. A well deserved one

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

After a brief hike and few climb-up we had reached Jiskun. It was to be a homestay again and I instantly fell in love with it. The homestay was straight out of a fairy-tale; peaceful, with the grandest views of the valleys. This is the exact sight you would want everyday when you wake up.

Camp 3: Jiskun

Photo of Jiskun, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Bags down, shoes off, and phones and camera battery on charge. Yes, there was electricity in Jiskun. But luckily no phone network (except for BSNL). We headed off to a nearby ground for yet another round of cricket. There is some connection between Rupin Pass and cricket. I like the intensity on how we played. Everyone is so dedicated and committed that we end up making noise and arguing with each other! Whole village now knew we were in Jiskun!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

After a vivacious game of cricket we were back at the homestay. And would you believe it, it was Mahendra's birthday! Even he came to know when he spoke to his wife and she reminded him of this. After all a beautiful trek can make you forget things, even your birthday! I know Indiahikes celebrating birthdays by making cakes, regardless of whatever altitude we are at. But the problem was the birthday he mentioned was different to his actual birth date. So even Indiahikes were surprised and unaware. Good job Mahendra! But something can still be worked out. And Indiahikes made a bread-jam cake!

Some last minute arrangement. A bread jam cake with Nestle Munch as candles! PC Anoop

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

After the "high-altitude-birthday-bash" it was time for supper (at 7:30pm). Having some smoking hot dinner at such a picturesque spot; what more can you ask for! The rooms in the homestay was very warm, and we quickly snuggled inside our sleeping bags. Lights out and the snoring starts! I understand we all were tired and a good nights sleep is all we needed, but damn few of us (names withheld for obvious reasons :D ) were snoring like Godzillas! And in proper sync. I woke up in middle of the night more often.

Day 4: A Day to the Apple Orchards and Wilderness

Got up by 5:30am and it was still dark outside. Venus and a half crescent moon was all the light you can see in the sky.

All ready to Rock-n-Roll. PC: Mahendra

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The view was one to savour. However, there was not to be a happy start. While coming down Roshni tumbled on the stairs, and she got injured on her face. All the euphoria turned into concerns and anxious faces. Luckily nothing serious happened and Roshni was back on her feet with her wonderful smiles. Ok, the gang was all ready to hit the trail. But before that some stretching and bum-dancing (juguza)! Once all set, we clicked few pics and on we march.

Peek-a-boo!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

It was a sunny day. Kids were scampering to school as they were running late. But everyone of them wished us Namaste. Such modesty. We can learn so much from these villages.

It was to be a gradual, tough hike till Jhaka, beyond which the trail will be more or less flat. We huffed-puffed our way to Jhaka, with a scorching sun behind us.

Put yo hands up in the air!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

A sunny start

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Jhaka is also known as the hanging village as it looks like its hanging on the valleys from far. Reaching Jhaka brought some mighty relief. We entered one home where I got to see Apple trees. Apple trees, with apples on them! I have never seen a tree bearing apples before.

Jakha, also the last village on the trail before Sangla

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We were offered some juicy freshly plucked apples. Good lord, they tasted awesome! After spending some quality time, refilling our bottles we set out. More apples were offered on the way, which I gracefully accepted.

PC Mahendra. Munching on some juicy apples while at Jhaka. Also the place where I fell in <3 :)

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Apple, apples all around

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Straight out of Jhaka and the landscape changed. We were greeted with lovely pine forests and green meadows. This day was turning out to be the best.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We found an empty hut filled with thatch on our way. The view from the hut and the feeling of resting inside it was pure bliss. Just sit there, lay back, and absorb all the views while you can.

Hello Heaven!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The trail enters a pine forest, and it gets chilly once inside. Quickly out of the shadows of the trees and we can see our lunch spot below right next to the roaring Rupin river.

It was a breathtaking place to be in. Most of the people had already reached the spot and started with their lunch. We opened our lunch box to ice-cold roti and aloo sabji. But more than anything it was the landscape around us with loud colourful hue all around. A view you always dreamt of maybe? I was living a dream.

The pine forest

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

the charm of such a splendid view

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Nature has its own way of drawing its canvas

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

This was turning out to be a blockbuster day. The landscape just kept on throwing more bouts of colors and surprises on us, and we happily embraced it. Happily hopping and making our way over small rivulets we reached Udaknal, our campsite with Rupin river on the right and a blossoming forest overlooking a valley on the left.

Kahaan hoon main!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Fully loaded!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Almost there

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

It was cold here. Colder than the previous camps. Touching water was a nightmare; fingers were getting numb. While Anoop and Seran went to check out the broken snow bridge that was not very far on the Rupin river we collected dry woods & put up a campfire. The fire kept us warm, we also decided to have some by fun. Bring on Antakshari! I got the ball rolling, and soon everyone were in their musical best! One after another chartbusters were sung out to everyone's smiles, before we broke for dinner. Nothing like some steaming hot roti, chawal, dal and sabji in freezing conditions. And some soan papdi to finish things up :) Time to run back to our sleeping bags for a well deserved sleep.

Day 5: A Walk through Colourful Meadows, and Finally the Rupin Waterfall

I woke up by 5:30 am to an absolute cold surrounding. It was bloody freezing. Someone told that it was almost 0 degree at night.

Our lovely Udaknal campsite

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

As we all struggled to brush and do our plates with icy cold water we also managed to un-pitch and pack our tents.

Today we trek to Dhanderas thatch, or more commonly known as the Lower Waterfall camp. That picture that you see when you google Rupin Pass, that pic on Indiahikes' coverpage, that pic that instantly made you sign up for this trek. Yes, we trek to that place today. Let's go let's go!

Morning at Udaknal camp

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Rick promissed us that this will be yet another beautiful day with amazing meadows albeit trees or forests. We were dying to feel sun's rays falling on us but that will not be till we reach Buras Kandi.

Realised couple of horses ran away at night! Yeah even they didn't appreciate the cold maybe. The horses were to carry the offloaded backpacks. This lead to some delays and the porters and the guides decided to take the extra bags.

Also, there was one more tricky situation. We were to walk over the snow bridge to the other side. But since it was broken we had to find our steps through the river.

Navigating our way through the river

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The massive river bridge that we were to cross, otherwise broken now

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Ascending our way we soon met flock of sheep. "Meh! Meh!! Meh!!!", is all you can hear around you. Fantastic sight! There would be 1000-1500 sheep in a flock and 4 shepherd dogs to man them. The dogs will make sure all the sheep are following the line, and if any strays away the dogs would bark or push them back in line. Sheer brilliance! The shepherd would just follow the entire flock at the back, not bothered much. Great start to the day.

Some friendly strangers on our way!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We were badly gasping for some sunshine to fall on us as it was chilly. Few steps up, few down and we were out in the middle of the valley with the Rupin river navigating its own path on rocky trails. Brrrrr! We were still reeling under cold breeze. As has always been the case we were at the back of the pack and we could see the other trekkers already halted at an elevation. And as Harsha said, "Stay Calm, and Walk Slow"!

That's Buras Kandi, from where you start getting the magnificent views of the snow peaked mountains.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Can we have a bit of that sunshine falling on the other side? Brrrrr!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Out in the open the sun still alludes us. But snow capped mountain tops are visible now :)

Pit-stop at Buras Kandi

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

This was to be the most chillaxed day of the trek, yet extremely rewarding with the meadows and views.

Tall, lush trees now started making way for red-rusty meadows. All the pics that I saw of Rupin before zeroing down on it was completely different. Green meadows in pics now turned to rusty-red and yellowish in front of our naked eyes. An incredible sight wherever you see. The colours all around are so vibrant and loud.

Colours blooming from all sides

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

"Hrishi, udhar dekh (Look there)" out came a scream from Anoop. "Whoa! That's one huge piece of ice!!! Lemme have a closer look!" I exclaimed.

We all just dumped our bags on the trail started running up on our right to have a closer view of the ice. It was massive. And one heck of a spectacle. So big that you could feel your voice echoing standing underneath it. Not to mention it was slippery and dangerous.

A snow bridge

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Just look at that. Marvel

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

"Chalooooooo, wapis aao (Come back)". There's the voice of Arvind calling us back. Also the sun was straight up on our head so some catching up to do here with the rest of the pack. Gathering some momentum we reached our lunching point. With the serene Rupin river flowing discreetly and the Rupin waterfall in the backdrop this was arguably the most befitting lunch spot ever. I'll let the pics do the talking here...

Rising above the mountains

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The trail that we covered till now

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Laze around with a view like this

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Anoop, the poser!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The only consolation for eating cold rice and sabzi was the spot that we chose to eat. Some took a power-nap, some decided to chit-chat under the basking sun.

Moving on we had to cross this massive snow bridge. Prahlad, Rick, and Arvind told us to be extremely cautious since 1 wrong step (on thin ice) and you're straight down. As exciting it may seem it's treacherous to walk on snow, specially when you've not put on your spikes. You see, I fell down hard twice on my bums!

The massive ice bridge. One wrong foot and straight down the gushing water.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Don't go by my smiling face. It was horrendous walking on that ice

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Few climbs up and the view of the Rupin waterfall is crisp and next campsite visible. The very thought of camping with the Rupin waterfall in the backdrop can take away all the feeling of exhaustion right away. We kept walking towards it and the views got more prominent and majestic. I'm in heaven...Time to go home

Time to go home

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The majestic Rupin Waterfall

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

This campsite was straight out of heaven

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Some high altitude cricket in action

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

I just dumped my bag in the tent and simply rejoiced by seeing the sheer grandeur and beauty all around me. No phone signal, a scene straight out of a fairy-tale, and some noisy trekkers revelling in some high altitude cricket. When was the last time I was so happy? Time, please tick slow.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The campsite is a massive valley with big-small waterfalls cascading from all sides to form the Rupin river. Wherever you see its all postcard-ish landscapes around.

As it started getting dark it started getting cold as well. Out comes all our layers, gloves, mufflers, woollen hats. Darn, its frighteningly cold out here now! And then Arvind with a sly grin, "Upar toh aur bhi zyada thand hogi" (It will be even more colder up there)! We had gulab jamuns for sweet in dinner. I had 5 (or 6 ? Never mind)! Makes me wonder, the higher we go the tastier and exotic the food gets.

Everyone is summoned for next day's briefing. Its clear; tomorrow's gonna be the toughest day of the trek. And by far the toughest actually. So what awaits next day? You see that Rupin waterfall that I've been writing so much about, that has like become my inspiration for my travelogue, whose views are simply knocking me off my senses every time I gaze at it? We climb it tomorrow!

Day 6: The Day of Reckoning

"Shite! How am I suppose to climb THAT waterfall? Raasta kidhar se hai chadhne ke liye bhi (Where's the trail to climb)?" was my feeling. All hell in the world's gonna break loose!

We woke up to a bone rattling cold morning greeted by near-ice water in the bucket to wash up. My pale fingers should have just snapped and fallen off!

All these 4 days of trekking and acclimatization will be put to test today. Today's trek was to only ascend. Its simple; we climb up the waterfall and reach Rata Pheri, and summit to Rupin Pass is just a cake walk after that. We'll find out...

Different shades of the Rupin Waterfall

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

You can see ice formation all around; plants, drinking water. The guides did all they could to pump us up. We did start enthusiastically. The climb to the waterfall is to the right; a trail set on loose rocks, with small stream of water gushing only to make it slippery.

Before we set off a pic right in front of the Rupin watefall

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The back-breaking climb. That was just the beginning

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The Rupin waterfall is a 3-stage waterfall. On one side you see the icy-cold water just gushing all the way down, and on the other you can see the trail that you have traversed till now from the top. Here as well one has to walk over a ice-bridge over the waterfall. Yikes!

The 3-stage Rupin waterfall and the massive snow bridge. Some fascinating work done there by Nature

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

After crossing the snow bridge while the rest of the brigade marched up Anoop me and Rick decided to do a bit of exploring. We went a bit closer to get some better view of the mouth of the waterfall. One can notice the icicle formation all right below the waterfall. Few minutes clicking here and there and we are back on the hike.

We reached the Upper Waterfall campsite after some pain-staking climb. Had it been Summer we would have camped here. But not today. Sourabha was completely exhausted, but she pushed herself. We were walking at a snail's pace, completely tired and also relishing the grand views. Rupin, we ain't quitting today!

Arvind was there all the time with us even when the rest of the pack were way ahead of us. Salute to his patience. Such a humble guy he is, he was very supportive of our efforts and would encourage us with his words even when we though we would falter.

This was turning out to be a never ending ascend. But efforts comes with rewards. For the first time one can see majestic snow capped mountains all around. Indeed a sight to behold.

Look at the Rupin river twisting and turning towards its fall

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

The never ending up. Stairway to heaven?

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Larger than Life

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

You see those colorful tents? We were supposed to camp there before we found out someone already captured it.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

After some back-breaking climb we finally saw some tents, only to realise that's not ours. Arvind told that we now have to camp a little ahead. So finally we reached Rata Pheri, and this is how it looked...

Picturesque, isn't it? It only gets better each day

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

That small trail you see on the right side? That’s where we need to climb to summit.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Seeing the campsite not only had a mesmerizing effect on the mind thanks to the serene spot but also brought a mighty relief to the body. My shoulders were now in agony thanks to the 9kg rucksack. But ain't no time to waste, coz exploring your campsite is important.

It gets so bloody cold that by the time tea reaches our tents from the kitchen it gets cold. Sourabha was feeling a little dizzy so she restricted herself inside the tent to get some rest. It was a pretty little campsite with mountains flanking you from all sides. Absolute delight! And when sun started setting the mountains shone up...

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We tried playing Mafia inside the dinner tent but quickly gave way to piping hot food. Without much adieu all of us jumped into our respective tents for an early night off. And man it was cold out there.

Day 7: Day of Reckoning

Morning couldn't have come any sooner. Today's the day when we shall summit. Till now no one has dropped out of the group, and we were hopeful everyone would make it to that hallowed top.

Today was also going to be the longest day of the trek. Approximately 10-11 hours. Dreaded already I was. We started by around 8:30 am for the summit. Shouldn't take more than 1 hour to reach the top.

Midway through the climb to the summit this is how Rata Pheri campsite looked from

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Started off by 8:30 am the trail was a 60 degree climb to the summit. Add to that loose rocks and gravel till the top only made it more perplexed. We had to check our grip each time before making the next step. While the rest reached the top much early and carried on as well we took our own sweet time.And here we go. March to the summit.

And here we go. March to the summit.

Photo of Rupin Pass, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

As we inched closer we could hear cheers and celebrations of trekkers who reached the top. This only charged us up to go even faster. We gained momentum and here we are.

At 15,250 ft. we are at the highest point of Rupin Pass. We did it. A jubilant mood all around. We hugged, congratulated each other, and danced around on the accomplishment.

At the top of Rupin Pass

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Rupin Pass, 15,250 ft.

Photo of Rupin Pass, Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

The view on the other side of the Rupin Pass just blew me away. It was windy and fresh snow lie all around. Mt. Kinnaur-Kailash and Dhauladhar mountain ranges were all glittering out afar. This day would provide some astonishing and jaw dropping views all around. An awesome feeling :)

Bharat Mata ki Jai!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

That fresh snow was so tempting. That we decided to have some fun. We did some Juguza, our trademark 'Happy Feet' dance, and a lot of fun sliding around. Rick and Arvind were asking us to be back on the trail, but we were behaving like kids who saw snow for the first time! :D

Anoop just wouldn't get up

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

I was a having a wonderful day. I was ecstatic, in 7th heaven. I will do less of talking here and instead let the pics below give you and idea of things that unravelled.

The mighty Kinnaur Kailash

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Dhauladhar range behind, on right

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

It was to be a long day. We merrily sprang along, giggling and enjoying the fine day bestowed upon us. Still there was no sight of the pack. They were like miles ahead. Oh well, we hop alone, rejoicing to our songs that we sang along.

Mt. Kinnaur Kailash on top and Dhauladhar range at the bottom

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah
Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

We were walking to Sangla Kandi instead of Ronti Gad today. We had some cold-chilled lunch in the laps of the mountains. It became apparent that the campsite is far, faar away. From noon to dusk we were still walking, in search of that hallowed campsite. As frustrating it was we had no option. And then this happened.

Dhauladhar ranges soaking all the sunshine and shining like peak made of gold

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Soon it became dark and we were just dragging our tired bodies in search of the campsite. Out comes all our flashlights, and to our horror we almost lost our way, only for the Indiahikes team to find us. Sourabha was a little annoyed about such a long day. She crashed straight into her tent. Little exhausted soul. We realised it was 7:30pm when we reached.

But, celebrations were far from over. Everyone assembled in the dining tent. There was hot Maggi ready with tea. Maggi? Yes, MAGGI! I devoured to my heart's content. Of course I was hungry! And then in comes the cake! Woohhooooo!

The yumm cake. Who says you can't enjoy good food at this altitude!

Photo of Sangla Kanda, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

The cake was to celebrate the completion of the trek by all participants and organizers alike. And not to forget the belated cake cutting celebrations of Mahendra's b'day. So it was Mahendra who did the honours. All thanks to Naina jee and his cooking staff. Dinner was served. And then its the last night that we spend amidst these splendid mountains before we depart to our respective destinations tomorrow morning.

Day 8: And All Good Things Must Come to an End...

We woke up to a sprightly fresh morning, with the view of the Dhauladhar mountains from the windows of our tents.

Today's the last day of the trek. Its a simple descend to Sangla, where we re-enter civilization (and mobile network). Mixed emotions all around. While the happiness of going back home and be with our dear ones was naturally there, the sadness of leaving those beautiful mountains and fairy-tale valleys was equally there in the mind. Before we head out we had a small certificate distribution ceremony and also to offer a vote of thanks to all, especially the Indiahikes team of guides, porters, cooks etc.

Certificates were handed out to everyone for successful Trek completion

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

L-R: Harsha, Sourabha, Anoop, Arvind, Rick, Prahlad, me

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Rupin Pass batch Oct 3rd-10th Oct 2015. PC: Mahendra

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

After few group pics we set off for one last time. The trail was through numerous villages apricot trees, cashew-nuts and Apples. Yes, more Apples! The juiciest apples you'll ever taste. Numerous apple orchards on both sides. You feel like just jumping over and plucking few. Add to that the dense pine trees on your right. I was in no mood to hurry up.

On our way from Sangla Kandi

Photo of Sangla Kanda, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

The Dhauladhar range

Photo of Sangla Kanda, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

Apricot trees on top left

Photo of Sangla Kanda, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

I remember walking past by a man belonging to one of those villages. We just exchanged smiles and he gives me a juicy green apple. Such humbleness, generosity.

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Sangla was visible now. Nestled in the laps of Dhauladhar mountains Sangla is a small town with the Baspa river flowing through & a big Tibetan presence Sangla is where our trek ends.

Welcome to Sangla!

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Do we really have to leave this place?

Photo of Sangla, Himachal Pradesh, India by Hrishikesh Baruah

We checked into a hotel room, took a nice-hot shower (imagine the feel after 7 days), gorged on some nice Tibetan food before heading out to Kalka. We all bid goodbye to each other, promising to stay in touch.

We took a HP road transport bus to Kalka. This journey was itself nothing short of an adventure with rickety, edge-of-the-seat turns and roads, a you-don't-take-me-for-granted bus conductor, and a even-I-don't-budge-in-front-of-anyone fauji (ITBP). But not before we take some souvenir. We bought these beautiful Himachali hats for ourselves as a reward for our efforts. Aren't we looking like Kinnauri now :)

At around 10pm we bid goodbye to Arvind, Rick, Raj and Rick. They got down at Rampur. I'll always remember them for the support they provided us and the efforts they took to keep us laughing, especially Rick with his crazy stories. Maybe it was the last time I ever saw them.

Ahoy Sangla! You have visitors

Photo of A Slice of Heaven: My Autumn Trek to Rupin Pass by Hrishikesh Baruah

Back in Bengaluru, and it still took me a month to 'acclimatize' to a city life. Or Maybe I should have stayed back in Jakha and grow apples and barley? That didn't happen but life is uncertain.

Rupin Pass, you stunner. It was by far one of the most beautiful treks I've done. The sky blue rivulets, the hanging villages, those enchanting snowy peaks, the joy of reaching the summit, and some colorful, breath-taking landscapes is all I took back as memoirs with me. I was exposed to the most beautiful works of nature. More than 2 months after the trek got over and I still have memories etched in my head that pops up now and then, telling me that my next Himalayan adventure is not far away and I should be gearing up for it. Indeed, Himalayas does cast a spell on you...

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