10/11/2004: 0800 Bendi Bugyal tent
Snowed and blew all night and continues today. Unlike being in Everest Base Camp, where you can get in depth satellite weather reports 24 hours per day, we have no communication and no way of knowing whether this is going to get worse or better, or continue for the rest of the year. We are staying put today and will make up a day on our trek later.
The rain has turned to pure snow though the morning. Went for a walk up the ridge above camp. The view is 360o with high mountains to the north and lower elevation mountains west. South and east.
From my vantage point I can not see the high peaks due to cloud cover. The peaks just below Trisul, where we hiked yesterday, are solid white with the firm snow level about 500 ft above our camp. The rocky summits of the lower mountains to the west and just across the canyon are black due to the moisture, but the meadows around our tent in the valley are still green. I can see our five horses grazing in the green grass about 200 feet below where I sit. Deep in the valley, up against the dark woods, a flock of white birds are gliding up canyon.
View from ridge above camp between storms and before big storm. Trisul in background
The meadow in Bendi Bugyal is several acres and abuts up against a steep hill side on the east. Today it is our camp and grazing area for the horses, but its historical importance is as a gathering place for Hindus making the pilgrimage to Roop Kund. While we are the only pilgrims today, there is much evidence that it serves a larger purpose for the people who pass through here every 12 years following the four pronged sheep.
There is a continuous circular rock wall, measuring about 150 meters in diameter, that extends from the hill side to our east to with in 10 meters of our tent. The wall is about three feet high and created with a 12” shelf on the inside. This design is clearly intended to provide seating for the faithful. The seating faces center where an ancient rock shrine was built near the east side of the wall. The shrine stands about eight feet tall with a two foot high door on the west side that opens to a small platform or stage. It is from here that the Brahmin, Hindu Holy Man, speaks to the crowds. On the hill side outside of the main circle are box seats. These are rock benches about 8-10 feet in length That are all oriented to give clear view of the central shrine and stage.
The snow level is somewhere lower that where our tent is pitched. The ground is solid white with snow coming down at the rate of about 2” per hour. Clearing the snow off the tent periodically is becoming wise if not mandatory.
There are many good tests for a marriage. You can put up wall paper together, build or remodel a house, move in close to your in-laws, move, have children, and probably 1,000 other things I can’t think of right now. Here is a good one. Spend 36 hours together in a 5’ X 7’ X 3’ space in a remote area of the Garhwal Himalayas. We did it, and actually it’s way easier than wall papering together.
The snow stopped and for about thirty minutes the sun came
out. Around 5 Pm took a short hike
around camp. Only a few high thin clouds
remain. Below in the valley the clouds
are so dense it looks like you could walk on them. The high
10/12/04: 1733 Kanol tent
Ascent 2,580 13,903
Descent 5,200 12,397
Today had it all. I was too optimistic about the weather yesterday afternoon. During the night another storm blew in with high winds and snow. Woke to a new layer of snow. Since we have no contact with the weather man we decided to pack things up and go for our next destination and lower ground. Our original plan would have taken us up another 1,500 ft before descending. Our proposes high trail was under a lot of snow, so it was decided by the Boss to head back to Wan and from there go over another lower pass to our next camp.
The horses had decided that since there was nothing to eat where we were, they would head to greener ground several hundred feet below camp. As I exited the tent to answer the call of nature, dressed in Gortex and fleece from head to toe, I saw Bandana Man (Ijabossing) running through the snow to catch the horses, wearing his white cotton pants, Mo’s old ski jacket (a gift to him) and flip-flops on his feet.
Mo and I got our stuff packed and moved to a small stone hut near the camp while the crew broke camp and packed the horses. The hut had wind protection, but the floor was mud with a healthy crop of mushrooms sprouting.
Self portrait in hut
One of the more elaborate shrines in the area was constructed right out the front door of the hut.
Shrine honoring the Hindu god Genesha,
God of fortune.
It was pretty amazing watching our crew pack up the camp and horses in the blizzard. The most amazing part is that they never rushed, smiled the whole time and when things were done we headed down the trail like we were just heading out for a sunny walk in the park.
About 30 minutes after leaving Bendi Bugyal the snow slowed down and the sun broke through. The hike from Bendi Bugyal to Wan was quite nice. When you descend from elevation in the Garhwal Himalayas there is not transition zone. You go from alpine to rain forest. A couple of hours later we reached Wan and headed in a new direction up what amounted to a stream bed. The stream bed was situated on an incline of about 30 degrees and continued upward for about 2,000 vertical ft. The climb was through an absolutely enchanting rain forest that was broken up at intervals by small green meadows on the steep hill sides. The trees that I could identify were large cedar and pine. All of the trees were coated with green moss and golden ferns sprouted in clumps from the bark and branches.
As we hiked up the steep incline from Wan we heard a beautiful female voice singing. The singing became louder as we approached a trail junction with an even steeper coming from below. Just as we reached the junction a young girl of about 12 followed by an old woman of about 70 appeared from the lower trail. As they walked up the steep trail I noticed that the young girl was blind in one eye. In her left hand she carried a clump of smoldering branches that gave off a dense acrid smelling smoke. As they walked briskly up the trail the young girl continued to sing her beautiful song. They never looked up as they crossed our path and continued up the hill. Gradually her song faded and was replaced by other forest sounds.
About 30 minutes later a light rain started. We entered a brake in the woods and there, standing with his sheep was a Shepard. At this point we were about one and half hours from Wan and about three hours from the nearest town ahead. The Shepard was old and ageless. From what I could tell he had no provisions except a staff and wore nothing except a converted burlap sack as a shirt and a cloth wrap around his waste. He greeted us with the familiar Nameste, chatted with our guide for a moment, and then returned to his sheep. Again I am so amazed that these people seem so content with so little.
We reached the top of the pass in a light rain and took a break and a snack. The saddle at the top of the pass was about half the size of a football field and covered with a fine layer of grass worthy of a PGA green.
At the saddle of the Wan to
and Ijabossing were taller than me until I saw this picture
Mo descending the pass on the other side of Wan before the real rain came
Our descent on the other side of the pass was through green lush forests. met with increasing rain and fog. With about two hours of hiking to go the sky really opened up. Good fortune smiled on us again. We came across an unattended forestry station that had a covered porch and a small open room that we could light a fire in. We set up our tent under the eve of the porch and the crew cooked and slept on the concrete floor in the small open room. The porch had no walls, but the cover above was appreciated.
Ascent 570 14,473
Descent 1,990 14,463
Last night the rain turned to snow and the temperature
dropped. This morning as the sun reached
our tent and I looked out and saw cloudless blue ski and melting snow, the song
line “Hello mother, hello father, here I am at