Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Through the Obra Valley and further up to Devkyara Pass

This group is known for offbeat treks to locations that are yet to be explored as trekking routes. Our trek last year was to Devkyara Pass through the Obra valley in Uttarakhand. We started from Jakol near Sankri (below 6,000 ft) to Obra valley (8,000 ft) crossing Akoti to reach Bhawa (12,100 ft) near the Devkyara Pass before we started our descent. Over five days, we had traversed more than 48 kms through pine forests, snow, and not to forget...way too many landslides that left little trace of any trail. As the majority of the route was along the rivers, we had the added thrills of leaping over long stretches of massive boulders along the river banks, and crossing rivers over small wooden bridges, some of them nothing more than one or two tree trunks placed over the roaring chilled waters. 

This was an extremely scenic route...the river side, pine forests, snow covered mountains, Rhododendrons in full bloom on many of the mountain slopes made for perfect company....and introspection when one walked alone. We could stop over to fill water from the numerous waterfalls along the way, or from the river itself where it was gentler. The first two nights, we camped in tents pitched in meadows not too far from the river, which meant we had the sound of the water resonating in our ears all through the night too. (Have shared below some of my best memories in pictures).

On day 2, as three of us from our group of ten pursued with the remaining part of the trek and made way from Akoti to Bhawa, we encountered many places where the heavy snowfall earlier that year had led to trees keeling over and that had later led to landslides. I soon found myself gingerly and very quickly stepping over loose-soil as well as snow covered slopes overhanging the rivers flowing below. At times like this, you realize this ain't time to think too much...you just have to take a step through the loose soil and rocks or snow, judge quickly and move on real quick...to get onto the other side! 

I have a habit of getting into conversations with the local guides / porters who accompany us on the trek...always curious to understand their life, profession, views, etc. but I realize sometimes it does not always serve me well. I remember at one time on the climb up to Bhawa, there was just my guide, Ramesh ji and I and we needed to cross a mountain section covered with snow but in some places we could see the river through rugged cuts where the snow was thin and had worn out. Ramesh ji urged me to join him on the snow and as soon as I stepped onto it, he proceeded to tell me that just the previous year, two people had fallen through the snow and into the roaring river. I quite froze in my snowy track right there and asked him what happened to them. His chilling reply was "Woh toh dead ho gaye! Behte paani mein bahut door milein" ("They both died. And were found much further downstream"). After that, I chose to stay silent,and not just because I needed to catch my breath from the high altitude and steep ascent! (I had other such non self-serving conversations with our guide, Tikamsingh ji on this year's trek too. But more on that in another blogpost.)

Our campsite that night was in the midst of completely snow-clad mountains with a good view of the Kedarkantha peak too on the opposite side. We were just 5 of us (including Ramesh ji and our trek leader Kamlesh ji) who had proceeded until here and our two small tents there looked minuscule and remote. That and the fact that my conversations with the guide that day was about bears which, as I had found out inhabited these mountains, made for an interesting night as the winds blew all around us.

Being the only first-time trekker among the three and fearing we would need to retrace the same treacherous route back, I had decided that I would not make the 1-1.5 hour's trek further up the next morning toward Devkyara Pass. Little did I know then that things can change even for the better in the mountains, and on the descent back, the same route was much simpler with the snow having firmed up to our advantage and we could actually slide down the snow in certain sections. It was thus with regret of having left such a small section at the very last to complete, that I proceeded the descent back to Akoti where the rest of our group had camped. 

I was to encounter more challenging incidents on the subsequent trek - which also made me acutely realize that when you confront a problem, you are actually capable of surmounting it, much more than you have given yourself credit for up until that moment. As is true for so many areas of our life - To a large...very large...extent, it is about mind over body. 

The Obra valley - Devkyara Pass trek was a phenomenal experience overall, and by the time we were making our return journey, I knew well that I would be back here in these mountains. Soon.

Update: Received a few queries for a connect to the organizers of these treks. Please check them out at http://www.harkidun.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/harkidun.trek?fref=ufi

At Bhawa


Just before we left on Day 2 - the sunlight is about to bathe the Obra valley 

Tiny wild orchids on the rocks - on the way to Akoti

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