Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rupin Supin Activity Week Trek

Photo cred: Matt
For my fourth Woodstock Activity Week, I completed my fifth Himalayan trek. It confounds me that a) I've been in India for the past four autumns and b) how conversant I've become in the ways of Himalayan trekking.

Unlike previous Activity Weeks, this year I was asked to be the leader of a trek. Not only was I the only female leader out of the 5 treks, but I am the only female trek leader in recent history. Needless to say, I was happy to step up to the task.

A few unnerving details: I had never been on the trekking route, I don't speak Hindi, and I didn't know any of the students, much less the two chaperons that would accompany me. With so many unknowns, I might have been very stressed; however, India has taught me to embrace the unknowns and not worry so much.

After a practice campout a few weeks before the trek, I was in high spirits - the group had an excellent vibe. The group profile: twelve Grade 10 students, three staff. Students hailing from India (3), South Korea (2), Bhutan (2), Tibet/Nepal (1), U.S. (1), Canada (1), Vietnam (1), and Afghanistan (1). The two chaperons were both new staff - Matt, an English teacher from Australia, and Prashant, a rock climbing instructor from Darjeeling.

The route is titled "Rupin-Supin" (clearly the most fun to say!). It is a shortened version of the more famous Baradsaar Lake trek and is just on the other side of the Rupin river valley from the Changsheel trek I took last year. Essentially, we started at the Rupin River, climbed up to Vijay Top, and then descended the other side of the ridge-line to the the Supin River. The area is in the northwestern corner of Uttarakhand, on the border of Himachal Pradesh, and is within the boundaries of Govind Pashu National Park.

Day 1: Woodstock to Himri (1500m)
A long day of travel on mountain roads. We headed north into the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, passing through Purola and Mori. Upon reaching the gates of the park at Netwar, we transferred into jeeps and drove to our campsite on the Rupin River. Last year, I stayed just a few kilometers upstream from this site. It was nice to be in a familiar location.

The group prior to departure.
Rupin River Camp

Sharing the game plan at Camp 1.
Photo cred: Yerang

Day 2: Himri to Bhitri (2500m)
I had been told that the first day of hiking was by far the hardest, so we woke up early to get a head start. The walk was entirely uphill, but a nice combination of steep and relatively flat. The best part was traversing through two large villages that had amazing wooden architecture, intriguing male-only temples, large town plazas, and lots of smiling, curious faces. Matt and I had a lot of fun interacting with the villagers, while our shy students tried to avoid eye contact. My favorite part was trying to chat with some young school children who were having class outside in the sun. My Hindi is pretty bare, but I could read the words they were writing. They had a good laugh at me.

We reached our campsite early - turns out our group is speedy and strong! - so spent the afternoon sunbathing, exploring, and playing with local kids. The evening was cold, but we braved the weather and soaked in some excellent star-gazing.

Morning breakfast: jam toast, corn flakes
with hot milk, boiled eggs, and
a whole tray of carmel candies!
Photo cred: Yerang
Passing through the first village.


Flat stretch.

Tiny door.

Drying grain and fancy wood grain.

Men-only temple.

Village centerpiece.

Class out in the sun.

Captive audience.

Curious kids.

Slate rooftops gleaming in the afternoon sun.

Camp 2.

New friends!

Matt wreaking havoc with the local kids.

Day 3: Bhitri to Jungle Camp
After morning "games", we continued our uphill climb. Another day of steep and gentle ascents. The forest changed, almost resembling a boreal forest. There were even plenty of deciduous trees with changing leaves!

Another early arrival to camp. Nestled in a forested area, the sunlight quickly disappeared behind the hillside and left us with a chilly afternoon and cold night. Luckily, our porters dragged in huge timbers for a massive campfire. Writing activities, games, and campfire stories for the evening.
Caught in the midst of a morning yoga session.
Photo cred: Matt

Morning "game" time!
Photo cred: Matt
Rules of the game: Pick up trash. Do 100 jumping jacks.

And 50 push-ups.

Most of the walk looked like this.

Lunch break in the jungle.
Photo cred: Yerang

A cold afternoon, but a large fire.

Day 4: Jungle Camp to High Camp (via Vijay Top)
Our ascent continued for the morning, with a climax at Vijay Top. After a few hours of hiking, we cleared the tree line and had our first panoramics of the snow-capped mountains. It was fun to see similar vegetation to what we saw on Bandarpunch in a different season. The golden colors were beautiful. We left the trail just  below Vijay Top and khud-climbed our way up. The clouds were blocking parts of the view, but there was enough sun to warrant an extended lunch with time to soak up some rays.

Mule trying to eat our breakfast!

Morning frost.

Photo cred: Matt

I love all of our expressions in this one.
Photo cred: Asma

Chillin' at the top.
Photo cred: Matt

Photo cred: Matt

Chillin' turned to snoozin'

A half-awake group photo.

Khud-climbing up to Vijay Top.
Those black spots are people!
Photo cred: Yerang

We thought the rest of the day would be downhill, but ended up descending down to the trail only to ascend to nearly the same elevation as Vijay Top on another tall peak. Morale was low, but the students kept truckin'. I enjoyed their slow pace and took the time to soak in the view. Eventually, the trail flattened and we traversed a pass from the Rupin to the Supin river valleys. Our campsite was exposed and small. We just barely got our tents out of the bags before the sun hid behind Vijay Top - at 3:15pm! Many thanks to the porters who once again whipped up an extravagantly large bonfire to keep us warm. The highlight of the evening was seeing the light of the sunset on the snow peaks, including Bandarpunch!

Rupin-Supin Pass


Sunset on the Himalaya.
Left peak is Swargarohini (6247m)
Right double peaks are Bandarpunch!

Big fire #2

Sunset and my tent.

Bright star and moonlit peaks.

Day 5: High Camp to Supin Meadow Camp
Due to a freezing night (literally, our water bottles were frozen!) and the appreciation of a quiet morning, Matt and I chose not to wake up the students. They still rose quite early - the morning sun with its promise of warmth beckoning them out of their sleeping bags. The descent to our next camp proved to be less than two hours of walking, including a luxurious break. My knee was acting up, so it was a frustrating hike, but I still appreciated the chance to spend an afternoon in the sun at our expansive campsite.

After napping (and too many cups of chai), the group was high-energy. We spent the last hours of daylight playing games, including trying to balance on pointy rocks, finger-fencing, showing off stupid human tricks, voyageur wrestling, and  - the biggest crowd-pleaser of all - silent football.

A quiet morning.

Caught sketching!
Photo cred: Matt

Calling the troops to start our descent.
Photo cred: Matt

Prashant and I walking the ridgeline.
Photo cred: Matt

Photo cred: Matt


Balancing games.

Finger fencing.


Day 6: Supin Meadow Camp to Jakhol
Another lazy morning before heading down to the Supin river. We passed through another village and were asked to give some medical advice. Many of the villagers can't afford medicine, much less the time it takes to walk to the nearest doctor. We did our best and passed out a few medicines that we wouldn't be needing. We continued downhill until we reached the raging river and a sunny lunch spot. Students desperately tried to cleanse themselves in the freezing water and then we all napped in the sun. An extravagant break of nearly two hours before forging ahead. Again, our presumption that we would continue downhill was wrong - a few more hours of mostly flat with some steep inclines until we reached the town of Jakhol. The site had a pretty view, but was definitely the worst of the trip due to the layer of animal dung covering the ground. On the plus side, we enjoyed being able to use our hands without gloves on for the first time and spent the evening star-gazing.

Villagers passing through our campsite. Collecting
hay in the early morning.


Observing the trespassers.


The river!

Lots of snoozin'

Cool Bridge.

Day 7: Jakhol to Woodstock
An early rise to get on the road as soon as possible. While out of practice from our previous "slow morning" days, the kids were fantastic and were ready to go 20 minutes before our goal - the promise of showers and mattresses is no doubt motivating! We piled into jeeps and drove to Sankri, switched vehicles, and continued the long drive to Woodstock.

1 comment:

Treks in Himalayas in india said...

Because the Himalayas, home of the snow, is the most impressive system of mountains on the earth, and for centuries the setting for epic feats of exploration.