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Hemkund Trek Story

Hemkund Trek

I was again moving on an high altitude trek where my fitness in the high mountains was of prime importance as I was to be on the trail more or less alone and the region was high. I was in the Joshimath area and planning the high altitude cross over from Garhwal to Kumaon. The acclimatization was required and I thought of doing the Kauri pass trail, but had to give up because of the high cost to which I could not agree to. The best option seemed in taking the pilgrim trail to Hemkund Sahib, the high altitude lake which has the Gurudwara and is visited by thousands of Sikhs during the season. Though I had been to the place on a number of occasions but this was to be a visit into a different setup. As it is a pilgrim trail I did not have to worry about food and also about camping. So I packed up the rucksack with some essentials and some load just for the carry and took a jeep to Govindghat, the starting point of the trek. Well, Govindghat has grown big and is full of shops selling items of religious interest mainly to the Sikhs. The lane leading to the bridge which takes you across the fast flowing Alaknanda is lined with these shops on both sides. Just before the bridge is the Gurudwara and the langar.

  The weather seemed good, though there were clouds in the sky. The sun was shining on the trail with all its might. As soon as I crossed the bridge I left behind the well organized complex and was on a zigzag climbing path. The path was cemented and lined with a railing on the valley side. A number of horses keep moving up and down this trail ferrying the old and not so old pilgrims upto Hemkund and back. However, the path was absolutely clean thanks to the people employed for sweeping it. The initial climb was over after 2 km and the path eased out though it was still climbing up. The village of Pulna came into view and the path bye passed it and kept climbing. On the other side of the valley some hydroelectric work was in progress. One thing I missed on the path was the water taps. I hardly saw any. However, there are shops all along selling water, cold drinks and snacks. I keep moving slowly, taking my time looking at the way things have changed on the route. I stop out side a trail side shop looking at the ceiling fans. As I took the picture, the owner looked at me with amusement, but I could not help it, a sure enough sign of global warming. I kept moving slowly watching the scene around the path and people of various age and motivation moving towards and back from Hemkund. The ones moving towards Hemkund were getting tired and had a look of excitement. The ones moving back were moving fast and had a relieved and content look on the face.

The trail is now moving just above the river, which was flowing with all its force and furry. I reach the village and stop at the first shop selling fried peanuts. I start speaking with the owner, Shri Jasbir Singh Chauhan  and the talk drifted towards the Kagbhusandi lake for which the route goes from this village. He has been there a couple of times and is ready to take me there. The charges are very high, may be because it is off the main trail and not many venture there. He knew the way from the village to the lake and back the same way. I sat there chatting for long and then moved off looking for the trail moving towards Kagbhusandi lake. The peaks at the end of the valley were now covered in clouds. The trail passes through the village and then the memorial stone in memory of the climbers who lost their life on Hati Parwat expedition. The cemented path vanishes for some time as the river rages near by. The good cemented path is again there and after some time I reach the dhaba on the river bank. Lots of seating arrangements have been made and it is good. I have my lunch there and am very pleased the way I get the service. Happy and full I move on. The path crosses over the river and the climb begins straight away. The good path is over and it's a un-cemented path through the jungle. The climb continues till the opening, where the Helipad is located and the path levels out. The camp site of two eco tour operators come into view. Passing the two and some small climb latter I am at the hotels of Ghanghria. The place is full of hotels and restaurants. The Gurudwara is all surrounded by the hotels of all hue and cry. The restaurants are selling all the food possible, including the south Indian Idle and Dosa. The batter it is told comes from down below as it is too cold up here.

The day has been a long and tiring one for me as it always happens on the first day in the mountains. I go to the GMVN's bungalow and get the bed for one night. Next day it seems it is full. Well, I move to the room and take rest and chat with other people in the complex.

I get up early morning and get ready for the walk to Hemkund and back. As I moved out to have a look at the skies I encountered drizzle. There was no option but to move on and so I continued on my way. There was activity in the lanes, but it was a bit difficult for me to take photos as I tried to save the camera from water. The climb is initially moderate and after some time I reach the junction where the trail to Valley of flowers bifurcates. Leaving it for the next day I take the path to Hemkund. Lots of pilgrims are on the trail. A big waterfall was thundering down, high above the right hand side. The path started the zigzag traverse of the mountain and started to climb up steeply. A look back told something about the climb already made. The total climbing time is nearly three and half hours. The drizzle instead of stopping had become rain and most of the people were covered by the thin cheep plastic. Some where moving without any warm clothing. The overall scene was damp and down. I moved to a shop for my breakfast and some hot tea. The food and tea brought some relief from the cold and again I set out on the path. Some more climb latter I reached the stream and crossed it over a small bridge. Thereafter the route again split. A bit longer and gentle one for the horses and humans trying to avoid steep climb  and a shorter and steeper for the human being. The rain was not letting up and with height the cold was also increasing. At the end of the climb a flag could be seen, and that was supposed to be the end of the climb up. Some where beyond it, was the Hemkund Sahib, which was not to be seen from my present location. The steep climb and the altitude was leading to breathlessness. Well frequent stops for catching breath was the only solution. Only nearing of the flag pole was adding to some comfort. The pole passed and soon I was standing under the archway looking at the Gurudwara and the Hemkund. The relief of making the climb was taken away by the rain and the wet cold body because of sweat.

I immediately moved to the langar where tea and khichadi were being served. The place was full of people and quite slushy because of rain. But there was no choice and I stood in line for tea and khichadi. The hot food brought some relief from cold. It was nearly impossible to take out the camera in the rain. I was remembering the umbrella I always carry and to save weight this time I had left it behind at home. The only place where I could stand and think of taking out camera was the shed next to the lake where the pilgrims taking dip in the holy waters of the lake were changing clothes. The place was also wet, but that was the only option. I moved there and took out the camera for some photos of the place. The josh of pilgrims getting ready to take the holy dip and those who had finished it was seen to be believed. One old man tried to motivate me to take the dip as he thought I was standing there for the dip but was scared because of the cold. Before others could join him I thought it fit to leave the place. A visit to the Lokpal temple which stands nearby to the massive Gurudwara complex  was in order and I dashed there. The pujari was sitting quietly and was not interested in me till I took out some money. It seemed that not many visit the place and most certainly not on a rainy day.    

My main aim to visit the place was over, but I could not enjoy it because of rain and the consequential no views. I went to the Gurudwara and had to remove the shoes, which were wet to the core. Some how I removed them and went up to pay my respects. The big hall was full of pilgrims and devotional reading was in progress. I paid my respects and returned. Putting on the wet shoes was a bigger problem then taking them off. I was terribly cold by now and so went to the langar for another glass of tea. Immediately thereafter, I moved to the path on my way down. I reached the shop where I had my breakfast and had some food and tea. The rain had increased in intensity and the clouds were lowering as was the temp. I thought about the people up there and those who were still moving up. The weather was taking a turn for worse.  I moved down as fast as I could and reached the junction of the trail from VOF, where I met the group with whom I was sharing the room at GMVN. They had been to the VOF and seemed to have enjoyed the place thought without rain it would have been much better.

At GMVN I was told that no place was available and so I shifted my bag to the Forest Guest House. Once there I realised that all my  stuff was wet to the core and needed drying. Salvaging some thing to wear, I opened up all my stuff. I went to the market for a stroll and went to a shop where I met Shri Rajnish Singh Chauhan. He is running a shop selling photographs of the place and bead necklaces etc. I was quite amazed to see the photo of the complete mountain on which Hemkund is located. The photo I was told was taken from high above the mountain on the other side. Anyway it is an excellent photo and one must see it during their visit to the place. He also is a trained mountaineer and can take people on treks to the nearby places. I felt good taking to him and thanking him for sharing his photos with me I moved out. I could not resist having some chowmin at the hotel run by Shri Chauhan's brother. To kill time I went to GMVN for catching up on stories of other peoples. Though everyone was content, they missed clear weather. I had my dinner and as it was getting cold I moved into my  warm sleeping bag which was not wet.

It was still raining when I left Ghanghria and there was no point in my stopping anywhere. I came to the dhaba where I had had my lunch on the way up and remembering his service stopped there. The aloo parathas were excellent but also slowed me down considerably. Moving slowly without any further stopping I reached Govindghat and the road. I jeep was leaving for Joshimath and by the lunch time I was there after a very wet trek. 


Hemkund Trek Photos

Hemkund Trek Plan



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Published on: 2010-03-20 (2266 reads)

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