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A Garrulous Gorge: Trekking in Tirthan Valley – Part 2 of 6

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

It was too beautiful a sunset the previous evening, there had to be a price to pay… I mumbled to Karan as the drizzle started caressing the tent at six in the morning… as any hiker will tell you, the worst time of the day to start raining, for after a night of trying to unsuccessfully figure out the contours of the sleeping bag, there is nothing more one wishes to do then stretch their legs out in the sun, say goodbye to the dew and start trundling towards the next hill.

We used to be distraught during the earlier years of our sojourns into the backcountry, the prospect of losing time almost criminal to our race against time attitude, but then the mountains weather you as they are weathered themselves, and the youthful conscientiousness starts evolving into an imperturbable disposition.

With the drizzle showing no signs of abating, we sat around the fire, discussing the antics of the pika in the night trying its best to pull onions through the stone wall… our guide time and again vehemently emphasized on the fact that if you try to hit a pika, it will make it its sole purpose in life to come after your stuff… some tale of cold vengeance… you would want to bemusedly disbelieve the fact but in the mountains you don’t, for if by some perchance the rodent does take a fancy to your gear, you could blame serendipity all you want but it wouldn’t suffice.

Karan and I took a short walk in the drizzle and rounded back to the tent, ending up dozing off for a couple of hours before the cry for lunch woke us up at 2 pm. The rain had subsided, but ‘twas too late in the day to be packing and moving, so we decided to attempt a rocky peak to the north west. Halfway up the climb, I surmised gasping between burps and heartburns that it would’ve prudent to wait for 10-15 minutes after eating before beginning to move, the body now straining to multitask with the depleting rations of oxygen as we meandered upwards.

Rains have their rewards, and had we not been held up for the day, we’d never have seen the large congregation of Bramh Kamal (Saussurea obvallata) that unfolded before our eyes half an hour into the climb. The mist was rolling in thick, but we managed to spot a Snow Mountain quail peeping out from a rocky outcrop, turned out they were almost a dozen as tried to get closer for a shot, but ‘tis the way of the avifauna to tease and then fly away.

The going was slow as the slope got steeper, and ‘twas almost 4 pm by the time we managed to reach the top of the ridge, and the little rocky outcrop we’d seen from the base turned out be almost 200 meters of exposed climbing. With no ropes in rising mist and fading daylight, we decided to let it pass, for it’d be mighty tricky to get out if it started raining. Cowered behind a rock with windcheaters held tight, we gazed and gazed, drinking views of valleys on the other side leading up to Shrikhand Mahadev, musing at the antics Griffon on its circular surveys, surveying cautiously the mist eating and spitting out the landscape on a whim, and letting out guffaws at Rock buntings not taking kindly to human invasion on their mountain top at such late hours.

A gust of cold wind broke the reverie, and down we went, past the scattered wings of a Monal probably laid to rest by a Griffon, past the rock falls and the countless rabbit holes, past the countless herbs and flowers, past the panorama to the meadow where we’d lay another night, hoping the stars wouldn’t need the clouds for a cloak again.

Asurbag Meadows, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
A heart warming sunset gave way to a nippy, drizzly morning, with no sign of wind to blow the clouds again

 

Asurbag Meadow, Great Himalayan National Park
The drizzle abated around 2pm, and we decided to make a dash for a rocky peak after lunch

 

Asurbag Camp, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
The climb was steep but manageable, though walking immediately after eating did not turn out to be such a good idea

 

Snow Mountain Quail, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
A silhouette in the mist turned out to be a Snow Partridge tentatively peeping out from a rock, too foggy to get a clear shot, we crawled up crouching breathlessly before the bird nonchalantly scoffed at our antics and flew off with another dozen of its brethren

 

Bramh Kamal, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
The upside of getting held for the day was sighting a large congregation of Bramh Kamal completely overtaking the upper slopes

 

Bramh Kamal, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
The Bramh Kamal I feel is a beautiful flower if observed from mid range, get too close and you realize there is nothing ‘that’ much to it (there is, if you think of the environs it survives in, but we are talking superficial here)

 

Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
Countless herbs we saw, our crew pretty adept at pulling out a few for keepsakes (the trade, despite all controls, still manages to sustain itself), this root is called कड़वी (I am still trying to figure out the scientific name), used for stomach ailments

 

Mountain peak, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
We made it up at a fair clip, but the weather was too misty and it was almost 4 pm when we reached the final ridge before the summit… surmising it would take another hour to clamber up and even the slightest of rain would make the rocky face absolute hell, we decided to back down, but not before loafing around for a bit…

 

Himalayan Griffon, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
Griffons and Rock buntings occupied us for a bit, and so did the calls of a Monal

 

Sunset, Trekking in Great Himalayan National Park
The irony of the entire trek was that ’twas always cloudy and foggy whenever we wanted to attempt a summit, but always cleared up when we started descending

Notes: Day 2, 10 Sep 2017:

  • Asurbag Camp (3,780m) – Top of North West Ridge (4,270m) – Asurbag Camp (3,780m)
  • Start: 3 pm, Returned: 6:30 pm
  • Drizzled from 6 am – 2pm, foggy but no rain after that
  • Trail steep and rocky, but you never expect an easy way to the top
  • Lots of Bramh Kamal
  • Birds Spotted: Female Monal, Himalayan Griffon
  • Animals Spotted: Royle’s Pika

Trek to Tirath – the source of Tirthan River, Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, Sep 9-14, 2017

Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves.

In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods.

An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster ‘inclusive’ growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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