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