Part 2 – Getting into the groove
The day begins with Nitin giving us a wake-up call at 5.30 am and Heera Bhai serving us hot tea at our respective tents. It was a cold morning with bleak sunlight. After the initial push, we were up and ready by 7.30 am for our day long trek to Nichnai. Each one of us was filled with zeal and excitement, bustling with energy.
What follows next is a lovely dense forest of Maple trees. Walking on green bed grass amidst the maples is an experience unique to Kashmir. The Maple forests end at the top of the ridge and the other side gently slopes down to a meadow. The green grass, blue skies, the pines and the sound of the stream makes the experience exhilarating. We now descend down the meadow lined with silver birch trees and a couple of shepherd huts.
We then ascend on small peaks cladded with snow. This is the Shekdur pass. Trekking on old slippery snow is a challenge in itself. We have to land on the heel with every step, else there are chances of slipping. I slipped a number of times on the snow patch till I got accustomed to trekking on snow. We stopped at Shekdur, by the river side for lunch. Every day’s lunch was basic – one boiled egg, potato and a veg roll. It was a good mixture of carbohydrates and proteins. It’s very important to drink lots of water and stay hydrated throughout. We replenished our water bottles with crystal clear Himalayan water fresh from the river.
After a short lunch break, we now headed towards Nichnai. The next patch was very tough. It was a boulder patch and I find it hard to trek on boulders. You need to be extremely careful while placing your foot on the boulders as there are chances of injuring yourself with a wrong move. But boulder patches improve your concentration a lot. You are not thinking of anything and concentrating very hard on each step which is an experience in itself.
I was exhausted as the boulder patch ended and we had all now made it to a height of 11,500 feet. We could see the campsite from the top of the mountain and my heart jumped with joy on successfully completing the first milestone.
|Campsite at Nichnai|
As the sun set, there were slight showers and the temperature dipped to about 5 degrees. It was extremely cold and we were shivering even with thermals, balaclava and heavy down jackets. All of us got into the dinner tent to play Antakshari and it was super fun. The session went on for a long time with everyone showing great participation. After dinner, we retired to our tents and it was the best sleep ever.
We were mentally prepared for a long trek and woke up by 5 am and set out for the trek by 7.15 am. The trail was extremely picturesque. Our first destination was to cross Nichnai Pass (13,500ft). The scenery kept changing throughout and the steep ascent was gorgeous. The trail was lined with huge snow capped mountains on the left side. Once we reached the peak of Nichnai pass, there was a steep descent. This was a long stretch of snow descent. Well, this was not just tiring but was equally funny to see yourself and others slipping, falling and skating on ice. We had our share of snow ball madness throwing snow balls at one another and still managing to keep balance.
At this point, I felt so small amidst the huge mountain range. We trekked along for some more time and by 12.30 pm we broke for lunch by the river side. A huge waterfall was splashing down the mountain cliff and joining the river.
From the waterfall, the rapid descent ends and we were now walking through a flat wide meadow. This was one of my favourite trails because of its lush green colour and the bewitching landscape. Nikhil and I hiked together through this entire green patch laughing and pulling each other’s legs.
|Lake Vishansar as seen from the top of mountain cliff|
Lake Vishansar means the lake of Vishnu, which is the source of Neelum river and houses many types of fishes such as the brown strout.The dentists from Maharashtra had a great time fishing in this lake and they got a pretty good catch for their night meal. After spending some quality time at this scenic location we went back to our campsite. AMS was hitting some people now and we were given garlic cloves as medicine. The night got very cold and we again snuggled back into our cosy nest. Amrutha, my tent mate and I chatted for a long time that night before we slept, looking forward to an exciting tomorrow.