Our First Himalayan Trek as a Family

Who are we?

We are just another Indian family of three mountain lovers – two of us in our 30s and a little one who is just under 10 yrs. Check us out at Meet The Suhas Family.

How we did we get there – figuratively and literally?

Suhas had trekked to Kedarnath temple which is at 11,755 ft when he was 14 years old so, the Himalayan bug had bitten him way back in time.

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The last one is Suhas during his Kedarnath trek
We are an outdoor family and all three of us enjoy being out in the mountains. We had planned for a Himalayan trek just for us adults sometime in mid-2016 but, had to cancel as we couldn’t leave Aarav behind. This is when we asked ourselves this question – “why shouldn’t Aarav see the Himalayas up close too?” We thought, “If we can do it, he can do it too.” We also wanted to seed the idea of being amongst mountains and nature in his early years. Aarav had demonstrated his grit when he cycled up local mountains despite hindrances.20220_10206322969545175_4785743830702224682_n

We decided to then take him along for treks to a few peaks in Karnataka to validate our belief. Aarav scaled both the Tadiandamol and Kumara Parvatha peaks in Karnataka, India. You can read a detailed illustration of our Tadiandamol and Kumara Parvatha treks. While the Tadiandamol trek was moderate, Kumara Parvatha was difficult.  These experiences gave us confidence and we took the plunge. While both our previous treks in Karnataka were self –led, we thought it would be a safer bet to do at least our first Himalayan trek with a professional group. We signed up with Indiahikes as they are best in this business. We also came up with a crazy idea to drive across India, do this trek and drive back to Bangalore in our family sedan. You can read a detailed illustration of our Road Trip Across India.

Trek Route:

Day 0/1: Sari Village near Ukhimath, Rudraprayag district is the base camp for this trek route. To get here, we drove from Rishikesh through some scenic roads via Devprayag and Rudraprayag districts. River Ganga is born in Devprayag where Rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi meet.

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Alakananda River somewhere near Agustamuni in Rudraprayag district
This village is at 6,554 ft altitude. We got to Sari a day earlier to acclimatize. The days were warm and sunny while the temperatures dropped drastically once the sun sets. We were put up in a local guest house in the village with basic facilities – rather more comfortable than what one would expect from a village. This is because Sari is always bustling with activity owing to it’s proximity with Deoriatal which is a popular lake and a popular trek route to the lake. A picturesque village amongst the mountains with a very small population and a lone school (that one would fancy teaching in) – Sari is a dreamer’s nest.

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The lone school and this was built in 1947
We met the trek lead and the base camp staff from India hikes on Day 1. We went through an hour long briefing by the trek lead – Sandeep Verma. A mix of humor and important information, Sandeep ensured that the hour long briefing was a breeze. It prepped us well for the days to come. Aarav had a 12 year old – Brinda – for company so he was excited about starting the trek next morning.

Day 2: We started the day early with briefing; quick pulse / oxygen check, breakfast, packing and a quick warm-up. We finally started the trek around 09:00 hrs.dsc_2139

The first section was a steep climb so it had most of us puffing our way up for a distance. Aarav was up ahead of the group for most part. Everyone took a breather as soon as we got to the peak of the first climb.

 

dsc_2147The first day of trek was meant to be a short one – around 3 hours of hike / trek. The terrain was rolling with short climbs and descents but mostly through rhododendron and maple forest. We kept taking short breaks to ensure the group stays together. Around noon time, we got ourselves to Deoriatal which is where we were to camp for the night. At 7,999 ft, Deoriatal locally known as Devriya Taal was a pretty sight. We were not alone as there were other groups of trekkers / tourists also camping by the lake. We went through another quick briefing, a quick stretching routine and off to our respective tents to change into our thermals as the Sun started to go down.

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Camp site at Deoriatal
Early evening, we strolled to the points where we could gaze at the majestic Himalayan Peaks and the crimson sunset.

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Once the sun was down, it was time to settle in for some games. Aarav at this point was quite comfortable with the bunch of trekkers and his new found friend so, he was away doing his own things in the campsite. The temperature started to drop quite a bit so we had some hot yum dinner and called it a day while Aarav continued to play with the group. The game for the evening was – multiples of 3. Once Aarav returned to out tent, to ensure he stays warm, Suhas and Aarav got into the same sleeping bag. A little cramped but, a warm night’s sleep guaranteed – lights were put off for the day.

Day 3:

We woke up to a pretty cold morning! The water tank had a layer of frost formed at it’s mouth. There was frost on the tents and on the lake. With the morning’s business done (with as much discomfort), we were ready for second day’s trek. Same routine – bags packed, pulse / oxygen check, breakfast, briefing and off we go! One additional step in today’s routine was packing of lunch as we were to have lunch on the way.

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Today was meant to be the longest day of this trek – 8 kms – which included a steep climb. Aarav now had found a friend in Brinda and Sandeep so he hung around both of them. Sandeep seemed to love children so all the 3 of them together were a riot. After scaling the steep ascent, the rest of the trek was quite comfortable. We crossed through some thick forests and open grasslands, watched some beautiful birds. At one point, we could see Sari village right down a mountain and that’s when you truly realize the height scaled. We found a good spot to stop for lunch, gobbled up what we had packed and sprung up to continue the trek owing to the cold breeze that was hitting us.

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Sandeep taking a quick one while we munched on our lunch
We got to Rohini Bhugyal mid-afternoon and as the temperature was dropping again, we did a quick round of stretching routine and got into our warmers. Rohini Bhugyal is a meadow with the views of Kala Parvat peaks and Kedar dome. This campsite is situated at 8,851 ft but since, it’s a meadow there was a flat patch of land and the boys broke into a game of cricket almost immediately while the women indulged in some photo posing.

We had acclimatized well so although the temperature started to drop further in the evening, we weren’t feeling too cold. We wrapped up the day with some games and dinner. Tonight, Aarav had tried his own sleeping bag.

Day 4:

We woke up yet again to a cold morning – colder than the previous mornings. This time the frost was more evident and the ice formation on the mouth of the water tank was solid! We got done with our morning business, followed the morning routine and took off to our next camp.

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Today, we were to trek for 6 kms and the trek was meant to again go through thick forests. We also had to cross a stream and a short patch of tarmac.

The trek was rolling terrain with very short climbs. Aarav was again trekking along with his friends for most part. Our break at the stream was serene.dsc_2551

The water from this stream was clean and one could drink straight out of it. We hit the tarmac patch closer to Chopta and that’s when we were greeted with a shower of snow pellets. The entire group was ecstatic as this is the moment everyone was waiting for. Almost immediately, phones and cameras popped out and everyone got busy with pictures and videos. We had a short walk on tarmac and soon got to our camp in Chopta located at 8,790 ft. The snow pellets continued to fall and in no time, the camp site had a thick layer of snow. Everyone, spontaneously, broke into a snow ball fight.

The weather was changing constantly – sunny at times and cloudy with very cold winds in a matter of few mins. The snow pellets weren’t wetting our jackets so we got rid of our rain ponchos but added an extra layer to stay warm. The following morning was the Summit trek with a very early start so we decided to call it a day with an early dinner. Sandeep briefed us just before dinner and since it was an early cold start, we were advised to get dressed for the Summit trek and then sleep to avoid getting dressed in the morning. Since we didn’t have to carry our backpacks for the Summit (we were to return to the Chopta camp after the Summit), we didn’t have to bother about the packing of backpacks. With much anxiety of the Summit morning, we packed into our sleeping bags around 19:00 hrs. We weren’t going to sleep though until 21:00 hrs, thanks to other campers chatting into the night.

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Kedar dome at a distance
Day 5:

02:00 hrs, alarm bells were ringing with different tones from different tents. The target trek start time was 03:00 hrs. We got up in time to finish our morning business (yes, at 2 AM in sub zero temperature!), ate our porridge and apple for some energy, packed some food for the way back, pulse / oxygen check and off we go, it was 03:30 hrs.

Most of us didn’t carry a headlamp and since this trek up was in complete darkness, we had to pair up basis pace and stick together. Sandeep was very resourceful and he managed light for the entire group. It was very cold, we were up against our body clock and the climb was steep. No points for guessing, Aarav was having trouble. Suhas decided to stick with Aarav and provide the push he needed. Sunita paired along with others for light and maintained her own pace. The total trek was around 3.5 kms but, constant climb. The darkness, time of the day and the bitter cold made is tough for most. Aarav wasn’t mentally prepared for this so he hit a wall and kept taking breaks for the first 1.5 kms. They hung right at the back of the group during this time. The first milestone was at around 2 kms and this was the Tunganath Temple which forms the base of this peak. Tunganath is amongst the panch kedar temples and is the highest Shiva temple in the world. At this point, Suhas and Aarav had a chat about the next 1.5 kms.15800402_1750672791925796_4590876554594915070_o

The climax was straight out of a sport / climbing movie. It was dawn and seemed like Aarav’s spirits had just got the push that was needed. Aarav got up and started the trek like he just started, he scaled the last 1.5 kms to the summit without a break and was certainly not at the back of the group. The last segment of the climb was on narrow tracks, slippery rocks but he chugged along at a steady pace. He was greeted at the peak with high fives, salutes and hugs. He stood tall at 12083 ft ! As a 9 year old, he was youngest that day on the summit – probably among the youngest to have climbed that peak.

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Sunita made it to the summit soon and she had tears in her eyes – tears of joy. We spent few minutes a top waiting for the sun to peep out. After a few minutes, the weather decided to play spoil and the clouds engulfed the peak leaving us no real view of the Himalayas or the sunrise!

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With the temperature heading south, we decided to scout and we started the descent. The descent took us to Tunganath again, this time pretty soon.

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We stopped to grab on some food that we had packed but, the food felt like straight out of the freezer. Suhas still had some of it before aborting further chomping. Soon, the snow fall started and we knew that we had to move and try getting down to the camp as soon as possible. The snow fall kept company for most part of the descent. The melting ice on the path made it slippery so most of kept slipping and falling on our bottoms. dsc_2747Sandeep then decided to take us off track and that made sense, the thick ice on the grass off track gave us traction. We reached the camp in Chopta pretty quickly but, the snow fall didn’t cease.

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Although, the rest of the day was meant to be one relaxing one, we decided to pack our bags and leave to our respective destinations immediately. We, especially, had our road trip to get back to so we bid farewell to the group and headed back to our car that was parked in the Chopta market and got back on the road.

This trek gave us the confidence we were looking for – we knew children are best placed to scale these mountains because of their agility – it’s really the mind that need the conquering. We saw Aarav conquer his mind when he scaled the last segment of the peak.

Take a look at a 5 mins video that gives us a taste of our exciting experience:

This done, our road to the mountains that we have soo fallen in love with – the Himalayas – is more clear.

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We have some exciting months coming up, so if you would like to continue reading about our experiences and adventures, hit the Follow Us button seen below.

To get a more visual dose of this beautiful trek through our camera lens, check out the photo album.

4 Replies to “Our First Himalayan Trek as a Family”

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