Dayara Bugyal: Trekking in the snow
Being a girl hailing from the plains, seeing the snow and making snowmen had always been one of my fantasies. Almost every winter I would make plans of visiting hill stations in my country, India, to witness snowfall but somehow all my plans used to fail, until this winter.
It was a long weekend and I decided to go for a winter trek to the Himalayas in the month of January. When it comes to trekking, one can explore a lot of options in the summers, but a winter trek can be more demanding. With the help of a friend, I was able to finalise a winter trek to Dayara Bugyal in Uttarakhand. We had a week to prepare for the trek and there were was a long checklist in front of us. Since it was our first winter trek, we wanted to be fully prepared for any situation that might arise out of extremities in the snow capped hills.
Day 1: Rishikesh to Uttarkashi
We reached Rishikesh early in the morning and had a light breakfast. We were supposed to reach Uttarkashi by 2-3 pm to be able to start our journey to the base camp. We were to set our base camp near a village named Barsu. We boarded a bus from Rishikesh at 12 noon and reached Uttarkashi by 6 pm. Due to the delay in our arrival and also because of the bad weather conditions, our guide suggested us to leave for Barsu the next morning. The weather did look a bit scary so we decided to rest in Uttarkashi for the night.
Day 2: Camping in Barnala
We woke up early next morning only to find the weather scarier than last night. The clouds were roaring all over the sky and we were wrapped in our blankets shivering with cold and a little fear. It was tough to decide our next step but fortunately, the weather started to get better in an hour, so we packed our bags and left for the base camp by 9 am. It took us an hour to reach Barsu from Uttarkashi. As we were already late by an hour, we decided to start off our trek without any further halt.
The temperature at base camp was around 3-4 degrees Celsius. Initially, the trek was more of a hike with some snow here and there, but as we proceeded further, the route became trickier and our bodies were getting warmed up. To start off, we had 3 layers of clothing on us, including a t-shirt, a fleece and a down jacket, but within 20 minutes, the layering got down to just a t-shirt and lowers. The hills started to unhide their beauty and we found ourselves surrounded by snow everywhere. For as far as we could see, there was just one colour – the colour of snow. The snow that got released from the skies and blessed the hills with its serenity, that lied on the ground with utter confidence and durability, even in that chilly air, it welcomed us with such calm, that I could feel nothing but pure gratitude towards nature.
We continued our trek for around 3 hours more before we reached the next base camp in Barnala. Just as I was trying to catch my breath, I looked up at the sky and my eyes could not stop appreciating what they were witnessing. We had left the hills behind- I was standing right in the lap of a mountain, which stood like a baby among other huge mountains, standing wide and tall, covered in snow, and looking as white as could be. We wiped off a fresh layer of snow to set up our tent and then sat down to have some tea prepared by our guide, Paramjeet. After having tea and recharging ourselves with energy and excitement, we trekked another hour to a frozen lake a few hundred metres above our camp. Now we were at a height of around 8,000ft, and our shoes were completely drenched in snow.
After staying for a while at the lake we returned to our camp, where we stayed for the remaining day. We talked to a few other people who had come for the trek, discussed our experiences and had dinner. We sat down under the clear sky all packed in as many layers of clothes as we could manage. I looked up yet again – the clear sky full of stars, the mountain peaks blissfully trying to tease the sky with their touch, and the sound of birds from a distance – I could feel the vastness of nature. Nature was infinite and so was the moment we were in. I lost myself in this infinite moment and sleep took over me in a while. The temperature had gone down to -14 degrees Celsius.
Day 3: Off to Dayara
We were woken up by Paramjeet the next morning for breakfast. We quickly got freshened up and left for our final destination, Bugyal. The trek was even more adventurous than the previous day and we had to put in a lot more energy due to the increasing thickness of snow. The sun was shining brightly in the sky, its rays falling sharply on the snow, making it appear like pieces of crystals.
After 2 hours of trekking, we finally reached the mountain top at around 12000 ft. The meadows were all wrapped in snow surrounded by proud Himalayan peaks that seemed to be taking a nap in the afternoon sun. One of the mountains had encountered an avalanche just the night before when we were sleeping peacefully in Barnala, unaware of what might be going on elsewhere in the world. This was the end of the line for us and our journey would now take us back to where we started from. I felt appreciative and thankful for the beautiful journey we had. We trekked our way back to Barsu via Barnala where we stopped for a while to have lunch. Needless to say, we were tired and exhausted after the trek, but our mind was full of positivity, a positivity that was infinite like the sky, huge like the mountains and blissful like the snow.
Thinking of that moment, the poem ‘Ithaka’ (by CP Cavafy) comes to my mind and I cannot help but smile at the feeling of being lost and found in another one of those journeys.
We had reached our ‘Ithaka’ but the journey did not end, it was the beginning of a learning, beginning of an experience, a journey that would continue forever towards Mother nature.
Below are some useful links for planning a trek to Dayara Bugyal.