We already knew that today was going to be tiring day for us and had braced for it mentally. The plan was to go till Homkund (~15200 feet) which was about 4 km from Dodang, then climb Ronti Saddle (~17500 feet), come back to Dodang and after lunch to go down till the next campsite at Chandaniya Ghat.
We got up at 4.30AM and got ready. It was extremely cold and we knew sunrise would take some more time. Finally we started at 5.30M.
From the campsite it was it steep climb for about 30 mins and then it was all scary ridge walks. The widths of the ridges were so small that one can put only one step at a time. We were walking very cautiously. Looking around was a daring task. It was scary and caution was required at each and every step. We decided not to take any chances regarding being cautious and to take the help of the guide wherever required.
I was wondering if the same trail is going to be used for Nanda Devi Raj Jaat Yatra in 2012, with so many people walking together there can be disasters if precaution is not taken. But Mahendar later told us that the administrators for the Yatra would take all the precautions and would get the trail ready for use by the public before the yatra starts.
JP, Sandeep and I were walking together, Rajeev was in the middle and Ajay was coming with guide. While walking on such ridge, Ajay started feeling dizzy. He wanted to go back. We all knew that It was good decision because a wrong step could here could have been life threatening. We saw that Rajeev was also going back with Ajay. It was only later we came to know that they both had pact that they would do the Ronti part together if it all. I think it was a nice gesture on part of Rajeev. We all knew that he was quite keen on going till Homkund. One of the porters went back with Ajay and Rajeev.
We were making good progress towards Homkund. On one of the ridges, the path had broken down completely and we had to take some help from the porters cross it.
We reached the sacred lake of Homkund at around 7 AM. It was an amazing feeling. This was one of those places where one can really feel the presence of the Almighty.
We were very happy that we had made it till this point. There was a small temple where our porters offered pooja. We spent some time here. One of the porters explained the significance of the Yatra and kind of showed us around the Kund. The lake was partially frozen, but the water was very clear and felt strangely felt warmer too. We could have spent an entire day here but realized that we still had a considerable amount of trekking left in the day.
After about 30 minutes, we started for the climb towards Ronti saddle. The climb to Ronti saddle was initially all on boulders. We realised very quickly that we were now walking at more than 16000 feet as we could feel the lack of oxygen.
The best part was that the weather was superb for the climb. It was clear and the we would be getting sunlight soon. It was a tough climb negotiating the boulders and after a while we could see what we thought was the Ronti saddle. It looked so close yet appeared so far.
Since the Bengali group had visited Ronti saddle before couple of days, we thought we would get to see their footmarks in snow and we would follow the same. But strangely we did not get to see any such footmarks. Mahendar then told us that he thought they returned back after the initial climbing the initial boulder zone.
We had left the boulder zone behind us and were now negotiating the hard snow. The snow was slippery hence we were progressing carefully. We zig zagged our way on the slippery snow. At some point we were walking up at a very slow pace just because we were scared of slipping down. After negotiating the snow , we finally reached at top of the saddle at around 9.30 AM. The saddle is at around 17500 feet and is actually looks like a pass between the Nanda Ghunti and Trishul ranges.
The weather was very clear and the views from here were fantastic. Ronti – 1 looked very close to the saddle. Even the summit of Nanda Ghunti looked close and while we were there we heard couple of avalanches on the other side of this massive mountain. We were wondering if we should go a little further as we were neither tired nor fatigued. But we decided to stick to our original plans and decided to spend some time on saddle and then go down. Some of the mountaineers attempt Nanda Ghunti from this face via Ronti saddle.
After clicking photos in different victorious poses, we started our descent down.
It had taken us about 2 hours to climb from Homkund and it took us exactly one hour to get back to Homkund from the top. After negotiating the same scary ridges, we were back to our campsite at Dodang at about 12:15 in the afternoon after having walked for about 6-7 hours.
We were a little tired and after reaching the camp, we came to know Ajay and Rajeev had already left for the next campsite. We had no option but start for the next campsite after lunch.
When we were resting at Dodang the small creek which flowed next to the camp, had stopped in the night and there was no water flowing anymore. Suddenly at 1 PM sharp, we heard the sound of water and water started flowing again in the creek. We knew it was because of the glacial melting above but it reminded me as if we were getting timely water supply from Municipal Corporation every day.
We had a good heavy lunch and started around 1.15 PM for Chandaniya Ghat, our next campsite. None of us wanted to walk on the boulders, so we asked our guide if there was any other route. We could see that there was one route on top of the ridges on our right and it required a steep climb but we were not very sure how much feasible it was to take that route.
We descended to the boulders from our campsite. The river Nandakini was in its full flow at this time of the day and we had to cross the river at an appropriately safe place. We did manage to cross the river after some time.
After this point after having walked for about an hour, we decided to ascend the ridge and tried to do so after holding a very sturdy variety of grass that we had seen growing on the ridges around us. This was a special kind of grass, which I had seen mostly after crossing Junar Gali. After we reached the ridge, we had to trample our way on this grass on the sloping ridge. But it was still better compared to walking on the boulders.
Though there was no marked trail here, but we knew the general direction of the next campsite and it took us another 2 hours to reach the campsite at Chandaniya Ghat (~10500 feet)
The porters had already pitched our tents and told Ajay and Rajeev about our successful climb to Homkund and Ronti Saddle. Ajay and Rajeev came out of their tent and congratulated us. We were all very happy the way the day had ended. It had been fruitful and I was happy that we had made it till Homkund and beyond.
While we were getting down to the camp, the weather had turned bad and after sometime it started to rain. Looking back towards Dodang and Homkund, we could see that the whole of the area was under bad weather and it would be snowing there heavily. Again I think, it was our sheer luck that we got such beautiful weather whenever it mattered. We had excellent views and clear weather at the top of Ronti Saddle.
The campsite at Chandania Ghat campsite was much crowed – and no there were no trekkers there. We were the only trekking group. The rest of the folks comprised all the “Keeda Jadi” hunters who had come from villages like Sutol. It was kind of a base camp for them and everyday in the morning they would go all around in the mountains in search of Keeda jadi and come back in the evening.
This was one of the memorable days of my trekking life and a visit to the sacred Homkund had made it more special.