"Its not advisable to do this trek alone."
"Its too steep"
"Its too dangerous"
"Its easy to lose your way, even our guides lost the trail for a while last year"
"We were roped up last year, how can you do it alone ?"
In retrospect i should have probably heeded to those warnings, but i was so intent on doing the Rupin Pass trek solo that although i wavered for a while, in the end i set off alone. For me the trek was not about crossing the pass but more about seeing how far i could go, seeing how i'd react when faced with difficult situations in the mountains. Alone.
It was to be a journey of self discovery. To measure myself, not against the mountains or against anyone else but against my inner demons, more specifically my fears and self doubts.
Would i face my fears and push on or Would i give up and turn back ?. Would i be reckless with my safety driven by the desire to reach my goals or would i play it safe, taking calculated risks and taking care not to over reach my limits and cross some line of no return?. These questions were in my mind for a long time ever since i decided to spend this year trekking in the mountains. There was only one way to find out and that was to put myself in the very situations i was anxious about and seeing firsthand how i would react.
The Rupin pass trek was the perfect start to get some of my answers. It is a 8 day trek over a 4650m pass with numerous obstacles thrown in between. Steep trails, slippery snow bridges and a 400m waterfall bar your path before you reach the pass itself. A steep icy chute cut into the ridge line of the Dhauladhar range reachable only by traversing a even steeper flanking slope leading up to the base of the pass. Both the pass and the flanking slope hang over a glacial cirque and any slip would mean that you'll fall sliding a thousand feet down the steep snow slopes to the base of the cirque.
It was also perfect in the other sense, there were no dangerous glaciers to fall into, no tricky streams/rivers to be swept away by and the trail seemed pretty straight forward with minimal chances of getting lost in the wilderness. To my mind it was a calculated risk well worth taking.
One could still fault me for being reckless but at least i cannot be faulted for not being prepared. I spent over a month in Uttarakhand, doing some short hikes in the mountains over 3000m, getting acclimatized to the high altitudes and practice carrying a heavy (~30kg) backpack. I also learnt some ice skills climbing over snow and ice in my crampons whenever the chance presented itself. It was a pity that i did not have my ice axe with me at that time to practice the vital skill of self-arresting a fall down a ice/snow slope. But in the end it did not matter much as i instinctively knew how to self-arrest my fall when i took a couple of tumbles down snow slopes. On ice it would've been a different story but that a worry for a different day and a different trek.
Without much further ado, here's an account on what happened on the trek.
The trek started harmlessly enough. On the first three days i was walking slowly, passing through remote but beautiful villages in Uttarakhand & Himachal Pradesh staying in homestays as much as possible and eating excellent home cooked Rajma Chawal. I especially loved the villages of Jiksun & Jakha in Himachal Pradesh.
Jakha is the last village on this trek, the last place to replenish on your supplies (they do have well stocked stores) and maybe even hire a Guide/Porter (400Rs/day) if you are feeling a bit uneasy about doing the trek alone. After Jakha the wilderness started and thats where the real excitement began.