It was 2016, the year with devastating forest fire in the middle Himalayas , especially in Garhwal and Kumaon. Smoke blanket were omnipresent , everywhere. It was a disappointment that we could not see the Nandadevi, the Dunagiri or Panchachulli from Chandrashila because of smoke. But it was way more than that. It was a shame that so many trees had to die. It was a shame that so thick layer of carbon from the smoke had gathered atop the glaciers , melting them profusely. We left Chandrashila with a mixed return and sustained need to fight for the environment became particularly apparent.
It was a cool night. Dew drops pattered the tin roof , a dull candle at the corner kept company till I fell asleep, to wake up at the first light in sky.
Behind temple, me and Haru ignored the clear trail going the top, kept walking the path which circles the hill and veers towards Bageshwar.
Sky was flooding with blissful rays of sun. Still it was dark enough down in hillside that I couldn’t conclusively identify the ungulates(was it a mountain goat or mountain sheep?) playing peek-a-boo at every turn of the loopy meandering trail.
Reaching other side of the hill, where the trail starts to go downhill , we turned left , headed towards the top. It was no longer the typical Chandrashilla trek any more, we were walking the steep bugiyal which otherwise stays hidden behind the summit.
Much coveted warm sunshine was now on my side; the green grass , blue poppy , yellow-white daisy were all happy and smiling. In fact that in all probability was a reflection of my mind. I was happy , contented , full yet asking for more.
I couldn’t ask for more. A male Impeyan pheasant was foraging the meadows. Its metallic green crest , golden purple back and rufous tail dazzled.
Female Himalayan Tahrs(species of mountain goat) with calves were grazing the rocky corners of the hills, climbing up and down with uncanny ease. A good 500 yards away towards east, a huge group of male Himalayan Tahrs were lazing on a sunny slope.
But there was more. Haru fell behind. So I pushed harder , found a cliff at the head of the bugiyal (meadow) , brown with dried grass with black patches of bare mud. It was not a rock climb, it was a climb where the ‘holds’ were thorny tiny berries or loose dead grass. It was near vertical for 30 feet , 80 degrees slope for 100 feet and so on. The meadow walk was more than one and half km with 60 degree steady slope.
The last bit negotiated, I landed on the top of Chandrashila out of nowhere. Couple of foreign nationals were practising Yoga and breathing. Them and a local guide asked me about my route. I took the local man to the southern edge of the summit, pointed at Haru who was still hiking the bugiyal , a good 200 yard below. The man protested at this scene and told it was not possible to climb through that route.
Any way, exploration was done for the day , and I ran down the hillside , took the very route that we took in the morning and shouted at Haru. He dejectedly climbed down the meadow and we climbed Chandrashila through the normal route again.