Debsu bugiyal is a long day’s hike from Taluka. We were camping here on May 15th,2016 on our way down from Maldaru tal and were enjoying a day of rest. Osla village is only couple of hours away. We had sent Bahatturu Singh with a porter yesterday evening to procure some ration and fuel from the village. While we were enjoying the morning sun with a hot cup of tea and discussing about the views of Black peak-Ruinsara peak to the east (beyond Ruinsara valley) and Atta peak to the north( to HarkiDoon valley), the duo returned. We had breakfast together and after another round of sweet milk tea we started off.
We came down from Debsu bugiyal through dark deep conifers and hit the bottom of the gorge in half an hour where the Ruinsara river is gushing down from the glaciers of the east/south-east. We crossed the nalah over a wooden bridge and continued to move south-east with Ruinsara nalah flowing down on our right. This was a pretty gradual climb with a very well established trail. The surrounding looked wild and remote, we moved up slowly as the green himalayan grasslands and alpine shrublands appeared. Ruinsara valley looked serene. At last appeared the forest of silver Birches which indicated that Ruinsara tal (Lake) was not far away. The Birch grove looked like a wild garden of Eden with its maize of silvery branches on a green grassy background.
We reached the tal in the afternoon.To the north of the tal standing the great south wall of Swargarohini massif, with the peak being so close that the summit not visible. Through the south of the tal Ruinsara nalah flows down from the direction of Dhundhar Kandi to the east, with the gigantic peaks of Ruinsara visible on the other side of the nalah.
Ruinsara tal is an old glacial lake, the glacier having retreated afar. It is a beautiful shallow green lake with see-through water and a grand view of Ruinsara peaks covering the east sky. As the sun hits its flora rich floor it churns out magical imagery for the spectator.
Water keeps sipping down beneath the west bank of the tal to appear as a tiny little stream of clear water on the undulating grassy meadow just below the lake. There is couple of tin roofed concrete huts by this stream which can be used for kitchen and stay. We pitched a three men and used one of the huts to acomodate all eight of us. It was a cold night with clear sky but the small hut was warm enough from a smoky wooden fire and we slept in comfort.
Just before the sunrise I was awakened by a loud thud of gunfire from the direction of north. I slept off again. Later at 7:30 morning while lounging outside with a cup of tea in wait for the sun to reach the camp, I came to know about the hunt which took place that night. Bahtturu said shikaris from villages hunt for Bharals in the area. This is summer time so the Bharals can graze the higher pastures but that advantage doesn’t guarantee its survival from its nemesis the hunters. Shikaris climb the steep inclines armed with rifle or shot gun and lie in ambush around the Bharal trail. In winter when games of the park descend down to the bottom of the ruinsara gorge, hunting becomes easier. This shocking and surprising atrocity inside of Govind Pashu national park saddened and alarmed us and a decision was made to report this incident to the Divisional forest officer upon our return from the exploration. Bahtturu singh, an uneducated garhwali of ripe age clearly didn’t see the hunt as unlawful as he promoted the Bharal’s meat as ‘the best mutton’ one can get anywhere and how delicious the meat was the last time.
We finished our breakfast with sweet suji and achar parantha and moved our camp to farther east. Today’s destination is Swargarohini basecamp aka Kiarkoti.
We started climbing the southern bank of ruinsara tal, traversed from west to east and half an hour later we could identify the Yamnotri pass gap beyond the river valley to the south. The grassy moraine was gently inclined and we could move steadily as the sun lit the blue sky and meadow. As we gained altitude for couple of hours and the trails started to turn into desolate , dusty spines of rock and moraines, Dhumdhar Kandi pass came into view. Mt Garuda was also visible just to the south of the pass. After negotiating a couple of narrow steep unstable patches of rock gully we came down to a medium sized stream flowing from north surrounded by old glacial debris.
We crossed the stream and found the lovely tiny grassy plain squeezed between the old moraines of Swargarohini glacier and high bank of ruinsara nalah. This windswept camp site is the south basecamp of Swargarohini. Dominating the scene is the Ruinsara peak beyond the river to the south-east. To the north lies the wide and daunting white wall of Swargarohini.
It was just 12 in the morning and even though we had enough time to set up, finish lunch and explore the site we decided against it. Our afternoon was spent admiring the view of the mountains, its ice falls, the hanging glaciers, its rivers and ever expanding stretch of moraines of the upper ruinsara valley. I could hardly think of anything more rewarding than spending a summer evening at Kiarkoti. As the last rays of the sun kissed the mountains goodbye they turned red and gold, while we prepared for a cold windy night with some satisfaction easily enough to warm a sleeping bag.
Next day we crossed the ruinsara nalah at 7 am morning. We did not have a rope and the route we took was hardly used as a trek route. So we chalked out plans but was only able to cross the river with minor accident. Bahtturu and me chose a wrong place to cross and got drowned till the neck and blown away by the current for a few meters before we could rescue ourselves luckily. We could find some boulders to hold and arrest us just before the cascade. The river-crossing was a thrilling and chilling experience and a learning one, clearly to help in future.
We hiked through junipers with no signs of trail for a couple of hours. Now we were moving to the direction of the flow of the nallah. We were going south-south-west.
We would camp just opposite to the ruinsara tal and the next day we’d break off into two parties one of which will hike 22 kms downhill to reach Seema while the other will head towards Yamunotri pass; but that’s another story, for another time.
To add: We reported the Bharal hunting incident to the Divisional forest officer Uttarkashi with details but have not received any reply as yet.