The sun readying itself for the grand performance. Minutes before sunset, metres below Triund.
There’s something about climbing that makes you lighter. Sure you burn some calories and maybe even dehydrate, but it’s more than just body weight. It is as if you are shedding some mental baggage with every rising step. Lightness of the mind. Your limbs may be aching but your mind starts rejoicing. Clarity of thought, and pure joy in the slightest of things. Almost meditative.
It had been four and a half hours since our noon start from McLeod Ganj. We were now past the last tea stall on the trail, past the trekkers on their way down. Fog and trees had engulfed this final stretch. We could not see too far ahead, above, behind or below us, but we knew that our destination was close, and we could sense that it was time. And then the colours appeared.
Gradients of white, orange, pink, purple and blue, swaying from one to the other. Transitioning rapidly as if every shade was eager to have its share of the spotlight, but remaining ever so smooth and ever so composed. Suddenly, an opening in the clouds appeared, and there it was – that burning ball of gas that life ultimately depends on. The spotlight was stealing the show all by itself.
We could not contain our excitement imagining what the view would be like from the alpine meadows of Triund. We had to reach there before sunset.
Climbing is deeply rewarding. If you recall, visibility on the final stretch had been greatly reduced, so we knew little of what to expect upon completing the hike.
The trail approaches Triund from the west. Generally speaking, the Himalayas on the Indian side rise from west to east, and this range was no exception. This arrangement made for a fitting grand reveal of the ragged white peaks of the Dhauladhar as we finally arrived at Triund. For several moments, all was forgotten as I stood there taking in those majestic snow-lined peaks, grown ten-fold in stature now that we were so close. But then I turned around and had to catch my breath once again.
The westward view stretched as far as the eye could see. The immediate slopes of the Dhauladhar that we just climbed, the village of Dharamkot, the town of McLeod Ganj, the temple of the Dalai Lama, the much bigger town of Dharamshala, the valley of Kangra, the plains beyond… oh, and of course, the setting sun. I turned around to face the peaks once again, watch them bathed in the heavily angled rays of the setting sun, the snow shining as if it were gold. I turned back to face the sun when, lo and behold, the entire scene had changed! Hills, towns, valleys, rivers had all disappeared, hidden beneath the sea of clouds that had taken over for the final act. The ridge of Triund, along with the peaks behind seemed like an island rising out and above the sea. And then I witnessed the most beautiful sunset of my life so far.
At ~3000 metres, Triund and the Dhauladhar range is but a teaser. If this was the magnitude of my experience there, I can only wonder what it must be like at the higher regions of the mighty Himalayas.