“There are two ways up to Triund” a fellow backpacker tells us, “The shorter is incredibly steep and unmapped, so you need a guide. The longer is easy, just follow the path up and out of the village then turn right.” It is 2pm: arguably too late, too hot and too dangerous to start the hike up to Triund Hill, 2842 metres above sea level. Our hostess shakes her head as we set off. I suspect it will take us more than a couple hours to get to the top, but hopeful that it is less than the rumoured four.
Resting only to refill water bottles or nibble on granola bars, we climb, stumble and crawl our way through the heat following the longer track. It weaves its way through back gardens in Upper Bhagsu and Dharamkot, arriving at the stony trail leading to view of the peaks.
The path is busy, sometimes hectic, but far from life-threatening. A couple of Gaddi shepherds are about to lose control over their exhaustive goat-load. The clueless creatures scatter themselves among rocks above and below the path, each shepherd hissing and whipping them sharply with leafy twigs. A couple of camera clicks later, I am stuck right in the middle. Before one particularly disorientated baby receives another thunderous whack, I lift it into my arms and carry it up to the rest of the wobbly herd. They quickly set off, only to be split apart as three horses barge fearlessly down the track, their heavy loads and metal carriers nearly knocking us all out. I lower my camera and quickly walk ahead, not liking my chances with the horses or the edge of a shepherd’s stick.
We reach Triund at five o’clock. The last lunge brings us level with the awesome whipped-cream peaks of Dhauladhar mountain range; the outskirts of the Himalayas somehow hidden behind the foothills until now. Sighing with relief, we chuck our backpacks into the last tent available to rent that night and shuffle out of our walking shoes. I spread my toes on the grass. Too mesmerised by this majestic sight to realise three types of poo are manifesting on the earth where the cows, horses and goats are also pilgrimaging.
Guitars, drums and card games surround the fires, burning out beneath a star-speckled sky. Their sparkles light up the snow. A dog barks for two hours next to the tent, a chorus of other animal howls echoing back in response. In the early morning, a hand swishes across our tent, alerting us that it is time to hike up to the snow-line for sunrise. I roll over in contempt.
A few hours later, we tackle the extra 3km hike up to the glacier, arriving at The Snowline Cafe in time for breakfast. 3200 metres high, we gaze at large pools of water mirroring the heavy mountain shards.