The White Ridge comes into view

Updated: Apr 06, 2020, 07:52 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Mountaineers cheer as peaks of the Dhauladhar range are in full view thanks to low pollution levels; veteran climber Harish Kapadia is part of the delighted climbing circle

Temple of Dalai Lama at McLeodganj with Mon Peak of Dhauladhar in the background
Temple of Dalai Lama at McLeodganj with Mon Peak of Dhauladhar in the background

"I see you Dhauladhar," is the rallying cry across the mountaineering community. Avid climbers have been rejoicing about the sudden appearance of the Dhauladhar range within the Himalayas. Pictures of the range have popped up on social media accounts of the climbing coterie.'

Dip in air pollution has meant that the peaks of this range are now visible from the Punjab plains. This has been one more fallout of the lockdown, where nature seems to be regenerating, asserting or simply becoming more visible.

Adding to the decibel level of cheers all around, is the voice of Mumbai's veteran mountaineer Harish Kapadia. Said the climber, "The Dhauladhar ranges were invisible from the plains for many years because of industrial pollution. The current Coronavirus lockdown has meant dip in pollution and a clear view." These pictures are now doing the rounds on social media. Yet, given the plethora of pictures, skeptics have questioned their credibility.

Harish Kapadia

"There is no doubt about these though," said Kapadia. "These are authentic pictures. This is a wonderful sight and absolutely true. You can identify peaks also. This is not fake news, but great news of clean air and a call for us to keep it that way."

The White Ridge
Kapadia, 74, has climbed this range several times. "I do not climb any longer, I am now an avid trekker. Yet the Dhauladhar holds a special place in my heart and in the sole of my mountain boots. The range rises from plains of Punjab without any intervening local lower range like the Shivaliks in all the other parts of the Himalaya. This range was always seen from the plains before pollution. In fact this view gave this range its name, Dhauladhar, or The White Ridge. In all the other parts of the Himalayan Range, one has to travel by road for at least 200 km to reach the high mountains. Here, in about 50 km of travel, from the railway station of Pathankot or the airport at Gaggal, one can reach quite high up above, say Dharamsala or Dalhousie, and climb from there. This is one of the most accessible ranges within the Himalayas and closest to the towns."

Sunset point
Kapadia also reminisced about seeing several sunsets in the Punjab plains from the different peaks in Dhauladhar. "It is the reverse," he laughed.

"Usually, people watch the sun set from the flat plains and slip behind the mountains, retiring from the day shift so to speak. Here, I saw the sunset below from a height on the mountains. The plains of Punjab were set ablaze in a golden-red glow, it was magical."

Technical test
The Carmichael Road native added that the Dhauladhar peaks are a good place to practice especially for fairly new climbers, "As they are climbs that demand technical expertise and one can sharpen one's technique climbing The White Ridge. Then you have the Gaddis there who are shepherds, there are a great many with their flock. They are good company, and a great help too, with routes, etc. This is familiar terrain for them," finished Kapadia who has five decades of climbing experience.

Trek that out
Kapadia has trekked through relatively unexplored terrain in Arunachal Pradesh, "Which is extremely thickly forested, one has a lot of tribal villages and of course soldiers! I am writing a book on my Arunachal experiences. The clear sight of Dhauladhar has made my heart sing, and given more power to my pen, for in the end, the mountains, or on land, it is all about the spirit of adventure and exploration."

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