Trail 3, Margala Hills

The Great Summer Escapade, April 2011

"Faisal Mosque" in the background

Residents of the Islamabad chase away to Damn-e-Koh or Pir Sohawa to take a respite from hot burning sun of summers and chill out with their families at a famous restaurant ‘The Monal’ developed by CDA (Capital Development Authority) that offers exquisite cuisine amongst the scenic and beautiful landscape view of the twin cities abutting the “Rawal Lake”.  People who love the continental food reserve a table at “The Treehouse” while other’s desi olfaction doesn’t allow them to go any place other than “Monal”.

However, the serious trekkers and the health conscious adventure enthusiasts prefer other entertainment and joy over eating out during weekends. They prefer to train themselves and explore their abilities and skills amidst nature’s beauty. I am glad I come from a family where every one has encouraged me to pursue such healthy activities.

The credit goes to my cousin who initiated a plan to visit Concordia, A confluence of the Baltoro Glacier and the Godwin-Austen Glacier during summer of 2012. We devised a plan to train us both starting off from the trails of Margalla Hills over these summers to get acquainted with our physical limitations before we set on for Concordia that offers enormous challenges. He (my cousin) has just returned from completing his MSc from UIUC, USA. He is as enthusiastic and excited about pulling up some muscles and physical stamina for harsh environmental conditions in extreme weather.

Trail 3, Margala Hills, Islamabad

Trail 3

So 23rd April, 2011 was the day we had a plan in mind that needed execution. The earlier night we went through blogs and kept googling on for some advice about the best trail to start off training. However we came to the conclusion that we would stick with trail 3 after reading about it on “wikitravel”. The day opened up by following an “early to bed, early to rise” scheme we followed in our school days. We slept the earlier night around 22:30 and woke up around 6:00 in the morning. With some muscles still cracking up in our body but our anxiety to meet the challenge we mustered up courage to get out of the beds and break the weekend routine. My Baba (“my dad”) still was asleep when came down the stairs to leave for the ultimate adventure we had been longing for. Actually he (Baba) had told me that he would drop us off to the starting point of the trail and would bring the car home as it wasn’t safe to leave the car parked there for long at the parking lot. However we reached the starting point at 7:55 and noted our time to start the trek at 8:00. I had a bag weighing around 2 KG hanging on my back, a trekking pole (the one I bought from Satara Market, Peshawar), and a OKLEY glasses that I wore with style to make a fashion statement. Here are some stats about the trail:-

Total Length: (start to the end point) 6 KM

Total Duration: It took us 2 Hrs and 12 Min to reach the top (with considerable amount of water breaks and at slow pace of walk)

Environment: Green, Clean and fresh air with birds chirping around

Wildlife: You may encounter some monkeys but feeding them is strictly prohibited or they won’t allow you to proceed further (However, monkeys didn’t come close to us)

Deep hidrosis half way up (about 40 minutes) the trail I was welcomed by the branding son kissing my neck fearing the severe skin burn for the first summer escapade .I did regret not to have applied my “sun block” cream. By this time I had no option left to turn back and was doomed to reach the top (the entrance of Lakhsmi Chowk restaurant) and the famous Monal Restaurant. Ten minutes afterwards was indeed a blessing in disguise under the shades of pine trees where I could munch up some energy bar and savor a sweet drink besides a prayer area (6×4 feet) made up of marble slabs. We had a five minutes rest and then we started with small steps and courage to ascend farther. This time we also noticed the alternate “Fire escape paths” in case of wild-fire in the forest. When the Malaysians (assumption) passed-by, Asfand (my cousin) put up an idea to pick this “Fire path” (assumed shortcut) further ahead to reach earlier than studied time, I affirmed. We witnessed some mineral rocks along the path but the elevation was tough and a bit steeper. However when we reached the top where this path met the trail 3 again, the Malaysian had already reached there without following the steeper path that Asfand and I followed. By this time we had no energies left, dreaded going further and were cursing each other for taking the decision. Later on we realized that this is the part of adventure and there are greater challenges in tougher terrains of Concordia for what we are training for. Then we proceeded further with only one mission to reach the top as soon as possible. It wasn’t too late when we again steered away on the right towards the wrong trail 5 which lead us to 200 m further below. But soon we realized that we were going the wrong way and started heading backwards towards the junction from where we took the wrong turn. We reached there and asked an old local man about the right path and he guided us towards the direction that would lead us to “Monal”. Eventually we reached there with all our clothes under deep sweat because of great physical exertion and sunburn after a long time.

Trail 3, Margala Hills

"The Monal" and "The TreeHouse"

We had a drink or two at the “Lakhmi Chowk”, washed our faces with cold running water and were so much perked up afterwards that we decided to descend down on foot till the starting point of the trail (6 KM). We completed this task more handsomely in an hour or less. Had some biscuits and a few sips of a reward drink (Rooh Afza) at the base and headed back on foot to our residential complex, 7.6 KMs away. We were all steamed up and our legs were charged up to go further. We reach home around 13:30 and we were starving, asking for rest and a shower. We allowed our sweat to evaporate, and then went in to our bathrooms for a shower. We had an amazing ‘Chicken Karahi’, specially cooked by mama (my mother).  Later we realized that we had trotted 6+6+7.6=19.6 KM in total which is quite an achievement for new starters.

All in All, it was an adventurous, exhilarating, elating and rewarding trip. It was worth the effort and we’ll continue to train ourselves even hard the next time we set on for a joyous exercise. After all we have “Concordia” in our mind to testify our physical extremities.

Here are some snaps from various view points:-

Judges Enclave

Escape Fire Route, My cousin Asfand

Faisal Mosque from above

I’ll be back soon!