Driving on mountain roads you never really get to know your direction. The roads are turning constantly and you cannot see till far through the trees. It is difficult to get your bearings right. The drive itself seems long and unending, and you feel you have travelled a long distance. Once you are at the peak and can look at the roads that you travelled on, the directions fall into place. A bird’s eye view! The distance that you travelled falls into perspective and you are surprised that you drove all those curves just to cross one small mountain.

I have climbed up the Naina Peak twice before, once on a school trip some time near 1981, then on a visit to ARIES observatory somewhere near 1995, with Neelam. As I recall those instances from memory, the climb seemed to be easy. This time it seemed difficult. It took about 90 minutes to climb the steep mountain side with tripods and cameras. I was hauling 100 kg up the mountain. About 93% was myself and rest 7% was a camera bag and tripod. This time I was also prepared for night stay with sleeping bags and a large foam sheet, (carried by a telescope operator that I found at the ‘Himalayan Darshan’ point). The short climb left me breathless. I vowed to stay at Nainital for a week and climb to the peak every day :)

The view from the top also took my breath away! The entire town of Nainital and the lake is serenely spread out below the view point. The Naini Lake looks fantastic, green and it takes the classic shape of a Rajma bean. From the Naina Peak you can see till far in the south, west and east directions beyond the town and lake. You can see Khurpa Tal, and the road leading up to Nainital town from there. You can also see far in the south-west, Haldwani, Ram Nagar. In fact,You can hear voices from far off Bageshwar, Kausani too. You see there is a radio repeater station on Naina Peak serving the police communications in the entire region.

On the top I survived a short but heavy afternoon hail storm. I managed to cover the equipment with the foam sheet and run to the Forest (radio) Station. Got drenched and worried, but was dry soon after the storm passed.

To shoot night landscapes I like to combine a good landscape and a good part of the sky (in the same direction). At home while planning this shot I had calculated that at about 1 am the Milky Way would be rising and the dense bright Sagittarius part would be over Nainital town, as seen from the Naina Peak. Although the afternoon shower had cleared the sky a bit, but a cloud of haze stood fast over the town. Looks like I will have to climb the peak again to get a clear shot, a better night with less haze. For now I combined the results into a star trail image. Even the roads are nicely trailed in the image. Especially striking is the road from Kaladhungi to Nainital on the right bottom of the image. Above is the result of that half a night spent on top of Naina Peak, Nainital

Comments of all flavours are welcome.

Ajay Talwar

p.s. I was joined by Piyush Bhardwaj of ARIES observatary at the Peak. Approximately 1 hour beyond midnight we packed up the camera, walked down the peak till Tanki and drove back home.



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