"The Winter is Coming !!!!" is one of the most often repeated phrase in the HBO series "Game Of Thrones". And this they have been repeating for the past 3 seasons and still there are no signs of the so called fierce winter on screen. But this fierce winter made an appearance off the screen, over majority of the Northern Hemisphere. Countries like US and Europe were literally freezing with around -20C temperatures thanks to the arctic polar vortex hovering above and on the other hand North India reeling under one of its fiercest winter it has witnessed in the recent times. With such a backdrop we were to undertake our first ever Himalayan Winter trek. With 2 summer Himalayan treks under our belt we were looking for something different this time and winter trek was the obvious answer to that.
|Devprayag: Confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi to form THE GANGA|
|View from Auli|
|With Mt. Dronagiri in the Background|
|A Rustic village home|
|A Partially frozen stream|
|Camp at Chitrakana|
Reached Haridwar at 5am much ahead of the train we missed :P. The temperature was dropping at each instance we were moving nearer to the Himalayas. Changed cabs in here, met the other trek mates and then started again the boring day long 250 km drive to Auli, our trek base camp. The routes enroute was damaged to a great extent thanks to the June 2013 Uttarakhand floods. Because of the same Uttarakhand is right now witnessing a very lean tourist season, which is one of the chief contributors to its economy. Even the famous restaurants like the Chotiwalas in Rishikesh were having a handful of tourists in them. Hopefully things would improve soon. One of the vehicles soon developed a snag and without much surprise we were delayed again :P. But thanks to this we were to witness a great view of Chamoli town at night from the highway. Reached Auli close to 9pm and with the help of near full moon we were able to see our first snow capped peak of the trip. Auli was literally freezing and surprisingly Auli was much colder than at any point of the trek, even though we climbed to much higher altitudes in the wilderness. Even with room heaters on and very thick chadars we had a very disturbed sleep.
|Camp at Tali|
On the morning of Jan 12th we started the trek to Kauri pass. Everyone took a shower, the luxury of which wouldn't be available for the next 4 days. Even though the temperatures at Auli was near freezing and it being projected as a ski resort, it was totally void of any snowfall this season. But on the other hand the views we get from this place of the snow capped peaks are simply awesome, reminiscent of the views we were expected to get during the course of the trek. We drove down to Tapovan from where our trek would begin. The entire trek route was dotted with sun kissed grasslands , rustic villages and with the backdrop of Mt Dronagiri. Further our guide showed us a flat hill which according to legend was from where Hanuman cut the Sanjeevani mountain in order to save Laxman. And becoz of this a village on the foothills of this mountain got really pissed and have not worshiped Hanuman from generations !!!!! :P.
By afternoon we reached the camping spot for the day which was Chitrakana which provided some great views. From here onwards starts the snow fields which were a constant companion for the next 3 days of the trek. After having our lunch we went in search of logs for our bonfire in order to save us from the cold. This activity became unexpectedly thrilling when we as a group got a huge dead tree trunk and got it down from the mountain, rolling it downhill and running and jumping along with it :P. Once the bonfire was on we spent time around it playing dumb charades and singing around it. We had a love-hate relationship with these bonfires... too near and it becomes too hot, too far and you will feel terribly cold, hence we had to be at the optimum distance and as expected those spots had the highest demand.Nights were cold, but with 3 people stuffed in each tent and each provided with sleeping bags and thermal inners, it was quite comfortable.
|Our Destination Kuari Pass in Sight|
The entire duration of the trek we were made to follow the 6-7-8 rule. Getting woken up at 6am with a bed tea, going out to finish our morning work , a simple job which becomes a bit complex with the biting cold :P. Have breakfast at 7, start packing and leave the campsite at 8. On the third day was when we would summit the Kauri Pass (at 13990 ft above sea level). With Rajkumar completely steamed out he decided to return back to Auli. With 4 layers of clothing to protect we started the ascent with the initial section being via forest and then via bugyals ie open grasslands where one would get some great views of the snow clad mountains. But at some sections it was snowed out to such an extent that there was nearly 2 ft of snow for us to wade through, hence making the climb making somewhat an effort with all that resistance. At some places there would a layer of ice formed on the path instead of snow and these were the most dangerous sections where one would get no such grip from their shoes. Slowly we neared our destination along with the Indiahikes team who where on an exploratory trek to this place. We crossed the spot which is known generally as the Kuari Pass and moved further to the actual Kuari Pass. But just as we were nearing the pass, we saw that a concrete bridge build by the authorities to cross a steep section had been destroyed by an avalanche. And any alternate route was totally iced out making it a dangerous affair without any cramp-ons. Hence we decided to climb a peak which was next to the Kuari pass and supposedly 100ft taller than the pass.
We retraced our path a bit and then started the final assault to our destination. The view from the top was simply great. We even went topless in the biting cold to celebrate, a tradition we started during the Goechala Trek days :P. Except for Rajkumar, the remaining 8 of us managed to reach the top. After spending close to half an hour we started the descent back. But during this an old running knee injury raised its ugly head out of nowhere. So the return back to the camp was a bit painful with my knee pain making it a bit uncomfortable. Reached the camp exhausted with almost 7 hrs of trek and were greeted with hot onion pakoras and steaming tea. These small luxuries at the right time make life all the more enjoyable :P. Since majority of us were tired we were soon off to bed after our dinner. It pretty much snowed all night. But one weird thing about snowfall is that when it snows the temperature would be way above the freezing point, but the moment it stops the temperature drops drastically below the freezing point. Something new I learned about weather :P.
|Walking over a frozen lake|
|Dangerous Section: Narrow Path, Steep Drop, Iced out slippery track|
|Mt. Nanda Devi|
The next day was again the boring day long journey back to Rishikesh. Just before boarding our cabs, 3 of us (Me, manju, shashi) had some some nasty fall with the slippery ice formation on the roads. I had infact fallen around half a dozen times during this trip :P. Reached Rishikesh by nightfall and booked rooms in Hotel Ganga adjacent to Trek The Himalayas office and also Jumpin Heights office from where we were planning to bungy jump the next day. For dinner we went to the New Chotiwala's which is situated across the Ganges and a subsidiary of the original one. The restaurant was sparsely populated, but we had a great dinner thanks to Shashi and SK for treating us :). Majority of the next day went for bungy jumping. Except for Harsha and Manju SR everyone did it. 5 of us did it in the morning and SK and Senthil did it in the afternoon after seeing our videos :P. The jump location is about 1 hr drive from Rishikesh and they have a shuttle service from their office to the place. More details of the jump here . After the jump we went to the original Chotiwala across the river for our brunch and did some shopping along with it. By 4pm we were all set to catch the train to Jhansi from Haridwar , with 9 of us plus the luggage stuffed into a single auto :P.
< Video Collection >
|Group Snap with Certificates|
Total Trek Distance--> 35kms
Difficulty Level --->Moderate (thanks to heavy snow, else without it its an easy and much shorter trek)
Total Cost Per Head --> 23k (inclusive of transportation, food, bungy and stay)
Trek Organizer ------> http://www.winterkuaripass.com/
Snaps Link ------>