February 8, 2014

Kuari Pass TreK: The Winter Has Finally Come !!!!!!!



"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
By the afternoon of  January 10th 2014, we(shashi, SK, manju, harsha, senthil, vineeth, manju sr, rajkumar and myself) were all set for the trip. Just then got automated calls from the Indigo call center informing that our 5pm Delhi flight was delayed. Our adventure were to begin even before our trip was officially thrown open :P.  Since we had already booked our taxis to the airport we went ahead as previously scheduled. Got a mild surprise when the OLA cab arrived with a transgender behind the wheels. First time I came face to face with a transgender making a honest living. Thumbs up to OLA cabs for this initiative.

With Mt. Dronagiri in the Background
A Rustic village home
Reached the airport then started the endless wait for our flight. Later we came to know the comedy of the situation. Eventhough our Delhi flight was in Bangalore airport, our pilot was stuck up in Mumbai airport thanks to the new terminal inauguration by our beloved PM ;). Hence passengers from 2 flights were made to wait endlessly, those from our flight and the ones who were returning back to Mumbai in the same flight in which our pilot was supposed to come to Bangalore :D. People got impatient and they started arguing with the Indigo crew and finally we got our flight ready to fly at 7.30 pm. But this also meant that we were going to miss our connecting 10pm train to Haridwar, which surprisingly was on time :). This phenomenon happened during the entire duration of the trip. The means of transport we would be traveling would always be delayed and the connecting train would always be on time :P.



A Partially frozen stream
Called our Trek The Himalayas organizer (Rakesh Pant) and he organized 2 Innova taxis to take us to Haridwar. This also meant that our economy trip suddenly got upgraded to luxury status :P.  To add salt to our wounds the flight journey was bad with cramped seating thanks to 2 loud kids in the row behind us which meant we couldn't sleep nor push back our seats. Anyway reached Delhi airport at around 10.30pm and thankfully it was free of any fog formation yet. Synced up with the taxi drivers and then a very event-less ride to Haridwar. Had dinner enroute at a dhabha at 2am in the night !!!!!! :P

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 second day we had to travel through the dense Oak forests with snow lying on the ground. Narnia land is what I could think of... truly magical !!!!. This is exactly the reason for coming for a winter trek, where you encounter snow in middle of forests and not just in high altitude grasslands which is the norm in summer. Soon enough everyone were involved in snow fights, making snowman, skiing and what not. But on this day Rajkumar on his first Himalayan trek ran out of steam and had a hard time keeping up. Ironically he was racing ahead along with the mules the previous day and pretty much was abusing us for not keeping up the speed :D. Finally we reached our camp site name Tali top which would be our camp site for the next 2 days. It was in the midst of a heavy forest and even-though it was void of any views there was a sense of coziness in this place. Spent the remainder of the day playing some endurance games and without much surprise I fared badly in them :P. The night was even more magical with the moonlight getting reflected from the snow laden forest to give that soft eerie glow :).

@Peak
Sumiteers


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
The next day was the last day of the trek. With just 4 days of actual trekking this is our shortest Himalayan trek. We were to return to Auli via a different route through Gorson Bugyal. Even though it was d last day of trekking it was packed with adventure. First crossing of a frozen lake, then walking through narrow ledges with steep drops and slippery icy surfaces, then crossing very deep snowed out areas and finally the violent snow-fight with the fellow trek mates :P. For the first time we got the view of Mt. Nanda Devi, India's tallest peak entirely within its boundary and second overall after Mt. Kanchenjunga. Here the snow was of different kind. The top surface would be a layer of brittle and hard ice and when one steps through it, it breaks and sucks ones leg through the soft and powdery snow. Again it was an effort walking through this. As we reached gorson bugyal the snow started to thin out and when we reached the tree line the snow had totally disappeared. Further when we reached Auli, there was no sign of snow in this Ski resort. Reached back to our guest house, had a hot shower, rested a bit, played a bit and pretty much relaxed the remainder of the day.  But soon enough we were to encounter Auli's first snowfall of the season. I suppose the snow followed us to Auli :P. It pretty much snowed the entire night. With that I guess the Ski season in Auli is going to open officially.

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.

Gorson Bugyal
Auli
We reached the station on time, but again our train was delayed. Finally it arrived almost 4 hrs late and overnight it managed a delay of 6 hrs behind schedule. Now we were really tensed up,  since we had to catch our train to Bangalore from Jhansi and the time difference between the two trains were exactly 6 hrs. Thankfully the second train got delayed by 10 mins and we were able to catch it. We thanked our lucky stars since it would have been a real headache if we missed our train back to Bangalore. The next 32 hrs we spent watching movies, playing cards in endless loop and catching up on sleep. Reached back to Bangalore on 19th Jan at around 8pm. Shared a taxi back to our homes.


Since we started our Himalayan affair in 2010 we have made sure we had an regular yearly visit, except for the year 2013. Hence the first thing we did in 2014 was to restart our "pilgrimage". Of all the places I have visited so far I have not found any place more serene and majestic than the Himalayas. Its like an addiction and something which pulls us year on year to conquer more and more peaks, trails and passes. With this being my 4th Himalayan trip, I still havnt had enough of these mountains......... पिक्चर अभी बहुत बहकी है मेरे दोस्त !!!!! :)

< Video Collection >

Group Snap with Certificates

Trek Details --->
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 ------>
https://plus.google.com/photos/112114250378515450499/albums/5973121753313796673?authkey=CO6RjrC-zZ-SrQE
https://plus.google.com/photos/111320158121404479282/albums/5970696328338173217
https://plus.google.com/photos/116816014473931339793/albums/5975321715819428097
https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/109474193633253188080/albums/5975651358084131985

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful scenery le.. missed it big time.. nice blog as usual.. :)

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    1. thnks maga... v missed u too :P... now i m d only person who has attended all d big trips of totti gang :D

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  2. I knew this was bound to come up sometime.. i thot no 1 wud notice it.. anyway.. u r the last man standing on the thotti gang trips list.. :P

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    1. woohaha... lets c till how long will this last man will be still standing :D :D

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  3. Wonderful narration Nithin, enjoyed while reading. Photography super!!!

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    1. thnks sagar for the complements :)... its comments like these which keeps me motivated to keep on writting :)

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  4. I am planning to go for Auli Trek in October. I have read several blogs and i am very impressed. I am looking for a travel buddy.
    http://www.365hops.com/social/event_detail.php?eventid=VkZod1NrMTNQVDA9

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  5. Hello, There are some very beautiful pictures. I am gonna use some, under your name to entice my friends for this trek.

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    Replies
    1. Haha.. go ahead.. unless not using for any commercial purpose I dont have a prob :)

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  6. Hello, There are some very beautiful pictures. I am gonna use some, under your name to entice my friends for this trek.

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  7. Thank you for your blog it helped us for the trek and an advice for the future trekkers, don't go with the guide named Narendra Singh Rawat; he is a total cheat. He made a promise to give back Rs.6000 due to his failure of service during the trek but it have been 2 months he is not returning the money and continuously giving excuses. So just avoid this person.i'm sharing all the information I've on this person.
    Name:Narendra Singh Rawat
    Mob: 09634055689/09411352137
    A/C No: 0245000100170921
    PNB JOSHIMATH

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  8. can anybody tell me how to get a guide for this kuari pass trek in winter and arrange all the others things ... any contacts...

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  9. I too have same query as Aparesh Kundu

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  10. Indeed! great post and amazing captures. Can you tell me the cost of the trek package you took.

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    Replies
    1. thanks buddy... I remember paying around 8-9K/person

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  11. Me and my boyfriend are going to winter kuari pass trek in November this year, through Trek The Himalayas. Your journal of the trip helped us a lot to get an idea as to what to expect! Can't wait for November!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks . Good to know my blog helped and enjoy your trek :)

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