WRAPPING UP THE YEAR WITH KUARI PASS
Staring at the clear horizons over the towering snow-capped peaks of mighty Himalayas was a startling experience and great way to bid goodbye to 2016. Treating myself to the trek to Kuari Pass was a perfect pleasure, the perfect way to wrap the year and rendezvous with my camouflaged travelling spirit. The Himalayas has uncanny ways to embrace you in its charm, a sorcery it tricks your soul with and before you know you fall for the mountains forever.
The initial journey for me started from Guwahati. On 22nd of January I boarded Rajdhani Express to New Delhi and reached next day, 9 hours of train delay can be real pain. I had no buffer time and immediately after dumping my luggage and freshening up I set for second phase of journey by boarding Nanda Express from New Delhi till Haridwar. Five of us from our batch of trekkers decided to leave for Joshimath a day before to have a spare day to explore Auli. We embarked on our mesmerising Himalayan Journey from Haridwar and it infact was one of the most memorable road trip.
JOURNEY FROM HARIDWAR TO JOSHIMATH
Haridwar is where the saga of the idyllic journey started enthralling my soul with the view of emerald green Ganges. The journey was incredibly beautiful with the graceful site of confluence between Alaknanda & Bhagirathi at Devaprayag. Rightly called Devbhoomi, ensure mandate halt at Rudraprayag, Karnprayag & Nandprayag. It was a beautiful road journey of 8 hours to pacify your need for wanderlust. One side of the road had Himalayan foothills and another side had the drooling view of white sand, river & narrow cliffs. Every moment was a grab, of eyes & senses. Joshimath stands at 6150 ft and is a gateway for opening up to the essence of Himalayan treks, also being the route way to Badrinath. Being tugged up with visitors all year round there is a major hike in the price of accommodation during the peak season of Badrinath but else accommodation is quite affordable. Joshimath is where you start feeling the sorcery of the Himalayas engaging you in complete.
(It was a beautiful journey and mandates a complete blog on it. I cut the journey short with promise of a blog on journey to Devbhoomi crossing the Prayag)
ABOUT KAURI TREK
KUARI pass trek is an ancient trek that satiates your wanderlust through its changing terrains. Nanda Devi is the second highest peak in India that gorgeously pops out right in front of you. It is not only the delight of mountains that is thrilling but meadows, esoteric jungles & light zephyr throughout the walk. KUARI pass is a gorgeous trek with the enticing sight of 23 peaks staring at you in constant. Bathe in the peeping sunshine, delight to the views of Mt. Trishul, Nanda Ghunti, Chaukhamba, Hathi Godha and 17 other peaks, walk through beautiful Gorson Meadows and experience rawness of snowfall during winters while you reside in your temporary jungle abode.
The trek is perfect for one’s completely committed to mountains and surely would continue to pull you back to its charm. Let’s get into some talking about the camp sites, towering mountains and what else made the journey so pleasing and surmountable.
Day 1 – Auli to Gorson Bugyal
If the adrenaline rush pushes you towards adventures, Auli is the right place to park your spirit. It is one of the popular destinations for skiing, cable car rides and beginning of walking into the wild. The trek was organised by India’s largest trekking organisation IndiaHikes and shouted the best experience, which definitely was. We were driven from Joshimath to Auli by cabs arranged by IndiaHikes, the small stretch of the road gave glimpses of beautiful Himalayan villages. It is almost 40 minutes of drive gaining an altitude of 8200ft where Auli stands opening its way for trekkers into snow laid landscapes, meadows and jungles. This year snowfall was a late visitor with its teaser show for two to three hours on Christmas.
Our trek started from 26th December and the reminiscence of previous day’s snowfall changed the terrain into a sparse snow bed. Walking through the meadow of Auli was just the beginning of an enticing voyage to the young but mighty Himalayas. As time unfolded and we progressed our steps the landscapes got more captivating ready, it was perfect slow living and wish I could freeze the time. There was pine, deodar and Rhododendron trees standing still with snow sprinkled and the site was overwhelming. Although it was a forced ascent from 6150ft to 10639ft to our first camp site at Gorson Bugyal, the walk was easy and took nearly 3 hours.
The trek gave glimpses of forests that sort of brought memories from childhood tales back and there is nothing that could bargain with the beauty of the place. Few metres before the camp site was the beautiful stone made Pariyar temple with colourful tags adding extravaganza. Walking down the forests from the temple was the open campsite appealing to the eye with yellow Hillman Tents. The campsite opens the way to the surreal Gorson meadows and its takes your breath away in the most invincible way exploring the place.
We reached around 1.30pm where sumptuous lunch was waiting for us post which we went for an acclimatisation walk to the meadows. Mountains posed gracefully as it witnessed major shutterbugs and fandom. IndiaHikes with its green trail initiatives has walked miles ahead with its promise to keep mountains clean and it was evident when our trek leader (Indrajeet) motivated us to do a little clean up. It was a wonderful yet raw feeling to be a part of such initiative and we did collect few bags of garbage, it was a seriously a very good feeling.
Day 2 – Gorson Bugyal to Chitrakanth
It was a happy yet slightly sad feeling to bid adieu to the Gorson Bugyal campsite but there were another terrain & landscapes waiting to embrace us. The trek from Gorson Bugyal campsite opened into meadows with snow clad mountain peaks popping one after another. It was a beautiful trek with a golden shade of grasses canvassing the view along with the mountains, meadows and narrow cliffs.
The ascent to Chitrakanth was at 11030ft but it was an easy soul feeding trek of around 11kms through open meadows, very narrow trails and finally opening into forests of Chitrakanth. The most brilliant and engaging view of the mountains was seen from Chitrakanth top with more than 20 mountain peaks staring right at us. The aura of the place was different with Nanda Devi and many peaks so close, it was unbelievable to be standing right in front of them.
Climbing down from Chitrakanth top till the next camp site was sort of scary with steep and very narrow descending trails. The trail had mountains to one side and cliff to another making it possible for only one trekker to walk at a time. There were loose rocks and it was very important to walk slow and careful. Even with my heart pounding hard I could not escape from the picturesque surrounding. The trek was for around 5 ½ hours till Chitrakanth camp and it was beautiful with the tents pitched amidst jungles surrounding the place in perfect aegis. It is true that the place will probably remind you of paranormal movies with a plethora of jungle abundance but that doesn’t make it less gorgeous.
Day 3 – Chitrakanth to Khullara
There is a sudden change in the landscape of Kuari Pass that makes it beautifully whimsical to the eye. The third day of the trek starts from beautiful forests of Chitrakanth with a complete view of the mountains opening its arms. It is also the summit day and the most crucial one. Trees, yellow grasses, narrow trails, meadows and everything else makes the trek route extremely appealing.
The most crucial part of the trek is crossing the frozen river during winter treks that require an initial steep ascent followed by a careful walk on losing rocks and frozen ice. After crossing the frozen river with utmost precision the route opens into a zigzag trail leading to Kuari top. The trail is a moderate climb after facing the slightly difficult frozen river path. It is a rewarding experience climbing the trail with the Himalayas surrounding us from all directions. There is an ineluctable escape into the wild with nature caressing us with such intimacy. The zephyr and aura renounce all your worries and ensure you leave a piece of your heart in the ancient Lord Curzon trail forever.
After struck with the feeling of awe every moment feels like complete while descending down to the last camp Khullara at 11230ft. All the camp sites had unique landscapes with Khullara being the most attractive and coldest one. It is an open campsite with a view of marvellous forests on one side and the Himalayas on the other. With the golden rays of sunlight colouring the mountains in its passion, it was an incredible sight to drool over. Being an open site there was enough space for trekkers to also bout for a game of cricket. The terrain hopped out straight from a fairy tale and almost like residing within picture postcards.
Day 4 – Khullara to Joshimath via Dhak
The last day of the trek is a feeling of accomplishment along with a lot of conscious introspections about what we learnt. It is a happy feeling indeed completing the trek and descending down to the mainland but a part of you has already intended to stay there forever. The last day all descended from Khullara through rocky patches and trails via Karchi village to Dhak.
Karchi and Dhak both are inhabited Himalayan villages that sure will attract you with its quintessential beauty. The descent from Khullara is for around 3 to 4 hours via rocky trails after which you enter Karchi village. It is overwhelming to see simplicity existing in abundance in people of the villages. Charming and playful kids with natural cheeks are the cutest sight on the way back to Dhak. The trail is narrow but plain descent after the inhabitation of people starts without any stony stretch. It is quite easy and less time consuming to walk down but that shouldn’t be an excuse for missing on witnessing the life of Himalayan people.
It takes around 4 hours to reach Dhak from which motorable road starts and leads to Joshimath and other places. After reaching Dhak with our backpacks lunged tight cabs arranged by IndiaHikes drove us back to Joshimath. It was completing a beautiful circle of nature starting the journey and ending it again in Joshimath.
It indeed was one mammoth of the incredible experience that touched my heart, soul and mind with endless rejoice. Every moment felt like a homecoming in the lap of Himalayas with IndiaHikes making it journey and destination worth remembering all life. I lay now in peace recollecting the beauty of the trail, of sunrise & sunset, of gurgling streams, of snow capped peaks, of the first snowfall, of narrow trails and of amazing people I met throughout.