Winter Himalayan Hiking

Kuari Pass Trek December 2016. Lord Kurzon Trail

This happened to be my first Himalayan hiking and 2nd week long trekking adventure.

Sudheep and I reserved a trip slot in October http://www.winterkuaripass.com  (TTH) but we were sceptical until last moment if we could really make it or not. It always happens when your excitement and passion just pulls you off to take that decision keeping aside the fears/work/other priorities and it happened 2 weeks before the trek. And yes, off we were on one of the wonderful trips that I imagined.

TTH rendezvous point was Haridwar (55km by road from Dehradun) from where we were to head towards Joshimath the Base Camp. Trek organizers provided pickup from Haridwar to Joshimath. I started from Chennai, took a flight to Delhi->Dehradun. I met Sudheep in Delhi airport as planned, he came from Bangalore and we took the same flight to Dehradun. Watch out on the terminals at Delhi airport – confusing stuff –  it takes atleast 20mins if you have to switch between terminals via airport bus.

I would suggest taking a flight atleast one way up rather than a train or a bus which would be tiresome and delays are unavoidable. I saw a few of them cancelling their trip because they reached 24 hrs late via train. But yes there are trains directly till Haridwar.

Dehradun airport is little far from the town. It was small and looked lil crowded. Understandable cas its more tourist and less commercial destination We reached at around 1pm and it was a warm and sunny day ~25DegC, saw young girls and boys with their rucksacks making a move. Initially we thought to hire a cab till Haridwar, but sticking to original plan of getting rid of comforts, we wanted to spend as little as possible from here on. We figured out that if we walk for around 1.5miles (see road behind me), a bus/auto-rickshaw to Rishikesh can be found.  Rishikesh has direct buses to Haridwar which is 25km further.

IMG_20161230_093015                                       At Jolly Grant airport Dehradun

We spoke with a few fellow hikers who were heading to Kedarkantha Trek. After a 20min walk a cab dropped us in Rishikesh charging Rs20 per person. Had we hired a cab at airport, it would have costed Rs 1000 atleast. Rishikesh was a busy town with many tourists, lots of temples, adventure sport activities like rafting, paragliding and many more, we really wished to explore these but were short of time. Actually staying in Rishikesh would have been a better option, you would agree with me by seeing this.

route

Took a local bus from Rishikesh to Haridwar, try taking a few oranges, tasted real good and made our journey very easier.

At around 4pm we reached Haridwar, went in search of a night stay. It wasn’t tough to get one, Hotel Suncity was decent budget hotel; the temperatures started falling down, a normal south Indian who has not experienced much of the north will definitely feel chills, it was getting dark by 5pm. Har ki Pauri temple is visit worthy, was pleasant with many pilgrims and there we touched the Ganges.

5:30am we were up, got ready quickly, reached the pick-up spot and the journey started. Joshimath (280km road journey) is located in the foothills of the Himalayas and is the gateway to the Himalyan ranges, the road was fairly good with a few landslides here and there. Enroute, we could see some wonderful sights of Ganges. Devprayag – where the confluence of rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi happens is worth mentioning. The higher we got the cleaner and colder were the water. DSC_0141 - Copy

Confluence of Alakananda and Bhagirathi

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Distant road on the Joshimath Haridwar route (thought that was an NTPC private)

We reached Joshimath at around 6pm, it was very dark already, with temperatures of around 7DegC. The journey was very tedious, took the toll out of every one. The team size was 19. TTH team gave a time table briefing, did document verification and gave tips on survival in cold climates. It was useful for a first timer like me. Joshimath is a place of great religious significance; people believe that Adi Shankarcharya revived Sanathana Dharma from here. Shankaracharya Monastery, Sacred tree called Kalpavruksh, Bhavisshya Kedarnath (Future Kedarnath – an interesting story worth exploring) are few places that one can explore here. There are many sightseeing options too from the Auli top, ropeway, skiing, ice skating etc. We visited all these places after the trek on the last day when returned to the base camp.

Walk Begins: By 8am we started moving

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map

(Picture Courtesy: TTH) We started from Dhak village and each yellow name above is a camp site (Kuari Pass is not camp site, it’s the summit). So went up from Dhak to Kuari pass and returned from Kuari Pass to Auli. The entire journey was sliced into 5 days. Rule of the thumb was to start from base camp before 8am and reach the next camp site before 3pm and rest off for that day. The higher we moved the spectacular it got. The view of the mountains was a treat to eyes.IMG_20161219_141821553 A view from Chitrakantha Base Camp

We played volleyball almost every afternoon after we finished the day’s trek. The bruises we had in the process are worth a note. It was hard hitting and caused great pain when the temperatures dropped.DSC_0192 - Copy

Few more shots enroute

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Frozen Lake

And it went on and on and on. Every day was newer and richer experience. Fighting the subzero temperatures during night was tough. Taking a nap in the sleeping bag was very difficult initially but by day 4, I got adapted to the resources, adaptability – the beauty of human senses. Still remember nights of day 1 and day 2 were like a curse -I was subconsciously awake the entire night. Uneven sleeping surface, subzero temperatures, unbearable silence, no phone, and finishing off dinner by 7:30pm and by 9pm the camp would be literally dead. In the current IT world this is all a dream, yes and that was one reason I wanted to do this badly.

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Lunch at a camp site. Yes my appetite improved way bit due to the intense physical activity

Have seen distant frozen mountains and few  icy water streams

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Crossing the frozen river was by far the toughest task in the trek and it was placed on day 4 when everybody was in a good position adapted to the Himalayan climate.

The summit day pictures and mission accomplished!!

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Endurance tested and I found a new me

I took away some wonderful memories, very good friends made, found brave girls who travelled single to explore themselves, found couples who loved adventures, heard different perspectives all along the journey. Seen a whole new world beyond timelines, money and anxiety. Simple, disciplined, effort taking and closer to nature and that’s why I will go back to the Himalayas again sooner!!

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Wonderful companions and my new friends!

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Unbelievable Evening Walk

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Hathi and Ghoda Mountains (if i can correctly remember)

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Panorama couldn’t be better

And finally On top of the WORLD!! with Sudheep R Chandran

IMG_20161230_093532                                                                                                                                                     – Srujan

For any other details on trekking gear, fitness requirements and any trek related queries you can visit https://www.trekthehimalayas.com

2 thoughts on “Winter Himalayan Hiking

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