Though having never trekked before, a chance encounter with old college friends sparked a trip to the Himalayas to embark on a trek.
In hindsight, it was a tad foolish…a lot of things could have gone wrong. I barely exercised let alone climbed a mountain, so was in no physical shape; I had always lived at sea level, so trekking (for the first time) at 10,000+ feet was unwise; I lived in cities where the temperature never dropped below 20` C, so the only cold weather attire I had was a sweater (we were trekking in early October); and to top it all…I had less than 10 days to prepare for it all. But it turned out to be one of the most awesome things I have done, and I am so glad that I did.
For me, the journey to get to the start of the trek was the most arduous. I lived in Kochi then and my friends were in Chennai. So getting to the base camp at Auli was something like this – Kochi to Chennai by train – 12 hrs, Chennai to Delhi by flight – 3 hrs, Delhi to Haridwar by train – 6 hrs. Haridwar to Rishikesh by road – 45 mins, Rishikesh to Auli by bus - 15 backbreaking hrs.
We were a motely group of 12 – a high profile corporate couple and their 10 yr old son, a couple of 39 year old (have to do something exciting before 40) women, an extremely gung-ho and effervescent sister of friend, 2 teenagers, a trekking enthusiast (husband of friend, and the only experienced trekker in the group), a couple of solo women trekkers (one from down under – OZ and one from US of A) and guide.
It was a 5 day trek – 3 up and 2 down – to a spot called the Kuari pass. Apparently it is a very popular trek in the Uttarakand trek circuit. Reasons being it’s an all-weather trek (doesn’t close in winters), it is classified moderate (so good for beginners too) and extremely picturesque.
There are 2 ways to do this trek – one starting from Joshimat and two, from Auli (called the north face trek). The Auli route is more picturesque and exhilarating.
At an altitude of 4264 meters, Kuari Pass is like an amphitheatre, providing a 360` view of some of the most imposing peaks in the range including the Kamet (7756m),Trishul (7120m), Chaukhamba (7128m), and the great divine peak of Nanda Devi (7817m) and its twin Nanda Devi East (7434m). And these are interspersed with numerous others such as the – Nanda Ghunti, Hathi Ghoda Parbat, Neelkanth, Dronagiri, Mukut Parbat, Mana, Rishi Pahad, and Changbang, to name a few.
So right from the time we started the trek we were accompanied by the view of a ringlet of imposing snowy peaks. The trek save for a few stretches was not arduous, just pleasantly tiring. We’d start the day around 9 with a healthy breakfast (we had a superlative cook among the crew who could dish out a maggi or a stuffed karela with equal élan) and then trek the whole day till about 4 in the evening where we’d set camp.
The route covered a beautiful meadow, a hilly plateau, thickly wooded alpine trees and deodars, along a sparkly stream of freshly melting snow, a narrow craggy trail around the mountain with nothing to hold on to one side and a really long and awning chasm on the other.
Our experiences during the trek were varied, tiring, intoxicating, rewarding, surprising, enlightening and a whole load of fun.
The whole point of trekking in a group is rallying for each other and getting to the destination. Some wanted to quit after the first day, some couldn’t wait to race to get to point B, some fell sick…but in the end we fought, we sang, we encouraged each other, we ate and slept together (for warmth), got to the destination and swore we’d all do this together again…soon.
Train from Delhi to Haridwar
Stay @ Haridwar (Rishikesh) (catch a white water rafting if you have time)
Drive to Pipalkoti and stay overnight
Drive to Auli to start trek
Camp overnight in tent @ Gorson Bugyal
Trek to Tali (3310m)
Trek to Kuari Pass
And 2 days back either through same route or down to Tapovan and Joshimat.
This trip was originally published on open roads.