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Kuari Pass Trekking

I always wanted to trek in India, I have trekked in multiple countries but not in my native country. After trekking the Himalayas in Nepal, my desire to trek in India amplified. During my trek in Patagonia (March 2022), Anirudh called me to inform that he is engaged and will be getting married in March 2023, He really wanted us to attend the wedding. I told him that I will be there. I thought it was the best time, could trek in the same trip.

In October 2022, I started looking for trekking companies and the routes online. I liked two treks, one in Uttarakhand and Sikkim. I wanted the total duration to be less than 7 days, so I chose Kuari Pass in Himalayas. The trek was three and half days, and the commute was two and half days. It was listed as moderate, found a perfect trek.

Initially, I decided to do it with a Bengaluru based company called IndiaHikes. Since I was 59 years old, their requirements included a medical stress test. Suma informed me that it can arranged in Bengaluru. I had issues with the payment, so I switched to trek with a different company called Trek The Himalayas.

TTH wanted a medical disclaimer to be filled by my primary physician but there was no need for the stress test. The itinerary and the cost were similar. My decision to trek TTH turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because Ullas, a doctor advised against taking the stress test immediately after 24 hour of air travel, which might be dangerous.

Eshan and Sandhya were surprised that I was not practicing like my previous multi day treks. There were two reasons,

  • the trek was moderate, I was confident of doing 12 miles one way to ascend 3,700 feet
  • the winter in Utah was severe and the weather did not permit me to do long hikes, but I hiked to climb 1,200 to 1,500 feet.

I asked my family members and my college friends to see if they will be interested in joining me, but no one showed interest, I did not mind trekking alone. Sandhya suggested that to enjoy the trek, offload the 55L bag pack (to be carried by the mule) and trek with a daypack.

TTH was very professional from the start. Two weeks before the trip, they created a What’s Up group with all participants to inform important information, also held a virtual meeting to go over the details. I sent all required documents and paid for the offloading and renting a backpack.

I reached Bengaluru on Feb 16th, one of two suitcases didn’t reach! Fortunately, the suitcase containing my trekking gear and cloths did reach. After taking care of paperwork for missing luggage, I reached Madhu and Suma’s house before 5am, decided not to take a nap. We went out to eat breakfast at 6am at popular Idly joint, SLV at 6am. I went out few more times to get few more items for the trek. In the evening, Anirudh picked me up to take me to his house, I met my family members, he also helped me to buy few T shirts and a pant for the trek. I might have had eight cups of coffee on my first day!

Next day, Feb 17th, I flew to Dehradun. From the airport, I took a taxi to reach Rishikesh around 8pm. At the reception of the hotel, I was told that there is no reservation in my name. I showed the confirmation email, then the manager looking carefully at the papers, told me that I have booking for March 17th not February 17th. Fortunately, there was a room available. I was impressed by the digital payment system in India, it is so advanced and convenient. I sent the QR code for the payment to Suma, she paid sitting at her home! The receptionist confirmed the payment.

After checking in to the hotel, I walked to the river Ganga, the view from the Ghat (steps that provides access to the water especially for bathing) was beautiful. A good start for the trip!

View of Lakshman Jhula from Ganga

On Feb 18th morning, I got ready and reached the TTH office at 5:50am for the scheduled departure at 6am. There were few other trekkers, but the office was still closed. Then I realized IST, the time is just a suggestion and is an approximate time. I was bit irritated, but I didn’t want ruin my trip because of the delays. One of my fellow travelers was cool about the delay and commented “I could have been the person who could have come late”. That helped me to take things easy in the vacation. After picking up the rental equipment and loading the luggage, we left at 7:20am.

We were thirteen of us in the group. Two were from England/Ireland, other ten were from different parts of India, they were in their 20s. The youngest trekker was born in September 2000, a year younger than Eshan.

After an hour drive, we stopped at a Dhaba (a roadside restaurant) for the breakfast. The view from the restaurant was majestic, a deep canyon. I was expecting snow on the mountains, there was none, it was warm. Likhith, Hritik joined me in the table for the breakfast, I started to know fellow trekkers. I was cautious since I was the only trekker in 50+, did not know how to break the ice with 20-year old’s. In the afternoon, we stopped at another Dhaba for lunch which also had great views, few more joined our table.

During 200 plus kilometer drive to PipalKoti along the mountain canyons, there were numerous constructions and the landslides were very noticeable. At one of the stops where the road work was going on, we all got down. I was enjoying the views of the canyon and the river, Kalpita came over and started conversing me to find out about me. I was pleasantly surprised and was encouraged to know that I will have good company and enjoy the company in the beautiful trek.

On our way to PipalKoti, we stopped on the side of the road to see one of the holy places in India, DevPrayak. It’s the birthplace of River Ganga, After the confluence of two rivers: Alakananda & Bhagirathi, Ganga is born.

We reached PipalKoti at 3:30pm, Three trekkers were asked to share a room at the hotel, my roommates were Jacob and Mihir. It was ShivaRatri (a festival), I visited a small Temple in the valley. During the dinner, our guide Aman, explained the trek and asked all of us to introduce ourselves and the preparations we did for the trek.

At PipalKoti

On Feb 19th, we drove another 40 kilometers to reach the trail head. During the drive, we drove past Joshimath, a town which has been in the news all around the world for being India’s sinking Himalayan town.

We reached the trail head around 11am, the trek started from a village named Tugasi (at about 8,000 ft), the view from the starting point was amazing. The plan was to trek for four days, first two days were relatively easy.

We trekked for two to three hours at an easy pace to reach our first campsite. The views were just unbelievable, 360 degrees of the mountains.

View on first day, Tallest Peak – 7,200m

I got the first taste of the trekking food, delicious hot lunch was served. I didn’t expect the food to be so fresh. Rice, chapathi, daal and subji (vegetable curry) were served. Eating the lunch with the views of the was incredible.

To acclimatize, we trekked about 20 minutes. Aman encouraged all of us to play couple of team games to know each other better. Everyone (except two who were interested in photography and video) played enthusiastically. While coming back to campsite, I was feeling happy to have such a good group of friends.

The views during Sunset and at night was just so peaceful. Stars filled the sky in the darkness, it was a vast sky that bring humbleness and it’s the time to show our gratitude to the nature. Mihir took pictures of the sky at midnight and shared with us. The pictures were incredible.

Night Sky

Dronagiri peak, which stands at 7,200 mts was visible all the time along with other peaks. I was at peace while watching the Sunrise and the Sunset from our first campsite. Spending time in Himalayas is a bliss, I am lucky to enjoy it for the third time.

The trek on second day was also relatively easy, we reached the camp for lunch. The campsite was inside a forest called Tali. We didn’t have as good a view of the mountains like the previous day. At 4pm we went for a short trek for 20 minutes to see a lake. The scenery at this point was breathtaking. We spent a long time, and we all took pictures. Our trekking guide, Harish Singh who has been a guide for last 15 years told us that they used to receive 4 to 5 feet of snow, now it is less than a foot.

At Tali Lake

The third trekking day, the summit day was a clear sunny day. We mostly walked on the snow. Some parts were narrow, but it was not dangerous or slippery. I felt happy because it was serious trekking to reach 12,700 ft elevation.

At the halfway point, we could see the destination, the views were worth the trip from Utah! While trekking towards the Kuari pass, we saw another group from a different route. Our team members felt the route we trekked was more interesting and diverse than theirs.

Trekkers, we met at Temple point

We continued and met the other group members at Temple point, the start of the last section of the trek. The last 20 to 30 minutes of the climb was challenging, but we made it. At the top of the Pass, we took

turns to take the pictures. Nitin surprised Kalpita by proposing with a ring, most romantic gesture, she was so emotional and said yes. I captured the video of the magical minutes of the proposal.

At Kuari Pass

While returning, we stopped at the same Temple point for the lunch. All of us were grateful that we could trek all the way with no issues. It should have been an easy to return, but in the exposed terrain with limited tree cover, fierce winds made it difficult to walk back. As soon as we returned to tents, it started snowing. Everyone loved the first experience of touching the snow, it made their first trekking in Himalayas memorable. We experienced all types of weather on the same day!!!

While trekking, five out of thirteen were ahead of others along with the lead guide, Harish Singh. Every 20 to 30 minutes, we stopped so that we all go in a group. In the breaks, it gave me time to sit and enjoy the mountain views. Of thirteen, Ananya could not reach the top mainly because of the shoe issues.

On fifth day, on reaching Pipalkoti, a shower after four days was refreshing. Aman, our guide gave us the completion certificate with tea and biscuits. After that, we started playing Uno in the hotel room. I thought it will be great to introduce everyone to Sandhya. Kalpita made a FaceTime call. Sandhya was surprised and happy to see and talk to all of them.

On last day, while retuning back to Rishikesh, it was so refreshing to see all thirteen of us sitting together to eat the breakfast. All of us were sharing the food from each other, spent almost two hours.

Initially I was apprehensive about the trek because of social interaction, having to spend 24 hours on 6 days with the young adults. But they pulled me into everything and made me feel like one of them. All of them were so gracious, respectful, made every attempt to include me in the group activities and in the discussions. Special thanks to Kalpita and Yashwant for being bubbly and cheerful, kept everyone in good mood with their jokes.

The food in this trek was unbelievably good on all six days. We had four delicious hot meals/snacks a day. For dinner, we had Jamoon, Jelebi, Loki halwa as dessert. For snacks, we ate Samosa, popcorn, pakoda. All of us were surprised that the staff could prepare in these conditions, we are thankful to them.

In Rishikesh, we walked around the town in the evening, crossed Ram Jhula (a pedestrian bridge across River Ganga), visited few temples and had authentic food at Chotiwala, a 60 year old restaurant. We were already thinking about separation and missing each others company.

On the last of the trip, four of us (Ananya, Nitin, Yashwant and I) went on a short morning safari at Rajaji National Park. We did not see exotic animals like Tigers and Elephants, but we saw deer, peacocks, were kind of disappointed. I was happy to spend another half a day with three kind young adults.

I am glad and happy that I did this trek. Sandhya was wondering if trekking alone was a good idea. This turned out to be a splendid trek. I grateful and lucky to have this beautiful experience of being in the Himalayas with young adults, an awesome start for my 60th birthday.