“Winter” Kuari Pass: When the TTH Recce Team Found the Quintessential Himalayan Snow Trek
Kuari Pass today is recognized as a spectacular snow trek but only six years ago it wasn’t such a sought-after winter adventure. The trail, chockablock with powdery slush snow in the winters was casted out as an option for obvious reasons. Since no snow safe itinerary was sketched out, not many people ventured in these parts until Trek the Himalayas founders Rakesh and Sandeep brought together a group of four to explore the depths of Kuari after snow.
This is an event of March 2011.
Opening the Reverse Route
Trekkers to Kuari usually started from Ghat village before Rakesh and Sandeep’s winter trail came into force. The former route passed through a series of hamlets and winded away in the lush bugyals of Gorson and Auli.
Though the former route has always been a success in summer, TTH navigators weren’t sure of it in heavy snow. Attempting to find a safer and better way to snow summit, the TTH recce team for the very first time in organized trekking history hiked the reverse route to Kuari during winters.
Gaining a head start in the trek starting from Dhak Village near Joshimath, they ambled up a rough trail to first camp. Right beside a sweet flowing stream at Chitrakhana and exposed to a gallery of glittering snow peaks, it was quiet a site to camp at! Watching the sun rise and set over Dronagiri from this point had been an affair of absolute ecstasy!
Later, on their after-lunch stroll, Rakesh and Sandip chanced upon the Talli Top highland. The walk fitted perfectly for an ideal acclimatization activity according to the “climb high, sleep low” credo. From up here, the Garhwal Himalaya peaks shone like a dream and there was so much bliss radiating from Talli Lake!
Next morning, they found their way through thickets of oak and rhododendron inside Talli forest and discovered a clearing by waters. What a perfect place for second campsite by God’s design!
A Safe Snow Trail
Summit was kept for day 4. As the team moved through Talli Forest, snow started to thicken. To ensure safety, crampons were strapped on. The cliff side was submerged in soft snow but chances of accident were next to nothing as the cliff did not have a steep angle.
The recce team okayed the trek for an easy level one after examining the safe snow trail and connectivity to local villages. Tugasi, the village nearest to the Kuari trail is 4-7 km on mixed terrain from where snowline starts in the winters. This means, fast evacuation and SOS to villages is certainly possible in times of emergency.
Temple Sites and Rest Points
Snowfields go on far and wide never seeming to end. The only points of mark our recce men could find were scattered sites of worship. One such welcoming site was chosen for having lunch on the way. There, a bright yellow flag was waving in the air. “Jhandidhar”, the local guide related the name of the place.
Way Back through Bugyals
After an exhilarating summit, coming back to the forest camp was mildly tiring but the next day’s relaxed descent through the rolling bugyals of Gorson to Auli made up for it. The burnt sienna grass of the bugyals highlighted starkly against the whiteness, making a splendid canvas of contrasting colors. March marked a beautiful turn in the seasons and our TTH explorers were really glad they had chosen this time for the trek.
The recce men concluded that Kuari Pass trekked in the winters from the reverse end of the familiar trail is all about the quintessence of a snow trek. There was snow laden forest camping grounds, snow fields to play in, and a vivifying panorama of snow peaks surrounding throughout the trek. You get to experience trekking in crampon and other snow gear and soak in the beautiful feeling of standing in falling snow. What else is there to ask for? Today, our trekking community knows it by the name of “Winter Kuari Pass Trek”— a complete experience of winter in the Himalayas!