Back Winter Kuari Pass Trek – Trekking in Uttarakhand

Winter Kuari Pass Trek – Trekking in Uttarakhand

The winters were almost over and it would have been disappointing if it was without a winter trek!

Motivated by few seminars of The Himalayan Club which I had attended, it was a spontaneous decision to do a winter trek soon. Well, the search for the trek was on and Kuari Pass was shortlisted, mainly because least commercial trips were organised there during this time of the year making it more serene and peaceful.

Reading previous blogs and experiences, all of us underestimated the difficulty of the trek, surviving sub-zero temperatures and scaling steep snow-clad slopes were challenging indeed!

Post: 1

Trek Day: 1

Location: Devprayag, Uttarakhand

First Day was entrely train travel and on the second day I reached haridwar late in the evening.

On the third day we were picked by our organisers from haridwar with Joshimath as destination and base camp for our trek!

Devprayag was amongst the few halts we took on our way. It has quite significant importance as this marks the formation of river Ganga from the confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Rivers.

Post: 2

Trek Day: 2

Location: Joshimath, Uttarakhand

Little did we knew, this would be our first view in the morning!

Yesterday the weather turned bad as we crossed Devprayag and the rain continued till we reached our base Joshimath.

From plains of haridwar to mountains of joshmath we had gained lot of altitude and there was a sudden dip in mercury as well due to rains.

We were quickly allocated our rooms, after dumping our stuffs we gathered for introduction session. The day ended with awesome dinner and next day started with this brilliant view !

Post: 3

Trek Day: 2

Location: Dhak Village, Uttarakhand

We were taken few kms further on vehicle till Dhak village and the treks begins from here!

We met our local guide Vipin bhai, he is going to lead us in deep woods and snow-covered trails for the next few days.

Post: 4

Trek Day: 2

Location: Upper Bilagar Village, Uttarakhand

The Trek route today crossed through small villages and farms with the clear sight of Dronagiri Ranges enroute.

Well, most of us were expecting easier first day but the hike was pretty steep, more so after we were done with the roads and took villagers trail. With frequent halts we continued to gain some altitude.

Post: 5

Trek Day: 2

Location: Enroute Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

This was something no one expected and most of us were here because of it… Yuppp.. this snow!!

What i mean is, it was unexpected to get snow on the first day of the trek. All thanks to the heavy snowfall that happened last night. With smiles on everyone’s face we continued on the snow!

Post: 6

Trek Day: 2

Location: Campsite at Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

With few skids and falls on icy trail we managed to reach the campsite, just to find that it was covered entirely in the snow!

The support staffs had reached the campsite well in advanced and were busy pitching few of the final tents. We quickly selected our tents, collected the sleeping mat and dumped our stuffs in the tent.

Post: 7

Trek Day: 2

Location: Campsite at Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

Post hot lunch we had some spare time and we had many dance enthusiast amongst us aswell, who did their acclimatisation via dancing :p as our routine acclimatisation walk got cancelled due to bad weather and snowfall few of us accompanied them for some time, while the dancing session lasted for hours πŸ˜€

Post: 8

Trek Day: 2

Location: Campsite at Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

Well, I personally feel one of the best thing about sunrise and sunsets in mountains is its ability to make a peaks glow… these last few rays have the magic to make one forget everything else in life and for those moment u truly becomes part of the mountains!!

Post: 9

Trek Day: 2

Location: Campsite at Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

Post Sunset the weather made a u-turn and took all the clouds along :p cloudless sky made the mercury dip even further. Few of us decide to take shelter in dining tent… sharing stories of how we were introduced to mountains/trekking/traveling.

We were accompnied by few others later and the session countinued post dinner aswell sharing some interesting travel stories.

Once we left the comfort of the dining tent, we felt the actual weather outside. It was sparkling all around, stars in the sky while as moonlit ice on the ground and tents!

Post: 10

Trek Day: 2

Location: Campsite at Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

Last weeks of February marks the beginning of the milky-way season in Northen Hemisphere. i.e Milky-way core becomes visible in night sky!

Clear Sky… moonset at around 3.00AM… rise of milky way core at around 4.00AM… made me woke at around 4.00AM in the morning. I didn’t expected this but i was accompnied by few other aswell.

If u ask anyone after a winter trek, “what was the most challenging part about the trek?” . The most probable answer would be “Getting out from the tents at mid-night” . The reason could be anywhere from Nature’s call to astrophotography… but leaving the warmth of sleeping bag and tents is never a easy task.

We spent more than an hour stargazing and spotting shooting stars. Meanwhile we recorded a temperature of negative 8 degrees at a moment, it could have been pretty less too :p

Post: 11

Trek Day: 3

Location: Campsite at Gulling Top, Uttarakhand

I literally didn’t slept the whole night due to extreme cold and my mistake of not checking the size of my sleeping bag in advance. The sleeping bag was too small for me making it difficult to accumulate body heat.

I slept for couple of hours post photography session and i woke up to this beautiful view. It can make anyone refresh!!Β  isn’t it?

Post: 12

Trek Day: 3

Location: Enroute Tali Top, Uttarakhand

With Tea and hot breakfast in the morning we continued further towards our next campsite!

The weather in the morning was clear and it was pretty sunny in the start but the trail continued to by snowy most of the times.

Post: 13

Trek Day: 3

Location: Enroute Tali Top, Uttarakhand

It was not long before the game of lights and shadows commenced. We were hiking through some dense alpine forest where even the sun was finding it difficult to penetrate!

Post: 14

Trek Day: 3

Location: Campsite at Tali Top, Uttarakhand

It was mostly an inclined hike through forest today… snow turned into ice on steep trail was making it difficult to pick any speed. Slowly and steadily we managed to reach the campsite!

To be frank, the first view of the campsite was not that great. It was all slushy around our tents and it was because of melting snow. Although slush was quickly cleared by support staff, making the campsite much more pleasant.

And the other thing was the view; the campsite was kinda trapped in forest with trees all around and no clear view of adjoining peaks. Well, I later asked the trek leads and local guide about the selection of this location of campsite. They gave me a practical answer; there are many factors that are taken into consideration while choosing a campsite. First and foremost is the availability of freshwater… later comes the factors like… how windy the place can become… amount of flat land present.. etc etc..

Well this made me realise the efforts required in searching a campsite for a bigger group like us!

Post: 15

Trek Day: 3

Location: Acclimatisation walk – Enroute Tali Lake, Uttarakhand

As one climbs higher, the amount of oxygen in the air reduces to certain extent. Human body needs certain time to adjust with low oxygen conditions. The rule says climb higher and sleep lower for better acclimatisation. That’s the reason acclimatisation hike to a higher altitude is required after reaching a campsite!

The guides told us that the location where we were going for the acclimatisation hike is very beautiful and it indeed was amongst the most scenic place we went on the trek.

Post: 16

Trek Day: 3

Location: Tali Lake, Uttarakhand

This place had lovely snow-covered meadows and to make the place even dreamier, it had a glacier lake reflecting the distant range of snow-clad mountains, including the mighty Nanda Devi Peak.

Unfortunately, we started late for acclimatization walk and couldn’t spend much time in such a heavenly place.

Post: 17

Trek Day: 3

Location: Tali Lake, Uttarakhand

The day ended with amazing dinner (including lovely gulab jamuns) and instructions for the next morning i.e our summit day!!

Although we were at a higher altitude than previous night, but still it was less chilly tonight. Fortunately I had a quality sleep, which was necessary before summit day!

Post: 18

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

There was a strict instruction to everyone for an early start in the morning for the summit day… timing are utmost important because we had a turn-around time of 12 Noon, i.e we would go as far as we could till 12, post that we need to turn back irrespective of the fact that we had reached Kuari pass or not!!

With a bit delay we started our summit day hike in the morning… leaving most of our belongings at campsite we were trekking pretty light.

As soon as we crossed the forest area, we were blessed with this beautiful sunrise. A cloud with a silver lining!!!

Post: 19

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

As we gained altitude, the amount of snow on and off the trail increased by a significant amount.

I tried deviating from the trail to compose my shot, one of my legs went thigh deep inside the snow :p . Well I was more careful henceforth!!

Another interesting thing in our hike was this dog. He met us in a village enroute during first day of the trek and was accompanying us on the summit day aswell πŸ™‚

Post: 20

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

With frequent short halts in-between we continued to gain altitude and progress towards our summit!!

Post: 21

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

The best part about today’s route was the versatility of the trail… right from thick forest… to snowy meadows… to rocky patches… to ridge walks… it had all, with always a surprise of what’s going to come next !!

Post: 22

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

As we moved further, higher on the mountains… we surpassed the tree-line and entered an area where the atmospheric conditions becomes too hostile to support the growth of trees, from here on and above only grasses can sustain such cold weather and low moisture content in air…

But, all of us were determined to reach the summit irrespective of any issues faced!

Post: 23

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

First Summit – Jhandi TopΒ  !!

It took us around 3.5 hours to reach this point, famously known as Jhandi Top. At 12,700+ ft, it’s also believed to be the highest point on the trek.

No words can describe the beauty of the place, one gets mesmerised by experiencing 360 degree panoramic view of Himalayan peaks.

The reason i captioned it as our ‘First Summit’ is because, after reaching this point trek leaders took a move ahead call. i.e. only those who wish to proceed further can follow local guide, rest who feels that they are tired or want to enjoy the beauty of at the same place can stay back.

Post: 24

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute Kuari Pass, Uttarakhand

Point of return!

Many of us continued further from Jhandi Top towards kuari Pass and couple of hours later at 12 Noon we managed to reach as close as possible, but couldn’t make it.

Excessive snow and unopened route restricted us to make the summit of kuari pass, however the views on the trail from Jhandi top to this point was worth the effort!

Post: 25

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute back to Tali Top, Uttarakhand

Surprise! Surprise!!

Well, this took everyone by surprise… Chai-stuck we were πŸ˜› !!

Imagine, you are walking continuously for around 6 hours…. you have gained an altitude from around 9000ft to 12500+ft… you are tired to your core… every single step into soft snow is draining you further…

.. and the team leaders and guide digs out the hidden treasure from their bags… ‘A flask of Hot Tea’.

Stunned yet smiles all around… certainly a best location to have Chai πŸ˜‰

Post: 26

Trek Day: 4

Location: Enroute back to Tali Top, Uttarakhand

We might be leaving this place, but the memories of such majestic landscapes will be cherised forever!

Another lesson learnt was, Summit is important but what’s more important is to respect the mountain and enjoy it’s company πŸ™‚

Written By:-

Ankit Negi