The Lord Curzon stretch around Kuari Pass was still reeling from the unlikely vigorous snow of mid-March when we reached Gulling Top near the end of last month. At this juncture we found the Pangarchula Peak partially eclipsing our sky, rising like a shinning omen past the dark forests.
A High Dose of Snow
It has stopped snowing, we were told, but the trail is still saturated with powdery white sludge. At midday, the sun causes the snow blanket to thaw just a sprinkle but that makes trekking harder. The gentle arc of the Peak deceivingly assures a soft climb, only later would the blanket of snow turn out to be a menace. Touching Pangarchulla- the “chimney” top and looking down upon our barren world of snow seemed unreal.
Trekking Light Footed
Spearhead by our Trek Leader, we trudged ahead in a close line. Snow scrunched under our cramponed soles and a hard wind blew disheveling the trail. “Walk on light feet, don’t let your weight down”, we were told as we unwittingly kept digging our own graves in snow, sometimes getting impossibly stuck waist down in pits. The ground was not to be trusted. Snow and gravity had made a pact to pull us all down it seemed, and Pangarchulla was silently smiling at our plight from her high pedestal.
Fall-Proof Snow Trail
Moving a few feet ahead, our Leader was chalking a rough trail, waltzing upon precarious snow with unbelievable ease. He pointed at the cliff-side of our path rolling down to a river below. The slope was covered with a lulling cushion of snow. You could not possibly toss over from that height without getting caught in the frost blanket, he explained. With some prolific skiing skills up your sleeves you can actually save a lot of time going back to camp by sliding the way down. We closed our eyes, trying to imagine sliding down Pangarchulla’s snow-covered crevasse. The wind suddenly felt wild beneath our wings!
We came to a junction where the path going down to Khulara- the second camping point for the Peak, meets our route. We moved ahead towards Kuari, still a concept, not a trace of it visible. Who loomed over us greatly is the “chimney” peak of Pangarchulla, soaring from a clambering height, an ascent of a greater magnitude. In it, the pull of the unknown radiated stronger.
The magnetic vision of the Peak chased us all the way on the Kuari Pass trail. We looked up often, hoping to catch a glimpse of TTH trekkers who were dispatched for the peak in the morning. Perhaps they were looking out for us too. This kind of unspoken exchange often develops between trekkers when on the move between shifting perspectives in the mountains.
Someday you or I could be up there, looking at trekkers on the Kuari Pass trail. All of us falling and rising from snow. Nevertheless, we would be moving along.
Ahana Chaudhuri, official writer and explorer with Trek the Himalayas shares her experience of snow and looking at the Pangarchulla Peak on a trek to Kuari Pass in March 2017.
You will find snow on the Pangarchulla trail around mid-May. Team TTH is going.