My calling for Kuari Pass in Winter

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Tali Lake and in front Pangarchulla Peak

Where– Kuari Pass, Uttrakhand

When– 19-24th March, 2016

Who- Rishabh Goel, a fourth year law student pursuing BALLB(H) degree from O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat.

Why I chose to go for a trek

I had been wanting to go for a trek for quite some time. And another thing I wanted to do was to travel solo. Travelling solo is something I plan to do a lot in future. I want to travel solo to a lot of countries, Iceland and Norway being on top of the list. Why solo? Well, I think the experience you get when you travel on your own is very enriching. You can do things you would hesitate to do when with someone you know. You meet people, talk to them, and possibly pick up a few things to remember from them. Moreover you discover a lot about yourself. “Because at the end of the day you only have yourself, and that has to be enough.” But that is what I personally feel and prefer, you might have your own thoughts about it. And why trekking? Well I can’t stress enough about how important it is to go for a trek, or other adventure close to the wilderness of nature, atleast once a year. I personally am a lover of hills having studied in Mussoorie for 9 years. I know hills is where my final abode is going to be, so choosing to go somewhere in the hills was not hard. Secondly, since I have been going to the gym for quite some time, I wanted to put my physical strength to a good test. So I chose to go for a trek.

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Trekkers walking towards Tali camp through oak and rhododendrons forest.

Preparation

So, I google searched “trekking in India” and after going through various sites I chose to book the “Winter Kuari Pass Trek” with Trek The Himalayas. This one mainly because the dates were convenient, and also I did not have enough days to go further than Uttrakhand or Himachal. TTH organizes fixed date treks to various places. You can enroll and a maximum of around 15-20 trekkers can go per group. It was a 5 night tour in total with the first and the last day in guest house and three nights camping. I do not want to mention all the details and my itenary over here, so if interested you can check out all the details on their website. They send you a list of items you should pack for the trek. I also consulted my friend Sushant Ale, who has done treks before, in order to know what all I should pack. I went shopping with my mom to Wildcraft store and bought a ruck sack, trekking shoes and a fleece. You can also visit Decathlon showroom, they have pretty good stuff for these kind of things. So I was told there is going to be snow so I packed all the winter clothing accordingly and that is why proper shoes were also important. They had asked to fill out a medical form.

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Trekkers descending down to Dhak village from Tugasi camp(In front Mt. Dronogiri)

The Experience

It was everything I had expected it to be and more. The train journey to Haridwar and reaching there at around 4 am in the morning, but not drinking tea because I knew I wouldn’t find a clean toilet after that! The sunrise at Har Ki Paudi, with all the sinners taking a dip in the Ganga was beautiful. This is where I met 5 other trekkers who would be joining the trek. I had anticipate that I would be the only one coming solo but to my surprise a lot of them were travelling solo. So it did not take us much time to get comfortable with each other. The car journey from Haridwar to Joshimath was dreadful. It is a 10 hour long journey and the entire way is through hills. So getting motion sickness was quite obvious. But I did enjoy some crazy samosas and tea on the way (I only took this chance when I was quite certain I will be able to make it till our destination without having to use the toilet). We started the trek the next day. There were a total of 15 trekkers and around 5-6 men from TTH including a lead instructor, a 2nd instructor, a guide, a cook, and two other helpers. They cooked all three meals for us. You can’t really expect much at 10,000 ft in snow but the food was quite good.

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Trail toward Tugasi Village (Chamoli, Uttarakhand)

Our first day of trek was not very tough (if you have good stamina and the strength to carry your ruck sack). It was through a few villages and into the forest. We camped at around 8,000 ft. The company provides you the tents and sleeping bags. It was really cold at night with temperature going below 0 degrees Celsius. There were layers of frozen ice on top of the small stream flowing beside the camp. Well this is where the first most difficult part comes. You need to answer the call of nature. It was quite an experience! In the wilderness, just trees around, and cold wind blowing. And I did the stupidity of washing my hands in the stream water. They froze. They kinda swelled up and for 5-10 mins they were paining so much. I forgot to mention, the view you got when you wake up and see right outside your tent was just heavenly. Snow covered majestic peaks of THE GREAT HIMALAYAS. But it was only going to get better the next day. The next day we climbed upto around 10,500 feet where our second camp was pitched. There was snow all around and even under our tents. That night was, well what can I say, ‘it chilled me to the bones’ (picked that phrase from a Linkin Park song. You should listen to this band, it’s the best) I had to wear five layers of clothing; 2 inners, 1 sweater, the fleece and a thick jacket and then put myself inside the sleeping bag. It was a little hard to sleep but I managed to get some.

THE SUMMIT DAY- The views throughout the trek were just amazing. You get to see some of the highest peaks of India including Nanda Devi (Highest peak of India), Dronagiri and Neelkanth. But everything till now was still believable. The final day when we had to go for the summit was ‘the day’. We had to trek 7.5 kms uphill and then come down all the way, in 5ft deep snow, against extremely strong winds that not only made it hard to walk but the snow that blew with it, slaps you right in the face. So since all the trekkers could not go together owing to differing capabilities, we divided ourselves in groups. And there was one guide with every group. I was in the group that was leading, along with three other trekkers who had by now become really good friends. With every checkpoint that we reached we felt accomplished. But while we were going up we kept asking ourselves, why are we doing this? Why are we putting ourselves through so much? And the scenes from the movie Everest kept playing in my head. There was a point in between where the wind got so strong that we had to wait for around 20 mins as we could not walk. As we neared the summit the trek kept getting harder. My foot would go down 3 ft on every step. But not once did we think of turning back. We knew we had to do it. I also kept praying on the way especially that I should not feel sick. Because at such high altitude you tend to get ‘acute mountain sickness’. But thankfully I did not feel sick, though my head started aching a little. And then we finally made it, to the top. At 12,740 feet. After trekking for around 5 hours. Don’t expect to get a resort when you reach up there. There is nothing there but snow. But there was a place with rocks not covered with snow where we could rest. We had a little food which we had got packed from the base camp. By the way only 7 out us 15 trekkers made it to the top. I being one of them 😀 then we trekked back to the camp.

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View from Kuaari Pass summit (Mt. Drongiri and neighbour peaks) Grahwal Himalayas

The next day we trekked back to Joshimath where we stayed in the guest house. On our way back we also played a proper cricket match with the local boys of the a village, which my team won 😀 But finally getting back that comfort of a bed, a quilt, a western toilet, a shower.. wow.. all these luxuries of life we had been missing! But the experience was great. The people I met were great. I did not expect I would feel so comfortable with them in such short span of time. It felt like I had known them for years. The TTH team was great. Our 2nd instructor Mr. Mahaveer was such a hero.

But being there felt just so ‘me’.  I learnt that I could go solo in future and that I enjoy it. Secondly, regarding my physical test, I would say I did better than I expected and I would totally pat myself on the back for it. Though we had an overdose of mountain and snow, I do know I will go for many more treks.

Advice to first time trekkers

  1. Definitely know the climate and current weather of the place you are going to.
  2. Do not take the check list lightly. You need to have the proper equipment. One of the trekkers in our trek did not have proper shoes and his sports shoes became wet because of which he did not go for the summit.
  3. Remember to travel light because you have to carry your own luggage. But at the same time be sure to take proper woolen cloths.
  4. Pack items such as basic toiletries, sunglasses (very imp), sunscreen, rain protection, power banks, some eatables (especially chocolates), medicines, and do not, I repeat, do not forget toilet roll.
  5. The website of the trek clearly says that you should physically train yourself for atleast 2 months before the trek. So get your ass on the filed or in the gym if you really want to be able to enjoy the trek.

And finally, just be there, leave all the worries behind (you anyway will not get mobile signals at higher altitudes), feel the mountains, live wild, and fill your eyes with wonder.

By:-

RISHABH GOEL

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