I had been to Devariyatal — Chandrashila trek in November ‘16. New year was coming so was planning to celebrate in a different way and what better can it be than mountains and their evenings. One of my office colleague, Akash had shown interest to come along on a trek. Another colleague Shweta, was also interested in trekking in Himalayas. Shweta had done a trek with me before but Akash was new to this. I thought of trekking to Kuari pass, which offers a close view of Nanda Devi, Dunagiri and Hathi – Ghoda parbat and also its suitable for novice trekkers and many trekking organizations run batches along this route. So, we wouldn’t be alone if we couldn’t find any guide for us.

We started our journey from Delhi on Wednesday, 28th Dec, 2016 on train. Upon reaching Haridwar Railway Station, we took a Uttarakhand Roadways bus to Joshimath. Though trek starts from Auli, we figured that accommodation in Auli would cost us more due to increase in tourist influx around year end. We needed to see if we could get a guide in Joshimath. By evening of Thursday, 29th Dec, 2016, we reached Joshimath.

After this long journey we didn’t have much time left to get a guide and make arrangements of food on the trek. Our topmost priority was to get a guide which would help us with the trek route. We found one from a local tourist organization. Immediately after that, he helped us get all the forest permits needed for camping and trekking. With the consultation of our guide, we bought and packed all the ration needed for a seemingly 4 day long trek to Kuari Pass Trek from Auli.

First day of trek

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Next morning we started with our guide Nima Sherpa and by the time, we reached Auli via cab, it was 08:30 AM. According to itinerary, we were to camp in Gorson Bugyal on first day of trek. Soon we reached Gorson Bugyal but Nima kept on walking further and I figured that there is no nearby water source around to camp here. I decided not tell others so early and was happy in way that we are saving time and I may get some days to go on another trek around here (As always, I get greedy when it comes to mountains) .

Gorson Bugyal offers a spectacular view of Nanda Devi. Though it was little cloudy, but I was happy to see Nanda Devi so clear. Gorson Bugyal is too soon to camp for the day in my opinion. As we moved further through the meadow, clouds were all around us and we could no longer see peaks other than Hathi Ghoda and Dunagiri on our left. Sun played hide and seek behind the clouds as we moved towards Chitrakantha forest area. After a walk of 6 hours, we were entering into Chitrakantha forest. Akash had some sign of tiredness but was elated when told that we didn’t stop at Gorson Bugyal due to nonavailability of water and are reaching Chitrakantha/Tali camping site in few minutes. All this time he had been wondering about the distance travelled and the time to reach Gorson Bugyal.

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Camping sites of Chitrakantha forest was already full with the camps of Indiahikes and Himalayan Snow Runners. We found a little space nearby where we could pitch our tents. Nima decided to stay in a cave like place nearby where he had set up the kitchen.

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We had started from Auli after our breakfast and were hungry by the time we reached Chitrkantha around 2:30 PM. Nima quickly made tea for all of us and then we went on exploring around, while Nima had started preparing dinner. When sun was about to set, we crammed around a little bonfire made by Nima discussing our next day plans. Nima was planning to camp in Khullar next day before reaching Kuari pass. Akash had some urgent work in office and was not in favour of reaching Kuari pass in 2 days. Nima proposed an alternative plan to leave our tents pitched and start early morning to Kuari pass with our daypacks to come back before evening to Chitrkantha itself. Everybody agreed to this plan. I was little reluctant because I feared that we may not reach Kuari pass early morning to have a clear view of mountains around. I had ample time and didn’t want to rush it but I gave up eventually. Nima had prepared Dal-Chawal that night. The utensils were small and dal wasn’t enough for 4 people. Nima insisted us to have all of the dal as he would fetch some more from the kitchen of Himalayan Snow Runners where his friends were working. Our little bonfire was about to die, so we decided to call it a day and moved towards our tents.

Second Day of Trek

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We woke up early in the morning and after little breakfasts and prepared a daypack with water and a jacket. Akash decided to brush his teeth and was little behind so I asked Shweta and Nima to move ahead. Few minutes later, I hastened with Akash to catch up with others.

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Near Khullar camping site, towards Kuari pass

It was past 7:30 in the morning. We were rushing to reach Kuari pass before it gets cloudy and passed others along the way.

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It was around 10:30 when we passed a glacial stream before the slope of Kuari pass.

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The view of the huge valley and the Pangarchulla peak in the vicinity was very enticing. I enquired Nima about the climb of Pangarchulla. He told me to come after the snow. Climb to Pangarchula is easier when there is snow as there are many boulders on the way. The cold breeze had become strong and and cloud had started to cover the sun. Soon we reached the top of Kuari pass to have complete 270deg view of surrounding. I had an app “PeakFinder” installed to identify the peaks in view from any location. I was little disappointed as array of clouds always covered the the peaks behind Dunagiri and Hathi Ghora. We stayed there at the top for an hour or so while sun played hide and seek behind the clouds. Even for a moment, the warmth of sun in such ice cold breeze was greatly appreciated by us. It seemed that weather was not going to get any clearer and it might snow.

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After a little stay there, we started back. The other group from some trek organization had been resting way behind the glacial stream. While coming back, they met us near the glacial stream. We suggested few of those trekkers to hurry as they might get caught in bad weather while coming back. It looked like this group had many novice trekkers, not mentally prepared enough for adverse conditions which might come.

Wind was getting stronger and stronger and carried snowflakes along with it. Shweta had developed knee pain while descending and was walking slow. I asked Nima to go ahead and prepare lunch for us. We were walking little slow but reached Chitrakantha around 3 PM. Lunch was served and Akash went ahead to take a nap while Shweta and I stayed near the fireplace. To pass time I decided to roast the rest of the tomatoes and potatoes and prepared “chokha” with great help of Shweta for all of us to be served in dinner.

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Anyway we were going back tomorrow. We clicked pictures in the cave while Nima went off with some of his friends to celebrate new year. Two goats were brought from the nearby village for 31st December night. Akash was amused to think whether he could ask in their kitchen to share some of mutton with him. Nima was back around 9 and asked us to have our dinner so that he could be free to be with his friends. I was happy to hear some kind words about “chokha” from Nima. We thought of keeping ourselves awake till 12 in night that day but our eyes were getting heavy by 10 PM.

Third Day of Trek

We got up on the morning of this very beautiful new year 2017 (elated), we had started back to Dhak from where we could take a cab to Joshimath. It was 11:30 AM when everybody reached Dhak. After waiting a while when we could not get any transport, I asked Nima to call a cab to pick us up which came after half an hour. There weren’t any buses to Haridwar in afternoon so we decided to stay in Joshimath that night to catch an early bus to Haridwar next morning. We reached Joshimath in the evening, where we freshend up, had a sumptuous meal and roamed around this small little paradise.