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KUARI PASS TREK
Kauri Pass has been a favourite with many mountaineers. Mr. Shipman
in his book- Nanda Devi writes about crossing this pass with these
words, "The top of the pass was reached by 7 o'clock (am) of a clear,
cold morning and we were privileged to see what must be one of the
grandest mountain views in the world." In spite of the view this trek
promises to offer, it is a fairly moderate trek, which offers most
enchanting mix of the Himalayan life with a look at village life,
culture, pristine wilderness, wild life and great Himalayan range. On a
clear day one can see mountains like Nanda Devi (7816m), Dunagiri
(7066m), Kamet (7756m) and many more. Ask for details for longer version
of this trek ‘LORD CURZON TRAIL,
- Drive to Nandaprayag and to Ghat and then to Chefna (the
starting point of the trek). We camp for the night at Chefna.
Finish with breakfast and then devour on this nice walk next
to the river followed by an ascent through coniferous and mixed
forests. The walk by a wooded ridge takes us to a village called
Ramni (2550m). It is a typical Garhwal village with friendly
people and attractive houses with heavy slate roofs and paved
alleys surrounded by fertile fields. It is very commendable to
see that this entire village is mainly run on solar power. Night
stay and meals at camp at Ghuni.
- This is a long but rewarding day. From the campsite you climb
steeply for 1,000ft/300m on a zigzagging track to emerge on an open,
grassy, grazing meadows. Snow peaks begin to emerge above the forest
to the north. The path continues up through forests of rhododendron,
pines and oaks with more pastures for summer grazing with shepherds
huts. Flocks of sheep and goats are there to keep you company as you
keep moving along the track. The highest point, reached in 2¼ hours
from the camp, at 3,064m/10,053ft, is the Ramni Pass, also called
Binayak Top. From here it is possible to make out the Kuari Pass,
which we will cross on Day 8. From now on there may be a chance to
see the multi-coloured monal pheasant but they are very shy, being
hunted by the locals for pot. The trek is now gentle, mainly through
open pastures into forests of horse chestnuts and walnut trees
complete with fairy tale waterfalls. Lastly, a zigzag downward trail
will bring you down to the overnight camp at Semkherk.
- Day starts with a descent to the colourful village of Jhinjhi.
The trail carries on down past small farms, through some woods to
the spectacular suspension bridge at 1,840m/6,037ft across the
Birehi Gorge, which currently is inhabited by a large number of
monkeys! From here however it’s a very steep climb up to
7,382ft/2,250m, where the track eases only after arduous ascent of 1
½ hour. After this though you can relax a bit as the path becomes
almost flat and you can pass under the cool shade of the
rhododendron forests with long tailed magpies flitting about. There
are many streams and waterfalls as the route contours round many
deep ravines. If you look down to the deep gorge below you can see
the landslide and the Gauna Lake, which burst and flooded the whole
of the Ganga Valley down to Rishikesh in 1898. After going round the
head of a horseshoe valley you reach two lovely rivers cascading
down under the path. From here there is a short climb to a spot
called Kaliaghat, which is a good campsite near the village of Pana.
It is here where we camp overnight.
- This is another long but spectacular day. The route traverses
above the village and then starts a steep climb up into a
rhododendron forest. It is a broad, well made track and after a
number of small summits a Col is reached at 9,842ft/3,000m. The path
now descends gently, traversing along the valley to open meadows
with views across the Kuari Pass. We continue downhill through the
valley along several streams, before it plunges down a very steep
and loose section, much of which has been washed away by the
monsoons. At the bottom, you will see that the river has cut through
a deep rocky, dramatic gorge to your right showing just how
naturally scalped the entire region is. From the river, it is a very
steep climb of about 3,000 feet (900 m) with a small break about
half the way up to cross a large stream. A final climb brings you
above the tree-line to the campsite on the large pastures where
sheep and goats graze in summer, with the Kauri Pass towering above.
- It is a short day today meaning that you have enough time to
take breaks on the pass to simply stare at awe at your surroundings.
The thrill of standing at such a height, with the cold wind hitting
you across the face is a feeling that cannot be surpassed. We aim to
cross this pass today so that you will have the benefit of the clear
early morning the following day. For this we have to walk a bit more
to gain more height, with the highest point of the trail being at a
cool 4000 m high and is just half an hour from the Tali Pass ahead.
Once, we have had our fill of the mountain view (which is highly
unlikely) we walk down to our camp which has been set up for you
across a small stream.
- For those among you who are willing to give up a few more hours
of sleep to catch a rare glimpse of nature, we suggest you wake up
before dawn and make your way to the top of Pangarchulli peak to
catch the dawn view of the Himalayas. The way, the navy blue
mountains slowly turn an orange hue to a brighter yellow to finally
white is a sight you will not want to miss. Frank Smythe, who came
this way in 1931 en route to Kamet (25,443ft/7,757m), the second
highest mountain in this region, said something along these lines
about this view, "We breasted the slope and halted, silent on the
path. No words would express our delight. The Himalayas were arrayed
before us in a stupendous arc". Some of the mountains seen are Kamet,
Nilkanth (7,141m/23,425ft), Dunagiri (7,067m/23,182ft) and
Changabang (6,864m/22,516ft), with even Nanda Devi herself visible
if you walk along the ridge for a while. The blinding vision of snow
peaks make all the effort worthwhile, for it is often said that this
is one of the greatest mountain views in the world. We walk back to
camp for hot lunch and over night in tents.
- Most of summer treks finish in Auli and early summer/early
winter treks finish in Tapovan because of the icy conditions on the
trail to Auli. It is a 3-4-hr walk to either place. It is a gradual
descent to Auli down through woods and pastures and we meet our car
waiting for us at Auli to drive us to Joshimat. Auli, although
having none of the elegance of its sister hill resorts, does have a
charm and beauty of its own. It is the site where the famous Adiguru
Shankaracharya attained enlightenment before beginning his campaign
for the unification of India and the revitalization of Hinduism.
There is a temple here called the Na Singh where the statue of Na
Singh involves a legend that when the arm of the idol finally
breaks, the road to Badrinath will be blocked. Interestingly, the
statue’s arm has been getting smaller every year. Auli is also the
centre of the Indian ski scene, and the cable car up to the resort
of Auli starts in the middle of Joshimath.
We stay overnight at a hotel in Joshimath to wash off the fatigue
and get a comfortable sleep.
- Back to Rishikesh it is, with lunch given on the way.
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