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Footsteps in the Himalayas - Abode Of God

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Kuari Pass Pangarchulla Trek


"The Mountains are calling and I must go"


After the Phokteydara trek, as I pledged to return to the grand Himalayas, I planned to join the upcoming Kuari Pass-Pangarchulla trek on March 2023. We met our trek leader (TL), Dr. Sourav Ray, in Haridwar, who led us to Tugasi village, en route Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnprayag & Nandaprayag along with pristine scenic beauty which was enough to get rid of travel fatigue.


Devprayag, the sacred place of merging of two visible heavenly rivers, Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, to form the holy Ganges.


From Tugasi we were about to start our trekking the next morning. The briefing and introductory session fetched me to the conclusion that I was in a pro-trekkers’ group, where people had set their records over 6000m altitude, some had experiences of Panpatia Col, and someone was enjoying the 15th or 16th trek of his life. The session ended with the command of our ‘chief commander’: “7:00 a.m. bed tea, 8:00 a.m. breakfast and 9:00 a.m. move.....”


Group Picture, before leaving Tugasi village


This was my first ever "DOL PURNIMA" (Holi) with the highest mountain range in the world, which itself sounds fantastic. We started our movement for Gulling Top. Though a few mountain ranges were playing hide and seek with us, Dronagiri was a constant backdrop. We quenched our thirst with an energy drink served immediately, once we reached Gulling Top after 3 hours.


The scenery was spectacular. A remarkable conversation between the mountain peaks and the clouds; a musical waterfall in the stream near our campsite; soothing weather—all these were enough to make my soul dance.


Gulling Top Campsite


Being alert to the captivating nature of the mesmerizing Himalayas, our TL found a unique way to restrict our random movement into the woods after lunch. He asked Sucharita Di to share some scary stories she had experienced, during her past trekking days. This made the ambiance too haunted to reach our allotted shared tent all alone, from the dining tent.


The very next day was destined for Khullara. The 5km trail was through the dense forest, and our dust ascent turned green. Gradually, the rolling foothills turned into a snowline. Finally, the moment came, that I was waiting for.


First encounter with snow


My first snow trek! We prepared ourselves for the snow trek by putting on microspikes. Zidan’s innocence took our attention on the snow trek as he was capturing photographs of every single step we made into the snow.


Kullara Campsite


After 4-5 hours, Khullara campsite welcomed us with steaming tea. We were served a hot and delicious lunch. Asking for non-veg in Dev Bhoomi is an offense. The variety and amount of dal we were served there can lead to mutiny at any time if we are supposed to have it now! ☺☺


The more I say about the meal it seems to be the less. In Hemant’s words, “Yeh to luxury trek hai vai!” I can give an example only to give a brief idea.


That was our Kuari Pass summit day. I stepped out of my tent in the morning into a whitewashed landscape. A layer of snow covered everything.


Kullara Campsite with a view of some famous peaks of Garhwal Himalayas


It’s like I was returning to the Ice Age. Meanwhile, we witnessed the mountain peaks blushing due to the sunkissed. If you have stepped onto this famous 'Lord Curzon Trail', you will also get views of so many 6000+ & 7000+ famous Himalayan peaks which are popular among mountaineers from all over the world. I will mention a few of them; Mt. Dronagiri (7,066m), Nanda Devi (7,816m), Hathi-Ghori Parbat (6,727m and 6,708m respectively), Chaukhamba (7,138m), Neelkanth (6,597m), & also Kamet, Mana, Lampak I & II, Mt. Trishul, Nandaghunti.


The Groufie before start


We are heading toward Kuari Pass


As per our ‘military commander’, our movement started at 9:00 a.m. Slowly but surely, the landscape turned into ‘Oreo ice cream from mousse cake’. The actual snow trek had now begun. We reached our summit point at 11:30 a.m. We were on cloud nine. The spine-chilling experience filled me with thrills and satisfaction.


The Team on the top of Kuari Pass


Happy me ☺


Everyone was rekindled and rejuvenated to conquer the ranges. The mountains were more beautiful than they appeared from the base camp. Maybe it was the lens of our success that made it look gorgeous. We refused the request of our TL, as we were all agog to have our lunch on top. There I realized the dreadful Himalayas has the power to not only drench you physically but also reinforce your desire to continue the walk with a limited stock of food and water only by its hypnotic views. The spectacular views of many 7k peaks bound us to forget about the exhaustion of the 5 km ascent. This excitement fueled us to the campsite with spring in our feet.


On the way back to Campsite


On reaching the campsite, we satiated our hunger with mixed vegetable biriyani along with "RAITA." Oops! this raita was not served by Himalayan Passion (HP) but by the Himalayas himself as snowflakes.


Snowfall at the Campsite


Yes! We witnessed snowfall at our campsite. This was the ‘icing on the cake’ of my first snow trek. Within a few seconds, the campsite turned white. Exhausted, we got a second wind. Everyone was exceptionally overjoyed. We were bestowed with the shower of love and blessings of the hallowed Himalayas.


Lying on your back inside the tent after the trek could accuse you as criminal by our “Lieutenant Sourav”. So spending time with the mountains is the best way to spend your leisure time. Mostly if it is Himalayan Passion, one can enjoy the mountain hassle-free as they would take care of any requisites even at 11,000ft altitude.



The mighty peaks and signature poses of Nanda Devi, Dronagiri, Hathi, Ghoda, Kamet, Neelkanth, and Chaukhamba were just at a stone-throwing distance. That’s how our campsite was! I forget my city-dwelling life. The wonderful thing about sitting with Himalaya face-to-face is that time flew away within a blink of an eye.


A call for a tea break freed me from my obsession with Himalayas. After tea, it’s a Maggi break. It was followed by sumptuous soup. And all these happened within 1 hr. Thereafter, the situation was like this: if anyone opened the door of the tent to enter, we all screamed loudly, "No more food, please," in order to withstand the tsunami of food served. This screaming forced our TL to postpone our dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.


Dinner over, once I headed out for the tent, I found myself greeted by the ocean of stars glittering above. I was dumbstruck. I felt like I was looking at heaven.



The next level of the "Roadies" task was to get inside the sleeping bag. It wasn’t over yet. 1:00 a.m. was slotted for waking up. It was chilling outside. We couldn’t afford to stand at freezing temperature, so we ran only to avoid frostbite on our toes. A ‘super delicious’ dalia was served as breakfast! ...Mmm, might be dinner... or supper? Or something else? I don’t know, actually. We almost yelled at it. The only driving force to engulf it was that it would be the source of energy for our next 28-kilometre trek. It made me nostalgic, remembering my hostel food. It was a summit before a summit.



Once the team gathered, we started moving at 2:35 a.m. for the Pangarchulla summit. A narrow twinkling queue (due to the head torch) was coming up through the pitch dark with snow-covered silhouette mountains behind it. After few minutes, I realised that my lungs had not yet roused and my pulse rate couldn’t keep up with my walking speed. In the meantime, we reached a certain point where no footsteps were made. It was Ajay Vai, the local guide, who put himself forward to find out the accurate way after many trials and errors. While waiting for the way out, I found a faint glimmer of light peeping behind Mt. Nanda Devi, whereas the western sky was still inky.



On the way to Pangarchulla


After the snowline mountain, the trail turned into fields of boulders, eventually giving way to rock faces that made up the entrance to the Pangarchulla. We wove through the fields of boulders that ranged from the size of a basketball to that of a small apartment building.


Pangarchulla peak in the background


We could see now that the Pangarchulla was fully fledged. How gigantic it was! This is what we were going to conquer. It was nothing less than refueling us to climb up. That’s a mistake we did. In Sayantan’s word, “Mountains can never be conquered but only respected.”


All of a sudden, Pangarchulla added blizzards as insult to injury. There was nothing left on the trail as we continued bouldering up rocks. It steadily grew steeper. The climb was getting tougher. The snow, the boulders, the blizzard—a perfect hazard combination for a novice high-altitude trekker like me. Mountain hazards are somehow synonymous with my trek! We stood still for a

while due to shortness of breath. On the other hand, time was running out. We were all at sea.


On the way to Pangarchulla Peak


Then came the decision-making time-"Himalayan passion will not allow anyone to move forward. Any ignorant trekker will move at her/his own risk. But I shall extend my support if anyone wants to come up."


Contradictory, right? That was the judicious yet terse announcement of our TL. He steadily clarifies his position as the organizer, as well as a good trekker who could feel the heaviness of the heart due to the incomplete summit. Just wanted to give it one more try! This might be lacking in any other so called professional trekking organization & that is the USP of HP.


The snow-mixed boulder section


Indifferent to the roar of Pangarchulla, a few of the ignorant trekkers like us decided to hang in there. Beyond this point, climbing became more challenging. The footstep of Ajay Vai, which led us to 12 km(approx.), suddenly turned into a death trap. The more we climbed, the fresh snow became denser. It was hard to find the bedrock to put the pressure on. We were getting inside the snow. No classroom technique, but literally, we were crawling and dragging our bodies to climb up. The turning point was when the snowline came up from the waistline to neckline. At this point, we couldn’t ignore Sourav's advice that returning safely is more important than touching the summit.


The last Groufie, 150m below the summit


We were standing at 4370m altitude and only 150m left to the summit point. Putting all the eggs in the basket is a fool's decision; we dropped our dream and decided to return.


Before descending, I just turned my eyes around and found myself standing in the lap of the gigantic Himalayas. Amazing! On one side, the earth fell away until it lay flat like a blanket with patchwork; on the other side, the mountains rose, range behind range, until the indigo of the mountains melted into the blue sky. On my right, it’s a 360° view of the Mt. Nanda Devi, Mt. Nilkantha, and peaks of Chaukhamba, witnessing and cheering our achievement of attaining >4000m altitude.



Lo! I felt my heavy heart for the unsuccessful summit was diluting. Interestingly, Pangarchulla itself was healing this. And that’s the beauty of the mountain, which can never be visualized but only perceived.

The illusion state was interrupted once we were preparing to descend. We found those boulders were now asking with glee,


“ khudi ko kar bulandi itna, Ki har taqdeer se pehele

khuda bande se khud pooche,

KI BETA AB UTREGA KAISE?”


Descent


Even the last grain of that dalia had taken its last breath some 6-7hrs ago. Our lungs and heart had put themselves forward in front of our obstinance to reach the summit. It was very much clear that descending to~13kms was not going to be easy. But as I said HP can arrange anything you need anywhere at anytime. We joined the rest of the team on their way back.


Reunion with the team


The packed lunch offered by HP refueled us and such affectionate teammates re-charged me for the next 4hrs.



By the time we reached campsite we were dog-tired. A ~26kms trek for 12hrs at -5°C to -9°C, sounds exciting but, was exhausting too. No sooner had we reached campsite than we found the blessings of Pangarchulla (read as blizzard) to be poisoned chalice. We were affected by snow burn!



The warm-hearted Himalaya has blessed me with some amazing personalities as trekkers splattered all over the world. On one side the advice of Hemant during the ascent, on the other hand the helping hand of SUV(Suvo) and Zidan during the descent made my trek finish without fail. Mani di (Manideepa/Ferari Mon) was also there to capture my photos whenever needed.


Himalaya has not only allowed me to discover the unfold nature but also taught us to be humble. Co-operation is the only key to appreciate the beauty & maintain peace admist the rough & tough looking mountain. The starling entry of dates (dry) and oats chocolate in the darkness and extreme exhaustion during the climb was only possible because of our adorable ‘Dula Vai’ (Mohsin da)-the constant food supplier “kabhi v kahi v”. Its Mousam da’s eagle eye which prompted us to accept those meals provided, as highly nutritious, apt for high altitude trek and were not to satisfy our taste buds. The altruism among the trekkers made us complimentary to each other.


Left to Right: Standing position- Subhadip Baral, Souvik Mondal, Manideepa Talapatra (Ferari Mon), Samir Saki Zidan, Mousam Chatterjee, Sucharita Dhara, H M Mohsin Hossin, Sudip Paul, Sayantan Chakraborti,

Sitting position- Sourav Ray, Aparna Sadhu, Hemant Raj, Ankita Roy


The next day, we trekked down to Tugasi. We reached Haridwar on the following day by traveller. And ofcourse our DADA BOUDIR HOTEL. And then the shaky moment; separation. But somehow the KUMBHAExpress felt the blues and put the separation on ice. The train was continuously rescheduling. It seems we were watching India-Pakistan cricket match & once we put our eyes off the screen Indian wickets usually go down; similarly train was rescheduling step by step once we put off the mobile screen. It resulted the delaying from 7hrs to 17hrs.


We are often habitual with the fights in the train for seats to sit together. May be among friends, family, or colleagues. But what if I say it’s a few unknown trekkers who have never met before? Sounds weird, right? I think that’s enough to understand the bond we shared. We were deeply aware of our melancholy as we were getting apart one by one. Believe it or not, mountains can create this magic too!


Himalayan Passion is the organization that gathers these scattered trekkers, pick up such expert supporting staffs sprinkled in the mountain and organizes a successful trek. A successful trek does not symbolize a successful summit. Yes it is the summit which is undoubtedly the guiding motive that propels us but indelible and magical experiences in the shape of bonding and friendship lying in between drive away the pang of occasional failures. The essence of memories lift us from prosaic things and fills the measure of our mind with sublime purity.




Picture Courtesy: Manideepa Talapatra (Ferari Mon), Hemant Raj, Mousam Chatterjee , Sucharita Dhara, Sourav Ray

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