78 Photos - Mar 22, 2010
Photo: The name of the restaurant didn't stick in our heads because we (Kanishka, Geoff and I) didn't know what the Monal was. On the sixth day of the trek, we were fortunate enough to spot one of these spectacular birds at the base of the Kuari Pass. Looking back at all our photographs, I can see why everyone would want to name their business after this striking bird.Photo: Inside Monal fast food centre, we finished a filling breakfast of eggs, bread and tea. Poor Srivatsan had to do with only bread because he's vegetarian. Prasad, the fake vegetarian, put on quite the show as the stiff scarecrow. We can also see his orange ski jacket which was never used on the trek.Photo: Our driver, Puran Singh, was easily one of the fastest drivers on the hilly roads of the Alaknanda valley. But even he stopped at Devprayag to allow us to snap this beautiful conflucence of the Alaknanda (right) with the Bhagirathi (left). The Bhagirathi, before the construction of Tehri dam, would bring down a lot of silt. But since the dam, both rivers look green and pristine.Photo: The Alaknanda valley is too beautiful for a point and shoot camera to do justice to it. Kanishka took a few photographs as we zipped by in the Qualis. This photograph, I suspect, is somewhere close to Srinagar, the ancient capital of Garhwal. The twisty road has signs every few feet in both hindi and english. Some of them, “This is highway, not runway” and “savdhani se chalao, main pahaadi naagin hoon” stuck in my head. There are also boards singing praises of the Border Roads Organization and its project Deepak including signs that openly acknowledge the non-separation of religion and state -- “Deepak kahe, Jai Badri Vishal”.  Later we learnt more about the politics of Uttarakhand/Uttaranchal from Gyan Chand Rana, our guide through Kuari Pass.Photo: Next morning, bright and early (around 7:30am, though we had aimed for 7 am), we were rearing to go. The charming guesthouse in the background was minimal but comfortable, except the blankets gave Kanishka an allergy to remember. Two cedzines later, he seemed to be doing okay. The lack of sleep had also done him in -- he'd got only two hourse sleep in 48 hours. But it didn't take long for him to recover once we started our trek.Photo: We took a Qualis from Nandprayag to Ghat where he had eggs and bread again (Srivatsan had special alu parathas ordered for him). We noticed some Milk cake in the counter shelf, so Prasad and Srivatsan decided to give it a try. If you look carefully at Prasad, you can tell what he thought of the milk cake. Srivatsan was looking around the skies and we spotted some Himalayan Griffin here.Photo: One thing I noticed was that all the roadside dhabas in the small towns and villages always had a back-balcony overlooking the river/stream. At Ghat, we used the back-balcony to do some bird-watching and also washing up the oil from the omelettes.Photo: From Ghat we drove on to Chefna from where we started the trek. I took a while to pull up a kneecap on my left knee while our khacchad-wallas, or mule-minders for want of the better word, and the guide-helpers waited patiently. Our guide, Gyan Chand Rana, had brought along three of his family members. His brothers Ashok and Manoj and his nephew Jairaj. On the left of this picture, we can see two of our three mule-minders followed by the three guide-helpers. They looked ethnically different but that made sense since our mule-minders were local to Chamoli district while our guides were from Uttarkashi. They also spoke different languages which gives us an idea of how much diversity there is just in the Garhwal region.Photo: As we walked up to our Ghuni campsite, we came across a number of children carrying hay up to the village. The girls were curious about us but also extremely shy, but Surender here was quite the mischief-maker. He also sang us a Garhwali song that sounded quite nice.Photo: We walked through Ghuni village before we reached a campsite. Here, we saw a Government-run ration shop where a group of men were sitting playing cards. You can just about see their heads on the right of the picture. Ashok and Kanishka posed for this shot with a few kids.Photo: At our campsite, after we pitched our tents with help from Gyan, we saw a little girl who was extremely shy. She stared at us continuously but didn't answer any of our questions like the other children had done. She was also dressed worse than the other children.Photo: Photo: Photo: Day 1: Evening snacks at Ghuni as the shadows begin to lengthen. We prepare for a very cold night ahead.Photo: Day 2 starts with a climb straight up.Photo: The weather as throughout the trek, was brilliantPhoto: Chaukhamba make a teaser of an appearance. The highest of this massif of four summits is 23,419 ft.Photo: Photo: Photo: Nanda Ghunti and Ronti from Chechni BinayakPhoto: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Photo: Setting off from Pana towards SartoliPhoto: Terraced slopes between Pana and the next pass crossingPhoto: Photo: View of Kuari Pass just before descending to SartoliPhoto: Ranjita entertaining everyone with card tricksPhoto: Geoff juggling onions!Photo: Sunset from the campsite - we camped a little beyond Sartoli.Photo: Photo: Icicles on the mountain face as we start trekking towards Dakhwani, the base from which we will climb up to Kuari Pass. It's easy to make it to the pass and beyond in one day, but the morning views are well worth the extra day.Photo: Ranjita negotiating a steep rockfall on the way to DakhwaniPhoto: Kuari Pass in the early morning light. The traverse if executed from left to right should enable one to gain the ridge leading to the summit of Pangarchula (15,100 ft).Photo: Looking back south while hiking up to the passPhoto: Feeling the low oxygen levels during the slow trudge. Kuari Pass is quoted variously as lying anywhere from 13000 to 14000 ft.Photo: Few more steps. No idea what's on the other side.Photo: Elation! Grand panorama of the Western Himalaya awaited us, making the next 60 minutes of peak spotting the most memorable part of the entire trek!Photo: There was far more snow on the northern slopes of Kuari PassPhoto: The Kamet / Mana group in the center. Perhaps Kedarnath on the rightPhoto: From L to R: Dunagiri, and controversially, Changabang and Kalank. These are part of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary that guard the holy mountain.Photo: From L to R: Awesome Chaukhamba Massif, something unknown (Kedar?),  and then NeelkanthPhoto: L to R: Ghori Parvat, Hathi Parvat, BrahmakamalPhoto: Staring straight up the Alaknanda Valley. Visibility was fantastic, so those peaks at the head of the valley are likely in Tibet.Photo: DunagiriPhoto: It was hard to figure out all the names from maps. Lots of the identification was done post-trek.Photo: Many argue the view from Kuari Pass is the best panorama of the Western Himalaya.Photo: Photo: Descending from the pass involved some ice and snow movement, but nothing too difficult. The lady in the white shirt decided to turn around at this point (she was hiking up from Auli).Photo: Breathtaking ridges, meadows and summit views.Photo: Flanked by Chaumkhamba and Neelkanth. Not bad company.Photo: There was one particularly snowy traverse.Photo: Photo: Somewhere here, Srivatsan spotted a LammergeierPhoto: Looking back at Pangarchula, a relatively easy 15100 ft peak. Some of us had half a mind to try gaining some height on the summit ridge, but the views from the pass overwhelmed us so much we clean forgot about those plans. Kuari pass is at the bottom right end of the long summit ridgePhoto: The famous Rishi Ganga Gorge that leads into the Nanda Devi Inner Sanctuary. This is the historical route that Shipton and Tillman are credited with from their 1924 expedition.Photo: Photo: Dunagiri and Nanda Devi. Changabang and Kalank remain shrouded in controversy in spite of the brilliant blue skies.Photo: Tea stop at AuliPhoto: Photo: L to R: Dunagiri, Nanda Devi, TrishulPhoto: Photo: We played with these dogs whlie waiting for the jeep. Prasad declared the pup to be the "dirtiest puppy in the world".Photo: It's hard to take your eyes off this beautiful peak.Photo: Pipalkoti, en route to Vishnu Prayag, where we would part ways: Prasad and Srivatsan headed to Nainital, while the rest of us continued down to Rudraprayag, Hardwar, and Delhi.Photo: Photo: Obviously Bengali's are common in Hardwar.Photo: Bathing ghat at HardwarPhoto: Photo: Geoff and Ranjita at the Disco Mandir.