Kuari Pass with Wanderers – My experience in winters by Shubham Dixit, Delhi

I am a trekker for a few years now and Kuari Pass Trek in winters was on my list for a few years. Finally, I made it to Kauri pass successfully in winters of 2016. I went with Wanderers as I knew them from before and had an amazing experience before on Har Ki Dun Trek. I was picked up from Dehradun in a temp traveler. Along with me, there were 7 more people in the group. In all we were 8 trekkers out of which 5 were from southern India. We also had a Wanderers representative in the bus with us. We had breakfast on the way at a dhaba (a small eatery). The drive was very scenic, with Ganges on my right throughout till Devprayag. Devprayag is a small town famous for the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda. It is here where holy Ganges gets her name. We continued our drive up through the towns of Rudrprayag & Nandprayag and reached Joshimath. Wanderers extended team was already here running a few more batches for Kuari Pass. We checked into a hotel in Joshimath which had a spectacular view from its balcony. The hotel itself was better than what I expected. Probably, that is one reason I wanted to go with Wanderers. I was a little tired after the back to back journey and so after having an early dinner, I called it a day.

We were aware that we won't get to bathe in the next 4 days so everyone made sure they spent time getting ready and cleaning on the next morning. We all got in the vehicle and drove down to Tapovan from where we were to start our trek. With Mt Dronagiri at the back, we started to follow the trail. The highlight of the day was when we were shown a flat cut mountain and as the belief goes; it is here where Lord Hanuman had cut the peak for Sanjeevani.

We were to camp at Chitrakana for the day.. Some trekkers were slow on the first day and so we reached there by early evening. Chitrakana provided some incredible views and we were all very happy and excited for our days ahead. We were all surrounded by snow by now. Everything around us was white. The porters working for Wanderers already arranged for some dead wood to help us survive the cold  it can get to -10 to -15 in winters here. And we could all feel it. Our tents were spacious with sleeping bags and liner tucked in them and it was all ready by evening.

We were all headed for the Tali Top the next morning. Everyone was happy because everything around us was covered with snow and we were all walking on the snow through this dense oak forest. By now except for 1-2 folks, was keeping up the pace and we were walking together through the trek. The nights are absolutely magical here with clear blue sky and the loads of consolations visible through the naked eyes. I and my friend were up till late that night. The conversations become sensible in such scenic and mystic locations. We sat by the bonfire and as I said, it was a late night.

Our next morning, we were briefed the previous night about the trek and were also asked to be up by 5:30 am so that we can leave by 7. The trek is only about moderate in summers but winters and with snow it gets a little difficult. We were heading for the Base of Pangarchula peak through Kuari Pass. Kuari pass is as high as (3650 Meters) and is definitely not meant for beginners. But we were all almost determined. So we kept going and following the snow trail right after the Wanderers team. Another good thing about going with Wanderers guide was that they keep you engaged in chats and music while on the trek, and that sometimes is a great thing (while we don't realize) it sure helps. The other good thing about the trek that day also was that we all chose to be together and so the breaks together saved us a lot of time. It took us about 7 hours. Camp was set up by the porters already. We were all tired so we still spent some time by the fire and then after having dinner called it a night. All that said, believe me, it was definitely the most beautiful night. We were so high up and absolutely happy that we made it. We were actually proud of being there.

Pangarchula Summit is about 4700 Meters. My last ascent was Chandrashila Summit which is about 4200 Meters. I was quite sure that I sill still make it to the top and in fact, I was excited about the next morning. Next morning, we were to get up early. Wanderers guide, Jai was up at 4:30 and made us all get up at 5. Guess, he knew will take more time may be because of the fatigue we had. We started at 6 the next morning and the started following Jai and Ram on the trail. IT was about 4 inch of snow that we were in but I guess we were all now used to it. And after the briefing we knew, we have to just keep the pace and take more but short breaks, we continued to get high up. There was no one other than us on the trek and so we stayed together. The Wanderers team carries walkie talkie and so the first and the last guy (along with the porters) are connected. It is a great tool while on a trek.

We reached the summit in the day, I guess around 11 am. The summit offered us a clear and snow covered views of Chaukhamba, Kedarnath, Neelkanth, Haathi-Ghodi, Kamet, Mana & Dronagiri. Words aren't enough to describe the feeling. We were all excited and thrilled. We clicked a few pictures there and spent about 30-45 minutes. Right after that we started our descent and reached back the camp site at the base. We all spent hours that night discussing how it felt and how impressed we were. We also thanked the Wanderers guides for their support. Next morning onwards, we started retracing our steps. The good thing about winters is that the view is never the same. Every view is different and snowfall every now and then not only covers up the trail but also makes the view different. That was the case with us as well. We had a great trek coming back as well.

Back in Joshimath, we checked into the same hotel. For one reason it was great coming back and that was for a hot shower  Everyone spent more than usual time in the shower including me. Next morning, we were all set for our drive back to Dehradun. I personally find it great. The roads in uttarakhand are very well maintained for most part of the year and so with the river flowing next to you, the highway is a beautiful experience as well.

We met the Wanderers folks back in Dehradun and thanked them again for their support and all the arrangements made (even a pack of biscuits at that altitude is a bliss ) Uttarakhand is magnificent.

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