10/15/2008 to 10/17/2008 | India , Uttarakhand

Kuari Pass Trek

legacy gallery with captions

I reached Joshimath in the evening after a long series of jeeps and buses from Wan, although relatively close geographically the poor roads and transport connections made it a long day of travel.  My primary purpose of visiting Joshimath was to hike up to the Kuari Pass for the trail’s renowned views of the sacred mountain Nanda Devi.  At 7816 m (25,636 ft) Nanda Devi is the highest peak solely within the boarders of India.  I was frustrated to find that the Joshimath travel agents had no doubt bribed there way in to a monopoly on the trail.  It was mandatory that a permit (only obtainable through a travel agent) and guide were required to hike above Auli towards the Kauri Pass.  I managed to find a travel agent who got me on a permit of another group for a fairly steep fee, and after I passed the check point I would be free to hike on my own.  In retrospect I probably could have hiked around the check point through the forest but at the time I’d rather be safe.   After the check point situated at the top of the cable care that goes from Joshimath to the small Indian ski resort town of Auli, I parted ways with the guided group and hiked ahead up to the meadow just below the pass.  In typical Himalayan fashion the afternoon was cloudy and by the time I reached my camp site just beneath the pass, snow flurries had started to fall.  I set up my tarp, and put on all my clothes in an attempt to ward off the cold.  Fortunately a group of friendly Bengalis from Calcutta were also camping at the same place and had built a fire near their tent.  They invited me to join them and I benefited from their hospitable offers of hot tea, and dinner.  I was again trekking only with dried food.

The dawn was perfectly clear allowing me to finally witness the beauty of my surroundings.  Using my present camp as a base camp I headed off to climb the nearby relatively small 5183 m (17,000 ft) peak of Pangerchuli.  There was no trail to the peak so I picked my way across the terrain over ridges and up the scree bolder covered slopes.  While Pangerchuli is no higher than many passes I’ve crossed, its prominence as the highest point along the Kauri Pass ridge means that the Panoramic views from its summit are interrupted only by the massive peaks of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary to the east and the high Himalayas forming the icy border with Tibet to the north.

The next evening I did not have the benefit of the Bengalis’ warm fire to ward of the cold, and I climbed in my sleeping bag, wearing all of the clothes I had with me, and settled in beneath the plastic tarp I used for a tent waiting out the cold until the morning.  I made an early morning hike up the Kuari pass before hiking back down towards Joshimath.  Unlike the way up, the weather was clear and I finally got the classic view of Nanda Devi’s distinctive double peak.  Atop Pangerchuli and at the Kuari Pass much of Nada Devi is obscured by the surrounding peaks of the Sanctuary it is only upon approaching the meadow of Gurson Bugyal that Nanda Devi peaks out from behind her mountainous shroud.

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