We will be back again (day 7)

Day 7: (Dhakuri to Loharkhet to Saung )
We start early to be able to get a good glimpse of the snow capped peaks from Dhakuri pass on the way to Loharkhet. Sadly the mountains are under cloud by the time we reach there. The road to Loharkhet has many butterflies species, it‘s a great opportunity to take some lovely photographs, but I am too tired to take the DSLR out and put on the macro lens, so I manage to shoot whatever I can with the camcorder. Route to Loharkhet was mostly downhill but we take some 3.5 hours to cover. At Loharkhet we load all the stuff that we had left behind. With a few more kg. added to the rucksack, we bid farewell to the hills, with a promise that we will be back someday.
We climb down 3km to Saung and spent the rest of the day traveling back to Almora. While Rajeev has to rush back to Delhi, I decide to spend a couple of days at Almora and take it easy. Just digest the whole lot of things that happened in the past couple of days.

Now that I am back to the drudgery of city life, when I recall the whole trek, I have a mixed feeling. It was a great way to challenge ones physical and more importantly mental abilities beyond the usual. It was a great escape into the hills, a kind of meditation in itself. All I dream now, is to be able to go back, after all when the Himalayas beckon, no one can resist.

If you plan a trek to Pindhari I would recommend
- you to keep aside at least 8 days at hand. This would give enough time to relish the scenic views that the mountains have to offer.
- To complete the trek in a relaxed pace, it is advisable to cover not more than 8Km in a day. One can truly enjoy the entire journey and not just the destination. There is a lot to discover if you walk slowly.
- In terms of preparation, all you would need is a good pair of shoes, an ice-axe and some will power.
- If you go along with family/kids you will find a lot of porters cum guide who carry your luggage, making it a comfortable trip.
- If you can’t get the equipment viz. sleeping bag, tents etc., you can always rent it from the Bageshwar KRC. back to first page

Along river Pindhari (day 6)

Day 6: (Dwali to Khati to Dhakuri )
We start early from Dwali coz we plan to cover distance from Dwali to Khati and then to Dhakuri. It’s going to be a tough day, since Dwali to Khati was mostly uphill and again Khati to Dhakuri an even steeper climb. On the way to Khati we stop alongside a river and cook up Maggie noodles. Rajeev had a slip and he instinctively landed on his right hand where his wrist got hurt. It doesn’t look anything to be concerned about. Reaching Khati, we have some cucumber and it is such a welcome break from the routine diet of potatoes and eggs. The forest is as lonely as it was when we walked this road a couple of days ago, but this time appears more tranquil than lonely. If you walk this way through the woods, within few days, there’s a kind of friendliness that you develope with the forest.

Reaching Dhakuri is a pleasant feeling. To top it all, there is a phone that runs on battery where we can call up home. It is really dark by the time I have my bath, but the skies turn really dramatic and I couldn’t miss this moment. I grab my camera and shoot some 20 frames. I have to shoot handheld at high ISO and very low shutter speeds, I miss my tripod. next page >>

A View to die for (day 5)

Day 5: (Phurkiya – Zero point – Dwali 19Km) Zero point – 12007 ft.
It’s a beautiful morning, after having porridge and some eggs for breakfast, we head towards zero point, its 5km to baba’s ashram and another 2km before we reach zero point.
We are in the company of Simon and Aksu (from Finland), Dean and Sophia (from U.S.) and James (Frenchman) and two guides Eshwar Singh and Pratap Singh.
James has a gift for languages and speaks fluent Hindi, I introduce him to some Urdu words viz. behtereen (marvelous). For the first time in my life, I got to see a Hasselblad medium format film camera; James carries just enough film to shoot just 5 shots per day, on an average, signs of a mature photographer. The two guides borrow our ice-axe and move ahead to cut the ice and make a trail for us. We cross some 35 odd glaciers on the way that day, ranging from 20 ft to about 200-300 mts. wide. Crossing the first few seems really difficult, but James gives us some tips and then it’s like a “walk in the park”.

Just about 1km before Baba’s ashram we see fresh remains of the skull of an Ibex (antelope) in ice, most likely a snow leopard’s prey. We reach Baba’s ashram where he serves us hot tea. Baba Dharmanand is an interesting person, he has built a house for himself just near the slope to zero point. His ashram is made of stone with a wooden floor, has a solar powered lamp, and an LPG stove with supplies that will last him for the next two years. Baba serves food to everyone and all are welcome, trekkers are supposed to donate money when they leave.

The view of snow capped peaks, from Baba’s ashram is simply breathtaking. Another walk for 2 km takes you to Zero point that offers a magnificent and clear view of the Himalayan peaks of Changuchh, Trails pass, Pindhari glacier, Nanda Khat etc. The sight is truly overwhelming. Reaching zero point at a time when the weather is clear is very important. For this to happen, the earlier you start from Phurkiya the better. If the weather is clear, you can witness these magnificent Himalayan peaks against a backdrop of clear deep blue skies. It’s an out of the world experience to be at zero point, time and space take on an altogether different meaning. It’s a view to die for and I go on a shooting spree, shot some 40 frames and that isn’t enough. We celebrate a date with zero point with dry dates, the dates melted in the mouth and left the foreigners asking for more. Its time to leave, but this experience is worth every effort that we have put into.

We climbed down 2km back to Baba’s ashram. James sits in meditation at the temple of Nanda Devi that Baba has built in his ashram. I am not a very religious person, but I offer prayers in gratitude for being fortunate enough to have experienced such a journey.
Baba serves us khichari (spicy preparation of rice and lentils) and it tastes heavenly, one the best I have ever had. Babaji tells us that we are the first Indians to make it to Pindhari this season, by no means a big deal, but still makes us feel proud. We now move back towards Phurkiya. Since morning until midday the weather was clear and temperature was warm, but it suddenly starts to get cloudy. The skies turned dark in a matter of moments and it’s about to rain. As we hurry back there are many scenic views to be enjoyed, as we are crossing a particularly long glacier we see a huge cloud of fog approaching us and it covers an entire mountain and everything in its way. It is such a mystery that how weather changes drastically in a matter of minutes. After reaching phurkiya, we decide to move along to Dwali. Phurkiya to Dwali is a downhill route 5km which we cover in around 2.5 hrs. At Dwali we light up a campfire and have conversation with Aksu and Simon (from Finland). The topics ranged from food, traveling in India to genetically modified food and monopolies of Monsanto. It is surprising to know that both Aksu and Simon enjoyed traveling in public transport all over India and they think it as very convenient. next page >>

Narrow Escape (day 4)

Day 4: (Khati –Dwali – Phurkiya 16km) Phurkiya - 10,600 ft.
After breakfast, we start the trek at 8:00 a.m. towards Dwali and then eventually Phurkia. We still haven’t managed to find the ice-axe and we know our shoes aren’t good enough to walk on ice. Khati to Dwali is a gradual climb of 11km through dense forest and you tend to walk along a big river flowing besides you. This river is a confluence of two rivers, Pindhari and kafni, both named after the respective glaciers. The riverside can be a great place for camping. Sadly, we aren’t carrying a tent and we have a schedule to follow.
The climb to Dwali is as tiring as the day before. But the sight of river flowing, huge waterfalls, birds diving for fish, is very soothing and keeps us going. Moreover there are so many photo opportunities that I have both my DSLR and the camcorder always on. I am compulsive shooter and on the way to Dwali me and Rajeev get separated. Rajeev moves ahead and is nowhere to be seen. Our next destination is Phurkia, just 5 km but this is the route where we have to cross snow fallen over the flowing streams forming small glaciers, moreover we don’t have the ice-axe and our shoes have gone flat. Rajeev is nowhere in sight, though I am really tired, I keep walking, hoping to catch up with him. This is the first difficult moment on the trek, the weather suddenly changes and it is about to rain, this is where I start to panic. What if I have taken the wrong path that led nowhere ? I curse Rajeev for not waiting for me at Dwali, or maybe he is behind me ? or did he take the wrong route ? I decide to keep walking. The forest is dense and lonely. I see a sign painted on a rock that says “Phurkiya 4Km”, this is a sigh of relief, I am on the right track, but then I am worried about Rajeev, since his shoes are worse than mine. With all this in mind, I hit upon the first patch of snow in front of me. As I look down, the slope is some 60-80 feet, if at all I slip, I would end up sliding straight into the river. I manage to reach almost to the other end and the moment I put my last step forward, the block of snow beneath me sinks and I land 3 ft below into the stream flowing below the ice. I escape unhurt but scared to death for a moment. It’s a narrow escape and here I realize that the trek is not just about physical strength but more psychological. I gather myself up and there is Rajeev behind me, with an ice-axe on his shoulder, it is such a relief, for both of us. We now have the ice-axe, but who the hell knows how to use it ? Rajeev atleast knows in theory how an ice-axe is supposed to be used. The learning curve is steep and we come across 10 such small glaciers. After walking for another 3 hours there is no sign of Phurkiya. Meanwhile the skie turn overcast and it starts to rain. I have developed sores on my feet. It gets very painful and the last 2km, we walk as if we are drunk. Taking every next step is an effort that requires tremendous will power. At about 7:00 pm it is really dark when we see the sign board that reads “Phurkiya TRC” and a group of foreigners waving at us.
We settle in the room and the daily ritual follows, hot water bath, heavy dinner, apply moov all over the body, pop a pain killer and crash in bed. next page >>

Walk thru the woods (day 3)

Day3: (Loharkhet – Dhakuri – Khati 17Km) Khati - 7250 ft
We wake up early, have breakfast of alu paratha and omlette and head towards Dhaukri, which is an 8 km steep climb. I unpack my tripod, binoculars, extra clothing, sleeping bag etc. and leave it back at Loharkhet, this relieves me of a couple of kilos. The road to Dhaukri is a dense forest and steep climb for 8km. We are told there are wild animals found here, mainly antelopes and snow leopards etc. Next moment we find a skull of an antelope lying around (most likely a leopard’s prey). The day is pleasant and the forest seems very calm and lonely, except for the chirping of birds, the shrill of kites and the sweet sound of flowing streams. We walk for around 4 hrs, every turn seems like it is Dhakuri pass, but we are nowhere close. We are already exhausted and even if we make it to Dhakuri early on, it is still another 8km from Dhakuri to khati where we would get to rest. The thought itself was very tiring. After walking 5 hrs we reach Dhakuri and the first sight of snow capped peaks, and a vast mountain range is a feast to the eyes. Dhakuri has an amazing view and I would recommend one spend as much time as one can over here.
After a glass of tea and some biscuits, I shoot an impressive black sheep dog and we move on. Dhakuri to Khati is mostly downhill, but the weight on the back makes it very tiring. Enroute we find a great spot with a stream flowing and surrounded by a couple of big rocks, perfect setting to brew up some tea. This is the first time when we try out Rajeev’s portable army stove and the hexamine fuel tablets, we move on. My hip joint starts aching a lot and since the shoes don’t have enough good padding, the heel and the toe hurt with every step that I take. For Rajeev, it’s his right knee bothering him.
We manage to reach Khati after a long struggle, our only worry now is the availability of an ice-axe and a pair of good shoes for both of us. Reaching Khati we enquire for both but no luck. We drop our sacks into the KRC guest house, I take a warm shower, this is soon going to become a daily ritual for me. Reach the rest house, hot shower, heavy dinner, put on Moov all over the aching body, pop a painkiller, leave the rest to tomorrow and crash into bed. That night Harak Singh cooks for us, guess what ? potatoes again. From Loharkhet onwards the only vegetables available are potatoes. Another option is eggs, but only if you are lucky. Reaching Khati we find out that there is no place where we can make a phone call, so the next phone call would be at least 4 days away. next page >>

Broken Ego (day 2)

Day2: 28th April ’07 (Haldwani – Saung – Loharkhet 3km) Loharkhet – 5751 ft.
We get down at Haldwani (the second last railhead) and start the day long drive (189km) to Saung, from where the trek begins. We change a lot of vehicles, and on our last drive from Bharadi to Saung the jeep is full so we decide to try the rooftop. While climbing up the roof, my new brand shoe slips (supposed to have a solid grip) and I get a bruise on my shin. On the rooftop of a jeep, the ride is bumpy and almost like a camel ride.
We reach Saung and to mark the start, it’s a 3 km long trek to Loharkhet. Before starting the trek I am confident that I will be able to take the endurance, after all I’ve been preparing for past 2 weeks, I seemed fit enough. The route to Loharkhet is a steep climb and with some 14kg on the back, I am gasping for breath, all this in the very first 100 mts. of the climb. The ego and confidence is badly hit, not at all a good start for what lay ahead. We manage to reach the KRC guest house at Loharkhet, dragging ourselves. The care taker Pushkar Singh, a man in his 50’s offers us good food and encouragement. After having a delicious meal of alu-mutter (potato with beans) and roti (indian bread) we crashed in bed. The next day is going to be a tiring one. Loharkhet is the last place where you can charge the batteries. next day >>

Exciting start (day 1)

Day 1: 27th April 2007 (Hyderabad – Delhi – Haldwani)
JP assures me that he will try for the next flight and reach Delhi. Sadly, when I reached Delhi, I find out that all flights to Delhi are booked and JP will have to drop off. Next I call up Rajeev and he tells me that since JP has dropped off, he wouldn’t be joining the trek as well. Not very encouraging news, all I tell Rajeev was to hold on to his decision until we meet in person.
Meanwhile, I am making up my mind to carry on alone (maybe with a guide), just incase Rajeev chose not to join. Surprisingly, when I met Rajeev, he sounded more positive about the idea and finally he decides to come along, (hush! what a relief). We rush to Delhi station using all possible means of transport, first a bike then cycle rickshaw, metro and finally a sprint from Chandni Chowk. Even after reaching the station half an hour late we managed to catch the Ranikhet Express (happens with me quite often, trains tend to wait for me till I show up ). next page >>

Pindhari Glacier trek

A dream come true

I am about to board flight and JP tells me that he just missed his flight to Delhi. JP was the only person with high altitude trekking experience, moreover he had planned out the entire trek and he just missed his flight. I always knew it would be an exciting trip, but come on, this was just the beginning.

I’m just back from a trek to Pindhari glacier, this trek offers a good introduction to trekking in the Himalayas. It’s a 90Km long trek, we covered it in 4.5 days, walking 17Km average for 10-11 hours each day. It has been a journey of a lifetime to say the least. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced such an exciting trip and here’s an effort to share the experience and its moments.

It all started when I decided to get into trekking again, after a long gap. I stumbled upon a yahoogroup (himalaya_trekkers), an amazing group of folks who share a passion for trekking in the Himalayas. I have done some trekking in the Sahyadri’s (Maharashtra) in the past but a trek to the Himalayas sounded a little too ambitious.

One morning, I write to JP asking if there is still room to accommodate me on the trek to Pindhari, he replies with a yes. Next moment, I apply for leave and by evening I have booked the flight tickets. Later that evening I come to know that its just me and JP who would be on the trek. Later on, another guy Rajeev, from Delhi and also a forum member, agreed to join us. Both for me and Rajeev, this is a first high altitude trek, but none of us were much worried, since JP is a well experienced guy to take care of the technicalities. All we have to do is just keep up with him. next page >>


the vagabond

Having read this lovely poem by R L Stevenson in school, I remember to have loved it then even though I couldn't understand it completely. Today when I read it again, it seems as fascinating as ever.

the vagabond

Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river -
There's the life for a man like me,
There's the life for ever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.
Or let autumn fall on me
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger.
White as meal the frosty field -
Warm the fireside haven -
Not to autumn will I yield,
Not to winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.