5 Days in Snow - A travelogue on Kuari Pass Winter trek

#1 Feb 13th, 2018, 16:57
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#1
Dedicated
To the Community.

December 13th, 2017, Afternoon
A call came from Trishit, to see a Facebook #QuickUpdate.
Quote:
The weather has turned overnight in the mountains! Two batches couldn't complete the trek, but all upcoming treks will run as scheduled.
Detailed report: It rained continuously from Monday night until Tuesday afternoon. On the higher reaches, it snowed continuously! And today, the weather is back to being sunny! Good news is that all our winter treks have snow!
Now the bad news.
Kuari Pass trekkers had to return to the basecamp because there has been a lot of snow accumulation blocking the route. Some trekkers chose to do a one day trek from Auli and return. But all of them were thrilled to be a part of a snow-storm adventure!
Does this mean we have to cancel the much waited Winter trek in Kuari Pass? Does this mean we have to return all the newly bought items to Decathlon? Does this mean we have to cancel all bookings and wait another one year? - No.. We wouldn't.

In this thread, I will try my best to portray the experiences we had in the whole trip.


When The Sky Is Playing With Colors by Debobrata Sinha
Darjeeling
Kuari Pass Winter trek
Tawang-Dirang-Bomdila

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
#2 Feb 20th, 2018, 21:37
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#2
The landscape looks magical!
#3 Feb 21st, 2018, 22:56
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#3

The Planning

For almost one year we selected various trekking routes within Uttarakhand and finally finalised 'Kuari Pass'. Ultimately, our first winter trek was a great success.

Without the help and assistance from IndiaMike it would have been a failure I am sure. Thanks to everyone and special thanks to: Dilliwala Ji, RahulDeva, Somnath da, kmalik, Trishit and Debobrata.

Before penning down our experience, I'd like to write the facts about this trip.

Itinerary
  1. Day 1 (15/12/2017 Friday) - Catch flight from Kolkata Airport and reach Delhi. From Delhi catch cab and start for Haridwar.
  2. Day 2 (16/12/2017 Saturday) - Reach Haridwar early morning and book a shared/full TATA sumo and reach Joshimath. Night halt at Joshimath.
  3. Day 3 (17/12/2017 Sunday) - Early start from Joshimath and reach Dhak village to start trek. Reach Gulling and night stay.
  4. Day 4 (18/12/2017 Monday) - Early start from Gulling to Khullara. Reach Khullara and night stay.
  5. Day 5 (19/12/2017 Tuesday) - Khullara to Kuari Pass and Back to Khullara. Night halt at Khullara.
  6. Day 6 (20/12/2017 Wednesday) - Khullara to Akhrot (A camping ground with Walnut trees) and night stay at Akhrot.
  7. Day 7 (21/12/2017 Thursday) - Akhrot to Dhak and to Joshimath. Night stay at Joshimath.
  8. Day 8 (22/12/2017 Friday) - Joshimath to Haridwar. Night stay at Haridwar.
  9. Day 9 (23/12/2017 Saturday) - Haridwar sightseeing, catch late night train and reach New Delhi.
  10. Day 10 (24/12/2017 Sunday) - Catch Train from New Delhi towards Howrah (12304/Poorva Express (via Patna)).
  11. Day 11 (25/12/2017 Monday) - Reach Howrah. END of Trip.

Guide Details
  1. Dinesh Bisht (+91-8958084282) - According to IndiaMike and different other forums/blogs he is supposed to be the best guide in that region. The rate is on higher side. He quoted Rs. 9500 per person with mules for carrying the sacks.
  2. Sohan Singh Bisht (+91-8954716089/+91-9410365281/+91-8126742291) - Another guide in the region with rate Rs. 9000 per person. Sacks have to be carried by the trekker.
  3. Mohan Singh/Ballu Singh (+91-7060778876) - We did not get in touch with him. But he is also an option to consider.
  4. Chandar Negi (+91-7351146811) - We choose Chandar as he offered the cheapest rate. However, I would suggest not to take this guide as he has a tendency to refuse what he promised during the initial booking.

Transportation Details
  1. Kolkata to Delhi - Indigo 6E-224.
  2. Delhi to Haridwar - MakeMyTrip Cab Service (2 sedans were booked)
  3. Haridwar to Joshimath - Hired TATA sumo from "Tata Sumo Union Office" (+91-9761440107). Cost Rs. 5580/-
  4. Joshimath to Haridwar - Hired a local driver (+91-9917439871). Cost Rs. 5000/-
  5. Haridwar to Delhi - Nanda Devi Express (12206/Nanda Devi AC Express)
  6. Delhi to Howrah - Poorva Express via Patna.

Hotels and Stays
  1. Joshimath: Arranged by the guide (Birla Guest House).
  2. Haridwar: Bholagiri Ashram (01334 223 376)
  3. Delhi: Hotel in Paharganj (Booked on spot). Not recommended, worst hotels in Delhi.
#4 Feb 21st, 2018, 22:59
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#4
Say Hi to Sohan ji when you meet him next. We trekked with him first in 2006 and my husband still treks with him.
#5 Feb 21st, 2018, 23:04
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#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by mridula View Post Say Hi to Sohan ji when you meet him next. We trekked with him first in 2006 and my husband still treks with him.
Sure we will
#6 Feb 22nd, 2018, 00:04
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#6

The Shopping - Necessary items for Winter Trek

Shopping was a big part of this trek as no one was prepared for a winter trek. So we followed again IndiaMike and various other blogs to make a list of items.

I still remember the day, when seven of us almost bought the whole Decathlon shop . At the counter they were asking us if we are going to EBC?

I believe, these lists (gears and medicines) would help non-experienced winter trekkers.

Trekking Gears
  1. Rucksack (50 - 60 ltr.) With Waterproof cover is recommended. - We have one each.
  2. Day bagpack (Needed to carry water bottle and essentials) - Required if the sacks are carried by mules. (https://www.decathlon.in/p/8331382_a...tml#/180-235-_)
  3. Sleeping Bag - Recommendation is to take your own. In our case, the guide provided it.
  4. Tent - Personal choice again. Our guide arranged tents for us.
  5. Trekking shoes - Forclaz 500
  6. Trekking pole - https://www.decathlon.in/2569-hiking-poles
  7. Head LED light - MUST (https://www.decathlon.in/10033-lighting-and-accessories) Carry 2 extra battery sets.
  8. Poncho (for rain) https://www.decathlon.in/p/8084715_a...191-407-unique

Winter/Cold Protection
  1. Men's Vest/Half sleeve round neck vest
  2. Full sleeve collared t-shirts
  3. Two body warmers
  4. One full neck fleece jacket (https://www.decathlon.in/2514-pullovers-fleeces)
  5. Down Jacket - https://www.decathlon.in/2517-downjackets
  6. Wind Cheater - https://www.decathlon.in/p/8398767_r....html#/9-200-s
  7. Undergarments (Acts as the first layer) (as per need - at least 1 set per day)
  8. Two body warmer pants (Acts as second layer)
  9. Three pairs of Trek pants (Acts as third layer)
  10. Wind Cheater pant (if available) (Recommended as this is very helpful in windy weather).
  11. Pyjamas, daily wearable pants and shirts (for night sleeping)
  12. Cotton Socks (as per need)
  13. Woollen Socks (2 pc.)
  14. One woollen monkey cap/balaclava (should cover ears) (https://www.decathlon.in/p/8040878_w...3588-407-adult)
  15. One sun-cap/head scarf (https://www.decathlon.in/p/8383423_w..._size_fits_all)
  16. Woollen gloves & Wind proof gloves (if water proof then better) https://www.decathlon.in/524-sport-scarves-and-gloves
  17. Camp sandal (only for Camps)
  18. Sunglasses
  19. Personal towel
  20. Two Water Bottles / Hydration pack (https://www.decathlon.in/3477-bottles-and-flask)
  21. Snow Gaiter (https://www.decathlon.in/p/8347880_q...l#/216-200-s_m)
  22. Chap stick/lip balm
  23. Cold cream
  24. SPF 40+ sun screen

Toiletries
  1. Tooth brush and tooth paste
  2. Soap/Soap strip
  3. Hand sanitiser
  4. Tissue roll (Toilet paper)
  5. Anti-Fungal Powder (CANDID 50GM POWDER) (Optional) - Best for socks and oders.
  6. Deodorant (as per need)
  7. Wet tissue (as per need)

Medicine Kit
  1. Coca 30
  2. Crocin – 6 tablets (fever) (or similler) https://www.1mg.com/otc/crocin-650mg-tablet-otc90532
  3. Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness) https://www.1mg.com/drugs/avomine-25mg-tablet-28784
  4. Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies) https://www.1mg.com/drugs/avil-25mg-tablet-69629
  5. Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer) https://www.1mg.com/drugs/combiflam-tablet-335149
  6. Disprin – 6 tablets (headache) https://www.1mg.com/drugs/disprin-tablet-173979
  7. Norflox TZ & Lomofen 6 tablets each (diarrhea) https://www.1mg.com/drugs/norflox-tz-tablet-65672 & https://www.1mg.com/drugs/lomofen-tablet-269464
  8. Digene - 10 tablets (acidity) https://www.1mg.com/otc/digene-tablet-orange-otc133187
  9. Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids) https://www.1mg.com/drugs/rantac-300mg-tablet-328378
  10. Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
  11. Gauze - 1 small roll
  12. Band aid – 10 strips
  13. Cotton – 1 small roll
  14. ORS – 10 packets
  15. Neosporin Powder/Cream or T-Bact
  16. Volini spray (aches, & sprains)

Most Important
  1. 5-6 plastic bags to keep used cloths.
  2. Garbage bag - For keeping garbage throughout the trek. Disposal at the end of the trek.
  3. ZipLock bags - Storing unused food items.
#7 Feb 22nd, 2018, 01:12
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#7
Hooked. Absolutely riveting. Hope you give us an indication of the "shopping" cost later in your TR.
#8 Feb 22nd, 2018, 01:25
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#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rajarshi2016 View Post Hooked. Absolutely riveting. Hope you give us an indication of the "shopping" cost later in your TR.

For the "shopping" - I had most items so it was ~9K for me (Down Jacket, Gaiters, bottles etc.). If you are buying most of the necessary items then cost would be ~ 18-19K.
#9 Feb 23rd, 2018, 15:15
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#9

Day 1: The Journey begins

Kolkata - Delhi - Haridwar

We waited for a very long time, for almost one and half year for everyone to join each other for this trip. Finally on December 15th, the wait was almost over. Yes, almost.
Our flight was scheduled at 9:45 pm. All of us reached on time except one. This team mate of ours’ lives in Behala. From there he started at 8:00 PM to catch the 9:45 PM flight. That is a 25 KM distance to be covered amidst mad rush hour traffic.

We waited for him with jittery nerves and legs and sent him the next flight details so that he can book it if it was required. One pack of Gold Flake vanished in less than thirty minutes. To save time, we took his e-ticket from the kiosk and hid it under a plastic tree so that he doesn’t have to stand in line or in kiosk. This trick worked.

"The five" in the last bus before closing the flight doors




From my childhood I have seen many movies where the hero comes at the last moment when the flight is about to take off. This time I saw it happen in reality. The only difference was that five people instead of one boarded the plane just before the doors were shut. Ultimately, our last member had arrived and the other four from our team were standing on four separate gates to guide him through. The new found team spirit was definitely overwhelming. If I had the power, I would have named our team the "The Magnificent Seven". We were seven member team in this much awaited trip.

Happy Faces.


The flight took off with fifteen minutes of delay at 10:00 PM and we came out of Delhi Domestic Terminal by 12:45 AM. I was worried that the fog/smog in Delhi could delay the fight and the historical data suggested the same as well, but this was not the case. We reached well on time.

At Delhi Airport



We had previously booked cab via MMT Cabs for our journey from Delhi Airport to Haridwar Rail Station. There were some difficulties in finding out the drivers as MMT outsourced the cabs from different vendors and they in turn also outsourced it to someone.

Ultimately we were able to get the cars and started towards Haridwar. We had set a target to reach Haridwar by 7 AM in the morning. On the way we stopped once to grab a bite at one of the many dhabas which we came across.

At last after crossing almost 208 KM, we reached "Dev Bhoomi".
#10 Feb 24th, 2018, 13:35
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#10

Dev Bhoomi

Haridwar and Joshimath

We reached Haridwar at around 7:30 AM in the morning. Near to the station, we booked a TATA Sumo from Sumo Association (contact details given in Post #3). It cost us Rs 500 per person plus booking charge. However, there were many private Sumos standing nearby and they ask for Rs. 5000 for the full car booking (this we learned later on). Frankly, the condition of the Sumos (available at the sumo association) are not at all satisfactory. I’d recommend to book from private vendors.

Even the sumo association drivers lack professionalism. On the way, I felt cold and asked the driver to stop the car so that I can take out one jacket from the sack. But he refused. He replied, "aap jyada soch raha hai thand ko leke" (you are thinking too much about the cold!). I murmured WTF and sat quietly.

However, we had to endure his rough behavior for nearly ten hours until we reached Joshimath. On the way, after crossing Devprayag (I believe) we stopped for our heavy breakfast. We had aloo-parathas and masala tea. We had eaten so much that we eventually skipped lunch. We stopped only twice or thrice on the way either for peeing or for tea.



Eventually at half past six in the evening we reached "Pipalkoti". We were all exhausted and desperately in need of a break. We had "Pakoras" and masala tea. Journey started again. By near 8 PM, at last we reached Birla Guest house, Joshimath.

The guest house is good. But doesn’t have any food arrangements. We were provided with 3 rooms with hot water supply (though the caretaker cuts the geyser power most of the time - I thought of killing him, throw him off the cliff etc.). Once we settled, our guide cum trip arranger "Chandar Negi" came and requested us to go for dinner in a nearby veg hotel.

The food was not up-to the mark as per our standards. You could put the boiled rice grains as "shots" into a shotgun bullet. So, we pushed away our half-eaten plates and returned to the hotel.

The Scene - Cancel or Proceed as planned ??

Our polite and sober guide ‘Chandar Negi’ who had initially promised for 5 nights and 6 days of Joshimath to Joshimath package for Rs. 8K/person with mules carrying the sacks, had turned into something other than polite or sober.

He started saying that he could only manage 3 nights and 4 days as per his route and one has to carry their own sacks. But the price will be the same. I believe, this is his signature style these days. He provides a good deal remotely but when you reach there in peak season he shows his greedy self. Because if you cancel, he knows other guides will not be able to accommodate you in such a short notice. So you are left with no choice but to pay what he is asking.

Among us one or two had dropped the plan of trekking at the very night and started planning to visit Auli, Haridwar, Mussoorie etc.

But we’ve seen lot of Hollywood movies and are completely aware of good cop - bad cop routine. So we started to apply the same to Chandar. This brawl started at nearly 9:00 PM and it was almost midnight when we came to a decision.

So the latest plan that we chalked out is 4 nights and 5 days Joshimath to Joshimath at Rs. 7500/- per person. But, he will not be the guide which he promised, instead there would be another person, Mingmar Sherpa to lead the trek and guide us. We were told he is a trekker and had lot of summits under his belt. Later we came to know he is just a head cook in a trek agency.

At least now we could sleep. Next day we will start the trek as planned. "Please make the rest of the night boring and no more surprises tomorrow" - We pleaded.
#11 Feb 24th, 2018, 15:30
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#11

Start of Trek - Day 3

Joshimath - Dhak Village - Gulling Camp site

We had planned to wake up early but after last night’s brawl we could not. By 10 AM we started from the same veg-restaurant.

Group Photo before starting the trek
From left, Subhayan, myself, Debobrata, Chandar Negi, Suman, Trishit, Soumen and Pritam.




We reached Dhak village by 11 AM. New road construction is in progress after Dhak village so there were lots of mud, dust etc. on the way. We took some shortcuts and reached to a small village on the top. This was our first stop and we had to fill up our water bottles and then start again.



The road was through jungle. The view was amazing with the trees and mountains in the background (Mt Dronagiri, Hati-Ghora etc.)

Mountains


The ascent was very steep mostly, as we were taking shortcuts frequently. We had to reach Gulling by 2:00 PM to have lunch. Many of us got tired and rested often. We reached Gulling at half past three. Had our lunch.

This winter trek was a first for all of us. Before that we did not have any idea about how to spend nights in such bone biting cold weather. The Toilet-tent was a new time experience as well.

Our Camp Site at Gulling



There was nothing much to do after lunch. We simply dawdled here and there. Clicked some sunset photos.

Mt Dronagiri





Hati - Ghora Parvat




When it was all dark, Debobrata and I decided to ready our camera for night photography. We were very tired and were literally shivering in cold. We had knives and we were in the jungle. So we thought to make a controlled fire. And we did!, In its warmth we felt so much better and to add more comfort, our head cook, Kalam Singh offered us hot corn and mushroom soup with popcorn.

Warmth
Picture Courtesy: Debobrata (Edited by me)



Dinner was served at half past seven. We had Rice, Roti (handmade indian bread), Kaali Daal (black lentils), vegetable curry and egg. It was enough for our hungry stomachs.

We had three tents in 3-2-2 ratio. Tents were in a good condition, I should mention that, but not the sleeping bags (not all). However nothing we could do about the sleeping bags in the middle of the night so, after the photography session, we came to our respective tents and tried to sleep. Tomorrow we had to reach Khullara camp site.

No, I couldn’t sleep. I thought it was only me. Soon the "I" turned into "We". Mostly everyone were awake all the night. To me, in the entire trip the hardest part was not to complete the whole winter trek but to go for peeing at the middle of the night in subzero temperature.
#12 Feb 24th, 2018, 18:19
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Keep it coming, Aneek!
#13 Feb 24th, 2018, 21:10
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Waiting for more!
#14 Feb 24th, 2018, 22:19
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Wow....great narrative. And pictures.
#15 Feb 25th, 2018, 01:52
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Khullara Campsite - Day #4

We started early compared to yesterday’s time. The trail was full of snow. Walking was a bit hard but thanks to Forclaz 500, we managed.
The most important thing that we followed (had to follow) is the dressing. Every day at the end of our trek, we used to change our trekking clothes and put on tent clothes. The layers are essential. Any amateur going for winter trek (like us) should follow these rules. Refer to the post #6 for the items that we carried.

Reaching Khullara again took much time as the trail was again very steep. We stopped often with little one minute breaks and bigger brakes for photo-shoot sessions.



Thanks Trishit for the videos.

However before lunch we managed to reach our campsite. Upon reaching I was (others as well) spellbound by the beauty of fresh snow lying around. Midst of all these snow is our campsite. The below images might properly demonstrate what I am trying to say.

Finally! Flat Land After A Strenuous Climb
by Debobrata


Tired Legs
by Debobrata


Only few meters!!


The valley
by Debobrata


Tents at Khullara Campsite
by Debobrata



Our plan was to trek Kuari Pass and reach Advanced Base Camp and pitch tent there. Since the mules won’t go till ABC, we’d carry the essential items ourselves. The main goal was to summit Pangarchulla Peak.
But, seeing the amount of snow and the available sleeping gears, we dropped the plan. Later we realised that dropping the plan was a good idea indeed.

In all of the snow there was no wood to burn. So some of us went to get some dry woods. Which was hard to find as all broken trunks or branches were under feet of snow. We were completely against of cutting a tree. It took us more than hour to collect dried wood. The amount was very less so we decided that we’d only burn those after 6 PM so that it burns for at least one and half hours before we can go to sleep. Just after sunset, came the tomato soup and some fries. The feeling was heavenly.

By 7:30 PM, we had our dinner (Roti, Rice, Dal, Sabji, Salad, Papadum). Then came back at the fireplace to have one cigarette. Well, the weather absolutely demanded it.

That night the temperature dropped to almost minus 20 degree Celsius (later we came to know from this site). This was the coldest night for us. The sky was clear and starry. Somehow we managed to get some snaps of the Milky Way and quickly went to the tent.

No Caption needed..



Again a sleepless night for most of us. When we were dozing, some snored so loudly that we had to wake up. So, ear plug in a tent is must.
How come one can go to latrine in minus 20 degree Celsius at 2 AM in the night?

Well, I am sure this is why it’s called "Nature’s Call". However, in the wee hours I was able to sleep, don’t know about the others though. Because the next day is Kuari Pass trek so we had to be fit.

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