Ok, so the day has come. Today we go climb up to the pass. The pass itself is at a height of about 4268mts. The morning is hauntingly cold, there’s a lot of mist and we can feel the thin air and to some extent, the lack of oxygen in the air.
In this atmosphere we began to gradually ascend from Dhakwani towards Kuari Pass at about 8 am. We hoped to climb the 500 odd mts in about couple of hours. The climb was the toughest of whatever we had done till now. The visibility itself was limited to a few meters. With every step that we took, we could hear our hearts pounding.
John meanwhile was totally energetic this morning and he was climbing very fast like a man possessed. It was then we hit upon a small problem. The mist was so thick that visibility was limited to a few meters. We lost sight of our trail as well and took to an extremely steep climb. I don’t remember how we managed to get over that problem but after a while we took to the main trail again and heaved a big sigh of relief. With each step we were motivating ourselves and at around 10 am we reached a place, which was about 50mts from the pass itself. The visibility was still very limited. We expected to see John, but we saw that he was trying to hoist a flag dangerously perched up on a cliff. I thought that was very daring of him. And then we reached the pass itself. Exhilarating feeling.
After a while even the others reached the Kuari pass and started to cross the wilderness by gradually descending. After a while we met another group of trekkers, a man who appeared to be in his 40s and a lady. Arvind seemed to know him and introduced the man as “Gary”. It was only after the trip I realized that Gary is the author of one of the Lonely Planets that I have called “Trekking in the Indian Himalayas”. He was coming from Chadrashila and was going towards “Roopkund”.
After descending for some time, we started walking over a small ridge. Around noon we had lunch at some grassy knoll. The wind was at its full flow here and I enjoyed that walk very much.
We quickly had our lunch and started towards Taali, as at such heights the weather is pretty unpredictable. Arvind wanted us to reach our campsite before it started snowing or raining. After sometime it did start drizzling and we thought of putting on our raincoats but didn’t do so, hoping that it would pass over. A s soon as we reached atop a meadow called Chitrakantha, the drizzle turned into a steady downpour and within minutes it was raining like what we had never seen before. We stopped only to put on our waterproofs and started from that meadow. The heavy rain suddenly changed into a hailstorm. The pieces of hail were the size of marbles and they were when they hit our hands it was quite painful. After a while, the hail turned into a snowfall and the entire region surrounding us was covered with snow. We were actually walking in snow. It was really amazing. I was in such surroundings for the first time in my life and was feeling quite ecstatic. Although, it was getting a little bit slippery but walking in snow was really an adventurous feeling. Now I feel very bad, because I couldn’t click even a single photo of such heavenly surroundings. We were in hurry to reach our campsite before the weather turned even worse. After walking at a pace for sometime in the snow we reached our campsite at around 4 pm at place called Taali. This place is called Taali because there is a small lake [Taal in Hindi] there. After we reached Taali, the weather cleared. Kuari pass was clearly visible from our campsite but now it was completely covered with snow.
The views of the Himalayas from Taali are quite amazing. The view is around 120 degrees and on a clear day the peaks of Dronagiri, Trishul, Changabang, Hathi Parbat, Rishikot and the majestic Nanda Devi are clearly visible. When we reached, the entire view was clouded in a dense fog, but after a while as the weather cleared and the fog lifted, we saw the view, which will be etched, into our minds for a long time to come.
It was getting colder. We were sitting around fire to get some warmth. After having a very delicious dinner we went to our tent to call it a night. It was extremely chili tonight but I got into the sleeping bag with a different attitude so that at least I could get some proper sleep. But it was only my wish that didn’t get completed and I was waiting for morning. Around 4am, I tried to wake up Sandeep but he finally woke up at 5am when the alarm rang. I also sang one song, which was appropriate to this situation …”Jiska mujhe tha intazar vo ghadi aa gayi” as I was waiting for 5am.
While climbing down from the Kuari pass, Sandeep and I were talking about why out doors are good, why do people take so much trouble “climbing up” and then “climbing down”? Is it only “Because it is there”? Well I think, the biggest thing is, the feeling of exhilaration that one gets.