Sunday, September 30, 2007

To Gangotri

23 - 24 August 2007

Once you've lived with mountains
You will return
You will come back
To touch the tress and grass
And climb once more the windswept mountain pass.
- Ruskin Bond

After our last adventurous trek to Bara Bhangal in the October of 2006, we had decided that we would choose a moderate trek for our next adventure. However as I was recounting the Bara Bhangal experiences to one of our trekker friends JP, in the November of 2006, he suddenly asked me "Kalindi Chaloge? (Want to join us for Kalindi?)". Kalindi was in there in our list but I had never thought it would be added to my trekking resume so early. I was but three Himalayan treks old.

I had a discussion with Sandeep that evening and he was more than eager for Kalindi.

Kalindi Khal (“Khal” is a mountain pass in the local Garhwali language) is at an awesome altitude of 5947 meters (19600 feet). The trek connects the two Hindu holy shrines of Gangotri and Badrinath. The trek itself is in a very remote part of the Greater Himalayas in Garhwal. The legendary mountaineers Shipton and Tilman had discovered this route in 1934. Traversing the Kalindi Khal requires a fundamental understanding of mountains, glaciers and high altitude trekking in general.

So Kalindi Khal it was, for this year’s adventure, that’s what we decided.

Finally after all the preparation, we started for our dream trek on the 23rd of August 2007. The following people were to be the “Super Six” team as we called ourselves.

JP, Harsh, Sandeep and Shilpa from Bangalore, Moiz from Mumbai and Yogesh from Delhi.

From left to right.

JP : Our leader - fondly called JP Bhai Yahoo waley , is a very experienced trekker.
Harsh : Our resident glacier expert .
Moiz : He is the boulder man, a mountain goat. He gets his energy from the surrounding boulders.
Sandeep : My husband - the motivator but always paranoid about AMS.
Yogesh : Our CFO and manager. Very enthusiastic about trekking.
Shilpa : Thats me.

All the members met in Delhi at the Comesum Food Plaza at Nizamuddin Station. We started for Haridwar by train the same night and reached very early in the morning the next day. The plan was to reach Uttarkashi the same day before 12 PM, get our “Inner-Line Permits” from the District Magistrate’s office and start for Gangotri by 2 PM.

We hired a Vikram (a six seater auto rickshaw) from Haridwar for Rishikesh, the foothills of Himalayas. It was five in the morning, and we realized that the auto did not have it’s headlight on. It was quite funny; we traveled the entire one hour in pitch darkness while discussing the ghosts that haunt the Kalindi Khal trail. Finally at about 7 in the morning, we hired a jeep, Mahindra Marshal, from Natraj Chowk at Rishikesh and started for Uttarkashi. Even this process was not without incidences. Harsh angered the driver of the jeep by making some really funny comments about the condition of the vehicle. The angry driver almost stopped short of telling us “Go take a hike” (no pun). After some coaxing, the driver did agree and we were on our way to Uttarkashi.

One of the things that had kept bothering us always had been the weather. We used to see reports of heavy rains in Uttarakhand. There were reports of landslides after Uttarkashi on the way to Gangotri, cutting of Gangotri from rest of India. The weather itself was not looking good from Rishikesh. It had rained the whole night and dark clouds still abounded a plenty. Everyone was keeping his fingers crossed.

Because of the new Tehri Dam construction, there is now a new route from Rishikesh to Uttarkashi increasing the distance between the two towns by 40 km. On our way we stopped to admire the massive man made reservoir.

We reached Uttarkashi at 2 PM sharp where we were met by Budhi Gusain who was to be our guide for the trek. Budhi was a smart young lad of about 25. I had spoken to him on phone before and knew that he had a Basic, Advanced and a Rescue course from NIM. Harsh,JP and Moiz had already been on a trek with Budhi and we were assured that we were in able hands.

Shambhuji hugged JP and started talking to him in a manner as if he was his son-in-law. From this time, we started calling JP, "Uttarkashi kay jamai raja". This added to the one more moniker which JP had - "JP Bhai Yahoowaley" since he always carried the Yahoo flag with him.

We had to visit the district magistrate’s office for the permit. This process did not turnout to be complicated and we got our permits on the same day.

The next day was a protest strike in Uttarkashi because of construction of the Tehri Dam (this is quite a contentious issue in Uttarkhand with opinions divided as to whether the construction of the dam will bring prosperity to the local people). The six of us got on to another jeep for Gangotri. This route is really breath taking, but at quite a few places, the road had washed off due to the recent heavy rains in the region. Thankfully there were no road blocks due to landslides. We reached the scenic village of Harsil as it started getting dark. Harsh, who had been to Gangotri earlier, had repeatedly been telling us about the famous apple orchards of Dharali, another small village after Harsil. So we took a small halt at Dharali and tried the “famous” apples. By the time we reached Gangotri, it was already 8 PM. We checked into a small hotel and went to deep slumber as everybody was really tired after the bone rattling rides of the entire day.



Ananth said...

where ar u going next

Joshi said...

Wow what an amazing adventure..excellent reading

Alina Merry said...
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Anonymous said...
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