The Himalayan Quest 2005

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Day 5 (Trek Day 3)

At Kuari Pass
Disappointment at the high pass.

It was well and truly a disappointment. We reached the pass at about 10:30 AM. It was just a small ascent and a gradual descent to Kuari Pass from Gairgarh. We completed it in 2 hours.

But the pass, which is supposedly the most picturesque pass in the Himalaya was heavily clouded by mist. There was little or no visibility. We could hardly see ourselves, let alone the peaks.

According to Bill Aitken, the things that could be seen from Kuari Pass are, the old route to Nanda Devi Inner Sanctuary via Rishi Ganga gorge, several of the Sanctuary peaks and the Chaukhamba range to the North.

If it was not for Rupkund, our final destination, we would have been thoroughly disillusioned on our first foray to the Himalaya. After a half hour stay at the pass, with the mist showing no signs of clearing up, we decided to push on.

It was a steep descent for around 200 feet. The path was narrow and very slippery. One wrong step would have seen us right at the bottom. Slowly we moved on and reached Dakwani meadow. Instead of stopping at Dakwani, we decided to push on to Surtoli meadow, where we would pitch the camp for the day.

At Dakwani, we decided to split into two groups. The area ahead was dangerous according to Kaka. Human beings and not the wild animals were the ones to be afraid of. We were now descending on to the first of the high altitude villages and Kaka seemed tense. It was decided that Kaka and Bhagat would go ahead with the mules and Kannan, Chandan, Dada and Sreepad would accompany them (Team 1) while Dinesh, Sanjeev and I (Team 2) would bring up the rear. We would later meet at the proposed camp-site by sun-down.

It was a long walk. From Dakwani we descended to a small stream called Dombitta Nala. There was a log over it acting as a bridge. After crossing the same, there was a steep ascent.

By this time we had lost sight of the gang ahead. We were leisurely strolling, taking time to stop and breathe in the mountain air.

After one more ascent and descent, we caught sight of Team 1 on their way up the opposite peak. But Dada and Sreepad were not with them. When we completed the descent to the stream (this one we had to cross on bare foot, after taking off the shoes), we saw Sreepad and Dada getting ready to climb after their short rest.

Sanjeev, Dinesh and I decided to have our packed lunch at the stream. A short while later we started off again.

On the way, it started raining and we put on our plastic covers a.k.a. raincoats. It was really cumbersome with the back-pack but we managed to keep out most of the rain.

Around 4:30 PM, as we were treading along, suddenly I saw something white ahead. It was Sreepad sitting by a small stream. All three of us ran to him. He explained how his leg started paining and how he was not able to catch up with Dada. In his own words,

"When Dada and I reached the stream (where we met last), Kannan and Chandan were already much above. After sometime you reached there. Then Dada told me to come with you guys, since my knee was not all that well. But then, I told Dada "No" and then continued climbing with him. A little ahead, I knew that I could not keep pace with Dada. I was very slow. My knee was really acting up then. I told Dada to go ahead and waited for 15 minutes for you guys to catch up. But you guys were having lunch at the stream which I did not know. So I started again, slowly this time, thinking that you guys will soon catch up with me. Time was already 2 PM then. I walked and walked. I had a doubt whether I had lost my way, but I could still see the tracks left by the mules. Still there was no sign of you guys. In between I turned and called Sushen. There was no reply. I did not have water also with me. So when I saw a stream, I decided to sit and wait for you there. Around that time I saw a cow on the way and realized that the mule tracks I was following could just be cow tracks !!! I decided that I was lost and knew that if I did not turn up at the camp some of you will come looking for me. I decided to back track upto the stream where we last saw each other. Just then you guys turned up and saved me a long walk."

The funny thing was that, the place where Sreepad was sitting and waiting for us was just about half an hour behind Surtoli meadow, our camp for the night. If he had pushed on for just a little more, he could have waited for us along with the others, sipping coffee, instead of sweating it out in the thick jungle.

There were a few shepherd huts in Surtoli. Kaka tried to get some milk from them for making kheer but was unsuccessful. But the rotis Dinesh made were so good that the taste lingered in our mouths long after the sumptuous supper.


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