Wednesday, November 18

Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek Log

Having completed a quick trek to Roopkund in Dussehara vacations, I hoped to do another in Deepawali. I had no plans of going home from Noida in vacations. Kiran was also in Gurgaon itself. This time if we took one day leave from office, we could have 5 days to do something. I proposed going to Joshimath and doing some of treks among Kauri Pass(Curzon Trail), Hemkund Sahib and Valley Of flowers over there. Though Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib were already closed by then for the winter season. Since we were only two, we decided to minimize the expense using bus travel instead cab.

There were very few buses on the route due to Deepawali that day.  We managed our way to Joshimath by changing buses and eventually booking a cab from Karnaprayag. It was night when we arrived Joshimath. To start trekking for Valley Of Flowers & Hemkund Sahib early morning, it would have been better if we stayed in Govind ghat that night. The cab driver was asking for a lot for Govind ghat so we had to stay in Joshimath and went to Govind ghat next morning.


After asking about the route, we left Govind ghat around 8 in morning. Govind ghat is situated at the confluence of rivers Alaknanda and Lakshman Ganga. The route going through Bhyundar valley is well paved and goes through a dense forest with Bhyundar Ganga on the right side. After 3-4 hours walk we reached Bhyundar village.

Along Bhyundar village to Ghangharia

There was no one in the village except one shop and 3-4 labours working on a home. Having our lunch we enquired upon further trail ahead. The shopkeeper told us that there is absolutely no one beyond this point in Ghangharia or Hemkund Sahib and everything is closed. He also warned us about the bears and leopards in the area and gave us 2 crackers and some kerosene to light up fire in night.
After getting few chapatis packed with pickle, soon we left for Ghangharia. On our way, two dogs tagged along us after getting lured by Kiran with biscuits.

Hathi Parbat as seen from Bhyundar Village,
A trail to Kakbhushundi lake starts from here towards this mountain

Walking through the dense forest, it was past 2 P.M. when we reached Ghangharia.
This is a significant place along this trek with lots of houses along the both sides of street; but everything was closed. It gave the whole place an eerie appearance. After hiding our bags in the gallery of a rest house, we left for Valley of Flowers.

Towards Valley Of Flowers From Ghangharia,
The Pushpawati river gorge

The trek goes through the dense forest on left side and Pushpawati river gorge on the right. The Pushpawati river joins Bhuyandar Ganga near Ghangharia to form Lakshman Ganga.

The dogs chased grey langurs herds whenever they see them. Climbing our way after crossing Pushpawati river, and walking through the dense forests with some snow along the trail; we reached Valley of Flowers.

Valley of Flowers in mid November

The flora in the valley was completely dried except few green patches here and there. We roamed inside the valley enjoying the view and clicking pictures.

After some walk inside the valley, we rested near the grave of Joan Margaret Legge (1885 - 1939) who died while collecting samples here. The sun was about to set, so we turned back towards Ghangharia. It was completely dark when we reached there.

We picked some woods from the street and lit up a fire with the help of kerosene. Sitting there, the dogs occasionally barked and ran along the street. Kiran feared that something is around and tried to look towards the way these dogs ran with torch. We only had 6 chapatis to eat. I suggested to eat next morning for breakfast as we needed enough energy to climb Hemkund Sahib. Kiran agreed to it and suggested to share our chapatis with the dogs dutifully protecting us in the night. After few hours of warming ourselves with fire, we decided to get some sleep. I kept the fire burning and pitched our tents in the gallery of the rest house. Dogs kept barking and running all night.

The footsteps
After sharing our breakfast with dogs, we started for Hemkund Sahib. It is a continuous 6 km climb till the top. After 3 kms, treeline ends and the path was snowy. The bridge on the way was disassembled so we found an alternate route nearby to go further. After the bridge there are stairs and there also is an alternate way. The stairs were steep and completely covered with snow but the alternate path is longer and not so steep. There was snow everywhere. After crossing the nullah, when I started on the stairs, I noticed foot steps of some big animal which walked before us on that path. Kiran found the path slippery and decided to take the alternate route. I climbed the stairs cautiously, wondering if some bear is waiting for me above. Later, I was assured that this could not be the case as the dogs went ahead and waited for me at the end of stairs. Kiran continued negotiating the snow, while I reached the gurudwara. After few mins, Kiran reached there and meanwhile I roamed around the serene Homkund lake taking pictures with my mobile which still retained it's juice in airplane mode. With the gentle breeze, the crystal clear rippling water of the lake was making sounds. We sat there on a stone by the lake for few minutes and watched around. The dogs were lying on the snow basking in the sun. Kiran wondered if they were very tired and are sleeping.

The Homkund Lake

Around 11 AM, started trekking back for Govind ghat. It was a long way ahead and we both were hungry. We picked our bags up from Ghangharia from where we stayed last night and continued the descent. We talked about having big lunch at Bhyundar. The shopkeeper was waiting for us; when we we reached there in noon. After lunch and little rest in Bhyundar, we returned the kerosene and the crackers which we didn't use. It was necessary to reach Govind Ghat by evening, if we wanted to have dinner and stay in Joshimath. Around 6 PM, when we reached Govind Ghat it was dark. With some luck, we managed to catch a jeep coming from Badrinath.

We still had a day left after these two trek days. Kauri pass was at least 28 km one way which I didn't think could be managed in the remaining time. Next day we ended our trip after visiting Badrinath temple and stayed overnight in Joshimath.

Tuesday, November 17

Roopkund Trek Log

One of my friend asked me if I had any plans for Dussehara vacations. For one day leave, we were getting 4 days in our hand. He was planning for Roopkund trek as much as it can be done in two days which we would left with after taking out the travel time from Delhi. A day before, he got little sick and there were three of us for the trek. Kiran was from Bombay and Silva was from Brazil. We hadn't met before. Kiran was full of enthusiasm and wanted to complete this trek at any cost. I was supportive of this opinion and we chalked out our trek plan to make it possible. Silva had done a trek to Tungnath with Kiran and my friend Akshay few week back.

We left on Wednesday evening; the cab picked me up around 10:30 in night. After a whole night and day drive, next day we reached village Wan around 5 p.m. To make most of our lost time, we needed to cover some of trek that day. In few minutes, after arranging for our driver's accomodation; we left for the trek. We did get few advices for not leaving for trek at such time, but we went on.

Out morales were pretty boost up. Calling ourselves bad mofos; we went past the wan village down to the bridge on river Neelganga. By then it was completely dark. Holding our torches, we started to climb. Our aim was to reach Bedini around 11 in night. Even though, we were advised against it in the village, we thought that it is better to utilize this time in trek than to stay. It was around 10 p.m.; when we reached first camping site Gharoli Patal. Bedini was still 3 km. We had still enough juice left to reach Bedini that night. But after staying few mins for tea there; we decided to camp there only. It was very cold and windy.

A view from Bedini Bugyal
Next morning around 6, we left for Bhojbasa after having maggi for breakfast. We were happy that stopping at Gharoli Patal, previous night didn't cost us much time when we reached Bedini. After half an hour of admiring the beauty of vast meadows, and few clicks; we left for our next stop.

On the way to Patharnachuni
It was around 2 PM when we reached Patharnachuni where we had our lunch. Soon after, we left for our final stop, Bhojbasa. One the steep ascent to Kalu Vinayak, Silva was walking a bit slow. After few wait and move ahead; Kiran and me discussed if he could walk with Silva and I'll come back to carry the bag from Bhojbasa. I tried walking fast and reached Bojbasa early where I left the bag and rushed back towards Kalu Vinayak. Kiran and Silva were resting at Kalu Vinayak, which they had already climbed. Silva was feeling better now and didn't let me carry his bag. We came back from Kalu Vinayak together.

We all managed to reach Bhojbasa well before evening. Silva was having some headaches, I suggested him to have more tea and drink as much water as he can. We did a little walk around the campsite for acclimatization and had tea. We pitched our tents inside the forest hut. Although a lot colder, it was less windy than Bedini here.

Beyond Junargali
Next morning after having tea, we left for Roopkund around 6. We packed our tents and left our bag there in the hut. It was very cold and windy on the way. Some ice started to appear inside water bottle. After one and a half hour walk, we reached Roopkund. Silva was little behind. It was his first experince of such altitude and cold. There was some firewood left from previous fire; which I lit and warmed ourselves while waiting for Silva. Some dry sticks dry grass was around which I collected. When Silva was about to reach Roopkund; we left for Junargali. After few minutes of climb, we reached Junargali. Silva still was behind Roopkund. He would stop after few steps to catch a breath. It was windy was clear in Junargali with magnificent view of Mt. Trisul(7120m) and Nandaghunti(6309m).

Jorawar Gali Pass
A thought came to my mind for going ahead from there to Homkund. The door like structure with bell hanging by it looked very inviting. We didn't have that much time. We needed to move back as soon as we can if wanted to make it back to Wan village by night. After few minutes, Silva was in Roopkund. I asked Silva if really wanted to climb up to Junargali to which he said Yes. We waited for him there. Collecting litter there left by previous trekkers, we waited there on the stairs towards Shila Samudra.

After about an hour or so stay at Junargali, we started our way back to Bhojbasa. It was already 12 when we left there. After some tea and noodles, we left Bhojbasa around noon. There was another group of three people who was also on had similar plans as us. There also wanted to go back to Wan on that day itself. I was planning to go via Ali Bugyal; but it seemed, that it was too late for that. When we reached Pattahrnachuni in an hour or so, Silva was walking good. We decied against taking Ali Bugyal route, we needed at least 2-3 more hours than our usual. It was now sunset time when we reached Gharoli Patal. After taking a lot of shortcuts on descents; my legs were tired. I was exhausted and had very less control on my legs. It was now dark when I reached Neelganga bridge. I was out of water and thirsty till that time. I waited with other group for Kiran and Silva. After few mins they arrived. Silva had got blisters in his foot. We started our last patch of trek to Wan village. When we reached the village from Neelganga bridge, it seemed that we lost our way which we took before. After asking for directions and wasting around 2 hours, we managed to reach roadside around 9:30 p.m. where our cab driver was waiting for us.

We took little more than two trek days for this trek from Wan village to Roopkund. In retrospect, I think that if we had one more day, one day stay at Ali Bugyal would have been perfect finishing of the trek while coming back.