Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pindari and Kaphni Glacier Trek: Part 1

Day 1: Almora → Bageshwar → Song → Loharket
I hop on a bus in Almora heading to Bageshwar. Lonely Planet say it will take two hours. Never trust the lonely planet. Never never never. It takes closer to five, partly because the bus stops midway for lunch. I arrive in Bageshwar and switch buses. We begin hurtling up a dirt road through a river valley, passing jeeps on a single lane dirt road with a 1000 foot drop into the river on our side. After a half hour stop in some random town (Indian buses get no awards for their efficiency), I get dropped off on the side of the road and told I'm in Song, the start of the trek. By this time it's about four o'clock and I head about half an hour up the hill to Loharket, the last village accessible by vehicles.

The road from Song to Loharket

Day 2: Loharket → Dhakuri → Khati
I have to climb up that hill today? Yeah, and you're only seeing half of it. This day weeds out the city slickers who aren't up for the trek. I climbed switchback after switchback gaining 4,000 feet in about five hours. When you finally reach the top, Dhakuri Khal, you realize two things. One: I'm going down from here?! And two: Woah, those peaks are huuuuuge. My legs cringed, but the part of me that lives for the pain of backpacking was ecstatic. There's a long way back up. I stop a little ways down the hill in Dhakuri, where most people stop for the night, and eat some Maggi Noodles (A local staple, the Indian version of Top Ramen). Then I head another couple thousand feet down to Khati, the only real village beyond the road. I spend the night in a guest house 2 km before Khati and enjoy the rest of the afternoon watching the storms move around the snowy peaks of the Sunderdunga and Pindari valleys. By the time it's dark, I'm delusional and can barely stand on my legs. I think it was dehydration and the rapid gain in altitude. From here forward I drink a lot of water.

A shepherd's hut at one of my first breaks.

Up and up and up and up. Loharket to Dhakuri Khal.

Ruins of a shepherd's hut

The first big peak view.

Bridge near Khati

I took this picture and thought I had some dirt on my face. I tried again but the dirt moved. And again. And again. Then I realized it's dust on my camera's sensor.

Sunset over the Sunderdunga Valley

Day 3: Khati → Dwali → Khatia
I Get up early, planning to head to Phurkia, the last village before the Pindari glacier. On the long trip up the river valley, I stop at a small shepherd's village to have a chai and some Maggi. While I'm waiting, an Indian guy arrives and gets a chai also. We leave together and he suggests that I go up to the Kaphni Glacier with him. He tells me there is a guest house on the way, but I don't realize he runs it. We stop again at Dwali, the confluence of the Pindari and Kaphni valleys, for lunch. There, three Germans walked into the hut. One I recognized from Hampi. Wooooah crazy small world we live in huh? Two were heading back down, but Jan, who I didn't know, wanted to go up to the Kaphni glacier. So Jan, Pradeep (the guest house guy) and I headed up the valley towards the glacier. The trail was quite steep, and we headed up to just below the snow line to the village of Khatia. Khatia consists of two buildings. Both are part of the guest house. Weird. There we ran into Scott and Bonnie who are Australians who've lived in Khati the majority of the year for the past six years. They were on a holiday from the village, as they do aid work there and it seems very very tiring.

Approaching Khati. That's wheat or barley on the lower left.

Khati from the road heading up.

Idyllic scene on the trail.

Creek and bridge

Day 4: Khatia → Kaphni Glacier → Khatia
Jan and I decided to wake up at five AM, just before it gets light, to get to the Kaphni glacier before the weather hit. After eating some Aloo Parathas, we headed up the couple hours to the glacier. The trail was quite good, and we only had to cross one significant patch of snow. Because of the lack of snow we were able to walk up onto the terminal moraine of the glacier. By 10 AM, as we were heading down, it had started to snow. We stopped in a meadow for a chai with Scott and Bonnie who were planning on spending the next few nights camping out. The rest of the day was spent relaxing at Khatia.

Where are the Hobbits?

At the Kaphni Glacier

Peaks and sky. Almost looks like it could be mirrored in a pond.

Himalaya Peaks

Me with peaks near Kaphni Glacier

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Wow, dude, you look and sound like you are totally in the zone. I really love the images of the terraced fields, and the stone paths--makes clear the antiquity of the area. Seems like a galaxy away from the tropical and urban parts of your trip now an eon ago. 10 days to go--can't wait to see some more. Love, da

Unknown said...

Talk about peaks! Good thing you are in peak condition to do all this. It's all very beautiful and what an amazing experience of a lifetime for you, literally every step of the way. I was so glad to know you didn't get stuck in any snowstorms and made it safely all the way. Onward to your next adventure! Love, Ma

Anonymous said...

Zak, I stumbled on your wonderful journey! Great pics and interesting documentary. Awesome.

Dr. Katsura

Abi Fitzgerald said...

I met Babaji in 1999....glad to see he's still there :)

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