A trek to Remember — Auli to Pangarchulla summit & beyond

At the Pangarchulla Summit
“Here we are. At the pangarchulla summit. Pangarchulla, my foot! You can see that it’s all fog here. We are at over 4500 meters. We trekked it. We fucking made it to the top”,

was recorded on the selfie cam of my mobile. It was me, Adi & our guide Bhuvan. We didn't get here with ease.

We looked back and all we could see is fog. No trails of our path, no sense of the height on which we are on and the thought that we need to trek all the way down is demotivating to say the least. But, we got something else in the store.

Day 0: Bangalore to Haridwar

I came back from the office early evening and my friend Ashok is ready with his bike to drop me at the airport. We snooped through the traffic during the peak evening hours to reach the airport in time. On the way, drizzles started while we are cruising on the Bangalore flyovers and this made me feel that it’s going to be good trip.

I was able to board my flight and then rushed to the Dhaula Kuan metro station (thanks to Giri for his continuous on call support during this travel leg :P) to go to NDLS. Nanda Devi Exp was waiting on the platform by the time I reached. There’s no time left to get some intro of others in the group. All the others are from Hyderabad.

Day 1: Hardiwar to Auli

Day began early as I got down in the Haridwar station at 4am. Met others in the group (Sai, Pavani, Manasa, Geetha, Jahnavi)and we headed to the waiting room to freshen up. Later, I & Sai roamed outside to get 2 cups of tea. I think customer care associates should learn a thing or two from the roadside tea vendors regarding customer satisfaction.

Two others (Adi & Vani) joined the group — they missed the train at Delhi and had to come by bus. So, it’s total 8 in the group. The tempo (a 12 seater van) was ready by 7am at the Haridwar railway station to take us to Auli (near Joshimat). It’s about 10hr journey on the ghat road. We had breakfast at Haridwar and boarded our van, arranged by the GIO Adventures (We all give a 5 star to these guys and will always choose them in future. Exceptionally good experience). We got an intro of our guide, Jai Chand.

From left — Sai, Manasa, Jhanavi, Geetha, Pavani, Vani, Adi, Jai Chand

We stopped where ever we felt like having tea, breakfast, photo ops, sight seeing, lunch and finally reached Auli by 7 in the evening. The eco guest houses were nice. Clean rooms & friendly staff. We were served tea, snacks and after a small photo ops (with the excitement of the clear view of the mountains around) we resumed to freshen up and dine. By this time, we all are comfortable with each other in the group. Pavani is the common friend to everyone in the group and most others are strangers to each other.

It’s a nice feeling that you have someone to care for you. Someone to cry for you.

As I & Adi climbed down the summit and met the rest of the group, I felt alone and was looking around to feel a sense of accomplishment and these thoughts had run into my mind. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful feeling to cherish.

Day 2:

We got woken up by the early morning light through the full glass wall in the room. The snow capped mountains are welcoming. Sai was as much excited as I was.

We became friends. It’s interesting to know his startup journey. This guy knows what he talks about. A tattoo on his hand does speak something. Wish I took a snap of it.

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. WIN.

It still resonates in my mind, for the reason that I failed with my startup which I still do not admit in the public.

After the breakfast, we traveled couple of miles on the tempo and then got on to a rope way. I’m scared of heights, but being with a group, I managed to feel better. My camera did help me to overcome acrophobia.

We all got on to it. Beautiful views are welcoming.

Next is a walk through the dense forest and hill ridges. None of us know the destination, distance to trek or time it takes. All we know was it’d be evening by the time we reach the camp site.

Some random temple in a dense forest. Good photo ops.

After we had some tasty lunch at meadows it started to rain a little. We got our jackets and raincoats on and started to walk through much harder trek. As we progressed, the trek trail became thin along the hill slopes and it’s breathtaking view all around.

We all are hungry by this time. Lunch hour :) From left — Jahnavi, Sai, Manasa and Pavani

Little did we know then, what we were going to experience soon. Hailstorms! Hailstorms! we screamed. I, Sai & Manasa were walking ahead of the rest of the group. It was around 4 in the evening when it started raining. Something that started with a drizzle now turned into hard snow fall. The ice falling down started hitting hard. We could see the formation of snow capped lands. With little energy left, we kept walking fast to reach the camp site soon.

That’s me :)

Sai turned to be a zombie. He fell sick and by the moment we three reached the camp site, he mostly lost his senses. Again, the GIO team was fantastic in showing the concern and got hot water and tea ready for us in minutes. About about an hour later the rest of the team joined us, fully drenched in rain.

That’s the first bonfire we had. Mostly, to dry ourselves and the wet clothes. Hot tea and soup kept flowing until the dinner. Quality camping tents were ready for all of us with warm sleeping bags.

In a jungle (kind of)

How do we trek this down? Can we take rest here at the summit for some more time?
“No, you are not going to trek down. We are going to slide on the ice all the way down. And we need to get down there fast before it rains!”, said our guide Bhuvan.

I gulped.

Day 3: To Pangarchulla base camp

We woke up early — when you have no internet connectivity, no mobile and no electricity, you wake up with the sun. The goal is to reach the base camp before it rains by 4pm. No one of us want to get drenched today, again.

Our whole group of 8 along with 3 guides from GIO adventures

More beautiful landscapes followed with photo ops. We could see the Pangarchulla summit at a far off distance now.

There are cattle, horses and buffaloes grazing. Wild life photography, I thought for a second. But what’s the possibility that there can be wild animals here?

Day 4: To the summit & back

I’m chanting the numbers as I was trekking up to the summit.

We had a quick demo on how to walk on ice capped mountains and we started moving ahead we split into smaller groups. The ones who got tired and decided to rest stopped in the middle knowing that whoever goes to the top should take the same path to return. I decided I will have to get to the top even it’s me all alone.

At about just 200feet away from the summit, we looked around and it’s all snow. We are only 2 in the group now besides our guide Bhuvan. We looked behind and there’s no visibility of our friends. It’s all fog. We lost all our energy in an attempt to hold our feet strong into the ice. Bhuvan took our day bags too to carry and kept running ahead to motivate us to move. We did and reached the summit.

Adi & Me. At the summit

After some photo ops, we slid all the way down to meet our friends at may be 3500 meters. And all of us further slid until the mountains had ice.

A quick lunch and walk to the base camp, some rest, last bon fire dances followed with dinner.

Adi learning to slide down.. while Bhuvan is standing behind

Day 5: Trek down to Auli

Woke up early again and got down till Auli all the way from base camp. By the end of this long downhill walk all our toes got bruised and blood clotted. We reached back, freshened up, ate, played mafia until dinner and planned to go Badrinath the next day.

While trekking down from our base camp to a village near Auli
I looked around. Nanda Devi was in the view point.

Day 6: Back to Haridwar via Badrinath and then to Delhi

Woke up early, had breakfast and got back to our temp to reach Badrinath. Some photo ops at Badrinath, anthakshari & mafia during the return journey and which took longer. I missed my return train to Delhi. Sai & I took the night bus to Delhi to catch my early morning flight to Bangalore.

I sat on a rock at Pangarchulla summit, wished the time froze forever, sighed and moved on to slide down.