As I got out, it was snowing and how! It was a winter wonderland alright. The landscape that was lush green yesterday evening was looking stark, with only whites, grays and black hues. It was stunning. It was also the first time for me, at a campsite and witnessing it.
How do I describe it? It was snow and more snow everywhere with the bright coloured red tents giving a stunning contrast to the pure white landscape around us. I was freezing, mesmerised and speechless all in one go. It was an unbelievable feeling, truly unbelievable.
My trekmates got in and got out but what do we do now? Meenakshi said to stay put in our tents as the morning chai will be brought to our tents! Wow! The kitchen guys got us piping hot chai. It was very kind of them to do that, as we were not far off from the dining tent yet they did that.
At some point we had to get out and we did much later for a late breakfast. It was understood by now that we would not be able to start on schedule and with the weather, we didn’t know if we could even start today, it looked highly unlikely.
Meenakshi said the last cut off time to start would be 10 am but, and a big but here, the clouds above didn’t seem to come out of its darkness. Going to the next campsite through the forest on an ascent meant more snowfall and that was risky. This weather was going to continue the whole day and it did.
Some of us came out, hung outside, and yup full connectivity! So my excited team mates could video call their families and show them live snow fall! This was freakish really! 😁 I remember calling my partner Srini, my buddy Bhim and they were equally shocked with my call. Imagine amidst snowfall deep in the Himalayas there is network!
What snowfall does is that it stops the temperature from going down, slowly we became comfortable with it, more than comfortable we could tolerate it I guess as we had no choice.
For me, this changed the entire way I looked at winter treks. I was in awe as I looked up and the entire sky seemed like it was covered by a dark blanket and around were the dark trees, forests behind us with pure white snow on it and the blazing red tents. How beautiful was this ❄️
I fondly remember all of us chatting on and off, even having snow fights which was but natural, then just hanging around standing together and looking in wonder! It felt so free.
By mid morning it was clear we would spend our night at this campsite and go through a different route and this was the catch. Originally we would have gone to Tali forest which would be the next campsite, then trek to Kuari pass and come back to Tali via Khullara top the next day.
NOW, we would take a different route, we would trek to Kuari pass via Khullara top in one go covering a distance of 12 kms one way, and we would use the same route back to Gulling top campsite. It meant this would be the only campsite we would stay during the trek.
That seemed the only way, there would be no Auli on our way back which we were looking forward to, no break points nothing. It would be attempted tomorrow. Already there were predictions that snowfall would stop today evening, once wind chill hit in, it meant the weather would clear it’s way. Yes there would be heavy snow we had to trek on and it would be evening by the time we come back. But we could try.
And then there was the pass-Kuari pass. The whole path was covered with snow. And we got news that a small team from Bikat adventures were camped at Khullara top and since they had a shorter itinerary, because of this bad weather they would turn back to base camp once weather cleared tomorrow.
It was unpredictable, everything hinged on tomorrow and we had to be prepared for it. The entire team – kitchen staff, guide and Meenakshi were optimistic that we will move on tomorrow instead of being stuck here. Did I feel good that we were the only ones here? Absolutely yes.
The only other team we saw yesterday was a team of 6 from Bikat adventures. Indiahikes had a different route. And I also remember Dhairya showing me pics of one of his friends who was doing Kuari pass right at that time with Indiahikes, 25 people!! I was so glad we were in a different route and just us.
We spent the whole day chatting, walking in the snow in the campsite, eating and playing UNO! Nikshep had cards so all of us including Meenakshi played Uno. It happened naturally and our trek leader was not the one to push us into games. Thank god Mafia game which I hate got vetoed out! 😁
Kshitij is a wonderful photographer, he has the knack, that eye to capture pics so I will share a few of what he shared with us. One picture he clicked of Garima in snowfall is stunning. Take a look.
As evening came about it was clear that we would head out in the morning at 5.45 am provided everybody started on time. Gators were given to us, these were wrapped around our legs, below the knees so snow couldn’t seep in. This was soft snow not hard so that’s all the equipment we required to trek for the next day.
And the way the team were feeding us, it made us feel guilty! I mean every meal they served from lunch to chai, snacks to hot soups and popcorn was just too much. And we did nothing but get back into our tents when we felt like it or hang together in the dining tent.
There was no nervousness about the next day, we were at ease knowing what has to happen will happen. The energy of the group was just one word, ‘Chill’.
I remember the friendly bhutiyas- mountain dogs hanging around in our campsite, some of them had come from Tugasi village. One of them cozied inside my tent with me in the afternoon and it was a big comfort 😊
And just as it came, by evening we could see the end of snowfall. Nanda Devi was shrouded in an enigma of snow and fog telling us to enjoy the mystery of it all.
You might not get what you asked for, but you will surely get what you need at that moment ❄️
To be continued ❄️❄️