KALINDI PASS EXPEDITION – AN ULTIMATE HIGH ALTITUDE TREKKING
Kalindi pass one of the toughest trekking expeditions in the Himalayas lies between two religious place—Gangotri and Badrinath. This route offers all the elements of Mother Nature one can ask for, Tough, Beautiful, Serene, Rugged, Rigid, yet fall short of appreciating the beauty
Below is a mix of both a travelogue and a description of the route, by a team of 16 members from Bangalore.
Lakshminarayan V (Leader), Sunand S, Sandeep, Santosh, Jaimon Jose, Annapurna Lolla, Rohan Prabhu, Rajendra, Sreekanth R U, Vivek S, Chethan N, Arjun Ravishankar, Kumar Gopal Rao, Rudresh M N, Mamatha Bhargav and Jith Veeravalli.
Given the toughness of the route and the height of the pass (highest in trekking) this trek is sure to squeeze out the juice out of every ardent trekker and give a lifetime experience.
Selection of the team had to be different than the normal high altitude trekking because of the toughness of the terrain. There were many enquiries and interested trekkers. Most of the organizers do not take first timers to this trek.
It was really a challenge to lead a team of 16 members totally inexperienced in high altitude trekking to take them to the top of the world. Some of them had done a few high altitude treks, but most of them had not seen Himalayas at all.
Team kept meeting regularly, discussing about the treks, difficulties to be faced and how to prepare for any eventualities. A few had the fear about altitude sickness, frost bites, etc. Answering all the queries made me prepare for the problems likely to be faced by the members.
Initially the plan was to start from Badrinath cross over Kalindi pass on the 3rd day and reach Gangotri , the same way as I did in 1994 with a 3 member team. But on enquiries made with friends in Gangotri, I found that it will be difficult to gain height for an inexperienced team from 10000ft to 19700ft in 3 days.
We changed the plan to suit the team strength and decided to start from Gangotri and reach Badrinath which has a gradual height gain.
From Delhi we reached Rishikesh and then proceeded towards Uttarkashi to reach Gangotri.
Gangotri, one of the char dhams is considered to be a very sacred place, situated on the banks of Ganga, this Himalayan town offers the much required initial starting push.
The trek starts—Gangotri to Nandanvan
The documents are checked at the check post, which is at 1 km from Gangotri. The trail is well laid and is shared by mules up to Bhojbasa for 14 kms and further for another 3kms after which moraine starts, trek gets tougher by the distance, most of the time trekking on the glacier, with never ending pile of boulders. The mighty Shivaling standing majestically at our right keeps us company through out our trek from Bhojbasa to Nandanvan. View of Bhagirathi peaks in the morning at Bhojbasa gives us a boost to undertake the tough part of the trek.
Gaumukh, the birth place of Ganga is visited by many religious people. Mules go up to 3 kms before Gaumukh and thereafter had to be trekked on the huge pile of boulders to reach the birth place of Ganga. The glacier has been receding over the years and off late this is at a much higher rate much thanks to the Global warming.
The entire route from here looks like a desert filled with boulders. The trail from Gaumukh gets tough wi10th steep ascent towards Nandanvan with no greenery and very few potable water points.
Nandanvan camp site had everything required for camping,– flat plain camping area, good view of peaks –Shivling, Kedar Dome, Bhagirathi 1,2,3, Chandraparbat, gentle streams flowing, especially early sunrise when the first rays of the sun hit the peaks and summit points turn golden colour, offering opportunity to take some photographs worth winning awards. This is the last greenery point for the whole trek and the only good camping spot, rest all was on the boulders.
Nandanvan to Kalindi Base
Trek from Nandanvan to Vasuki Tal is initially a gradual height gain through the land slid zone and mostly on the ridge traversing the caved in glacier. I was surprised to see the difference in the route from 1994 to 2007, the glacier which I had crossed enroute had all caved in and we had to fix ropes to cross a small cliff to reach the camp site Vasuki Tal – a High Altitude Lake. An acclimatization walk in the evening to a high point before getting down to the camping area made us get acclimatized to the higher altitude. One gets to view all the surrounding peaks in the back drop of the Vasuki taal.
A steep climb in certain places and a gradual ascent in most of the route take us to Khara pattar our next camping place. The trail towards Swetha Glacier is through ridges and across glacial terrain and one witnesses many landslide zones along the path, comparatively challenging days trek, not to mention the beauty of the glacier and surrounding peaks gives one company throughout.
The trek to Kalindi Base is again on the never ending pile of boulders on a narrow ridge and then gradually ascends on snow and ice terrain to the Base camp, a very small area, surrounded by ice and moraines, the tents have to be pitched on rocky surface, sure to give all a nice acupressure. Time for all to get ready for the final attempt to summit, the high altitude makes the camp even more adventurous. The minimum temperature going subzero, heavy snowfall gives us the real High Altitude feeling. We discuss about our plan to the summit and everyone is eager to reach the top.
Kalindi Base to Badrinath
Every one is geared up for the challenge ahead. It’s a step climb from the start walking only on snow and ice, the whole team stays together helping each other, nobody, except me, has seen so much of snow, the conditions change very soon and whiteouts are an order of the day, the terrain is filled with crevaces, and the altitude makes us move very slowly. At last after a tough climb of 3 hours we reach our goal – Kalindi pass. The summit point (19700 ft) is like heaven not because of the breathtaking view, the weather conditions barely allow us to view anything beyond a few meters, and the great feeling is due to the sense of achievement by an inexperienced team.
After offering our prayers to the almighty and some snaps we start descending keeping every step very carefully, ropes are fixed to ensure safety to the trekkers, the route towards Rajparao is very dangerous as it is full of crevaces and utmost care is required while trekking in this terrain. After a long grueling trek in a white out condition, one touches boulders and sees the brown color, a little distance ahead Rajparao campsite is fixed much to the relief of the trekkers. We had trekked for nearly 11 hrs from kalindi Base to Raj parao in one day.
Rocky terrain and land slide zones does not leave us, but this time it is on a gradual descent towards Badrinath. Every one wish to reach the next camp as soon as possible to end this walk on rocks and boulders. Crossing many streams and ridges the route takes serpentine trail gradually losing height, we come across the Himalayan flora.
At Ghastoli there is an ITBP Check post where our documents are checked again. The final days trail is an easy trek from Ghashtoli to Badrinath where one gets into mule trail and later on the road being constructed. The route leads to Mana village which is just about 3 km away from Badrinath, walking steadily one reaches the final destination of the great Himalayan Expedition – Badrinath.
|DAY||FROM||TO||ALTITUDE||TREK DISTANCE||Time Taken|
|DAY 1||Gangotri||Bhojbasa||3900m||14 kms||6 hrs|
|DAY 2 (Rest day)||Bhojbasa||Goumukh and back||4000m||5 kms + 5 kms||5 hrs|
|DAY 3||Bhojbasa||Nandanvan||4465m||7 kms||6 hrs|
|DAY 4||Nandanvan||Vasukital||4950m||7 kms||5 hrs|
|DAY 5||Vasukital||Kharapattar||5120m||7 kms||4 hrs|
|DAY 6||Kharapattar||Swetha Glacier||5337m||7 kms||5 hrs|
|DAY 7||Swetha Glacier||Kalindi Base||5650m||7 kms||5 hrs|
|DAY 8||Kalindi Base||Kalindi Pass||5970m||6 Kms||3 hrs|
|DAY 8||Kalindi Pass||Rajparao||5460m||8 kms||8 hrs|
|DAY 9||Rajparao||Arwa Tal||4701m||13 kms||3 hrs|
|DAY 10||Arwa Tal||Ghastoli||4100m||16 kms||6 hrs|
|DAY 11||Ghastoli||Badrinath||3110m||16 kms||6 hrs|
Maximum height gained 19700 feet
No of days 11 days