Trans Hima 2020 – 39 Sitel to Wan via Kukin Khal

It was raining and windy during the night which would lower the snow line at higher altitudes. Slept comfortably in the portico of the forest house at Sitel. Alarm at 7am, packed up by 7:20am and soaking up the warmth of the cooking fire at a small dhaba. Black tea with ginger woke up the body followed by freshly plucked cauliflower and aloo sabji with thick fluffy wood fried rottis. On top of that a double egg burger packed up for the day ahead.


It was still raining lightly but steadily. The mountains were covered in clouds. Daylight tried hard to break through. Weather forecast was rain till afternoon. Put on my rain jacket and covered my backpack with rain cover to keep my gears dry. Wetness at high altitude is dangerous. Started off along the road which soon crossed the Nandakini river. Got down into a trail and crossed a small side stream over a makeshift bridge of wooden logs.


Followed the Nandakini now (flowing down from Home Kund) along a nice path. A new road had been built higher up the valley slope causing landslides on the path. After a small ascent along an in between ridge along a nice cobbled rock path got back down to the river and crossed the Nandakini into a side valley leading up to Kanol village on the way to Kukin Khal. The rock path now hair pins up steeply along the ridge high above the stream.


Later in the morning the clouds and rain cleared up partly revealing snow covered peaks all around which were clear of snow the previous day. Slowly the snow line was descending down to the villages as the winter was coming. A bit higher up I saw a few makeshift shelters with people talking inside. To my surprise these were Nepali labors building a new road towards Kanol village at 2600m altitude. The road was hair pinning down steeply into the Nandakini river valley and climbing back this side. 


The road had reached up till 2200m some 2.5km away from Kanol. Every single hamlet in the mountains was being connected to road. I could see power lines and cell towers making connectivity complete to these remote corners. At 2300m the path contours gradually upwards high above the stream below. All around one can see small hamlets high above on flat sections surrounded by terrace farms. The snowline nearly touching them and soon to be completely covered in snow.


The village of Sarma is nested on the opposite side of Kanol nested on flat ridge below snow covered peaks. As the path finally turns into the valley near Kanol we get a straight view to the Kukin Khal pass surrounding forest covered with a fresh snow blanket some 300m below the pass. It keeps raining on and off with the sun even peeking for a short while through the low cloud cover. Temperature is dropping as we climb up higher, hands feel cold.


The path passes below Kanol so I climb up to take a peek at this last village in the valley. The wall of a mud home reads welcome and I see a warm fire inside. Women and children are tucked around the fire. Soon one lady starts preparing some hot tea – warm hospitality in the cold mountains. After catching some warmth from the fire resumed the journey to the main Kanol settlement 1.5km ahead. Rain intensified and shorts and hands were getting wet and cold.


Quickly took shelter in a small shop at the entrance of Kanol at 1pm. A small gathering of locals welcomed asking whether it s “Tanda” in shorts? Soon they offered some tasty black tea and it was perfect time to indulge in my double aloo burger packed up in Sitel. Never tasted so yummy! It start snowing heavier now with thick flakes descending from the closed skies. Time to try out the winter gears given to me by Huzefa from Bluebolt (blueboltgear.com).


A pair of water proof socks that fit into my shoes and warm insulated mittens. I put on my fleece and long pants for the 3000m pass crossing ahead under full snowing. A man and two girls joined us who were also heading to Wan on the other side. Fully covered in warm lightweight gears ready to head up to the Kukin Khal. We started of in thick, steady snowfall along the path covered by few inches of snow. Locals were descending with horses carrying supplies from nearby Wan village. Horses carrying big loads were decorated in colorful necklasses with bells.


As soon as we entered the valley beyond Kanol we stepped into a completely different world. The entire landscape was covered in a white blanket. Overnight forest and trees were beneath a thick white layer. It was snowing heavy but it was far more enjoyable to walk through then wet rain. Footsteps clearly marked the way to the Kukin Khal pass. It almost felt magical to walk around in this white world. A few roofless shelters dotted the wide open landscape below the pass.


The path hair pinned through the white forest up to the pass reaching a depth of 1 foot at 3000 meter altitude. The clear side path made it easy to walk up. From the top we got treated on mesmerizing views on the white world below, the shelters above Kanol visible from afar. On the other side we could see the valley of Wan village where the sky was clear. Well known base camp for the popular tourist destinations of Roopkund and Brahma Tal. 


A clear path descends from the pass towards Wan, a one hour walk and 1500m drop. The snow covered rock  path zig zags through snow covered berry bushes. We finally see the green farm lands around Wan below the snow line. The sun is finally peeking through a blue hole in the cloudy skies. Snow on the path gradually makes way for muddy footsteps as we reach the upper homes of Wan. We suddenly step back out of the white world into a snow free landscape again.


We finally hit the road head and head into town in search for a dhaba. Black tea and Maggie with anda’s follow to restore the lost calories of the day. At 2500m altitude the evening cold sets in soon as we look for a suitable campsite out of the cold night wind. Weather forecast predicts three sunny days ahead, a welcome change from the gray cloudy past couple of days. Perfect for my next target – Brahma Tal at 3200m a 700m climb above Wan
 

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