It was a freezing night sleeping outside the primary school in Wan village. Water was frozen overnight (-10C) and an icy wind was blowing through valley at 2450m altitude. Mental push to get out of that warm, cosy Bluebolt quilt and off to the dhaba at 7:20am. Just in time for the owner to open and serve steaming hot black tea topped with a tangy spice. rottis with last night sabji for breakfast and egg burger buns packed for lunch.
Target today was to climb up 1000m over a 3600m ridgeline and get down to Brahma Tal lake on the other side at 3200m. With the snowline at 2700m I was hoping not to get stuck in deep snow or miss the trail below the white carpet. A nice rock path starts from base of Wav village contouring up along the Western valley slope. We soon hit snow after a 150m ascent entering back into a white world while treated on scenic views of the picturesque village below.
After a 300m climb we touch a deserted summer dwelling of a handful rock shelters half buried under the snow. I change into my Bluebolt water proof socks keeping my feet dry and comfy while ploughing through inches of snow. On the opposite site beautiful views are revealing on a snow covered ridgeline with Trisul peak at 7120m towering above. Even tough covered by a thick blanket of snow, the path remains fairly visible beneath allowing me to stay on track.
The path enters the snow covered oak and rododendrom forest above the small dwelling. Yesterday s snow is melting by the intense sun and dropping down in chunks from the trees above. The snow is much easier on the eyes inside the forest compared to the blinding reflecting of the sunlight on the open sections. Feet are sinking in foot deep snow now as we climb up to 3300m altitude. No more snow melt here due to the colder climate at these higher altitudes. The snow here is permanent for the winter.
The path hair pins up sharply through forest until 3400m where you enter open, flat snow covered meadows presenting mesmerizing views on Trisul and Nanda Ghunti peaks on the opposite side of the valley. Here I lose the path below the uniform white landscape. I continue along the ridge as per a GPS log downloaded from wikiloc. The snow is blinding again below the mid day sun. A little while further the path reveals itself again as it continues below the ridgeline.
The snow covered path is now clearly visible cut out in the mountain slope. The light brown grass peaks from underneath the snow thick blanket. As we contour further up Trishul and Nanda Ghunti become more prominent. A 180 degree view on high ranges above Gharwal reveals itself. The path climbs up till 3600m altitude and then contours widely along the valley slope until it crosses the Southern ridgeline from where we drop down 400m to Brahma Tal.
Gravity is no longer against me but the knee deep snow pulls down the pace especially being the first to open the path. The clock is hitting 3pm by the time we hit the ridgeline, I silently hope the path will remain clear beneath the snow on the other side. Stunning snow covered landscape on the other side of the ridge above the low ranges of Uttarakhand below the horizon. The path completely vanished now below a uniform white blanket.
Switching to backup mode now – following the general direction of the GPS recording downloaded in my phone. The snow is less deep then expected and we make our way down the valley slope towards Brahma Tal lake 700m ahead and 250m below. The afternoon sun is beating down nicely giving a warm feel in this winter landscape. The lake remains invisible until we are nearby. A frozen water body reveals itself surrounded by snow at 3200m.
The clock is now showing 4:30pm, insufficient time to get to Bekal Tal 3.5km ahead as the trail remains in invisible. I check out some shelters below the lake shown on Open Street Maps but all are roofless walls covered in snow. Next option is to find a flat place in the nearby forest. I spot a makeshift flat campsite and clear it from snow. The sun is now setting coloring the snow in gold and the skies in orange. A sight to behold. I quickly layer up preparing for a freezing night in Jan at 3200m altitude.