The night was warm and cosy in the cave in the forest at the base of the pass at 2500m altitude. We woke up and dropped into the master cave where the villagers were preparing food. They gave us rottis and dhal for breakfast with a cup of hot black chai. From the cave we got stunning views on Nanda Ghunti and Ronti.
We bid goodbye and two men joined us to show us the way down into the Birahi river valley. We had to cross over a deeply cut gully to a nearby bugyal from where a trail would take us down to the hamlet of Garigaon. Similar to the day before we could not spot any clear trail from our location. We followed a narrow animal trail which contoured across a near vertical slope into a deeply cut gully.
We had to make our way through dense forest. It was a bit tricky – one wrong step and we would fall from the steep slope. We made it safely into the gully and climbed up on the other side through a grassy slope to reach the opposite bugyal. From there we followed a clear path which contour along the valley slope. After a while the path disappeared, we got stuck at a deadend high above the valley.
The trail marked on the Survey map was 400m below us. We decided to climb down directly through a steep grassy slope to a small ridgeline below which would get us to Garigaon. It was fairly steep and we had to hold on to the grasses as we zig zagged in between near vertical drops. From the slope we got mesmerizing views on Trishul I, II, Nanda Ghunti and Ronti peaks.
A couple of rododendrom s were in full bloom with deep red flowers in the bright morning sun. After a careful 400m steep drop we reached the top of a small ridge from where we could descend further safely. Soon a well used path appeared and we could increase our pace getting down quickly to the hamlet in the Birahi river valley.
We now continued 5km along an empty road to the confluence with the Alaknanda river which was muddy and fast flowing due to the recent flash floods few days ago. We immediately got a share taxi which dropped us at Chamoli where we had lunch after an intense off trail 1200m descent into the Birahi river valley.
We took another share jeep towards Karnaprayag and got off near Langasu around 3pm where we packed up dinner and started climbing towards our next pass #89 into the neighboring Pindari valley. A 300m climb along a wide rock path got us to the hamlet of Gharkoti late afternoon where one lady offered us some tea while we admired the scenic surroundings.
Gharkoti is tucked away in a side valley from the main Alaknanda river valley. Surrounded by pristine pine forest with views of a few snow covered high peaks showing above the horizon. Here also road construction was in progress to connect every single hamlet high up the valley slopes. Landslides caused by the road works destroyed the ancient pathways.
After socializing with the villagers on the rooftop we pitched up our tents on the farmlands of Gharkot. After blogging the happenings of the day they brought us yummy aloo sabji with rottis. Our packed up Chowmin dinner just became tomorrow’s breakfast. Tummies full with delicious home made food we dreamy off below the starry skies.