Today’s plan was a double pass cross over from the Gongad Gad to Jalkur to side valley of Bhagirathi river. It would be a solid 30K a across 1800m elevation gain. We had a wonderful 11 hour sleep inside a room of an empty building next to river near Banoli. The room cut off the cold wind blowing through the valley at night.
I felt recharged, packed up my gears and dropped into a small road side shop run by a kind elder gentleman. Black chai and cream rolls got the body kick started without overloading the stomach for the 600m climb ahead to our first pass. We got into a small path going upstream from the road leading to a small hamlet.
From here the wide valley turned into a small gorge cutting off the upper valley from the world below. The path contoured inside from the hamlet and then followed the stream leading us to a small dwelling where the valley opened up again. A small group of Nepali construction workers camped in the dwelling and we’re on their way down to work.
The path took us further up where the valley turned into proper forest. There was a split in the valley, one going north towards Budha Kedar while we were turning West towards the pass. A nice little trail guided us along a small stream, sufficiently in use to stay on track in the leaf covered forest floor. A bit higher up we passed a deserted dwelling of Vijay Bagi where we temporarily lost the trail.
After some bouldering along the stream we got back on track and the trail took us gradually up above the valley floor towards the pass at 2300m, a 1300m climb from the Bal Ganga river below which we crossed yesterday. We could sense the peacefulness of the virgin jungle we were hiking through untouched by human hand.
Just below the pass we found the deserted dwelling of Salhhogi nothing more but three wooden shelters with roofs of leaves used by shepherds during the summer while grazing the Alpine meadows above. We took a short samosa break in the bugyal on top of the pass after a 2.5 hour climb basking in the warm morning sun.
I had crossed the pass in December while climbing the nearby Chaundiar peak. Instead of descending from the pass to the village of Siri I decided to try a different route this time. We climbed up 100m from the pass where a frequented trail takes us into the next valley through the dwelling of Rauntha. Bright yellow mustard fields tucked inside the forest.
While descending we pass several local ladies on their way up fetching leaves from the forest to mix with cow dung as manure for the farmlands. The path initially drops steeply into the valley and then contours gradually towards the first road side village of Udri. Forest makes way as the valley opens up in terrace farms, green and yellow.
From Udri we hop onto a path that hops across a small saddle into a pristine pine forest taking us to the Jalkhur river valley near the small town of Dhountri at the road intersection leading to Uttarakashi and Budha Kedar. We drop into a road side dhaba and indulge in delicious fried mommo’s and chowmin complemented with a cold Kotsberg beer brewed in J&K.
After filling up our tummies we cross the valley and follow a path contouring upstream towards the Chaurangi Khal pass at 2300m altitude. The road to Uttarakashi hair pins up to the pass on the opposite side of the valley. We pass through the scenic hamlets of Bhetiyara, Lodara and Saur. Ladies are manually grinding rice by periodically pushing a wooden log into the hole of a stone to prepare sweets for a visit a recently married relative.
At 2000m we pass the last dwelling in the valley before climbing up in the forest above towards the pass. Just before we reach it starts raining hazel and we take shelter in a small road side dhaba near the pass. After a black tea the rain reduces and we resume our way. We find an old path behind the dhabas leading us down into the valley. We get treated on a beautiful bright orange sunset below the dark rainy skies.
It eventually stops raining as we pass the first village of Santhangaon where the valley opens up and forest makes way for green-yellow farm lands. A jeep track contours along the valley slope to the road side village of Bamalgaon where we halt for the night. We drop into a small tea shop run by an elder gentleman. Black chai, cream rolls and Maggie to recharge after yet another long day.
It starts raining as darkness sets in. The elder person takes pity on us offering us a room as shelter for the cold rainy night. We give him company as he manually prepares wood fried rottis and dhal for dinner. Grandson and doggie huddle close to the fires as the night temperature drops.