I woke up before dawn in the empty rock home in the deserted dwelling of Bagi Kharak, at the base of the Munsri pass. At 3000m altitude it was pretty cold, snow melted from the roof the previous day was frozen. The sunrise was lighting up the surrounding peaks. I packed up my stuff in my backpack and switched on my gps to get back on route.
Initially I was able to follow a trail going up the ridge above but soon due to snow cover I lost track of the trail. I switched back to the contour map for navigation and started climbing towards a ridge leading towards the pass. The slope was steep and covered with one foot deep snow do progress was slow and climbing was quite intense.
I could see the footsteps of a large hoved animal going up the same way. Man and animal were thinking alike on the optimum route to get on top. I finally reached up the ridge where the snow had melted on the East facing slope making it easier to traverse. I could see a completely snow covered hamlet on an opposite slope below the pass.
The ridge was steep and jagged but the trail helped me to traverse easily. I finally hit the main path near an intersection where one way leads towards the Sahastra tal lake, at 4600m too high to attempt in December. I took a right turn towards the Munsri pass at 3350m partly covered in snow. I could easily spot a nice downhill path on the other side.
I descended quickly now but soon the snow got me searching again for the right path. With steep near vertical slopes dropping down into the valley below it s wise to stay on the trail or you might end up completely stuck. I checked my offline map with reference trail and contours and could soon get back on the right track.
500m down from the pass I hit the first deserted dwelling of Minda Saur. The path turns left here and contours towards the hamlet of Loni which I crossed last year summer full of people, now not a single soul around. The entire hamlet must have recently migrated to lower, warmer altitudes. I took a breakfast break near the stream soaking up the sun. The alloo paratha with dhal sabji packed up in Budha Kedar tasted delicious after a solid morning hike.
I descended further into the valley to the village of Reeh at 2000m which to my surprise was also completely deserted. Looks like people don t want to be locked down into their homes when snow covers the village in deep winter. Here I jumped onto a newly constructed road which took me to the main town of Ghuttu where I had yummy fried mutton mommo’s for just 25Rs a plate.
From Ghuttu I climbed up into a beautiful path that contours high above the valley and road below and passes through numerous picturesque small hamlets tucked in the valley slope above. People are kind and friendly in these places not yet connected by road. Someone invited me for tea in his home. I climbed up to the last hamlet of Kopardhar where the path enters the forest.
With still 1.5 hours of daylight remaining I decided to push on to the isolated dwelling of Bhont high up in the mountain. I was expecting another deserted settlement where I would find an empty rock home to settle down for the night. I reached Bhont by nigh fall and to my surprise heard voices of people. One family was still living at this remote place at 2300m altitude. I pitched up my tent on the empty farmland near the house and gubbled up those yummy ladoos packed up in Ghuttu