I settled for the night in an empty shelter in the isolated dwelling of Kundal, below the 2nd pass in the Gangotri-Kedarna traverse. Late night I heard footsteps nearby in the snow. Next something was on top of the roof of my shelter! I took one of my hiking poles and kicked against the roof planks. Silence followed. The same happened trice during the night.
My 7am alarm woke me up. Sun rays were shining through the many openings in my shelter. I packed up my stuff and set of to the pass crossing over from Dharm Ganga valley (Pinswari) to the Bal Ganga valley (Gainwali). A clear path, partly covered in snow took me to the pass at 3250m which was actually a peak along the ridgeline.
On the other side the trail descends through forest along a ridge into the valley. Chandiar Tal, a beautiful lake lies on the way before we hit the isolated settlement of Rayana where I stayed last year with shepherds (Opening scene of my 2019 Trans Himalaya movie). At Rayana I followed s trail along a ridge that diverted from the route on the map.
Further down I was to hit an intersection marked on the Survey map. I tried following each possible trail but all faded out eventually in the forest. Giving up on the mapped routes, I decided to descent straight into the valley hoping I would not get stuck on a vertical drop. On the way I encountered a beautiful leopard which recently died.
I continued climbing down initially through forest and then through dry grassland. I was able to follow animal tracks getting me safely through near vertical drops. I finally hit the Bal Ganga stream which had a good amount of water flow even in winter. I decided to hike downstream across the boulders until I find a trail to Gainwali.
After some 500m I spotted a trail head and decided to follow it hoping it would lead me to my destination. The trail nicely contoured up to Gainwali where I dropped into a marriage party. People immediately gave me breakfast as I was admiring the local marriage process. I charged my phone and waited some 2 hours for my co trekker Palani to show up.
At 12pm I decided to move on as time was running late, packed up some biscuits and marriage food for the night. I climbed up along a nice path hair pinning up along the ridge above Gainwali. It took me 1.5 hours to reach the deserted settlement of Bagi Kharak where I spent the night previously. Last time I had lost the path to the Muneri pass – 3rd pass in Gangotri – Kedarnath traverse – here covered by snow.
This time I was able to track the trail farther but once again the snow blanked out everything again – no trace snymore of the path – completely vanished! Only one option left – steep climb to the ridge above leading to the pass. I took my hiking poles and ascended steeply up along the snow covered slope following the steps of an animal which intelligently followed the same optimal path as I would have.
I finally reached the Muneri pass at 3300m around 3pm and gobbled up some masala peanuts to replentish the lost calories after an intense climb. A group of black face monkeys was basking in the afternoon sun. Instead of descending into the Bhilangna river valley (way to Kathling glacier and Auden s Col) I decided to follow the long ridgeline between both valleys as a different route towards Ghuttu.
A clear path follows the ridgeline which runs between 3200 and 3400m altitude, covered by snow on the Northwest side and clear on the Southeast slope. I get stunning views as the sun is slowly setting on the valleys below. By dusk I reach the temple Syok Bolya Raja mandir where I decided to stay over for the night. I take in the beautiful deep orange view of the skyline as the temperature starts dropping steeply.