We woke up to a cold morning at 3000m next to the frozen Masar Tal lake. Waiting for first sun rays to poke through the window shutters before venturing outside. The ice sheet on the lake started cracking as the sun hit one side of it. We rose up and went for a spin around the lake. At one end the ice was thick enough to walk on it.
Plan was to get down to Pinswari. The Survey map showed a trail descending from the nearby dwelling of Danda Bhufauli along a ridge into the Dharm Ganga valley. We discovered a 2nd frozen lake nearby. The initial trail leaving the settlement quickly faded out in the uniform forest partly covered in snow. Disappointed we checked for any path on the other side of the lake.
Another path lead us to discover a second deserted dwelling on the opposite side covered in snow with no apparent way forward. Final way out was to climb up to the ridgeline above and follow it towards a peak where I crossed over two weeks earlier. On the way we found a tree burning revealing that someone was recently present nearby.
We climbed up further and to our relief spotted a wide rock path beneath the snow contouring towards the dwelling of Manjauli. We walked through foot deep frozen snow as the path gradually ascended along the Western valley slope below the ridgeline. The path got periodically cleared of snow wherever it passed along a South facing slope.
The path passed above the beautiful hamlet of Manjauli consisting of a handful homes covered in snow. New grass fixed on the rooftops revealed that this high altitude isolated dwelling was still in use during summer. The path finally touched the top ridgeline where it climbed up to Manal, a dwelling in ruins where I had spent the night 2 weeks earlier. From here we got mesmerizing views on the snow covered high ranges of Gangotri.
From Manal a clear trail descends into the Dharm Ganga valley from where we can climb up to Pinswari on the opposite side. The trail down the Western facing valley slope which was clear two weeks back, was now below recent snowfall. To descend the steeper snow covered sections we used hiking poles, 4 points of ground contact giving much better stability. At some places we were sinking knee deep in the snow.
The descend went initially through snow covered meadows, entering pine forest next and finally bamboo jungle before hitting the Dharm Ganga river where a bridge made of natural materials allowed us to connect to a trail on the opposite side. The clock was ticking with just 30min till sunset so we kept up a good pace along the trail which gradually contoured up the hill.
After a 400m ascent we reached a small hamlet made up of traditional homes when a beautiful sunset colored the skies deep orange. The siloutte of ladies carrying big wooden baskets was a signature sight of Uttarkhand. From here it was a short climb to the road below Pinswari where we quickly got into a small dhaba escaping the cold evening. A couple of my favorite cream rolls with hot chai after another long day in the mountains.
After gobbling up three Maggie’s with eggs we looked for a place to pitch up our tent near the hamlet. Outside a cold wind blew through the valley. The friendly dhaba owner offered us to stay inside his store room which was comfortably warm. We doozed off in the quiet night. The first share taxi to leave the next morning at 8am to drop us back at Budha Kedar.