Ambitious plan today is to cross two passes – climbing out of the Pindari valley through the 2900m Kathi Khal pass into the Sarju river valley followed by the 3050m Madhari pass into the Ramganga valley. It would be a 10 hour long journey covering 31k mountainous terrain and 2400m elevation gain with two short food breaks in between. Solo focus, minimalist gears and body tuned for 1.5 months allows one to fly across the mountains.
I woke up on the school grounds of the govt primary school at Sorag at the break of dawn. I decide to cover some distance before breakfast. I continue my way along a nice wide rock path contouring high above the Pindari river. The path is “Nepali flat” which basically means it climbs up and down but remains roughly at the same altitude. After passing through the scenic hamlet of Wachham the path drops down into the Pindari river valley to the road head where it crosses a bridge to the other side.
I get onto the touristic Pindari trail now, a wide rock path that descends from the Karma Khal into the Pindari valley and gets me to the last village of Khati. Khati is take straight out of a fairytale book – pastel colored houses surrounded by green step farms at the entrance of the Pindari glacier valley below snow capped peaks high above. Lots of touristic hotels along this path which I skip until I reach the local dhaba above Kathi village.
I have my breakfast after a solid 2 hour morning hike – egg paratha and two teas with biscuits while charging up my phone. I retrace my footsteps till a bridge over a side stream where I head into the trail towards the Kathi Khal pass, a 700m climb out of the Pindari valley. A nice narrow cobbled path hair pins up through beautiful forest towards the pass above. The path is partly covered by snow a few hundreds meters below the pass where it offers mesmerizing views on the snow covered high ranges above the Pindari valley.
From the pass it s a 600m steep descend along a similar cobbled rock path down to the hamlet of Khal Juni at 2300m altitude. The valley slope being East facing, this side of the pass is mostly snow free. I find a small shop and buy some snacks and oranges to keep the body energized. From Khal Juni the path contours right till a small ridge offering views on many (road connected) villages and farm lands further downstream in the Sarju valley. And yes! After 2.5 days I finally get Airtel network to update the home base on my status and further plan.
I quickly move on as the time is 1pm already and I still have another pass to climb.The path now drops steeply along the ridge towards the Sarju river at 1850m, a thousand meter drop from the pass above. I cross a bridge to the opposite side where a wide path climbs up to the hamlet of Kalpata. Not yet connected by road, the settlement preserves it’s heritage looks and the people retain their kind nature.
From Kalpata a less frequent used path gently contours up the valley slope to the Madhari pass, a 1200m climb from the river below. It passes through the isolated dwelling of Nin Nagoli and ruins of Bhainsiya and Mandhari Kharak. At 3050m and North facing slope I hit a good amount of frozen snow below the pass. Lucky the pass has been opened already after the recent snowfall and many footsteps have made a trail.
It s a pretty steep climb towards the Madhari pass through the upper bugyals with beautiful views on the snow capped peaks of the Southern Nanda Devi subsection. The clock hits 3:45pm when I touch the pass and I quickly start my descent with another 5km flight distance to the nearest settlement of Gogina thousand meters in the Ramganga river below. A clear path drops 500m steep down into the valley from where it contours right to the first dwelling of Lamtara.
To my surprise I encounter shepherds at this 2550m high settlement which are residing here during winter grazing their herds in the (still snow free) meadows around. Hospitality is the middle name of the bakris who immediately invite me for tea and food. Stomach empty, I happily accept the sugary black tea but kindly deny food offer planning to reach Gogina before darkness and have my dinner there. A clear path continues contouring further South before dropping down steeply to Gogina, 300m above the Ramganga river.
The road side Hamlet has exactly 2 shops and one dhaba. Fuel reserves near zero, I drop into the dhaba and indulge in chowmin with omelette, three tea s and numerous snacks to replenish the burned calories over 2 passes, 31K hilly terrain and 2400m vertical elevation gain. Less touristic, the locals are kind and non commercial, even towards a foreign traveler. After regaining my energy levels and recharging my trusty OnePlus I pitch up my Bluebolt solo tent in a nearby farm land below the star filled skies.