It was a long night on top of Khaliya peak at 3700m altitude. A freezing wind was blowing near the top. I pitched up my Bluebolt tent on an inclined slope free of frozen snow. I remember being awake turning side to side. My 13mm thick Quecha mat was barely able to protect me from the frozen underground. My Bluebolt -12C quilt kept me comfy and warm on the exposed peak during mid winter. The sky was filled with a zillion of stars. Still the night went by quickly do I must have slept of unconsciously.
I woke up at the break of day treated on mesmerizing sunrise photos of the Southern Nanda Devi subsection. The sun rises up above the horizon of the Eastern Kumaon range. Baring the cold winter night on top was worth it to take in 360 deg sunset and sunrise views from the Khaliya peak at 3700m altitude. After clicking away I pack up my gears quickly feeling hungry with no proper dinner the previous evening. I put on my Bluebolt insulated and water proof socks to keep my foot warm while descending through frozen snow.
I use my hiking poles for better stability during the steep descend on frozen snow. After an initial steep drop from the top, the path contours along the ridgeline. The sight of the bright sun rising above the snow covered landscape is mesmerizing. The lower ranges are covered in a blue, mist hue. It s pretty easy and quick to descend through the path flattened by many hikers before me. At the end of the ridgeline the path hair pins down to Khalladnada where the flattened frozen snow by hundreds of footsteps is very slippery.
The path remains slippery due to volume of hikers which compact the frozen snow as we descend further down. Beautiful morning views on Munsyari in the valley below. The rock path finally enters the forest and snow gradually disappears as we get to lower altitudes. The morning sun rays lit up the forest gracefully. Stomach rumbling and snow gone I speed up my descent towards breakfast at Munsyari. Most dhabas are closed due to pongal.
I find one small kitchen open near the bus stop and order aloo paratha while picking up a cup of dahi from a local shop. My favorite breakfast combo! I check out my map as what to explore next around Munsyari. My eye falls on a trail to Mesar Kund and beyond. I head out along the road towards the trail head. A nice rock path takes me to a half dried up lake. From here a smaller trail climbs up towards Martouli Thoura, a forgotten settlement now in ruins.
I m able to track the trail a bit further until it completely vanishes in the snow covered deserted landscape. Being late afternoon I decide to head back the way I came. Mid way I discover a downhill path descending along a ridgeline. I decide to check it out instead of repeating the Mesar Kund trail. While descending along the ridge I get treated on beautiful snow covered peaks of Panchchuli on the opposite side of the Goriganga river valley.
The ridge trail takes me down to a small hamlet of Jalath where I get onto a very wide rock path contouring high above the Goriganga valley. I decide to explore this ancient rock path tomorrow after a night halt at a nearby village. While entering the hamlet of Suring a kind gentleman invited me over for tea. I happily accept after a long day with just breakfast. He invites me to stay over at his home for the night and offers dinner. He has a small medicinal farm at Martoli village in the Milan valley where he stays during summer.
During winter he comes down to Suring, a picturesque hamlet near Darkot village. We continue chatting in broken English about various topics over a glass of local home made wine. The view from his balcony on the valley is beautiful. The peacefulness surrounding the hamlet soothing for the soul. He had worked in various jobs and cities across the country but prefers the simple village life over here. After dinner I settle down on a warm woollen sheep skin soon deep asleep by the smooth wine.