Getting stuck in deep snow the previous evening, we retreated and camped in a flat forest patch along a ridge at 3100m altitude. We expected the night to be freezing cold but somehow it was warmer then the previous night in the valley in the primary school of Tapoban 1500m lower. Four factors played a role: we camped inside the forest, slept inside the tent, out of the cold wind and on an East facing sun exposed slope.
We packed up as soon as the sun rose up before the Eastern horizon. Water proof socks / gaiters, long pants, gloves and hiking poles to get through the snow covered path ahead. It was a 500m climb to Bansi Narayan at 3600m, a good portion through foot deep snow on the North facing valley slope. We burned a significant amount of calories climbing uphill through the virgin snow blanket, no footsteps before us.
At 3400m we hit the top of the ridge where the sun had mostly melted the snow. We passed a small rock mandir and climbed up much quicker now on the clear path. At 3600m we saw the Bansi Narayan temple, a replica of the design of the Kedarnath temple. Hundred meters before the temple there was a shelter where someone appeared to be present. We called and a dizzy looking sadhu appeared on the door opening.
From the temple we climbed up further to the Saldawani Khal pass at 3850m altitude. The trail contoured again North of the ridge and disappeared under the snow. So we climbed straight up to a local peak through clear bugyala trying to avoid the thick snow blanket at this higher altitude. We had to do a bit of climbing around the South side of the peak but remained clear of snow.
We reached the pass around 10am and took a breakfast halt in the warm morning sun. We had packed up yummy chowmin the previous afternoon at Urgam. Stomachs were hungry as we did not eat dinner the previous night. As per the Survey map the path drops down from the pass towards Dumak village below. We descended for a short while but we’re unable to find any trail so decided to return given the very steep terrain.
We descended back to Bansi Narayan from where a clear path descends to the village of Kalgoth. The path drops down through a small side valley and is mostly free of snow facing South. The opposite Northern valley slow was covered under a white snow blanket. It s a good thousand meter drop to Kalgoth but the frequented trail made it much easier then the snow covered path we ascended from Urgam.
At Kalgoth an elder gentleman invited us into his home for tea. From the terrace we got beautiful valleys on the steep valley below flowing towards the main Alaknanda river below Joshimath. We thanked the man and resumed along the main pathway towards Dumak. The path contours along the valley slope connecting some 5 small hamlets between Urgam and Dumak. Beneath the path a new road is being constructed.
We reached the picturesque village of Dumak in 1.5 hours surrounded by green step farms. We dropped into a shop picking up some biscuits and chikkis for the road ahead. Unfortunately no tea or lunch was available for our hungry tummies. We grabbed our Maggie packets and requested a lady at one of the homes to cook the same. She also treated us on some hot chai.
At 3pm we started along the path towards Rudranath. Along the way we passed through the last hamlet of Kanth from where a clear path contours along the valley to eventually drop down to the stream below. There the path disappeared completely. We crossed the stream using two tree trunks and we’re searching the opposite side for the continuation of the trail. No luck…
After 30min I spotted a vague trail inside the bamboo forest. It looked like a trail used by animals to descend to the stream to drink. We followed the narrow trail which took us through dense bamboo jungle. It hair pinned up on the ridge above the stream and exposed soil revealed frequent use. At some places we missed the trail and we’re searching to get back on track.
Bamboos were cut by someone to clear the trail which was overgrown by the forest. Finally higher up the ridge the trail became more wide and clear. It was now a proper human trail matching the one of the Survey map. Around 6pm we reached an altitude of 3000m and it was getting cold. Dark clouds to the North above us. We quickly located a flat spot along the ridge and pitched up the tent, preparing for a cold night. We had reached some 5km from Rudranath another 500m ascent hoping the forest trail would remain clear till our destination.