Trans Himalaya 2019 – Ghuttu to Malla, May 29-30

After a long 12 hour previous day crossing the Kyunkhola Khal 3540m we spent the night in a small temple above Ghuttu village. We rose by 6am, came down to the market, had tea with biscuits and bought some fruits and biscuits for the day ahead.From Ghuttu we followed the road to Reeh hamlet. Share taxis were only available on booking and quoting too expensive. Along the way we heard drums playing marking the completion of a three day fasting by the village women. They served prasadam to those who completed the fast.At Reeh 2100m a small path climbs up from the road and gradually ascends North through the forest. We first hit the remote hamlet of Luni 2500m where the locals point West towards the pass. A clear trail leads us to Minsadu 2800m a primitive hamlet.From here the trail is not very clear. A local villager points Northeast but the trail seems to vanish in a meadow. After some searching I proceed Northwest following some lesser used trail and eventually reach the ridge and pass at 3300m marked by a pile of stones and flag.Beautiful green meadows on the top and two trails are proceeding from the pass. One descends West to the nearby hamlet of Kadari. Another climbs up slightly North towards a ridge. On the other side I meet a friendly shepherd who offers some tea and points me in the right direction towards Gainwali.A small trail now runs West towards the abandoned settlement of Bagi 2980m. Around 15 beautiful stone houses in good condition are all empty transforming the hamlet in a ghost setting. From here there is a clear path descending along the ridge towards Gainwali 2180m a picturesque larger village surrounded by golden terrace farmlands.Here a villager points me towards Northern direction into the valley behind Gainswali to go towards Pinswari, a village after the next pass crossing. It’s already 4pm and locals dissuade me from proceeding. not wanting to waste three hours of daylight I decide to push ahead.I follow a clear trail from the village which eventually fades out in the forest and ends at the stream at 2030m. From there no clue on how to proceed further. I cross the knee deep stream and search for a path on the other side but in vain. Looking at my contour map I decide to climb straight up one of the ridges towards a settlement 1km Northwest and 700m above.Meanwhile the clock hits 5pm and with daylight running out I push ahead with the climb on the ridge. Initially steep, the gradient reduces midway. Hearing a barking dog above me I am confident to find human company soon. Finally the forest opens up into a big meadow and I find myself surrounded by 700 sheep near the hamlet of Rayana 2700m.I sit down to take in the spectacle and soon from all directions 4 bakris or shepherds appear curious to see a lone hiker in the middle of the wilderness. I tell them where I come from and where I m heading. They show me the direction towards the next pass towards Pinswari and invite me to stay over.I happily agree. We walk towards their camp where a campfire is burning and they serve me hot chai. I show them some of my photos taken in the last few weeks which they seemed to admire, recognising few other shepherds and hamlets along the way. As dusk sets in it is dinner time and we settle down around the fire surrounded by 700 sheep.After preparing 20 rottis they serve a mix of sabji, ghee and milk in a big bowl and we indulge in lipsmacking festive filling out stomachs. A Philips radio is playing Hindi songs and news on all India radio from Shimla. As we settle down for the night around the campfire a million stars shine bright above us.The shepherds woke me up by 5am with a hot cup of chai. They were saddling the horses and preparing to leave for Ghuttu. They pointed me to the general direction to the pass to cross over to Pinwari. I packed up and climbed up in the same direction while the first sun rays were penetrating through the forest.I could see some faint trails here and there but nothing concrete. Suddenly I saw the lake the shepherd had referred to while guiding me. From here I found a more used trail going up to the ridge. Finally I hit the pass at 3150m where I met up a friendly shepherd pointing me the way downFrom the pass there is a wide path that goes Southwest along the ridge. I however had to head Northwest inside the valley to cross over to Pinwari. On the way I came across the small hamlet of Kunala 2900m where a friendly chap and his daughter served me my 2nd hot chai of the day and pointed me in the direction on Pinwari.I initially followed a path which eventually fades out in the forest. I tried gradually descending along the valley slope but eventually got stuck in a steep side stream. After some scrambling, I decided to get down to the river following a ridge. Luckily inside the valley I found a trail following down stream.At the end of the trail I could cross the river and climb up along a grassy ridge towards the village of Naga 2420m from where a clear path goes up towards two other hamlets Lengwadi 2550m and Dulpe 2800m. At Dulpe I had to give in to my growling stomach and requested to cook two Maggie packets in a house.Recharged I continued my ascent along a clear path to the pass at 3300m passing three uninhabited hamlets. From the pass my eyes got treated on the snow peaks of Gangotri. From the ridge a wide path initially climbs up West and then proceeds Northwest along a ridge before gradually descending into the valley towards Malla.The 15km long path runs through three small hamlets before hitting the village of Shilla 2050m. From here a newly built road hair pins down the valley and crosses the Bhagirathi river to Malla 1550m along the pilgrim route to Gangotri. After a long 2 day wilderness hike I indulge in some Dhai, rottis and chocolates before setting down for the night on a flat grassy patch above the river.