Kuari Pass, meaning ‘the doorway’ lies at an altitude of 3876 meters. It is a fairly moderate trek offering exposure to the Himalayan village life, culture and pristine wilderness. This varied and scenic circuit trail starts from Chefna and goes through a series of thick alpine forests of oak, Rhododendron, deodar, maple, and chestnut trees, quaint villages and meadows. On a clear day one can get a close view of most of the tallest stand alone mountains of India including Nanda Devi, Kamet, Dronagiri, Trishul, Hathi Ghodi, Mana Parvat and Neelkanth.
If possible try to reach Rishikesh a day before the trip starts. That gives the trek leader time to brief you about the trek. That also gives you enough time to relax and to prepare for the trek. Enjoy the overnight stay in our camps and wake up to the sounds of barking dear and chirping of birds next morning.
Chefna is the starting point of the trek. Camp overnight at Chefna.
We start after an early breakfast on our walk along the river and then climb through pine and oak forests. A moderately steep climb takes us to a typical Garhwali village of Ghuni. It is a developed village with friendly people, attractive houses with heavy slate roofs and a school. This entire village is mainly run on solar power. Overnight stay in tents at Ghuni.
This is a long but rewarding day. Initial tough and steep climb for about 300 m would take us to open meadows where we can take our first break and view the peaks of Nanda Ghunti, Bander Punch, Chukhamba and Neelkanth. The path continues up through forests of rhododendron, pines and oaks and we would have the company of flocks of sheep and goats along the track. After about 3 hrs of uphill climb we reach Ramni Pass, also known as Chechni Binayak Top, which is the highest point of day and gives a distinct view of Kuari pass. Chechni Binayak separates the Nandakini valley and the Pana Ghuti valley. The trail now gradually descends taking us through open pastures into forests of horse chestnuts and walnut trees complete with fairy tale waterfalls and landing us at Semkherk by early evening. The two peaks of Trishul are clearly visible from this campsite. Overnight stay in tents.
We start with a descent to the colourful village of Jhinjhi which is the last village on this trek. We descend further past small farms and woods to cross a spectacular suspension bridge across the Birehi Gorge. We then take a strenuous steep climb for the next 3 hours after which the trail gets easier under the cool shades of rhododendrons passing through streams and waterfalls. A short climb after about 3 hrs of walk will take us to our campsite at Kaliaghat near Pana village. Overnight stay in tents.
This is going to be a long and tiring but spectacular day after steep climbs and gentle descends through forests, meadows and valleys. After the first ascent we reach Sartoli where we get the first sighting of Kuari Pass for the day. We would now descend gently through the valley crossing beautiful streams and passing by waterfalls. Our final ascent from the river of about 900 m would bring us to our campsite with a lot of bamboo, Dhakwani,which is just below Kuari Pass. Overnight stay in tents.
It is a good idea to start our climb well before sunrise so that we don’t miss the awesome early morning views at Kuari pass. We take a steep climb through the forest to reach Kuari Pass and wait for the sunrise when we would be in awe of the beauty around us as stare at our surroundings. Having satiated our senses we move further towards Tali gaining elevation till about 4000m and then descend gently and cross a stream to reach our campsite at Tali which also serves as the basecamp for Pangerchulla peak.
This can be considered as the toughest day of the trek. The climb is steep and might require assistance at some places depending upon the terrain conditions. We would start early and try to reach the summit by the dawn to experience the changing hues of nature. Once at the top you will find yourself surrounded by a big part of the Greater Himalayan Range. You get a 360 degree view of Hathi Parbat, Mana Neelknth, Kamet, Nanda Devi, Dronagiri, Chaukhamba and many more unknown peaks and they all stand so close. Watch the colours of the peaks changing from black and dark blue to orange to yellow and then white. This is considered as one of the greatest mountain views in the world. We head back to our camp.
A 3-4 hrs gradual descent through the woods would take us to Auli where our vehicles to drive us to Joshimat. It’ll be a good idea to explore Auli where Adiguru Shankaracharya attained enlightenment before beginning his campaign for the unification of India and the revitalization of Hinduism. We drive down to Joshimath and stay in a hotel/ lodge/ guesthouse for the night.
Our trip ends at Rishikesh as we drive back from Joshimath with our share of memories and learnings form the trip.