Sunday, July 29, 2018

An attempt at crossing Charang La

Day 0 - Delhi to Rampur

I was thinking on my way to the bus station, why bother writing about Day 0? It's always just me traveling within Delhi to reach ISBT. But then, I also realized how much my expectations vary vs reality.
Well, not always, sometimes I'm on top of the future and my predictions are accurate.. but.. where's the fun in that.

I have very little information about Charang La. I know it's a pass in Kinnaur region of HP. I know it starts at somewhere near Reckong Peo and ends at Chitkul. I know the Max altitude is 5200m+
That's way less information than I'm used to. I guess I should thank my trek partner for that. He's an experienced campaigner and I trust his judgment. 

I spent a lot of time in getting my backpack together today. Finally bought a sleeping bag, the efficacy of which is a question mark at this point. Ditched the stove too, going for dry food, whether it's the right decision remains to be seen.
I'm also feeling unusually calm. I feel like I'm in control of what I'm doing even though I barely know anything about the trek.

Maybe the after effects of turning 30?

I'm in the bus, food in my bag, mawa cake too. Mawa cake. I just smiled a little. 

Day 1 Rampur to Kalpa

I slept a lot. It always defeats me, my ability to sleep in turbulent, bumpy conditions. Born to travel, eh?
Or maybe I just love sleeping.
Woke up when the bus was still in Narkanda. It was nice to see the sun rising in the mountains. I'm sure I'll have more of this in the next few days. I deboarded the bus at Rampur Bushahr. 

Rampur is a small town, along a river, it is 5 hours away from Shimla. I boarded the bus to Reckong Peo as soon as I reached. This bus was the ordinary one but thankfully this journey is just 3 hours.

The bus stopped at a place called Jyuri for lunch, I had a light meal keeping in mind the bus travel.
The weather is hotter than I anticipated which reminds me of Panwali. The ride is bumpy too.

But I'm feeling fine, Reckong Peo is something I had been only reading about until now. When you visit a place, it becomes real in your head. Feels like it does when you level up in a video game.
Prashant is waiting at Kalpa. I should be able to join him for lunch. I could also use a shower and change of clothes. 
No feeling like that of exploring unknown territory.

Halt at Jyuri

Reckong Peo
I met Prashant outside the tourist centre in the main market. Since I was starving, I ate a sumptuous meal at Little chef restaurant.
For Charang la, one needs to get permission from the SDM. We got that arranged along with medical test, which is mandatory to get permission.
Afterwards, we left for Kalpa in a crowded bus.

I reached Kalpa at around 5 pm. It's a peaceful village about 40 minutes from Reckong peo if you take the bus. Very peaceful, clean and picturesque. I would recommend people to just live here for a couple of days, chill and go back. It's that kind of place.

I had a nagging headache for which I popped a Disprin. I checked in at Hotel Chini Bungalow, had a nice hot shower, ate some delicious food in the nearby Dhaba. My head still hurts but I know it'll be alright. I'm just exhausted from the road travel. 

There's a guy playing a ukulele outside my room. I'm at peace. 

Hotel Chini Bungalow, Kalpa

Day 3 Kalpa to Shurting to Kalpa

We set off from Kalpa at 7:45 am since the bus to peo never arrived. To catch the bus, we literally sprinted towards Peo bus stand. It took us around half an hour to reach Peo. We were lucky enough to catch the bus.. or so we thought at that time. 

Peo to Shurting is a thriller drive. There are some bends where you just hold your breath until the bus passes through. After 5 hours of traveling on perhaps the world's most dangerous road, we reached ITBP camp at Shurting. 

Bus halts here for Breakfast; on the way to Shurting

Friendly bus conductor!

ITBP camp, Shurting is where trekkers are supposed to show their permits and proceed to Charang village. We had our permits and all.. or so we thought.

The camp incharge told us that the permit isn't complete and stamping isn't done, which meant, a return to Peo. 
Which also meant a days delay in our plans. 

We argued, reasoned and even requested but to no avail. With a sad face, we boarded the same bus, back to Peo with the plan to get the permit and try again next day. 

Thankfully, the bus took half the time it took from Peo to Shurting and we reached the SDM office in Peo by 4 pm. It turned out, it was a miss at our end, not getting the process completed due to us being in haste. 

After finally getting the permit done, we headed back to Kalpa since it's a better place to stay at. The evening was cold, the mood was grim, I was uncertain if I should go on or go back.

After much deliberation, I decided to March forwards. Something doesn't feel right though. It's just a transient feeling, I told myself. 

Whatever it be, I'll be headed back to Shurting and I'll finish what I started. If I don't, I'll hate myself for a long time.

Day 4 Shurting to campsite near Lalanti pass

Now armed with a valid permit, we left for Peo really early, the very first bus. We were on top of things today. Caught the bus in time from Peo to Shurting.
Traveling on one of the worlds most dangerous road twice in two days, yep, badassery of the highest level. For tourists that is, what is badass for us is simply routine life for the locals of Charang village.

We reached Shurting by 1:30, got ourselves registered with the now valid permit.

From Shurting, you can either take the shortcut to Lalanti camp site or take the conventional route via Charang village and climb Lalanti pass, descend into the valley and cross the river to reach Lalanti camp site. 

We tried the shortcut, the river was very intimidating and after a point we got stuck since the water flow was heavy from where we needed to cross.

Okay, plan B, Charang village.

It's a boring 6 km walk to Charang from Shurting.
We reached Charang in an hour. I wanted to halt at Charang, Prashant wanted to shoot for a campsite before Lalanti pass.
I was skeptical but okayed the plan because it made sense from a progression point of view.

The tranquility of Charan Village
Charang is at 3500m, we climbed around 500m in a couple of hours to finally find a place with water source nearby. All the previous places had irrigation channels but the water was muddy.
At 6 pm, we called it a day after pitching the tent. It was marginally colder than Charang. I guess some whey protein and had a few almonds and dozed off.

Tent Pitched !


Day 5 Campsite to a place beyond Lalanti and back to Charang

I woke up at 6:30 am, realizing I had slept for almost 12 hours straight. Since I didn't eat anything yesterday, I felt low on energy. I still didn't have an appetite but force fed myself with a few biscuits. 
We packed up the camp and started towards Lalanti pass at 7:30 am.

A moderate gradient leads from the campsite to the pass. We reached the pass in an hour.
It was clear to me that there's something wrong with my energy levels, I considered going back while I still can. After a discussion with Prashant, decided to push forward.

From Lalanti pass, we headed to Lalanti campsite. We expected to meet shepherds there who can help us with food and directions.
The trail descends to a moraine like terrain. We descended all the way from 4160m to 3800m. 
Our plan was to reach Lalanti as soon as we can. 

By now, I was sure I couldn't go on. My personal idea was to take the shortcut and reach back to Shurting, Prashant can go ahead with the shepherds headed towards Chitkul, I thought.

But alas, fate had different plans.
We never reached Lalanti. 

Prashant did a quick recce and concluded there's no visible trail ahead and we have potentially veered off from the main trail.
We decided to go back to Charang, since we were, in all fairness, lost and clueless. I felt less guilty about thinking on bailing since in either case, we would've headed back.

Point of return

Now the climb back to Lalanti was steep, there were sections with exposure to valley and some of the trail was just scree. On top of that, I wasn't feeling a 100% energetic. 

Having no other option and no Shepherd in site to guide us, we followed the GPS trail for a bit and headed back to Lalanti Pass. 
After 3 hours of steep climbing, we reached Lalanti pass and after a couple of hours of steep descent, we finally reached Charang village.

The day was like this, altitude wise :
4000m to 4160m to 3800m to 4100m 
And then the reverse of it, ultimately ending up at 3500m.

We met a few locals who questioned the logic behind going into an unexplored territory without any local help. Perhaps what we know now is not what we anticipated then.

I have never felt the urge to turn back but this time I always felt off. We did the most sensible thing by turning back. A new experience for me, getting lost and giving up. But if I'm being honest with myself, I would've turned back no matter what. It's just that circumstances made it so that Prashant had to make the final call to turn back.

We checked in at the Govt guest house in Charang, had shower, hot food.
Later came to know that we had actually crossed Lalanti camp site and had gone further ahead, in the wrong direction. 

This wasn't an ideal experience but a learning nonetheless.
1. Always listen to the locals
2. Talk to the locals before going anywhere
3. Don't assume anything, it's a matter of life and death
4. Plan way ahead so that the quality of the plan is impeccable

Day 6 Visit to Rangrik Monastery

Since we had time in hand, we decided to give Rangrik Monastery a visit. 
Rangrik Monastery is about 2 kms from Charang, at the same altitude.The trail passes through Charang village and splits at one point, the lower trail going to ITBP campsite at Charang and the other trail leads to the monastery.

The monastery is claimed to be a 1000 years old. Rangrik being the name of the goddess. 
Legend has it that a 1000 years ago, few shepherds noticed some construction going on in the area the monastery is at, when they returned the next day, the Monastery was completely built. 

A few pictures from the Monastery :

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Har ki dun - Solo trek - Nov 2017


I had no intention of hiking anywhere in November. I had taken leaves for Saptkund not so long ago and although I always want to be in the mountains but my wanderlust hadn't overcome me.
I got an impromptu week off from work, now I was in the peculiar position of needing to go somewhere. Sitting at home for a week was just not a possibility for me.
To be honest, this trip wasn’t my preference, I had been mulling over just chilling in McLeod for a week but even that seemed wrong. I was in the peculiar position of having a random week off. Let's just say I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I couldn't stay home for a week. I just couldn't.

People in my office would literally kill for a week off and here I am getting it served on a platter. It was not only my chance but my responsibility to go, otherwise, I wouldn't be doing justice to who I am.
I couldn't resist the urge to explore someplace new. Har ki dun was an automatic selection for a couple of reasons.
A guide is not required and there are homestays on the trail at Osla and even at Har-ki-Dun itself.

Here's an account of what transpired during the trip :

Day 0 - Delhi to Dehradun

I booked the late 10:45 pm bus in hopes of catching the earliest possible transport for my onward journey to Sankri. The research is very limited but from what I read, Sankri seems to be some sort of trekking hub. It's only befitting that I pay it a visit, might I add that the Violet metro line from Mandi House has made it really convenient and cheap for me to travel to ISBT kashmere gate.

I made it to the bus stand without any hassles but still full of some sort of skepticism. I'm not sure why but traveling alone feels different now. I think I'm getting a bit rusty. I thought of George Clooney's speech from "Up in the air", the one about "The bag".
It is then that I realized that my last solo trip was all the way back in June.

I decided to tune out the thoughts with some good music on my brand new ATH m50x headphones.

Day 1 – Dehradun to Taluka

I got down from the bus at around 4 am and it was freezing cold. I was struggling to speak since I was shivering so much. My next job was to look for "Hotel Grand" near the railway station (not the one near ISBT, caution: there are many Hotel Grands). I took an e-Auto which costed me 100 Rs and dropped me at OP Grand hotel. I walked to the bus station only to know that the first bus for Sankri leaves at 8 am and takes 10-11 hours.

I decided to travel with cabs instead. The cabs start from Grand Hotel, which is thankfully not that far from OP Grand Hotel. I found the first cab leaving for Purola and booked my seat in it. Unfortunately, I faced regular bouts of motion sickness throughout the way to Purola.

I reached Purola at 11:30 AM and after much deliberation on whether to take the bus or the cab for the journey ahead, I decided to stick with the cab option due to the speed factor. I took the cab to Mori since there are no direct cabs to Sankri, you just have to go point to point.
I reached Mori at 3 pm and then hitchhiked in a pick-up truck all the way to Taluka. The ride was very bumpy and I felt like a pop corn would in a pressure cooker. It was some experience though. I had my "Highway" moment I guess. In hindsight, sitting on the backside of a pickup truck is a little over rated, yes there's the adventure factor but after a point you're just dodging the 30 Kg LPG cylinder rolling towards you every now and then.

Me @ the back of a pickup truck

The weather got noticeably colder after passing Sankri. I reached Taluka by 5 pm and after having some food, checked into GMVN guest house for a dorm bed. I also had dinner from the nearby dhaba. I stocked on some supplies like batteries and a candle. There's a general store but it has limited options.
Traditional chulha cooked dinner
At the moment of writing this post, it's 6:30, pitch black dark, GMVN looks haunted and there are no people anywhere apart from the ones at the dhaba.

Imagine being alone in a huge guest house in a remote hilly village which has no electricity, constant noise of dripping water, winds blowing through cracks in the windows making subtle noises. The kind of noise which you can't really attribute to any specific source. We've all seen paranormal activity, right?

Day 2 Taluka to Osla

I slept for 12 hours straight and woke up at 7 am. I guess it was due to the exhaustion from all the bus travel. I had a good heavy breakfast and set off for Osla at 8:30 am.
Just 10 minutes into the trek, I realized I dropped my sunglasses, went back and saw a few Porters, asked them if they saw it. Turns out one of them did and was trying to get away with it!
I literally chased him back to Taluka and took it back. A rare instance of dishonesty in the mountains.

All this saga costed me half an hour and I restarted walking from Taluka at 9 am. The trail begins from next to the end of the road at Taluka, there’s a board you can’t miss which says "Har ki dun -> "

Initial Marking

Beautiful River Shupin

The initial trail descends and then is mostly a flat walk with occasional gradual ascents. I managed to walk at quite a brisk pace due to the easy terrain. The trail is marked with milestones to Har ki dun every kilometre. I stopped to eat some dates after having walked 5 km without a break. I did bump into porters with their mules every 15-20 minutes or so, so I wasn't entirely alone on the trail. However, there were no hikers besides me.

The Dates break!

The next stop was a place called Gangad. I was hungry and decided to stop here for lunch. The dhaba took quite long to serve food and consequently, I spent 1:15 hrs at Gangad. I didn't mind that since the day's target was almost met and I could afford to take my time.

Sound advice @ Gangad hotel, Yes Boss!

Gangad is 9 kms from Taluka and has homestay options, also, Osla is just 4 kms from here. It got noticeably colder after I started walking from Gangad. I think it’s because of the proximity to river Shubin.
After walking for a kilometre, I saw a bridge, on crossing this bridge, you get the diversion for Seema or Osla. If you’re headed to Har ki dun (mentioned as HKD henceforth), Osla is where you need to go. The trail for Osla descends while the trail for Seema climbs up. The trail then descends to the river and there’s another bridge you use to cross to the other side. Might I add, that bridge is VERY dicey and was moving a lot, no railings of course.

After crossing the bridge, Osla is about a km away, continuous ascent. I reached Osla by 2:30 pm and called it a day.
Osla is a nice remote village, there are a lot of kids who inevitable will bombard you with requests for chocolates or 100 Rupees. There is a small school run by one Mr. Jaibir singh ji. Also known as, "Guru Ji" in the village. He also runs a homestay, the only one in Osla which has city tourist friendly amenities like a western toilet. It was also where I was headed to since I had heard good things about this homestay from the villagers in Taluka.

Homestay @ Osla

Naughty kiddos!

Day 3 Osla to Hkd and back to Osla

Today was the extra effort day since I had to travel a total distance of 28 kms. There was one more trekker with the same plan so we decided to tag along, more the merrier!

I woke up at 7 am and was greeted by nice cold winds blowing in the valley. I had a compact breakfast and chugged in a scoop of whey protein. We started walking at 8 am from Osla. The trail starts from behind Jaibir Singh’s homestay, where we were staying. The initial trail is a gradual descent with River Shupin on your right. After crossing a couple of bridges, the trail starts to climb until the moderately steep ascent leads to a level land. It’s a good place to take a breather and also has good panaromic view of the nearby peaks.
The trail then climbs further to a place called Kalkattiyadhar, which is around 3200m altitude. We spent a few minutes appreciating the views of black peak, white peak and Bandar poonch from there.

View from initial dhaba point on leaving Osla

Majestic views en route

The trail then follows a gradual descent all the way to a waterfall amidst the tree line. It’s worth noting that there are numerous water sources throughout the trail and I didn’t really feel the need to refill my bottle. From the waterfall, there's a long period of continuous ascent, throughout the journey there are milestones to HKD which really help you pace yourself.

Waterfall after leaving Kalkatiyadhar

Waterfall rest point

About 3 km away from HKD, I realized there was a lot of snow, so I wisely put on my cool looking polarized wayfarers. Also, eye burn sucks, ain’t nobody got time for that. I also reapplied my sunscreen, hoping to not scare my colleagues for a change when I'm back.

Sunglasses, check; Sunscreen double check.

The ascent started to tire me out but then I thought about Pin Parvati. I am not allowed to feel tired, I told myself and kept walking. Maybe it was the cold but my legs started cramping. I slowed down and readjusted my pace by putting less pressure on the cramped leg.

We reached HKD at 12 noon, after having taken numerous breaks. The trail was straightforward but there’s always a risk of joining the Ruinsara trail. A few years ago, some guy from Chennai had veered into the trail headed to Ruinsara Tal and could only reach HKD after 3-4 days of being lost. There are also reports of bear attacks, rare but still a possibility.

Swargarohini peak from Har ki dun
Nandi bull watching the valley

About 3 kms from HKD, the trail to Ruinsara descends from the trail going straight. One must keep going straight and not entertain any stray trails. Apart from that, finding the trail is child’s play. Take my GPX files if you want, knock yourself out you freeloader.

The view from HKD was gorgeous. If I had any more time in my hands, I would’ve camped here. One can see Swargarohini, Bandarpoonch and White/black peaks from here. There is a forest rest house and the whole place is just a campsite next to the river. The trail throughout was straight out of a painting. A blue river, snow covered trail all leading to HKD peak, which I was told is not climbable. There is also a shiv temple here. I used my super awesome one plus 5’s camera to take a lot of pictures.
Afterwards, we had a sumptuous lunch consisting of roti with pickle, almonds, dates, swiss cream roll and jaggery candies. I also had a lot of water to fight the cramps.

Shiv temple @ Har ki dun

We set off from HKD at 1 pm and bid adieu to the grand mountains. A boring regular walk led us back to Osla within 3 hours. We did take around an hour’s break in total, so, people can presumably do it quicker than that if less breaks are taken.

I’m back to Jaibir Singh’s homestay in Osla, just relaxing after this long day of hiking and also reminiscing about how I almost made a plan to spend a week in Mcleodganj. I guess I’m just not that kind of person who can just “chill”. I need something to stimulate me and a new trail is what serves the purpose.

Day 4 Osla to Naugaun

Temple at Osla

At the moment of writing this days account, I'm sitting in a very shady hotel in a remote village/town called Naugaun.
This has been a super active day. The day started early at 7 am, the usual charade, I started moving for Taluka at 8 am with one eye on the watch all the time. The aim was to reach Taluka so early that I also get to reach Dehradun on the same day. Alas, that wasn't to be.

I sprinted to Taluka but couldn't reach Taluka earlier than 11:15 am. My next best bet was to catch a bus from a place near Sankri to Naugaun and get onward vehicle to Dehradun from there. That bus leaves at 1:30 pm.
I did make it in time for that bus but when I reached Naugaun, there was no further vehicle to Dehradun. I tried asking a lot of drivers but they all had the same response. Eventually, I resigned to my fate and took a hotel right next to where the morning bus to Dehradun leaves from.

Naugaun is your typical remote hilly town. There are a lot of facilities here if you compare it with Taluka or Sankri which are totally disconnected. By facilities I mean, a chemist, vegetable seller, departmental stores etc. Oh and lets not forget electricity shall we? Being in the city, we seldom acknowledge that most remote villages in India are deprived of a basic 19th century invention (or Discovery?)
I was starving from all the journey and the morning hike. So, I ate like there's no tomorrow. A heavy dinner costed me 60 Rs and I scratched my head thinking about that ridiculous 500 Rs burger that I once ate in Gurgaon.
And now, here I lie in this dirty looking room in Naugaun, a bit too cautious to not miss the 6 am bus tomorrow. 

A night in a shady hotel room

For reasons I can't put my finger on, I'm a bit home sick. Ever since I started descending from HKD, I've had this abnormal hunger of reaching back to Delhi. This is exactly what drove me to travel for 8 hours after hiking 14 kms in 3 hours.
Most people stay back in Sankri, take the early bus next day and reach Dehradun by evening. I'll reach Dehradun by 10 am tomorrow, Delhi by 4 pm. Home by 5 pm.
Everything said and done, the trek is over.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Saptkund trek - October 2017

Day 0 - Delhi to Rishikesh

I reached home from work around 7 pm. It took me an hour of packing and arranging things, which had me ready by 8.
Unlike previous times, I chose to take the metro.

The new shortcut via the Violet line ensured I reached the bus station exactly on time.
Also unlike previous times, I felt calm as opposed to jittery.
Maybe I'm finally at that point where I'm confident enough to know, deep down, "I've got this".
Nevertheless, taking each day on its own merit has served me well in the past. No reason to abandon that strategy.
I'm about to reach Rishikesh and meet the other two people of the group.

Day 1 Rishikesh to Pairi

This was quite a roller coaster of a day. We eventually decided to drive all the way to Pairi. I had a tough time dealing with the twists and turns. Spent all day throwing up every single thing I dared to eat. Around 1 pm, the car tire got slashed by something and got a 1 inch cut. Already tired from the
journey so far, we had to take the hassle of arranging a fix.

For all your cold patch needs, Kukreti puncture repair shop
We reached Pairi at around 5:30 but not before we had to deal with some nerve wreaking moments due to the road being in a very bad condition, often having to get down from the vehicle so the under body of the car would be spared a bruise.
Pairi in the blurred background
We met our guide Padam Singh there. I went to the only store in the village and arranged for ration and called it a day after a nice warm dinner.
The only ration shop in Pairi
Everyone was so tired that they fell asleep instantly.

Day 2 Pairi to Tilgudi

This was the first trek day. We started the day at 8:30 am.
Tilgudi is quite close to Patharkudi, is what the guide told us. Exact distances were hard to know at this point. There was no definitive information on the internet, the ones that were there, were too vague. I had turned on the gps logger on my phone. The thought that this might be the "first" instance of anyone recording GPS logs for this trek was indeed a good feeling.

The climb from Pairi is a constant climb. It is quite steep and we really had to push ourselves at certain patches. In between, we came across Banihar. It is a beautiful meadow with a nice green panaromic view. We also got cellphone reception here but I decided to keep my phone on flight mode.

Enjoying the forest trail

We had lunch not too far from Tilgudi at around 1 pm. A further half an hour climb from there brought us to the point where the mule we hired had dropped our gear. Luckily, I was able to log the route we had traversed, especially since there was no trail at certain places.

En route to Tilgudi
Sitting in my tent, churning out these statistics, it turns out, we climbed a total altitude of 1200m at a distance of 8.3 km.
Tilgudi is a nice, green campsite with a view of the onward trail. We even found little lambs there to play with.
I don't feel as tired as I'm used to be. My legs aren't sore. This has been a good day but it's getting quite cold. We've setup the kitchen and dinner's about to be ready, at 5:30 pm.

The plan for tomorrow is to reach a campsite known as Chhurighat.

Day 3 Tilgudi to Chhurighat

I woke up lazily at 6 am. Lazily because I had slept at 9 yesterday. The weather was much clearer and the cold wasn't as troubling as yesterday. Maybe I'm getting used to it now. We all had rice, dal and rajma for breakfast and then set off for Patharkudi and then to Chhurighat.

The trail starts from across the stream and climbs up quite steeply. After reaching the mountain top, you can see a nice broad trail ahead.
The trail to the mountain top, however, is very narrow and tricky at some stretches. Also, it is very steep. 70 degrees if I had to guess.
Beautiful view of the valley; before the boulder section

The trail climbs up again after crossing the broad trail section. Climbs up all the way to 3900m over a distance of around 6-7 kms from the mountain top.
The climb is again relentlessly steep over Boulder fields.

It too us 6 hours to reach Chhurighat. It's a small meadow amidst Boulder fields. We pitched our Tents near a small cave and called it a day. The campsite was colder than Tilgudi. Due to cloudy weather, we couldn't get to many views. Had a bonfire, ample food and slept early at 7.

Camped at Chhurighat

Day 4 Chhurighat to Saptkund and back

We started our day early at 7 am today. Just had a bit of maggi and tea. It's all I could stomach. It was quite cold in the morning so I decided to keep my down jacket on. We found sleet all over the tent in the morning. The ground had a white coating of sleet on it as well which is an indicator of sub-zero temperatures. Quite unexpected but not a deal breaker.

It took half an hour's climb to reach Simbe Bugyal from Chhurighat.

Simbe Bugyal

Temple before the final steep ascent
We crossed a field of boulders from there and after a gradual ascent and a steep climb, we were right below the topmost point of saptkund.The lakes are below, much like Roopkund but way better.

The climb knocked the wind out of our sails. It was steep, there was very little to put your foot on, the rocks were slippery and we literally went from 4200 to 4700m in the span of not even a kilometre.

That's not all. After reaching what seemed to be the top, we had to climb further to finally reach the place from where we could view all the lakes.

I slipped at a critical place, there was valley exposure but the guide grabbed my hand and pulled me up. I shrugged it off like the cool dude I am and kept climbing. We reached "Saptkund top" at 11 am. The views were mesmerizing. Everyone kept waiting for the grand views of Nandaghunti and Trishul. They were awesome indeed.

We spent a lot of time at the top and then explored all the lakes, there's a nice pavement built around all the lakes.

The group at Saptkund top; 4650m. Porter, Tanvi, Saumitra, Me and Prashant (L-R)

We started descending around 2 pm, keeping in mind that there is always a possibility of weather getting deteriorated. We decided to take a different route this time, which was obvious because it would've been simply too risky to descend down the same route from where we approached the top of Saptkund. When we reached, it had started hailing but it was quite brief. I was worried because I realized I left my poncho back at the camp.

Nandaghunti peeking from between the clouds

Nandaghunti @ 2x Zoom

Saptkund lake

We followed the route going to Jhijhi village and then took a detour to reach the temple at Simbe Bugyal. The trail was about 3 km of gradual descent followed by an extremely sharp descent.
We lost quite a lot of altitude rapidly.

I was running on fumes since there was no packed lunch. The glucose biscuits didn't cut it. We reached Chhurighat by 515 pm. Very tired, a little bit shaken.

Day 5 Chhurighat to Pairi

We started the day at 8 am. Crossed the boulder filled patch to reach Patharkudi. The views were good today since the weather was clear, we could spot Nandaghunti peak for a big chunk of the day. We could even spot Trishul.

From Chhurighat, chaukhamba was bright and clear.

Today's hike back to Pairi was about, firstly crossing the moraines and then taking the spider wall section back Tilgudi.We crossed the moraines fairly quickly. There was sleet on the rocks but it went away after a few hours of bright sun. But until then, it made life miserable for all of us as we were not sure which rock would grip and which wouldn't.

After we reached Patharkudi, we decided to take a different route back, the one via Patta peak (bypassing Tilgudi and the spider wall section) and then back to the tree line. Surprisingly, the route for patta peak was much more serene than the one we had taken initially, while on our way to Chhurighat.

"Patta Top"; take this route to bypass tilgudi and directly reach the tree line

The route from Patta top to the tree line was a steady steep descent which had me grasping my knees every once in a while.
We reached the tree line by 1 pm. After an hour's walk we reached Banihar. Took a good 20 minutes rest there and moved on towards Pairi. After continuous steep descent, we reached Pairi at 2:35 PM.
I was running on fumes for the good second half of the day but the trek was over.

This trek gave me a few hard realizations.
The primary takeaway was to make sensible food choices when going for a serious trek. We carried MTRs and Pasta which were colossal waste of space. Very little nutrition when compared to their weight.

On another note, renewed respect for the mountains of Uttarakhand. They make you sweat the most, reaching even the base village was a task comparable to the efforts of the trek itself BUT the grandeur is amazing. When Nandaghunti revealed itself from the clouds, I wasn't even sure how high to look, such was its grandeur. Ditto for Trishul. To have witnessed that view up, close and personal was a privilege that I would never forget.

Now, for all the statistic nerds out there, below is the elevation profile from Day 1 to Day 4. 

Pairi to Tilgudi

Tilgudi to Chhurighat

Chhurighat to Saptkund Top

Saptkund Lake to Chhurighat

Chhurighat to Pairi
 GPX Files :