Trek to Pindari Glacier

Azure sky above, glaciers around, green meadows dotted with a thousand tiny flowers below and everything else in a limbo…. I was looking at the snow capped peaks of Nanda Kot and Nanda Khat, silently applauding god on his masterpiece. Having the Great Himalayas looking down benevolently at us is a humbling experience and I could only gawp at nature’s wonders.

Delhi, where this idea of a trek to Pindari glacier transpired, was another place in another time. Tired of the bright city lights, I and a motley bunch of Indians of various ethnicities and an Australian, decided to take off for the solitude of the mountains. Pindari Glacier, one of the most accessible Himalayan glaciers with an inflow of only around 1000 tourists per year, was my promised land. A long ride till Bageshwar, then another ride till Saung in a creaky old contraption, and then yet another cramped ride in an even creakier one halfway to Loharkhet and our trek had started. The initial stretch turned out to be too steep for novices like us and the stop for lunch at Loharkhet tourist rest house was a relief. The food, with a smoky taste, turned out to be the best I’d had in a long time and the early hours-10 O’ clock in the morning- didn’t deter me from piling on food, enough to give a stomach ache in other circumstances. We were off again after the lovely meal. Each of us trudged along in silence, maybe drowsy from the heavy meal but mostly because there wasn’t much need for speech anyway. Instead, the usually dormant senses had come alive with nature’s offerings–variegated shades of green, the faint tinkling of cow bells, the sound of flowing water, the rustle of leaves beneath our feet, the taste of wild strawberries and the smell of the earth.

We stopped at places that inspired a photographer in us and for some chai. That Maggi is immensely popular along the trek is evident from the menu list at all the food stalls- ‘Lunch’, ‘Dinner’, ‘Breakfast’ followed by the inevitable Maggi. Dhakuri was our halt for the day. This is where we managed to get a peek at snow clad peaks of Nanda Devi through the clouds.

We had lost track of time knowing only sunrise and sunset. It was a time for introspection and reflection while we trekked along the Pindar River next day to Dwali via Khati. Legend has it that the Pandavs came to conduct the last rites for the departed souls, the ritual called Pinddaan in Hindi and hence the name. It was a beautiful river, with quaint wooden bridges across it at several places. Yet it wasn’t a tame river, with stretches where it became a roaring, boiling, rumbling leviathan. The creaky wooden bridges, with a missing slat or two not really inspiring our confidence, helped us cross anyway.

The distance from Dwali to Phurkia is a mere 5 kms and this is where having a package with KMVN really pinched! It restricted possibilities and had we not been tied up, we could have trekked till Zero point, camped overnight and trekked back to Khati the next day, and in the process save a day! Not that we were in a hurry to complete the trek, but idling around at one place wasn’t really enticing. We spent time near the waters of Pindar at day. The water was ice cold while we had a blazing sun overhead. A striking contrast! Bon fires at night had become de rigueur in this journey and we asked Sushil, our porter, to make some arrangements in the evening. A resourceful person, he got the fire working. Phurkia was a place we missed camping sorely since the rest house looked quite menacing in the dark and the bathroom looked haunted. It wasn’t the most comfortable place I had stayed at. Yet the promise of what tomorrow was to bring, kept up the high spirits. Our trek to Zero Point started early in the morning. We needed to catch a glimpse of the snowpeaks before it got fogged up. The route was treacherous in places and we had to use all our limbs to climb. Crossing the huge swathes of snow covered with sleet seemed like an impossible task and it took us several minutes to navigate this stretch.

A couple of hours later we found ourselves at a Babajee’s. A trek to the glacier is not complete without the mandatory stop at his place. The house that he’s built for himself is quite a comfortable one with a telescope and library to boast of, not to mention the amphitheatre like view of the glacier visible from his stone house. He provides food to all free of charge, and it’s become quite a tradition now to drop off some donation- makes sense in order to keep the free food going! The topography in this stretch had considerably changed with trees giving way to grassy slopes and the air becoming cooler. Sushil informed us that in the months of October, one could even spot a snow leopard and other animals of the higher reaches. It gave us another excuse to come again. To say that the place was beautiful wouldn’t do justice to it. It isn’t often that you get to see nature in its pristine glory. Flowers that you didn’t know existed forced their way out of tiny crevices, the air was so crisp that you’d want to fill in your lungs with all the supply you’d ever need and who would think of snow in June when the rest of the country was sweltering? The last point on the trek, prosaically called ‘The Zero Point’ was marked by a sign board next to a deep chasm. This was the destination. Strangely though, the destination was not our questand it was only another stop along the way. This did not mean however that the place had left us untouched. Nonetheless, to put it in Ruskin Bond’s words, “The adventure is not in getting somewhere, it’s the on-the-way experience. It is not the expected; it’s the surprise”. Half an hour later, as if to say goodbye, the fog had enveloped everything in its fold and the mountains were lost, leaving us to continue onwards on our journey.