NANDA DEVI EASTE BASE CAMP TREK
Nanda Devi National Park is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. It is dominated by the Twin peak of Nanda Devi, namely the Nanda Devi East 7434 m and Nanda Devi West 7,816 m. Nanda Devi, India's second highest mountain is approached through the Rishi Ganga gorge, one of the deepest in the world. No humans live in the Park which has remained more or less intact because of its inaccessibility. It has a very diverse flora and is the habitat of several endangered mammals, among them the snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer and bharal.
Nanda Devi National Park lies in eastern Uttaranchal State, near the Tibetan border in the Garhwal (western) Himalaya, 300 km northeast of Delhi. It leads through the almost inaccessible gorge of Rishi Ganga to a basin surrounded by high mountain ridges and peaks except to the west. We begin the trek from Munsiyari that offers excellent views of the Panchachuli peaks and the trek passes through the Ramganga and Saryu valleys.
Unlike most of our treks which are based in the Garhwal region of Utarakhand, this one takes you to the lofty mountains of the Kumayun district. The easiest way to get till the base of these mountains is by taking an overnight train from Old Delhi Railway station to Kathgodam.
It's with the early morning mist that you arrive at Kathgodam, our vehicles will be waiting for you here to take you through a picturesque drive (covering Almora, Bageshwar, Chowkri and Tejam) to Munsiyari. You shirk off the journey here by getting a sound sleep either at a tent or a rest house.
Most part of the Day is spent to Day in getting some paper work ready to get necessary permits from the local administration. The evenings however are free for you to see around the very beautiful village.
From Munsyari, a 10 km drive will take you to Selapani from where we begin our trail up the hill. This easy 7km walk will take only 2 ½ hours and you will find yourself in Lilam in good time to halt at the tiny rest house for the night.
From Lilam the trail enters a spectacular 25 km long gorge. Etched into the cliff face above the Gori Ganga, the hillsides above are covered in dense bamboo thickets and mixed rain forest. After the junction of the Ralam and Gori Ganga rivers the trek climbs to a tea shop at Radgari, and then goes to a small rest house at Bugdiar (2700 m). Here, there is a memorial which laments the loss of life of villagers and army personals in the avalanche of 1989- To Day only a few houses remain on the edge of a waste land-Perhaps a very horrid reminder of what nature's fury can do to civilizations.
Overnight stay in tents/ rest house.
The valley opens up after climbing quite steeply to a huge over hanging cliff, which shelters a local deity. The route enters progressively drier terrain, but there are two waterfalls of about 100 m, one of them opposite a tea shop at Mapang, where you can rest your weary limbs and take in the limited available refreshments. Further trek uphill brings you to Railkot (3200 m).
The land is now almost arid and the villages in passing are nearly deserted till you get till the Burphu village which is backed by the Burphu peak ( 6300 m ). The eastern side of Nanda Devi east comes in to view here while you reach up to Ghanghar village (3300 m) where only three of the farmers of 60 families remain and the carefully walled fields below are also deserted. In spite of the eeriness of this town it is interesting to note the beautifully carved wooden doors and windows.
A steep narrow trek leads into the Pachhu valley, dominated by the north face of Nanda Devi East 35,00m above the Pachhu glacier. Dwarf rhododendron and birch, with anemones and the Primulas below, line the first section of the trek before it emerges into alpine meadows below the debris of the glacier itself. Tom Longstaff came through this valley in his unsuccessful attempt to climb Nanda Devi East in 1905 before trying the parallel valley to south of Pachhu via what is now known as Longstaff's Col. There is a camp site (39, 00 m) 3 km from the base of Nanda Devi with both the Col and the summit clearly visible; Provided the weather is clear.
Returning via Ghanghar at Burphu, the trek crosses the Gori Ganga on a wooden bridge then climbs to the former staging post of Milam village(3,300 m). Now, this village where we will stop for an overnight camp was the home of a number of renowned Pundit explorers and is also the last major settlement before Tibet. However, in spite of the vicinity to Tibet most villagers here trace their ancestors to the Rajput clans of the desert state of Rjasthan.
This excursion (3km: 1 hour) is possible from the Milam village to the Milam Glacier (4,100 m). The path can be slippery due to clear ice uncovered by debris from earlier treks and one needs to be careful while crossing the left bank of this glacier.
The trail passes through meadows dotted with sage, Junioer, miniature gorse and briar roses high above the terminal moraine. At the head of the glacier the peaks include Rishi Pahar (6992m), Hardeol (7151m) and Trishul (7075 m) while the peaks around the north rim include Kholl (6114m) , Nanda Gond(6315m), Nital Thaur( 6263m) and Nanda Pal (6306m).It is fascinating, just sitting here and noticing how three distinct tributary glaciers join together to form this main Milam glacier. After taking a fill of the glaciers we return to the camp at the village. Warning: one needs to be more careful of the slippery ice while climbing down.
We now start back tracking on our earlier steps, starting with getting back to Railkot from Milam.
This Day is another repeat of our earlier Days- Day 5 to be specific and we return back to Bugdigar to Day making our way once more through the deserted village of barely 3 farmer families.
This Day is a repeat of Day 4 and we pass once more through the bamboo thickets and dense rain forests, which we did while climbing up to Bugdigar.
We return back to civilization to Munsiyari. Checking preferably into a guest house/hotel or maybe another camp for reminisce sake as we make the end of a wonderful and exciting trek.
The atmosphere while we drive back to Almora from Munsiyari is saddened by the thought of leaving behind an enchanting landscape behind. The early thing to cheer you up are the rare pink-purplish flowers blossoming on the Cherry Blossom trees around Almora. We take a break from our long journey by stopping for the night at a hotel at Almora.
The drive to Rishikesh takes about 10 hours. Trip finishes at arrival at Rishikesh.Trip End.