Nandikund - Ghiya Vinayak Pass Trek
An off beaten trail Nandikund and Ghiya Vinayak Pass trek meant for religious and seasoned trekkers which connects the 2 shrines Madhyamaheshwar and Kalpeshwar. The adventurous journey passes through covering Kachni Khal , Spectacular undualating meadows , High Altitude lake Nandi Kund, finally crossing Ghiyu Vinayak Pass at an altitude o 15,500 ft , leading to Bansi Narayan and and then decent towards the last of Panch Kedar Temple: Kalpeshwar. This trek offers a spectacular views varied landscape, dotted with Himalayan Peaks like Chaukhambha, Mandani Parbat , Panpatia Snow field, Kedardome, Trishul, Neelkanth Peak - Known as Jewel of Gharwal, Parvati Peak, Nanda Devi , Dronagiri to name a few from the top of Bansi Narayan and Giyu Vinayak pass.
It makes a wonderful combination of religous fervour and a adventurous journey in the land of Pandavas.The Panchkedar region and mytholigical stories associated with it is always alluring. My early Himalayan sojourns of exploration started with Satopanth Tal, Swargarohini, Mandani Valley and visits to Kedarnath Santuary.
A group of trekkers from Mulund from Mumbai ,being facinated with less known trails such as Mandani Valley and High Altitude Nandikund, expressed their desire to visit the land of Pandavas, and opt for either of one finally
Unanimously it was decided for, Nandikund trek , the dates were finalaized for mid october.
We followed the below itinerary, it was bit relaxed , as the group comprised of few senior trekkers too.
Since the whole region comes inside, the Kedarnath Wildlife division.A Prior permission from the concerned authorities were taken.
16 October Day 1: Dehradun to Ransi by road : Dur 6 hrs
We started out journey from Jolly grant airport, in the morning 10;00 am.We passed through Dev Prayag and had our lunch at Sainik Hotel.The food was excellent and ideal place stop over,We had panoramic views of Himalayas , never before, as the horizon was clear. After a sumptuos meal ,we resumed our journey passing through Srinagar - we encountered a few road blocks.Finally traveling through Kund reached Ukimath in the night at 8 pm.
After final purchases of Provisions, Vegetables at Ukimath and meeting our guide, Rana of Ransi Village, we passed through hamlets of Mansuna - Uniana. After 11 hours of arduos journey reached our destination Ransi at 9:30 pm.
After a hot dinner in the chilling night under the star studded sky.We retired for the day.
17 October Day 2: Trek starts Ransi to Nanu Chatti : Dur 5 hrs
After filling our tummy, we carried our rucksacks and hit the trail.In the meanwhile our porter friends, joined us.The weather was pleasant, bit cloudy.The weather forecast said that, heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected for next 2 -3 days.
As a custom, we visited the temple of Rakeshwari devi, at Ransi village built in Nagara style.The priest was happy to trekkers post Covid and blessed us for good fortune and incessantly narrated the mythogocial stories associted with pandavas and temple.
I and one of the team member who were were in the front were fortunate to Spot a Yellow throated Marten, which jumped and went past in a trance, dissapearing into bushes.The whole trail was lush green, with smell of decidious pine and dotted with waterfalls.
The path was skirting through mountains mid way passed through Goundar Village, finally descended to Village of Bantoli, crossed the gorge over a metal bridge.The confluence of Madhyamaheshwar Ganga and Martyenda Ganga.
The zig zag climb, from here was never ending.The weather changed suddenly and it started raining non stop.The forest officials at Khatara Khal, too warned about the red alert !.
Enroute to Nanu Chatti
Though we were armed with rain gear, we decided to spend night at Nanu chatti.I had not,seen so many pilgrims on this trail since my visit in past 10 years.We stayed in a Hotel at Nanu chatti.
The downpour was continuos,it rained for almost 55 hours.We used the Reserve day, that we had planned for Acclamitization.The rains were creating havoc in entire Uttarakhand and Mountainious region, dark black clouds in the horizon, didnot seem to be courteous with us.
18 October Day 03 Overnight Stay at Nanu Chatti
Few piligrims heading to Madhyamaheshwar, started returning back to Ransi. Contiunous Snow fall in the higher altitude had a huge impact.A local community of trekkers from Ukimath, and few trekkers from West Bengal had expereinced blizzards with snow fall and just had descended from Pandavasera and Nandikund who faced heavy snowfall, and snow storms. Though we heard the bone chilling stories.We were determined and didnot lose hope !
19 October Day 04 Trek to Madhyamaheshwar
It was morning 9:00 am, still their was nice signs of weather getting better It was raining non stop, we unanimously decided to head to Madhayamheshwar, wihich was another 5 hours walk enroute Kalimath.Totally drenched we reached Madhyamaheshwar dham at 3 pm.
The whole valley was engulfed with thick mist, and it was lush green.
The temple doors were still open for darshan.I humbly prayed for rains to recede and good weather. As i stepped out after darshan, i suddenly saw a change in weather.The western skies were lit, blue sky loomed in the distance.The thick clouds seemed to dissapear with no trace.I felt that almighty had heard my prayers !
The tiredness and hunger no more stopped us to head to Budha Mahayamaheshwar located 1000 ft above shrine. Without uttering a word, inspite of tiredness, all members hit the trail.
We started climbing the hill, arbitralily adjacent to shrine.We felt warm as we climbed higher and higher.We had picture postcard views of hills and valleys with view of Kachni Khal in the back drop.
Acclimitization Walk to Budha Madhayamaheshwar
By the time we reached the last ridge which serves as a table top surrounded by snow peaks it was 4:30 pm.The continuos rain had created small puddles with crystal clear fresh water, and was soothing !.I could identify Chaukamba II and III peaks, Kedardome, Mandani Peak in the backdrop.The peaks shimmering in the bright light and reflection was infact surreal than
We felt that we were blessed and our paitience had paid us !
View of Mandani and Chaukamba Peaks from Budha Madhyamaheshwar
We had a 360 degree view of snowclad peaks, Chaukambha , Mandani mirrored in the water bodies.The whole place seemed to be heaven with no soul around.As the sun light diminished the, whole sky was changing its colors to brick red, yellow and pretty patterns in the sky seemed interesting.
Play of Light and shadow, Silhoutte made each one of members creative. A photographers delight ! We lost track of time.The whole valley glowed with golden light. It was getting dark. Few of the members started their descent.
I was in no mood and reluctant to go down.As the ball of fire, disappeared behind the high mountain.I felt cold, a bright light greeted me all off a sudden !.
A full moon, peeped suddenly soon gracefully appeared above a snow glad peak. I felt that i was double lucky to witness such a grand view.
I thanked the lord again,for being so courteous.I could hear the sound of bells down in the valley.The whole area was reverberrating with the sound of clinging of temple bells and vedic chants.
I walked downhill, looking at the moon i remembered of below lines...!!!
The Moon will guide you through the night with her brightness, but she will always dwell in the darkness in order to be seen.
- Shannon L. Alder -
After darshan, we had a quick dinner and thanked god once again for good fortune !.The Rawal, ( priest ) of the temple too, blessed us for a good fortune !
We heard news of few trekkers missing in Lamkhaga trek, few fatalities due to heavy rains at Mayali Pass and bad weaher.We unanimously decided to abort the trek, if bad weather continued.In the mean while one of the team member Dr, Parmanand expressed his desire to go down,as we was facing problem in eyesight willingly.
20 October Day 5: Madhyamaheshwar - Kachni Dhar
We woke at 6:00 am to the sound of temple bells, the sky was clear and sunlight on the hills was soothing.A good sign to go ahead.Sipping hot tea i could see the depression of Kachini Dhar, our destination looming in the distance.After having breakfast of hot parathas and Ginger chutney we hit the trail behind the temple at 8:30 am..
Birds view of Temple enroute to Kachni Dhar
At one place we noticed, some metallic objects being strewn around, our guide said it was parts of a helicopter that had crashed in the sixties but the parts were still here. A reminder of the rugged terrain of the place the inhospitable condition or by thick fog might have caused this mishap.I remenbered seeing this during my previous visit to Nandikund in 2009 and during descent from Panpatia Col.
We climbed up through the grasslands and after 6 hours, crossing the mountain passes, crossing giant boulders reached dhar by 2:00 pm.Kachni dhar is where, i remembered again our decent from Panpatia Col Expedition.The wind was blowing and was chilly.
We walked down on the slippery path and reached the campsite next to perennial stream overlooking valley, dominated by snowclad mountains.The sheperds with their livestock, had descended as winter had set in.
It the evening, we expereinced a snowfall and night was too cold with wind chill.We imagined , how cold it could be on the higher reaches. We heard experiences of a solo Bengali trekker,with guide who had aborted his trek and had just returned from Pandavasera. All were dog tired, we were served hot soup for night.After a quick dinner, we slided into sleeping bags by 6:30 pm.
21 October Day 06: Kachni Dhar - Pandavsera
The morning was clear with blue skies,with paboramic view of Mountain peaks and valley. We started early as the route was supposed to be challenging since it involved crossing gorges.Our guide repeatedly mentioned to me about them, appearances are deceptive.The valley though looks nearer, it takes not less than 8 -10 hours. Hence I knew that it was a matter not to be taken lightly.
We walked through the mountain side.During every turn, curiosity was mounting up.The valley looked deep with steep descents and ascents.The crossing of gorges involved walking precariously up and down the mountain slopes holding grass and cracks , hopping over slippery, loose boulders definitely not a very pleasant situation.
Every time climbing up,The descent was around one km and half and it took me an hour think or maybe more,We [assed through Rhododendron bushes,We were stopped by butterflies fluttering in the grasslands, a pair of Common Leopard , a lonely Geranium flower smiling at me, a sapphire butterfly commonly known as Heliophorous bakeri.
Nature at its Best
Finally we reached the base and then had to cross the stream,we suddenly there was a climb ahead. We sat gazing the waterfalls and quenched our thirst in ice cold water.
In the distance on the hill tops, a tree with pink flowers of Cherry waving to the tune of humming bumble bees drew my attention. I zoomed my camera lens and with lot of difficulty was able to get few images.
It was already 5 pm.The grassland in the valley was brightly illiminaated by a spot light and snow clad peaks in the foreground was drenched in gold colour.The valley was wide and walk amidst huge boulders was never ending.We crossed the Madhuganga river over a makeshift bridge and climbed up the ridge to reach our campsite.Curiosity mounted, crossing hills and finally we were happy, once we spotted our tents pitched next to a frozen lake in the end of the valley.
We were fortunate to spot, a pair of Himalayan fox, who were on prowl as darkness fell. We were at Pandavsera. A unique valley surrounded by towering mountains and the river in between glowing in the setting sun. Elevation read 12,470 ft.
Our porter sirdar Sunil Negi said that as per mythology Pandav Sera , was the place where the Pandava’s stayed and cultivated the place in the course of their wanderings . Hence the visitor is pleasantly suprised to see wide grassy plains in the midst of towering ice clad peaks .
22 October Day 7 Trek from Pandavasera to Nandikund
As sun rays kissed the valley I got engaged in photographing a grey wagtail, which drew our attention, nearby a glacial pond. We started our hike towards Nandikund. We walked around two kms through the valley. crossing streams till finally we reached the edge of it and then started the climb yet again. to climb zig zag mountain ridge, it was tiring and tested the limit and endurance. Elevation read 3900 mts..
We could see few Brahmakamals that had surviving in the harsh winter on the rocky outcrops, standing tall against the morning sunlight.
I was indeed fortunate to have come across them. After a climb of around 2 kms we reached the top of the ridge and crossed over leaving Pandav sera behind. Elevation read as 4210 mts.
Mount Kedardome 6832 M
From here we had a glimpse of Kedar dome , Chaukhamba massif and other Himalayan Peaks glittering in the morning sunlight. We pressed forward after a short break to quench our thirst. After a treacherous route through the mountain slopes I descended into the cavity between mountains and there lay NandiKund hidden at an elevation of 4500 mts.
On a sunny day enroute to Nandikund
We walked on the snowfield and traversed the snow slopes untill we reached the gully which led us to frozen lake, steeped in mythology.On one of the slopes I could spot a lonely Finch, brown in color - Known as Brown capped Rosy Finch, surving in the winter by feeding on worms next to lake.
Panoramic View of Hight Altitude Lake
My first sight of the shimmering frozen lake as I came up to it from after crossing the snow slope was nothing short of magical . All our efforts and long wait was paid off as we were able to reach here.We felt we were fortunate to be in land of Pandavas. I was joyful and with emotions, sincerely I am unable to put it in words, the place moves you and after the long walk through rains ,harsh weather ,mist , snow , ridges ,mountains , forests one will witness this sight. A sight to behold.Indeed !.
The long wait unfolds, to those who have the will to reach out here and the true nature lovers are presented with sights that are etched in their memory forever. A expereince to cherish for lifetime !…
Nandikund , a high altitude lake situated in glacial terrain provides splendid views to those who come here . The lake is fed by the snows by the towering peaks all around on the mountains and there is a river that originates from this lake which flows downwards towards pandav sera and beyond.
There is a small shrine built here, with tridents of Shiva, swords said to be of Pandavas and is worshipped by local villagers and trekkers who visit the sacred lake.
We camped above the lake, overlooking chaukamba peak.The night was cold and windy.A natural rocky cave served as makeshift kitchen.After paying our respects to the gods, we had a quick dinner and retired at 6;00 pm as it was too cold.
23 October Day 8: Nandi Kund - Ghiya Vinayak - Barma Bugiyal
As we had used our reserve day, due to bad weather and had to stick to Itinerary, it was long day. A walk of 10 hours was planned. We decided to start at 8:00 am in the morning with pack lunch The first target was to ascent to Ghiya Vinayak Pass. The pass was marked by Cairns and not visible from our campside.
I could see, Tava and Tavani Pass, as told by guide thaat leads to Rudranath shrine.Which is one of the Panchkedar.The route was extremely hard and treacherous and involved walking or rather I would say hopping over huge boulders and to do this without a knowledgeble guide is definitely not even to be imagined.
If weather goes bad, then it is sure to get lost out here and wander off into the various trails that lead into the surrounding mountains.Our guide mentioned groups being lost and rescued earler.
We walked snow slopes, have to covered a distance of 3 km uphill till we reached elevation 15,400 feet which was at the pass and from here, on a clear day one could see the entire Himalayan Range including Nanda Devi , trishul and other glittering peaks in the distance.
On the Snowfield enroute to Ghiyu Vinayak Pass
Members Celebrating at Ghiyu Vinayak Pass 15,400 feet
We waited until, all members and porters made upto pass, then after we offered prayers to the mountain gods and congragulated each other for all support. It was traversing from Rudraprayag district to Chamoli.Before the descent from the pass I looked back once again to get a glimpse of mountain peaks and towards the lake which was not in sight anymore.
The descent from Ghiya Vinayak was also treacherous, a 70 degree slope, snow condition being slippery and totally boulder ridden zone as I walked last my way slowly and till we reach Vaitrani covering a distance of around 2.0 km which marked the base of the descent.
At one point i slipped on one of the slopes and self arrested using technique using my ice axe that i learnt in my BMC course at NIM.Our body used to go down under hollow snow pits upto waist and was tiring to come out.
We found a temple of Vaitarani beside a waterbody and elevation recorded was 14,200 feet. From here we had to go down on mixed snow and boulder zone in different stages, until we were reached rolling hills, the elevation dropped sharply and soon we reached Barma Bugyal. Elevation recorded was 12,200 feet. We could see our tents pitched on the grassland, and walking on the soft grass was a great feeling !
We slept early asual and we were told that next day is upposed to be of 10 - 12 hours walk non stop
24 October Day 9: Barma Bugiyal - Manpai Bugyal - Bansi Narayan
Leaving behind the snow capped mountains,we started descent on the slippery slope.After crossing the stream we climbed uphill until we reached a shrine called Achrikona , dedicated to the forest goddess , this shrine lay on the mountain slope
We rested for a while and sipping water,continued our journey, we crossed Manpai Bugyal, a steep descent along the grassland until we reached the river.After crossing the river over a makeshift log bridge rested for a while for hot lunch.
A steep climb along the forest, full of Birch, Rhododendron forest and after crossing the mountain ridge brought us to Bansinarayan after around three km walk.It was already dark, our porters had already reached campsite site located at an elevation of 11.600 feet.
After walking for 10 hours with last member in the group, Jaspal.we were welcomed and offered hot soup and Pakoras beside campfire.
After having hot Kichidi we crashed after a chit chat beside Campfire.All were busy calling their kith and kin, near and dear , as network was available.
25 October Day 10: Bansi Narayan - Urgam Village
We woke up early to the chirping sound of birds.A grand view mountains greeted us in a line,It was a sight to behold and was before us.The eastern sky was dark, the entire great Himalayan Range including Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghunti , Dronagiri , Trisul and various other peaks was visible in the distance.After visiting Temple and paying respects to the Lord, we started the descent.
View from Bansi Narayan
Goddess of Bliss Nandadevi
It was a perfect silhoutte, the valley was dark with mist enveloping the valley.The sun rose behind the Nandadevi peak, gave a golden touch to the Northern ridge.A divine light indeed to behold !.
The bliss giving Nandadevi highest peak in the entire, range of peaks was dominating the valley.The light and shadow with play of colors continued until, sun rays lit the valley.
Dawn lit Mountains
The first rays of sun illuminated the shrine of Bansinarayan built in Nagara style.The trees, Mountain peaks, every blade of grass and looked elegant !
Grand View Himalayan Peaks
The mountain peaks greeted us in different hues and colors as we descended the slopes.
View of Dunagiri
View of Nanda Devi
View of Dunagiri and Changbang
The descent was quite rapid and tiring too hence it takes a toll on the knees. We stopped admiring never ending views and appreciating the flora and fauna.The houses, constructed using wood and stone roof was architectural marvels. By afternoon we were at Urugam village. We were greeted by the village folk, as it was the first group to cross pass successfully during winter, and were happy to see us at Urgam.
After a short break and passing through the urgam village we reached Devgram village, in a shortwhile.It was after 10 days we were back to habitation. After a quick lunch, crossing the river over a hanging bridge we visited the temple of Kalpeshwar - One of the Panchkedar. Our journey finally had come to an end !
Shrine of kalpeshwar
We traveled for 5 Hours and reached Nanda Prayag and stayed overnight.
26 October Day 11 Nandaprayag to Jolly Grant Airport - Dehradun
We started at 6:30 Am, our intension was to reach as early as possible to Airport.
After a hot lunch and few stops we reached Airport by 3:00 pm.