India Journal VIX

10/17/04: 1216  Jhenjhipani to Pana

                        Today              Total

Ascent              3,040               24,943

Descent            1,110               23,853


Left camp at Jhenjhipani about 8 AM and headed down in to the valley where the Barandi Ganges River runs.  We crossed the river on a suspension bridge about 400 ft above the river.  The bridge looked old, but solid enough.   The walking surface on the bridge was covered with dirt from which tufts of grass grew.  At a couple of spots along the bridge you could look straight down through four inch diameter holes and see the river below.  Trust and faith are wonderful things. 

After crossing the bridge we started a steep switch back climb of around 3,000 ft passing the small town of Pana (Prem’s home town) on the way to camp.  This area is known for its nomadic sheep herders who live in the hill and bring there wool products to the local summer markets.  We passed a family of herders a couple of kilometers past Pana.  There were a couple of young boys and their father living in a cave formed by two large boulders.  Brush and sticks were piled up in front of the rock to provide a little weather protection.  They seemed to find us at least as interesting as we found them.

We set up camp about 800 ft above and three kilometers past town on the trail to Kauri Pass.  It has been another beautiful near cloudless day.

Enjoying some sweat black tea sitting in my Therma-rest chair looking at the snow covered peaks of the southern tip of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary watching Prem Singh Negi crack and eat some fresh walnuts he picked up in the forest below the horses are grazing on some green grass in a meadow below a nomad Sheppard boy of six or seven years of age sits about 20 feet to my right watching me write in my journal I have absolutely no idea of what is going on in the world nor do I particularly care I have no way of even contacting the outside world in about ten minutes I will walk about 100 yards up the trail to a small crystal clear Himalayan spring and wash up then I will take a short nap before watching the sun set eating dinner and going to sleep at 8 PM my brain is not thinking in periods and commas.  Tomorrow I think will ditto that.


10/18/04: 1216  Pana over Kauri Pass

                        Today              Total

Ascent              5,600               30,543

Descent            2,840               26,293


LONG DAY!! We have two very long hard days before we reach our next town.  Today nature trumped man.  I can recall three scenes that leave a lasting impression. One of destruction, one of grace and one of static beauty.

On my map, which was printed in Delhi in 2001, in direct view of our current position there is a large lake, Gohna Tal, which forms at the confluence of the Pulgadhera and the Birani Ganges Rivers.  Gohna Tal is one of about 100 lakes shown in the Kendernath and Nanda Devi Sanctuaries of the Himalayas, but it is the largest of all the lakes shown on the map.  Based on the map scale it looks to be about three miles long and ¼ to ½ mile wide.  The thing is, it isn’t there.  It is gone. 

As we hiked up the canyon wall we had a clear view of the process that both led to the formation of the lake in some past geologic time, and the current event that wiped the lake off the map.  On the west wall of the canyon, there had been an enormous rock and earth slide long ago.  The mountain above was scalloped out forming a funnel from which the earth poured like sand from an hour glass filling the canyon below.  This massive earth slide followed gravity in to the base of the canon where it formed a natural dam, and Gohna Tal was born.  Just a few years ago this region experienced epic monsoons.  During this flooding the earth moved again, this time washing away natures dam and returning the canon to its original state.  The difference this time was that humans were present to both witness and be victims of natures destructive power.  An entire village down stream was washed away and many people were lost.  Our current vantage point would have made great seats to view both events. 

As we climbed toward tree line we came across a nesting area of the Himalayan Eagle.  There were 15-20 birds either in the trees or circling above.  With their wings spread, and banking 50 feet over our head, their grace and power captured your attention.  They seemed oblivious to us.  One eagle was perched on the top of a tree about 30 feet off the trail on the down hill side.  Where it sat was horizontally level with our position.  I held the cameral for several minutes waiting for it to lift off so I could get a full wind span picture.

Not to dispel any of the romance of the moment, but neither Raten (who identified the birds as a Himalayan Eagles) nor any of the rest of us are birders.  According to the wildlife book the Himalayan Eagle is neither an eagle nor what we saw. 

What is called a Himalayan Eagle is actually a bird called the Northern Hobby Hawk.  We were either looking at a Himalayan Vulture or an eagle called the Crest Serpent Eagle.












Real Himalayan Eagle or Northern Hobby Hawk










We continued on upward for a while and then began traversing the right hand side of the valley where the Pulgadhera River runs down from Kauri Pass.  As we began to descend to the river the cliffs on our right become wetter with frequent small waterfalls cascading down the rock. With combinations of emerald moss, yellow and green ferns, leaves in various crimson shades, evergreen pines and water I almost expected a school of tropical fish to come swimming by. Even though it was a little cool and I’m a notorious cold water wimp, I couldn’t resist a shower in one of the more colorful falls.




Showering on the way to Kauri Pass






After crossing the Pulgadhera River we ascended to our planned camp site for the night at Dokwani.  It was still fairly early in the day and after eating lunch, Raten asked if we thought we could continue and do Kauri Pass today.  Having learned some Hindi from our guide we replied “Ya,Ya”, which really meant we have no idea, but why not.


The summit of Kauri Pass is over 14,000 ft and has some of the most incredible views of the planets high peaks that exist anywhere.  The south side of the pass was barren except for grass and rocks, but once we crested the pass, the world turned to white.  The snows of the previous week covered the ground as we continued to ascend to our high point for the day.  The views were as billed in the guide book, incredible!!!  In front of us were at least ten peaks over 20,000 ft.











Dunagiri on left and Nanda Devi on right from east of Kauri Pass










We dropped a few thousand feet until we were below the snow line and made camp in an alpine meadow with a couple of small streams running through the meadow.  Seven and half hours, 5,600 ft of climbing and 28 kilometers later we lay down on our sleeping bag and waited for our hot tea.


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