Pangarchulla Peak in early spring

Spring is one of the best times to trek in the Himalayas. In early March, you could find the entire mountain to yourself. Late in March and April is great as well and the snow conditions yield to venturing higher into the mountains. 

We had a week of school holidays in late March. It so happened that we had two office holidays during Holi and good Friday in that week. Taking a few days off would give us the entire week off ! So, we decided to grab that opportunity to head for a trek. We wanted to find a trek that is challenging enough to keep our little son engaged that could be done during spring. After a bit of research, we decided on Pangarchulla Peak.

Pangarchulla peak at 4570m, a little over 15,100 feet is in the Nanda Devi National Park and is a great summit climb which is reasonably difficult and exciting, but not a technical one requiring mountaineering skills. To top that, the trek offers great views of an entire Amphitheater of mountains right from the 7000ers like the great Nanda Devi (7816m), Chaukhamba, Kamet (7756m), Trishul, Dronagiri and a while bunch of beautiful 6000ers like Hathi Parbat (6727m), Nilgiri Parbat (6474m), Mandir Parbat (6559m), Gorur Parvat (6504m) and so on. 

Spring is the best time to climb peaks like these with similar elevation and geography as they are covered with snow and you don’t have to worry climbing over moraines and boulders that drain your energy, stress your knees and make them technical. Coming down is also easier as you could slide down the slopes of the mountain which is way more relaxed and fun than climbing down over boulders and slippery scree.

Five of us decided on this trek and the best choice was Himalayan Shelter who are the best for private treks and can customise to the last bit to make it fun for all and giving the best opportunity for a summit attempt. We had a great team of qualified guides Nitin, the highly experienced Veeru and the cheerful helper, Pintu.

Day 1

We started from Dehradun in the morning, visited Devprayag, which is the Sangam (merging) of the two great rivers, the mild Alaknanda originating from Satopanth area and turbulent Bhagirathi, originating off Gaumukh, Gangotri glacier. They become the great river Ganga after merging. This place is also home to Raghunathji Temple (Ram and Sita), which is one of the 108 Divya Desam (Vishnu Temples) sung by Alwars.

Pangarchulla peak
Pangarchulla peak

We reached Joshimath late in the evening and checked into an excellent guest house where a delicious dinner was prepared in a jiffy by the excellent cook Pappu, who accompanied us during the trek. 

Day 2

After a relaxed night’s sleep, we woke up early to get a darshan of the Narsingh temple in Joshimath, which is also the winter seat of Badrivishal Ji. We returned back and had a sumptuous hot breakfast and tea outdoors warming ourselves up in the morning sun. 

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It was time to pack the bags and get ready for the trek. It was Holi day and we had a few colourful encounters enroute our starting point through the villages of Dhak, Tapovan, Karchi to Tugasi. Our local guide, Roopesh, who was an expert in the area and typically summits Pangarchulla multiple times a year joined us here. Depending on the season and what gets opened, your campsites will vary. We intended to camp at Gulling as the first campsite, but it hadn’t opened up yet. So we headed towards Akhrot Ghetta. 

Right at the start, we saw flour mill driven by water power grinding wheat into flour. See pictures below.

The starting elevation is around 2490m. Throughout the day, Mount Dronagari (7066m) keeps you company and you will its full face in different hues.

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This is a very short trek though a forest crossing a small stream.

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The scenery opens up and you’ll see man speaks like Hanuman, Rishi Kot, Raunthi, Hathi Parbat, Barmal, etc. It was a very short trek. We started around 11.30 am and reached before 2 pm for a delicious hot lunch.

The many hues of Mount Dronagiri from Akrot Ghetta keep you company for the remainder of the day.

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himalayashelter.com

Day 2

After a peaceful night’s rest, we started to Khullara the next day, which was also a very short trek. Couple of hours into the trek, you start encountering snow and eventually the rest of the trek is plodding through the snow. The entire trek took took a bit less than 4 hours. We camped at Khullara, 3330m.

Here’s a good doggie that decided to accompany us in the trek and a beautiful Rhododendron bloom.

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More peaks can be seen enroute. The granite of dome of Kamet and Mandir Parvat below.

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Some pictures from the day’s trek.

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Kauri Pass is done as a day trek from here and is very popular in all seasons. The big box companies have fixed campsites at Khullara and many do the Kauri Pass trek. There was a set of folks who were planning to attempt Pancharchulla the next day leaving around 1 am. We also met a few other folks who were just returning back trying to attempt the peak, but had to stop short before the summit due to deep snow. Being early in the season, everyone camped at lower Khullara as the horses carrying that gear go only that far due to snow. There is another campsite higher up that you could camp when the snow melts.

A view of Khullara and our team setting up the campsite.

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Some one slide stepping up the slope diligently and skiing down.  Higher up above the tree line, there are great open slopes offering some great off-piste skiing.

Day 4

After a hot tea and hearty breakfast, we put on our gaiters and microspikes. Everyone looked super cool in yellow gaiters ! It is entirely snow from now on. This was a acclimatisation trek for us before the Peak attempt next day. We started in a relaxed way around 9.30 am. The plan was to do the Kuari Pass and return back for an early start the next day.

Right from the get to, the trail starts to climb. This is where the skier was skiing down yesterday.

Pictures from the folks starting their trek today.

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Around a hour and half into the climb, we are pretty much above the tree line with wide open slopes perfect for skiing. You can see the ski tracks in the pictures below. You can see the folks on the trail leading to the ridge. That’s the next goal to reach. There is a little top to our right where some folks had climbed. That way also leads to Thali campsite that was not yet open due to snow. 

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Once you hit the ridge, you make a left and at a far away distance, you are able to spot the Kauri Pass Top. See picture below. You can see a line of folks climbing. That was our goal for the day. It was not now around 12.30 pm, three hours into the trek.

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The below pictures show the entire trail through the snow with many folks enroute. 

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Srirang, Sridevi and the guide in the vast snow field below.

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We started walking a bit fast now. There were quite a few folks on the trail as the pass trek is easy and quite popular. With traffic on both directions, you had to step aside for folks to pass through.

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That’s the last climb to the top. It is pretty straight forward. We got there around 1.30 pm.

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The happy couple at the top !

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Wide open slopes to ski down. You can see the ski marks. These are probably left by someone on the way down from Pangarchulla.

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Below is another view of the Kauri Pass Top from a different angle. You can see the folks doing down towards their campsite. This was around 3.15 pm.

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That’s me and the Pangarchulla Peak behind. Our guide Roopesh is pointing towards it.

That’s about it for today. We had a great dinner as usual and hit our sacks for a early start tomorrow.

Day 5

Off to a early start with headlamps on a beautiful almost full moon day ! The snow was pretty good – not icy and not too soft. The microspikes gave us a good grip in this type of snow.

This is how it looks at 3am with moon at its peak!

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Its almost 6 am with most of the climb behind us ! Perhaps a little over an hour to the summit. Srirang with our guide Nitin. You can also see the moon above and the pink hues from the early sun rays.

More folks attempting the peak all the way below.

We’re now up the face of the peak criss crossing. Quite a few ridges to cross before the summit.

The first rays of sun.

Manoeuvring over some tricking patches.

One of the many ridges to cross. You can see the Peak behind. Probably 30 minutes to go.

Panoramic early morning vista. Its breathtaking !

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4470m now ! Taking a break.

View at 6.45 am and the way to the peak. Few more ridges with steep faces on both sides need to be crossed.

Peak can be seen at distance. Its almost a never ending climb !

Almost there. The guide is now escorting Srirang to be safe.

Here they go. This is how reaching the summit feels like ! You can see the flags fluttering and how the last part feels like. Summit at 7.12 am. Congratulations, Srirang !!

Summit ! The Altimeter shows 4570m !!

Some views from the Summit.

We started descending at 7.45 am. Other folks are starting to arrive at the summit.

One last view of the summit. Looking back at the vast expanse is amazing. That’s how far we came ! We can see the trail far away through the snow.

Our guide cutting some steps through some tricky sections to make it safer.

The little happy camper 🙂

Srirang was pretty fast and reached Khullara by 11.45am. I reached an hour late around 12.45 pm. I had a headache and had twisted my ankle a bit. Therefore walked a bit slowly.

Hot lunch and tea was waiting at the campsite. It was a great day and a well deserved afternoon break.

Day 6

A simple uneventful day. We trekked down the same path we had come and started driving back and I thought we were heading to the hotel. A great surprise was waiting for us ! We drove to a hot spring. There, out of the blue, out great team got a cooker out that contained biryani that they had prepared at the campsite. They heated that the hot spring.

Meanwhile the the driver had disappeared with the vehicle and I was wondering where he had gone. He got some cold dahi (curd) after 5 days of missing for the biryani and we had a delicious “hot lunch” at a beautiful place overlooking a gorge with a river running all the way down !

Our super team from Himalaya Shelter for this trek!!

After that we stopped to get a last hearty view of the great Nanda Devi ! You can’t return without relishing the mighty one !!

We halted for that night at Pipalkoti, past Joshimath. We had a nice refreshing bath after the trek. Himalaya Shelter choses hotels that have kitchen that their cook can dish out delicious meals for our team. We had our evening tea, snacks, delicious dinner.  After a peaceful night’s sleep, we had a delicious breakfast with fruits and curd, then headed back to Dehradun where caught the night train to Delhi, then caught an early morning flight back to Bangalore.

Another amazing trek experience with the great Himalaya Shelter team! We can’t wait for the next trek to Rupin Pass in June !!