You’ll be leaving Haridwar at 6.30 am and driving to Joshimath. The drive is a beautiful one. You’ll reach Joshimath at around 6.00 pm.
Dhak is around 11 km from Joshimath. The drive usually takes around 45 minutes. Dhak has a few grocery stores and a dhaba.
The trek begins with an ascending, dirt trail that leads away from the main road, towards Tugasi village. This is the trail going inside the village. You will reach a T point where you need to take a sharp left. The trail goes through a series of level walks and gradual ascents along farms. The mountain ridge here is barren with few or no presence of snow-fall in winter season. Look out below for Dhauli-Ganga River forging its way past Vishnugad-Tapovan Hydro Power Station. The trail is well defined and meanders along the mountain ridge with a series of steep and gradual ascents. Observe a rain shelter at a distance ahead on the trail. This shelter is the first landmark of the trek before reaching Kharchi Village. This takes around 20 minutes to reach.
At the rain shelter, the trail turns sharply to the right and you’ll have the valley to your left. You can see it curving around the mountains up ahead. The trail for the next 45 minutes ascends gradually, with a few switch backs in between. It leads you to Lower Tugasi. You will find multiple trails leading out of Lower Tugasi. Take the one that goes past the two water based flour mills and turns steeply to the left.
The trail today ascends all the way to Khullara but it’s not as steep as the previous day. Within 40 minutes of starting from Guling, you reach the first clearing. You will be surrounded by oak forests on all sides. Continue on the trail leading into the forest. You will reach the second clearing after about an hour. All this time, you will cross small streams along the trail. The water in them is clean and you can drink it.
The trail from Khullara begins to climb steeply out of the tree line. In 1-1.5 hours you reach a ridge, which is a part of Lord Curzon’s trail. From here 360 degree views of the Himalayas open up before you. On one side you see Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Dronagiri, Nilgiri and Hathi Ghoda peaks. Straight ahead of you are Trishul and parts of Nanda Devi. Continue on this trail to reach the upper grasslands of Kuari Pass.
From the ridge, trek up to Kuari top. This is a moderate climb with a few switch backs. It will take you 40 minutes to reach the top. A gradually descending trail from here will bring you to Kuari Pass in about 40 minutes.
From Kuari Pass, retrace your way back to the ridge. Once you reach the ridge, walk along ahead instead of turning towards Khullara. An hour’s moderate climb will bring you to Jhandi top, which is on top of the ridge. The views from Jhandi top are even better that what you get at Kuari Pass.
From Jhandi Top, start descending towards the Chitrakantha meadows. This is a forest trail and the mountains get hidden behind the tall trees. You will reach Chitrakantha in 1-1.5 hours. From Chitrakantha, you get 180 degree views of the mountains. Dronagiri is again very prominent here.
Begin the trek today with a moderate climb to Tali lake. This should take you around 40 minutes. At Tali lake, you’re above the tree line so you start getting mountain views again.
A 20 minutes steep climb from Tali lake brings you to an overhanging trail which cuts through a cliff. Continue on this trail. You can spot Lower and Upper Tugasi villages way below in the valley and also see rhododendron forests form above. After about 40 minutes of moderate ascent, the overhanging trail ends abruptly at Gorson Bugyal.
At Gorson Bugyal, the trail turns sharply to the left. Wide mountain views open up to the right and behind you. You will trek across the entire length of Gorson Bugyal, which gives you enough time to savour the views. This is a lovely, descending walk. In 2-2.5 hours you will reach Padiyar. From here, the trail enters an oak forest. Within 15 minutes you reach Padiyar temple. You can take a break here if you wish.
From Padiyar temple, the trail continues to descend. Upper Auli, which is the end of the ski lift (number 10), appears in 10-15 minutes. Auli is 1,000 ft below this. You will reach after gradually descending through the meadows for 1-1.5 hours. The trail in this section is quite populated.
Once you you reach Auli, get to GMVN. Take the exit here to the parking lot and get a vehicle to head back to Joshimath.
Please note, the Kuari Pass trek has issues related to availability of water in the natural water sources. Campsites may vary at times depending on availability of water.
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If you’re trekking to the Himalayas from late December to February, you will need to take five layers of warm clothes with you – two sweaters, two fleece jackets and one padded jacket. Carry a pair of thermals for using at night.
Another thing you should carry is a poncho, as it might rain or snow at any time. Of course, a trekking pole will help greatly on a winter trek as well.
Diamox, Dexamethasone and Nifedipine are life-saving medicines. You MUST carry them with you.