Meet on arrival and transfer to your hotel. After an overnight flight, recovering from jet lag by a dip in the the swimming pool is rejuvenating and if one still has the energy to sample India, Delhi has a lot to offer. Overnight in hotel.
Leave Delhi at dawn as the city starts to come to life, and transfer to the train station to board the 07.10 hrs Shatabdi Express to Haridwar, arriving there at 11.10hrs. One reaches Haridwar in 4 hours – one of the holiest of Hindu cities, , and the place where the Ganges enters the plains of India. One reaches Rishikesh in time for lunch and after a well-earned siesta and rest one can explore the many Ashrams along the banks of the Ganges. At sunset, at Triveni Ghat one can join the pilgrims in a religious ritual of floating a little boat of candle and incense on the river Ganges, in a spectacular ceremony called the Ganga Aarti ! Overnight in hotel.
One starts early for the long drive upwards of the Ganges and Alaknanda rivers to Joshimath, travelling along an asphalt road that takes the pilgrims in buses and cars but many holy men still walk this route as a pilgrimage. The road is often torturous but you get spectacular views of the Ganges and Alaknanda rivers and their steep banks and hillsides. A convenient place on the banks of the river can be chosen for lunch before reaching Joshimath. Overnight stay in hotel.
After the long drive yesterday one must take it easy for the day, and take time to acclimatize and explore this town. Joshimath is an interesting little town, a pilgrimage staging post, it is perched on a steep slope several hundred metres above the river and is usually teeming with pilgrims preparing to go on the last stage up the Alaknanda gorge to Badrinath higher up. But there are important shrines here too, especially the Narsingh temple complex, and the temple and ancient tree under which the great Hindu philosopher Shankaracharya gained enlightenment. Overnight in hotel.
On taking the road leading east following the Dhauli Ganga River to Lata – a small village just past where the Rishi Ganga River meets the larger Dhauli Ganga. After a five hour drive takes one to the village of Tapovan, and a hot springa short distance away! Lata is our trail head and the dirt road continues north along the Dhauli Ganga to Malari The camp at Lata is on the road side in field. Overnight in tents.
The first day’s trek is a hard climb above Lata village to Lata Kharak. A Kharak is a summer pasture and often an area of grazing just above the tree line. The stiff climb takes us one through Rhododendron, Oak and “Chir” pine forest, emerging onto the grassland at just under 13,000 ft/ 4000 metres. However, an early start and a slow steady pace will make it an enjoyable climb through Himalayan forests and one’s first opportunity to observe its diverse flora and fauna. Overnight in tents.
The gain in height to that of a major alpine peak will be noticeable to the trekkers, so the day shall be spend enjoying the views from the Kharak, and acclimatising the bodies. To acclimatise a two hour trek to Seni Kharak is recommended,from where one gets the first views of Nanda Devi and the formidable Rishi Gorge. Return to Lata Kharak for the night. Overnight in tents.
The day will be utilized to cross the first pass – Dharansi Khal at 13,943 ft / 4250 metres. It is part of a ridge coming down from the great Dunagiri range above and a watershed between the Dhauli and Rishi Ganga rivers. From here one contours round to reach the meadows of the Dharansi plateau. Due to scarcity of water it is not recommended to camp here. One walks across the Dharansi plateau to descend steeply to a beautiful grazing pasture at Debrugheta. It is a long descent of about 3 hours which ends at a stream. On crossing over and after a short climb one arrives at the campsite. Overnight in tents.
Debrugheta the rest camp is perched above the great gorge which Shipton described as “one of the loveliest spots it had ever been his good fortune to behold” and Tilman described it more graphically as “a horizontal oasis in a vertical desert”. The pasture was used by shepherds but beyond this point locals never ventured before 1934. Overnight in tents.
Making the way up the great gorge of the Rishi Ganga the trek on this is fairly easy, with plenty of ups and downs as the trail makes its way into the gorge. The Rishi Ganga is crossed at Deodi on what Hamish Brown in the seventies described as a ‘doddery bridge’!. This is the next campsite. In reality altitude has been lost going down the gorge. Overnight in tents.
Working the way up and contouring up the gorge on the southern bank, one reaches Ramni and the campsite which is a small level area between the cliffs and the raging torrent of the Rishi Ganga. The camp is named after the Ramni River that joins the Rishi Ganga from the North from the Ramni Glacier flowing from Changabang. Overnight in tents.
This is the crucial stage of entry into the Sanctuary. Above Rhamani is the great box canyon i.e a canyon whose sides rise vertically from the waters of the river. Before this Longstaff and Graham had turned back but Shipton and Tilman with their three sherpas explored and found cracks and gullies across the rock slabs, often sheer drops of hundreds of meters to the river below. Eventually this took them above their “Pisgah” or Promised Land buttress into the Sanctuary. Today’s trekking takes us into a different dimension and Hamish Brown commented that “one expects the spectacular and the difficult when climbing – not walking!” The trail has been blazed, but it will take nerves and determination on the part of all trekkers to win through. Depending on the weather conditions one could camp at a slab platform now known as Tilchaunani but if time permits a better camp a little higher and over some more rock slabs is at Patalkakhan. The altitude is almost at 14,763 ft/ 4500 metres and one has entered the Inner Sanctuary. Overnight in tents.
From the camp Nanda Devi towers 10,000 ft/ 3000 metres immediately above the campsite. For Shipton the excitement of being in totally unexplored country was unsurpassable as he said, “each corner held some thrilling secret to be revealed for the trouble of looking”. Near the camp is the junction of two rivers that join to form the Rishi Ganga. One heads to the north of Nanda Devi, and up into the northern half of the Sanctuary. This is the direction Shipton and Tilman took on their first entrance. When they came back after the monsoon of 1934 they explored the southern half. Following the southern river that Tilman’s 1936 expedition took we shall follow this route to our camp at Nanda Devi south base. Overnight in tents.
One now has three days to explore the Sanctuary. One has several options and if the weather remains good, one can explore the glaciers to the south of Nanda Devi or head south to where Shipton and Tilman made their dramatic exit in 1934. Alternatively, one could cross the Rishi River and explore the Northern Sanctuary and view the tremendous North face of Nanda Devi. Overnights in tents.
Exploration of Inner Sanctuary .
Exploration of the Inner Sanctuary .
After the three days of exploration of the Inner Sanctuary one begins the thrilling descent. Making use of a small campsite already passed -on the ascent at a place where tent spaces have been cut out of the slope. This is a spectacular setting looking out across the sheer cliffs of hundreds of metres on the northern side of the gorge. Overnight in tents.
One negotiates on the way down, the now familiar but no less exhilarating slabs of rock to regain the more normal trekking ground at Ramni, continuing past the old camp back to Deodi where the gorge was crossed on our way up. Overnight in tents.
After having crossed the Rishi Ganga one retraces the steps contouring the gorge on the northern bank. Passing the alpine meadows at Dribugheta again, one makes the steep climb up to Dharansi. Overnight in tents.
Today once again one makes the way over the pass and with the Dhauli Ganga again in view far below, as one passes through Lata Kharak. Descending through the forest one camps again at Lata. Overnight in tents.
Finding the vehicles in the morning and driving back to Joshimath one can take a dip at the hot springs outside Tapovan. Overnight at the comparatively luxurious Uday Palace Hotel.
The long drive back to Rishikesh through the narrow valleys is a hard journey, made pleasurable by the increasing warmth as one descends again into the foothills. Just 30 Kms short of Rishikesh one stops and camps on the silver sands on the banks of the river in a rafting camp aptly named Camp Nirvana. Overnight in camp.
From the camp, white water rafting with fully trained staff is the next highlight. This is a wonderful way to wind down from our strenuous trek, gently floating down the Ganges with the occasional excitement of a rapid and passing temples set in subtropical forests. In the evening one drives to Haridwar railway station to board the overnight train to Delhi in first class coaches. Overnight on train.
On arrival we will transfer to the Oberoi Maidens Hotel. Rest of the day at leisure. In the late evening we transfer by taxi to the airport.
We board our flight at Delhi airport for our flight home.
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