Sunday, November 15, 2009

activity week - kuari pass - 3

This is a peak whose name I do not know. We could see it from the pass, although Nanda Devi was not visible until later. Below is Nanda Devi, a mountain held by Hindus to be very sacred. The Garhwal Himalaya is steeped in Hindu mythology. Darab says that some of the old men still refuse to believe that Nanda Devi has been climbed (it was in 1936 by Tilman and Odell) because mortals could surely not enter the dwelling place of the gods and live.

Indeed such mountains are immensely stirring and one feels an awakening need to worship. It is humbling to wander in the looming presence of such wild danger and heights. It was not a simple walk to get as high as we did, but we topped out a bit higher than the pass, at about 3800 meters or so. Nanda Devi's peak is at 7816 meters, about four kilometers above our highest point.

Below is one of the bridges we crossed. An earthquake made short work of this bridge, which did not seem very old. It is unfortunately common for such structures to be made poorly. A government contractor cuts a few corners to pocket a few rupees. This particular location is very remote and rugged, not a friendly location for a bridge. The region is earthquake prone, and we had to scramble around several broken bridges, one of which had been crushed beneath cottage-sized boulders. When I think of that power, it almost seems worth it to live there until it happens again, just to watch. The river-bed was dry, but in monsoon it evidently warrants a bridge.
And of course we had sunsets all week.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

activity week - kuari pass - 2

I am trying to post more pictures from my hike. The fact is, I took some 800 pictures and I am rather fond of fifty or more. The setting was very generously picturesque, which helped. The above picture was taken at our first view of Kuari Pass, which is the low spot in the top right corner of the picture, on the second ridge, directly above the tree in the foreground. This was a couple of days in to the hike.
Below is a picture of the trail right at the beginning of the hike. Our jeeps dropped us off the first night just across the river from the small village that is visible in this picture. The trail we walked is part of an ancient trade route linking Tibet and India. Much of the path (Darab figured it to be 58 kilometers that we walked) was constructed as shown in the picture, with shale or schist slabs stacked on edge to give a rough but very durable trail. It was not always easy to walk on, but I suppose that in the monsoon rains it would nicely help to meet one's need of not falling off the mountain.

We saw a great deal of this rock, schist, a metamorphic of shimmering appearance. In some places, the path was covered with a fine sparkling dust looked wet in the sunlight. Often there were heaps of it shining beautifully and crushing together like some forgotten treasure.

This is a picture of tufts of grass where people cannot be bothered to gather them. In India, it is no easy task to venture beyond the territory of the ubiquitous fodder cutters. Just when you feel like a rugged adventurer, you see some ancient lady carrying a ten-foot tall pile of grass on her back.
This is the pass from right below. We still had a few zigs and zags, but we could see victory in the blue of the sky. Of course, we still had a great deal of climbing to do after passing the pass, which inspired one student to note that reaching the pass was somewhat anticlimactic. I told him that was the whole point of a pass.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

activity week - kuari pass

I'm back from my activity week Himalayan trek to Kuari Pass in eastern Garhwal, where I had the privilege of beholding some fantastic views of Nanda Devi, a mountain named after a Hindu goddess. The trek was six days of invigoratingly fresh air and breathtaking altitudes. All went well and we didn't freeze or starve or fall into a gorge or get eaten by leopards or mauled by bears.