index | intro | malari | kukina khal | pindari glacier | nainital


Fri 29 Oct: Bharari Bazaar–Loharket KMVN (1880m) (17km, 775m ascent)

It was a short ride to Song where we had agreed to rejoin Pankaj, and we arrived before we were expected. We were hailed as we arrived there and regaled with chai and biscuits.


When the mules were ready we set off, having proudly retained most of our baggage. Our destination was a mere 5km away.

But the road was unremittingly steep – 1:6 – with a bumpy rock surface. We were no faster than Pankaj and Chammu who were on foot. In a few spots the road had been washed away, and at the lowest of these an earth mover was making repairs.

The KMVN rest house is huge and fairly comfortable. What more there is to Loharket we have no idea; there are a couple of isolated houses, and some clustered together a km away.

Notes: ‘Loharket’ is stressed on its middle syllable. Trekkers to the Pindari valley generally reach the KMVN by motor transport and walk onwards. I’m impressed that motor vehicles can cope with the road.

17km is a very well judged day’s ride.


Nanda Kot



Sat 30: Loharket–Khatti (2240m) (19km, 1270m)

We were separated from our bikes for the climb to the pass: they were carried/pushed for us. Pankaj encouraged us to stop frequently for chai; Tracey, seeing discouraging signs in the weather, was in no mood to obey. So we set out on a brisk but pleasant trek to the top, Colin eventually finding the appeal of tea houses too strong to resist. Tracey reached the Dhakuri Khal while there were still views, though she had to share it with some noisy trekkers equipped with mobile phones, iPods, and raucous voices.

When the bikes arrived we set of on descent. At first not much was ridable until we came to an open meadow where there are a couple of tea houses and an official bungalow. Here we had lunch.

Beyond this point the gradients were gentler and we were mostly following a stony mule track, at least 50% ridable.



We stopped for chai at a tea house at the junction with the trail along the valley. From now on the route was almost entirely ridable and very pleasant. There are some very good views along the way.


Mule track

Pindari trail

We had a long pause drinking tea at Khatti village, and strolled among the old houses there; the hotel was a couple of hundred metres further on.

Notes: the hotel is run by Pankaj’s family, the Danu clan. A basic-looking lodge, the Annapurna, is on the trail a little before Khatti village, and has a wonderful situation.

Sun 31: Khatti–Phurkiya (3180m) (17km, 1230m)

A marvellous day. The first part, as far as Dwali, was about half ridable. Khatti itself is some way above the valley floor, but the trail at first ascends higher, skirting a huge landslide, and then makes a stony descent. After this the going is easier and flatter.

There is a welcome chai stop at a tea house at a bridge. The trail crosses to the true right bank and then ascends viciously on a well made stony surface. Look on this as a push with elements of carrying.

The going is easier for the next stage, the trail being hard earth with occasional entertaining stony outcrops, all quite high above the river. Eventually the path descends to a bridge, regaining the left bank at Dwali, a collection of tea houses together with a KMVN bungalow. This is where we had lunch. Cloud gathered ominously as we ate.



The final stage to Phurkiya showed a slightly steeper average gradient and consisted chiefly of pushing, but without any extended climbs.

The weather definitely wasn’t on our side. Spots of rain were followed by a volley of hail and then some wafty snow. Phurkiya was a welcome refuge. There’s nothing more there than a KMVN lodge and perhaps a basic hotel.

Mon 1 Nov: Phurkiya–Zero Point (3800m)–Dwali (2600m) (17km, 760m)

The highlight of the trip. A beautiful clear morning, though sufficiently cold. If you can’t begin the day with a swooping tarmac descent, at least in India you can always start with aloo paratha.

The first stretch was fairly steep and included an icy river crossing. Fortunately the guys offered to take our bikes; Chammu, who had carried our belongings to Phurkiya, was now unladen. Then the gradient eased and we took our bikes back. It was –1°.


The path to Zero Point


Pindari Glacier


Baba Ashram

The trail was now quite gentle: hard earth under the snow. We enjoyed a succession of superb views of Nanda Khat and Changuch, with the Pindari glacier flowing between them.


Before long we arrived at the Baba Ashram, permanently occupied by a swami who speaks good English and reads the Economist. Here we had a short rest and drank some welcome chai, this time clove-flavoured. The water barrel outside was frozen solid. We left our bikes for the remaining short distance to Zero Point.

The walk crosses the stream, now no more than a trickle, and quickly climbs the sharp-edged and crumbly moraine thrown down by the glacier. Zero Point is the point at which the path has crumbled away. The glacier itself is attractive, though said to be in very rapid retreat. We were told that the most recent attempts on Changuch and Nanda Khat had both been fatal, and that Chammu our porter had been in the summit party for one of the nearby mountains.

It was a quick walk back. We stayed longer at the Ashram this time, talking to the swami, and enjoying the sunshine and chai. The swami told us that a road was being built to connect Martoli to Munsiyari for defensive purposes, and that in a rather Irish fashion it was being built from Martoli southwards; it was due to be finished in 2011, though the 2010 monsoon may have disrupted plans.

Pindari trail

The swami told us we could photograph the barrel, which seemed an odd suggestion until he gestured to the bharal a short distance away.


The return

The return ride was a delight. The snow had thawed and the gradient was with us. The challenges posed by rocky sections were entertaining and nearly always surmountable. We had lunch at Phurkiya, Chammu picked up the bags, and we rode on to Khatti where we spent the night.

Some cloud which had arisen during the day cleared before sunset, leaving us with majestic views of Nanda Devi East.

Tues 2: Dwali–Khatti (11km, 300m)

Tracey at Khatti


A rest day. Some pleasant riding at first, then a push up the mule track skirting the landslip area outside Khatti, then lunch, then an afternoon lazing around.

Weds 3: Khatti–pass (2500m)–Kapkot (42km, 600m)

Today was hard. At first we rode/pushed along the mule track until the junction with the ascent to the Dhakuri Khal; but this time we instead followed the dirt road along the Pindari valley. It should have been easy going, but the monsoon had done terrible damage, and we were forever stopping to carry our bikes over fallen trees or landslips.

Pindari terraces

Nanda Kot

After a while there is a junction, with one leg following the valley further down (we don’t know how far), and the other climbing over a pass. Ours was the route to the pass. As we got higher the fallen trees became more numerous, and it was hardly worth getting into the saddle for the brief stretches between them. Pankaj and Chammu, meanwhile, were able to take short cuts, and seemed not to have been informed of how bad the road was that we were negotiating.

We crossed the pass and descended, taking an hour to cover the zigzagging road to a point which Pankaj and Chammu reached directly in 10 mins. After this they carried our bikes along footpaths to Khami village where we had lunch.

Conditions were not so bad for the afternoon. We rode along a slightly tortuous succession of vehicle-width tracks which – we assume – were standing in for the demolished road. Then we joined the road itself and set off on an easy descent. Before long we passed the last obstacle at the highest point being served by jeeps. Pankaj and Chammu stayed waiting for transport to arrive, and we enjoyed a merry descent, keeping our eyes open for camping opportunities at the lower end of the valley.

Inevitably Pankaj and Chammu passed us, and they greeted us at the entry to Kapkot, where they bought us chai and gave us back all our bags. They set off on their journey home, and we rode on looking for accommodation. Fortunately Kapkot PWD was empty, and gave us a comfortable and friendly stay.

Notes: the PWD had just received a fresh coat of paint. Its chowkidar was another member of the Danu clan. Unfortunately Diwali was coming and a temple with a loudspeaker was just outside the PWD; but with remarkable civility it ceased blasting its bollywood devotional music at 10.00pm.

The road across the pass had been completed in 2009, so the engineers must have been saddened to see it so comprehensively wrecked. There were no signs of repair work.

I’ve refrained from naming the pass, but I can tell you that it begins with a ‘g’. Mike calls it the ‘Geirey pass’. When I asked at Khami it was given a pronunciation not unlike ‘Gowrie pass’, and Pankaj then wrote this down as ‘Gavdri pass’. (A characteristic of the Kumaoni dialect is a tongue-flap intermediate between a ‘d’ and a rolled ‘r’; you often see references to ‘tadka dhal’.) Meanwhile the village on the north side of the pass which gives it its name is shown on the topo maps as something like ‘Guraph’.

index | intro | malari | kukina khal | pindari glacier | nainital