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Old 11th September 2012, 23:19   #1
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Default The Nanda Devi affair

(Title borrowed from Bill Aitken's book)
It is a long post, kindly bear with me.

It started in 2009. Me and a couple of my friends trekked to the Panchachuli base camp (~4500m) in the Himalayas. Though we had been born and brought up in the hills, and had been regular wanderers, the experience was an eye opener. The majesty of the Himalayas right before our eyes made us speechless. For the first time in our lives we realised the enormity of the mountains that we saw literally everyday from our birth.

We returned back to our mundane lives, but with a desire to go back, and relive that fantasy. Around the same time, I started reading "The Nanda Devi Affair" by Bill Aitken. The book, coupled with an inherent reverence for Goddess Nanda (by virtue of the myth around Nainital being created because of her) deepened my interest in the mountain. The trek was a moderate-heavy grade, and the recommended time was 12 days (though some operators have packages for 16). Plans were made and shelved due to lack of time, and/or our leaves not matching.

Cut to 2012: I had finished my previous assignment in May, and was yet to pick up a new one. My friend and his brother had planned an entire week off in end-June. I started planning the trek. Initially, the plan was vetoed by my partners in crime considering the amount of time involved (max. 9 days not accounting for any emergency and including a two day to and fro travel to Munsiyari from where the trek starts). The odds left us with a total of 7 days to cover the entire trek. Something, which we believed we could do, but we were exposing ourselves to a lot of uncertainties. Climbing 25 kms a day at an altitude of +3000m with a 15kg backpack isn't the easiest stuff to do.

We got in touch with a tour guide who quoted a whopping 65000 ex Munsiyari for the trek. After a lot of strings were pulled and the guy assured that we will complete it in less than half the normal time, did he agree on 45000. The money was primarily for camping equipment, food provisions, 3 horses/ ponies to carry the stuff, cook, helper, and the guide.

We started making our preparations to depart on the 22nd of June. Slight rains in Nainital ensured that we were constantly worried about the effect on our way, and the destination ofcourse. Munsiyari is usually cut off during the rains, due to heavy landslides and the trek route to Nanda Devi is prone to avalanches during winters and landslides during rainfall, and hence, inherently dangerous.

The preparations went in full swing. Packed the following essentials into my tried and tested backpack:
1. Victorinox Swiss knife: From cutting fruits to untying shoe laces, this is the single biggest tool for any trek
2. Dupont Kevlar (Hi-Tec) Trekking shoes: Were with me in all my earlier treks. Extremely light, waterproof, and high ankle to prevent twists.
3. Power barefoot running shoes (Backup)
4. Panasonic FZ 35 Camera with two batteries, and an 8 gb card. My friends were getting their newly acquired DSLR (Canon 1100D with 18-55, 50mm prime and 55-250 lenses)
5. My trusted Aviators- since 2007, they have accompanied me everywhere, from extreme treks & travels to daily wear.
6. Rain coat and rain pants: I spent half my journey in these.
7. Quick dry t-shirts, lowers, thermal t-shirts, lowers, jacket.
8. Long range binoculars.
9. Some empty polybags;
10. Glucose/ ORS/ basic medicines/ sun screens/ Some chocolates/ toffees etc.

At this stage, I should acquaint you with my partners in crime:

Abhishek: My school buddy, works in the hospitality industry and is a travel freak.
Nikhil: Abhishek's elder bro. Is an engineer by profession, and a traveller at heart.
Chetan: Nikhil's friend. This incidentally, was his first trek ever

Actual travel Plan
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On the Map
The Nanda Devi affair-capture.jpg

Last edited by Tapish : 10th January 2013 at 23:52.
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Old 10th January 2013, 20:24   #2
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Day 1. 22nd June. Friday. The plan had been pre-poned by a day to account for any delays enroute. This was the reason one of my friends had backed out.

Nikhil and Chetan were to arrive from Delhi by the evening train and reach Haldwani early in the morning. Me and Abhishek left early from Nainital and met them at Bhowali (11 kms) at 7 o' clock. We had reserved the front and middle seats of the daily Maxx service between Haldwani and Munsiyari (that was to be our base camp).
Price for 6 seats - INR 2000
We had breakfast at Almora at 8.30 in the morning and proceeded onwards along the valleys of the Saryu river. We had lunch at Sheraghat. A small town whose economy thrives on serving food to the traffic. The total cost of luch came to 200 bucks for 4 people (and that included INR 60 for a bottle of Pepsi).

The roads the we were traveling on were narrow and had tombstones at every alternate turn. Was a frightening thought, as was the village rubbles we encountered just before Munsiyari where the driver casually remarked "This village was wiped out in rains last year. About 50 odd people were killed".

We came across the Birthi falls just before Munsiari. The falls, at 125 metres are one of the highest in Kumaon.
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We reached Munsiyari at 6.30 in the eveningand were to stay at the TRH in Munsiyari owned by KMVN. We also met our guide for the trip. It had started raining by now and we were anxious about our trip going down in water. The guide reassured us and informed that weather up was favorable though there was a lot of fog near the mountain making visibbility tough.

The accommodation at KMVN was comfortable as always and the food homely. After an early dinner, we retired to be fresh for the trek ahead.

Day 2- 23rd June

Early morning treated us to a good surprise: Beneath the clouds were the majestic Pancha-chuli range.
The valleys were envelopend in clouds and the lights sneaking in made for an awesome view.

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Similarly majestic, was the Hasling mountain, though devoid of any snow. We were told that in the winter months, it appears even more imposing than the Panchachuli.
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Our permits were due and some poblems at the DC office ensured that we got delayed by at least 4-5 hours. We finally left at 12 o' clock and went by Jeep till Dhapa (10 kms), where we met the rest of the crew- the cook, and the ponies.
We and our elaborate setup- later on we realised that we could have done without all of this. Supplies/ Hut Accomodation were easily available except for the Base camp.
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The terrain was rough and the hills told stories of landslides.
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We were greeted by the lord of the area. The Giant Himalayan Lizard. They bask in the sun during the day and retreat into their bunks by nightfall.
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I tried doing an Aamir Khan. (The 15 kg backpack got the better of me and i fell right on the ground )
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Me on the Jimighat bridge. We had tea here and proceeded to Lilam.
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Just before Lilam, we encountered rains. Out came the raincoats/ rainpants.
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The beginning of the Johar valley. This is just before Lilam. Lilam is 6 kms from our starting point and has an ITBP check post. All trekkers need to register there. (This was the Tibet border area)
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The waters of Ramganga were ravishing and one could not hear anyone at a 10 m distance. This also meant that no help could be sought if a tragedy (slip/twist) struck. People have been known to have fallen into the river without any of their group realising it. We were essentially on our own.
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Awesome waterfall (Mallup Flower Fall) on the way.
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We pitched tents at Rupsi Bagad. A valley 2 kms after Lilam having provision for the crew to stay.
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Sitting so at the Rupsi bagad stirred the writer in me:
"There are vast grasslands above me,
and a raging river below
The grass is a blessed green,
and a goat grazes in serenity
the river makes its presence felt,
through a thunderous roar,
reminding me of its insane power
and my insignificance,
I tread the narrow path
between comfort and disturbance,
Its like my mothers lap
comforting yet exhoting me to excel
to stretch my limits,
I know now
Im in mother nature's lap"

Last edited by Tapish : 10th January 2013 at 21:11.
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Old 10th January 2013, 21:32   #3
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Day 3- 24th June

We had deployed only one tent and were sleeping comfortably when it started raining. After some time, our tent was inundated with water. We did not know how to get out of the situation though the crew was sleeping in the shelter. One of us went out to inform them and the others followed. We slept in the shelter for the rest of the night.

Our tent in the morning
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The shelter that we slept in

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Apparently, my waterproof shoes had an open mouth Left to dry.
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We started from Rupsi at 7:30 in the morning. After 4 kms of regular trek we reached Rargari. The place had a hot sulphur spring.
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After another 6 kilometres, we reached Bogdiyar ITBP Camp. Had a quick lunch (packed in the morning) with hot tea and proceeded ahead. All villages enroute and ITBP camps had satellite phones throughwhich we could keep our loved ones informed of our whereabouts.




A beautiful bird I saw. Before I could get the focus right- it went away. Did spend 15 minutes searching for her, but to no avail.
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After Bogdiyar, there was a very steep climb of 3 kms. You can make out the average incline here. We were exhausted by the time we reached the next valley.
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So were our Mules: This is their way of rejuvenating

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A tricky Bridge on the way
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Last edited by Tapish : 10th January 2013 at 22:11.
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Old 10th January 2013, 23:01   #4
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Tiredness apart, we were greeted by the beautiful valley at the top (Nahardevi Valley)
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Three of us were good to go after a small break. Chetan (trekking for the first time) was slightly apprehensive. The next stop was Rilkot (10 kms.) Since it was about 1.30, we decided to take a chance and press ahead.

The way ahead was slightly tricky.
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Chirkani Glacier, we went above it.
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The boulder would have fallen with an amazing speed to have broken down in half.
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The evening.
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By 5.30, three of us had taken a significant lead over chetan, who was coming slowly with the guide. We had stopped at a small tea shop 2 kms short of Rilkot. Even after 1 hour of waiting, there was no sign of him. Also, we could not even contact him. Some porters on their way to Milam informed us that he was way behind and judging by his condition, wont be able to make it.
This got us really worried, but there was nothing we could do. Me and Abhishek decided to move ahead to Rilkot and send a mule back to fetch him. Once at Rilkot, the mule owner rejected the idea on account of the difficult terrain.
Nikhil came in after 2 hours alone and informed us that Chetan will be resting at the shop and will come tomorrow.

We put out our clothes to dry at Rilkot
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This was a Rest House being built by KMVN. The room next to us was wiped out in an avalanche in the winter
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Day 4, 25th June

We got up late as we had to wait for Chetan and the guide. They arrived at 7, and we set out in another half an hour.

I had slippen in a stream last evening, and my shoes were drenched. I shifted to my reserve pair and set these out to dry
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4 kms from Rilkot, we came across the BRO on a road building exercise. The area is strategically important and the BRO hopes to connect it with the mainland by 2016.
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The ITBP- amazingly friendly people.
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The Johar Valley in full view
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A local sheep
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The wind was so strong, the waterfalls became the water showers
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Amazing place to walk..
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..and rest
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Reached Ganghar village. Had a taste of the local Hukka.
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After Ganghar, we left the Milam trail. The Milam trail goes to the ITBP base in Milam and is hence, better maintained. We went westwards towards the base camp.

After a steep climb of 4 kilometres, came across the Mountain Kalchu and its glacier. A sheep dog came running from a mile (800 mts precisely) to meet us.

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Extremely friendly to humans, and equally dangerous towards leopards and the like
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We had to cross the glacier, and the guide advised to do it barefoot. We threw our shoes on the other side and went in.

I went numb after 5 seconds in the water. I could not get myself to cross or to decide the next action. Somehow jumped out and wore my shoes.
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Sheep were a little surprised
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Finally we reached our destination. At a height of about 4250 metres, the place was really cold and the atmosphere thin.
Tents were pitched about 100 m from the crew's shelter (It was a small stone hut built by some shepherd)
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We soon had some visitors who wanted some biscuit/ namkeen/ anything from civilisation
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We had lied down in our respective tents and were in no mood to move, but an amazing offer of soup + bonfire took us down to the shelter.
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We came back to our tents after this. At night, when the guide called us for dinner, it was a chore to get ourselves out. Walking even 100 metres in extreme cold is a pain when you have been sleeping comfortably in a cushy sleeping bag.

After a quick dinner, we made our way back. The guide had advised- "Keep awake in the night, you never know when the clouds clear and you see the mountain"
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Old 10th January 2013, 23:46   #5
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Day 5- 26th June

Nikhil and Chetan were in one tent, with me and Abhishek sharing the other. We woke up once at 1.30, then at 3.30, 4.30, and 5. Without a sight. We couldn't see anything but heard a strange bell thoughout the night. We even flashed torches, but to no response.
I finally got out at 5.30 and went about waking up the others.

The peaks behind us

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At 6, We saw a first glimpse of the peak

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Our tents
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Abhishek was monitoring the proceedings from the comfort of the tents
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The Nada Pal (Protector) on the South cleared up
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The top of the Nanda devi (Notice the North Face)
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Soon, the entire majesty was infront of us. The experience was beholding to say the least. I can just imagine what the climbers would be feeling from the top of that.
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Now we realised that the strange bell was that of the mule. He kept eating through the night.
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A well deserved cup of tea
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Notice a face formation at the bottom. Said (and I experienced) to resemble the goddess Nanda
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All packed up
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The Shelter
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After a quick breakfast, we made for Ganghar.

Enroute, we took some Tadpatra or Bhojpatra. The trees abound at 4000+ height and the paper like bark was used in ancient times.
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While returning, Nikhil, Abhishek and Chetan decided to leap across the Kalchu glacier rather than go through it. I wasn't so sure of the leap and went through the mind numbing experience again.
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Kalchu again
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The dog recognised me
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We reached Ganghar at 11 and continued till Burfu (~3000 m). We stopped there for lunch around 1.30. Immediately after, there were strong winds and we were caught unaware. Due to the strong sun, all of us had taken off our jackets. 5 minutes exposure to the wind had us all cold to the spine.
We took a very steep 1 km climb to Martoli (3380 m). In a matter of 15 minutes, we had gained an altitude of 380 metres.

A Horse and its pony
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The place where we stayed in Martoli
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Chetan immediately took some local medicinal treatment. He had apparently been walking with a ruptured muscle. (After reaching home, he was on a bed rest for 1 week)
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The mountain ahead
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Martoli was the most beautiful place we came across in the trip. It has the Brijganga Pass (Ralam Glacier) to its South East, Khilans Peak towards South, Nanda Kot, Nanda Khat, Nanda Devi (east and West) towards its West, Trishul peak towards North overlooking the Johar Valley (where we came from). It has amazing ancient housing and lots of Bhojpatra trees. It is also the base for the climbers to Nanda Devi. There is also a Nanda Devi temple at the village.

The 5 minute exposure to the winds had taken a toll on all of us. I had a severe stomach ache, Abhishek caught a cold, and Nikhil and Chetan had pain in their knees. The guide gave us a capful of medicine each and we slept comfortably after.

We got up early and went to the temple, post which we made our way down to Bogdyar.
Brijganga Pass from Martoli
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The Temple
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Sun rays in the morning
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A mountain goat
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Rajrambha peak on the way back
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We reached Bogdyararound 4 and spent the remaining day chatting with the ITBP personnel at the post. Their tents use a Kerosene heater and are warm.

Day 6- 27th June
We made our way back from Bogdiyar and reached Jimighat by 3.30. We decided to take a shortcut to the road above where our Jeep was waiting. It turned out to be the final adventure of the trek. The way we took was through a dried stream. Jumping across rocks and climbing a constant incline of 60 degrees meant that we were dead tired by the time we reached the car.

We had realised our dream, and our friend Chetan had faced the entire trek despite having an injury on the second day. We made our way back to KMVN where we had a warm water bath (after a week) and then slept off to glory.

The Panchachuli from Munsiyari
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Thanks for putting up through this long post. Suggestions are welcome.

Cheers,
Tapish

Last edited by Tapish : 10th January 2013 at 23:47.
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Old 11th January 2013, 11:15   #6
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th January 2013, 11:42   #7
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Amazing log!
I was in the region recently, and a local told us that heavy machinery was broken down into parts and then flown into the Lilam region to be reassembled so that they can start road building there.
So probably the bulldozer came in by air as no motorable road connects that valley
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Old 11th January 2013, 12:08   #8
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Originally Posted by tsk1979 View Post
Amazing log!
I was in the region recently, and a local told us that heavy machinery was broken down into parts and then flown into the Lilam region to be reassembled so that they can start road building there.
So probably the bulldozer came in by air as no motorable road connects that valley
Thanks Tanveer,

The machinery was flown to the Milam ITBP base where they have a helipad, and they then started building downwards to Munsiyari. The valley up there is easy, they will have a hard time near Munsiyari.

By the way, where had you gone?
cheers,
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Old 11th January 2013, 12:20   #9
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What an amazing travelogue!

I was in Munsiyari on October - Panchachuli and Hasling looked different then. You half expect to find a temple on the top of Mt. Hasling, given its shape! The road to Munsiyari was getting rebuilt after the rains, some stretches were getting cleared even in late October.

Your thread makes me nostalgic about the treks I used to do in the Eastern Himalayas (North Bengal, Sikkim) when I was younger, lighter and fitter :-)

Rated 5 stars.
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Old 11th January 2013, 13:13   #10
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Mountains, valleys, waterfalls, streams and doggies; what more can one ask for! I was so tempted to do the trek when I was in Munsiyari couple of years back, alas, wasn't to be. Your thread will keep the fire burning.
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Old 11th January 2013, 13:14   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapish View Post
Thanks Tanveer,

The machinery was flown to the Milam ITBP base where they have a helipad, and they then started building downwards to Munsiyari. The valley up there is easy, they will have a hard time near Munsiyari.

By the way, where had you gone?
cheers,
Tapish
We stayed one night at Birthi and 3 nights at munsiyari, followed by a night at Chaukori
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Old 11th January 2013, 13:18   #12
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Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
Your thread makes me nostalgic about the treks I used to do in the Eastern Himalayas (North Bengal, Sikkim) when I was younger, lighter and fitter :-)
Thanks Nilanjan Sir. I remember I shared the Hasling pics with you when you were planning. Was going through your travelogue too. Amazing pics.

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Originally Posted by lordofgondor View Post
Your thread will keep the fire burning.
You are most welcome to do the trek sir. Let me know if you need any help.

Thanks,
Tapish
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Old 11th January 2013, 13:27   #13
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Default Re: The Nanda Devi affair

Good one there Tapish! I just wish that the pics were of some high resolution, specially the Nanda Devi peak one.
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Old 11th January 2013, 15:11   #14
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Awesome log, very engaging to read as well. But the pictures have not been done justice. Dil maange more man!
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Old 11th January 2013, 15:39   #15
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Awesome log, very engaging to read as well. But the pictures have not been done justice. Dil maange more man!
Thanks Hitanshu Sir,

You throw me back to the drawing board. Will fish something out soon.

Cheers,
Tapish
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