Garhwal region of Uttarakhand is known for its celestial beauty and its richness in flora and fauna. I came to believe this when I went on a trek to Pangarchulla- Kuari Pass Trek in the winter of 2017.
5 days on this trek meant camping at 5 heavenly campsites. And let me tell you no campsite is similar to another in terms of landscape, scenery, or geography. It is almost like they are in competition with each other.
With campsites so distinct from each other, there is no question of getting bored of the views on this trek. Every day, as I started my journey from one campsite to another, there was a feeling of curiosity about relocating to a new place.
Here is everything you need to know about all the campsites you will come across on Pangarchulla-Kuari Pass trek.
1. Gulling - The Paradise of Pine and Walnut Trees
The first campsite you come across goes by the name of Gulling. It is around 4 km from Dhak Village, the point from where the trek starts. The trail goes through mountain villages where life can remind you of simpler times. You will find a conventional grinding home in Tugashi Village where the villagers still mill their own grains. The self-sustenance here is in equal parts appealing and impressive.
On crossing the villages, when you find yourself in the middle of walnut and pine forests, know that you are nearing Gulling. Guling top is a massive open field with the best views of the Garhwal range. To witness the sun playing chase with these peaks twice every day, is quite an experience.
Water Source: There is no scarcity of water here – a perennial water stream right by the campsite has clean, flowing water for all your drinking, cooking, and sanitation needs.
Temperature: Since it is shielded by the mountains from one side, you are safe from chilly winds in the night.
Look out for: Prominent peaks of Dronagiri, Nanda Devi and Garud right opposite the campsite.
Network: You may find intermittent (weak) network at the campsite.
2. Khullara - The Grand Living Hall
As the name suggests, the campsite is a vast open ground where you can easily host a wedding provided all your guests are willing to trek all the way up here!
There are no limitations on space here, it can accommodate as many as 20 groups all at once and the campsite still won’t feel crammed. Imagine Khulara as a living room with Hathi Godha and Dronagiri Mountains adorning the place. The pine and coniferous forests are a great addition to the exteriors.
Water source: No need to worry about water here as well, there is a perennial water stream flowing right by our campsite.
Temperature: The mountains on the back guard you against the cold winds.
Look out for: Horses grazing in fields and in-your-face kinda views of Hathi Ghoda and Dronagiri peaks.
Network: BSNL users may get intermittent network.
Pic credits: Janmenjoy Roy
3. Gelaghad - Am I on one of those planets from Interstellar?
This is where you take a halt to go to Kuari Pass and Pangarchulla Peak. If you ask me, the first impression of Gelaghad campsite is intimidating. It is literally located in the middle of nowhere, out in the open.
The tree line ends a few metres before you reach the campsite. So there is no way you will find a single tree to give you sanctuary from the wide open sky above. What you will find here are humongous rocks and hills covered in golden and maroon shrubs as far as your eyes can see.
In the night, it seems like you are on one of those planets from the movie, Interstellar. I swear! The starry night sky looks so ethereal. The stars will make you crawl out of your tent even in the chilly weather. Don't worry! There is no fourth dimension.
Water source: In monsoons, this place has seasonal streams. Otherwise, you will face water scarcity issues here. The water stream is located quite far from the campsite. So, use it judiciously.
Temperature: Since it is open in all directions, you will experience chilly winds here. The temperature at night is sub-zero.
Look out for: Chaukhamba, Balkund, Trishul are the first things where sunlight hits. Do not miss the incandescent views of the snow peaks in the morning.
Network: You are finally fully out of the network zone here.
Pic crdits: Jenmenjoy Roy
4. Tali - the forest right out from LOTR series
For me, Tali was a jungle that instantly reminded me of LOTR. Our camp was surrounded by thick Rhododendron forests. Sitting in my tent, it felt like I was in a Hobbit hole.
In winters, this place gets thick snowfall. The sunlight cuts right through the trees. The place is so cozy it makes you feel at home. You also walk across the thick forests of Chitrakantha en route Tali.
Tali Lake is 2 km away from this campsite which you should not miss on your way. On clear and calm days, you can see the reflection of Nanda Devi in its waters.
Water source: Any water body you see in Tali is a result of underground water stored in mountain caves. But it is a pretty crowded campsite; a fight for clean water is inevitable!
Temperature: A lot more comfortable than Gelghad. Since it is in the middle of the forest, you are shielded from cold winds.
Look out for: Bears and foxes. Nah, just kidding! Enjoy the pleasant sun-kissed mornings along with a cup of Rhododendron Tea.
Network: BSNL reemerges!
5. Gorson Bugyal - Mini Switzerland of India
When I asked about this place from my local guide, he said it's called the Mini-Switzerland of India. I thought he was exaggerating, but he really wasn’t. Bugyal in local Uttarakhand dialect means meadow and when I got to Gorson Bugyal, I didn’t have to think twice to share my guide's opinion on its description.
Situated near Auli, this place is chilly all around the year. The lush green meadows decorated with golden Oak trees are a delicious treat for the eyes. Walking through the meadow feels like a stroll in the park. I am sure this Bugyal gives Meadows of Roopkund and Ali Bedni Bugyal, a run for their money.
There are two huts constructed by ITBP for winter training. These aren’t very well maintained, however.
Water source: The place has scarce water all throughout the year. Other than monsoons, the lakes here, remain mostly dried.
Temperature: Expect chilly nights here.
Look out for: Maa Podyar Temple which is just a stone throw away from this campsite.
Network: BSNL will get a good network here. Airtel and Vodafone may be erratic. But near Podyar Temple, you might even get 3G. No kidding!
Every day on this trek is a different experience, a different challenge, and very distinct scenic views.
Do I have one favourite campsite? Well, on this trek that's hard to answer.
This article was originally written by Pankaj Deshwal on 17-11-2017.
It was edited and updated by Neeti Singhal on 15-11-2023