Expedition Himank: A walk in the Girthi & Kio Gaad Valleys
Part 1- The Girthi Decathlon
Part 1- The Girthi Decathlon
12th June 2011- 1400 Hrs- Malari Village, Chamoli, Uttarakhand.
When I saw him for the first time he looked older than all the 74 springs he had weathered. The lines on his wizened and bronzed face amplified his age.
We had finally managed to meet the oldest shepherd of Malari.
As soon as we started our brief enquiry about the Girthi Ganga valley, Bhuwan Singh- the shepherd, started an animated description of the route. As he spoke, one could see the sparkle in his eyes, as if he had gone back to his heydays.
“ तीन दिन लगेगा साब. पहले दिन "पानी उड़ार", फिर "दूम पानी" और तीसरे दिन हम गिरथी पहुँच जायेंगे .” – his confidence was contagious. “पानी का थोडा दिक्कत है …” he went on.
A small crowd was gathering around us, all of them retired shepherds, all loving to add their little bits of information about the route.
Half an hour later, Bhuwan returned after bidding farewell to his family, a big “Tilak” on his forehead and a bottle filled with some milky liquid in his hand.
“एक मिनट रोकिये साब यहाँ पर ” - Bhuwan suddenly spoke up as I drove us back to the campsite.
His eyes were already closed in a reverential prayer, as I watched him offering obeisance in the direction of the temple, about 100 meters below the road, to our left. He ended it by offering the bottle of milky liquid, emptying its content on the way side.
“माता का मंदिर है . काली माता ! ऊपर वाले का आशीर्वाद होना चाहिए साब !”.
Then I realized, even for the seasoned campaigner, this was a challenge; a challenge that he was accepting, praying and offering his homemade “Chhaang” to Goddess Kaali.
Somehow, the experience was entirely refreshing. Something about him was absolutely natural, transparent and one inspiring confidence.
He was in for an adventure at the ripe old age of 74, when most others would prefer to mind their worldly chores. An adventure that would be on for two weeks and a hundred Kilometers through such terrains that only he knew and we had only read about.
The team was now complete.
It had just been a few months after we had finished the Govindghat- Badrinath route over Gupt Khal when I got talking to the legendary Mr Harish Kapadia and it was he who proposed in an email
“Why don’t you try the Girthi Valley next?”
“Nice Idea!” I thought
As I researched more into the proposed route, the romance of it grew on me.
|Sketch Map of route- Approx. to Scale|
1. Major Smyth in early 1800s (Atkinson, Himalayan Gazetteer Vol3, pp324)
2. Dr Bockeh’s expedition in 1895
3. The Scottish Himlayan Expedition of 1951 led by W H Murray (HJ Vol 16)
4. Expedition of Harish Kapadia in 1986 (HJ Vol 45)
There is not much description available about the first two traverses, but both Murray and Kapadia describe in some detail the difficulties one faces in crossing the 20 Kms between Malari and Topidunga through the Girthi Ganga Valley.
|Clockwise from Top left- |
Arun, Ashu, Bharat, Kalyani, Kaveri,
Suraj, Shahid, Ritesh, Ravin, Pawan
If we attempted the route, we were going to be the 5th civilian expedition in the 200 years old recorded history and the first one with women in the team!
The bonus was the likelihood of spotting rare wildlife (snow leopards have been spotted in the Malari area in the last two years), in this territory that was so rarely visited by human beings!!