The Bagini glacier Trek

If you’re looking for a trek that’s challenging but with great views and beautiful campsites with personality, then the Bagini trek is for you. What’s more you can claim to have trekked up to a glacier & at a fair altitude too.

  • Facts: Altitude gained – 4400 mts approx
  • Difficulty level: Moderate Total kms to trek – 44 kms
  • Pre Monsoon Season:- April last week to June end and in post monsoon Season:- September 2nd week to Nov first week.
    April to June day time 15C to 20C and night 7C to -2C Sept – Oct, day time 15C to 10C and night 5C to -5C

We undertook the Bagini trek, the year after our trek to EBC i.e in May 2015. For all of us in the group, Bagini would be a new route and destination altogether.

We didn’t expect the trek to be a tough one, but let me let the cat out of the bag right away that we were in for a surprise. Bagini is a moderate to tough trek with daily 7-8 hours of walking required and not on easy terrain.

So here’s what makes bagini a great trek to undertake –

  • great views of the Nanda Devi, Dunagiri and the Hathi Ghoda peaks, the Rishi Parbat, Hardeol, Dunagiri .
  • beautiful campsites – a meadow, one right next to the river, one inside an abandoned village and another right off the glacier
  • challenging your fitness levels – moderate to tough – walking through boulders and the river bed
  • snow possibilities – on the glacier and during our crossing to Dunagiri
  • spotting a glacier
  • pine forests
  • landslide region for some adventure along with snow crossing (which is scary initially till one gets used to it)
  • staying & exploring the deserted Dunagiri village (without a soul around)
  • A side trip to Auli with the most awesome views from the top – possibly the 2nd best I’ve seen this far.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to read further and complete this lengthy but informative blog now 🙂

We were a group of 7, equally divided between first time trekkers and experienced ones. Vikas, myself and Rahul had trekked earlier; while Poonam, Sushant, Basav and Girija were first timers. Vikas had undertaken numerous treks before this one – Gangotri, Pangarchulla, Dodti Tal etc to name a few.

So as goes for most treks in Uttarakhand, we drove the whole day from Rishikesh to reach Joshimath around evening. We checked into a basic but comfy hotel and relaxed. It was slightly chilly and we needed light jackets to keep out the cold. After we freshened up, we went to the nearby dhaba for chai and snacks and called it a day.

Day 1

We woke up at 6 am and departed by our mini van around 7 am. About 20 mins into the drive, we saw the beautiful Nanda Devi loom up and stopped for pictures. We knew it would be a long day with numerous stops given the sights around. However, suddenly about an hour into the drive, we had to necessarily stop as there had been a landslide a little further down and the road was being paved. No one knew how long it would take and so we disembarked. Luckily for us, an Army unit was on its way to the last village near the China border called Mana, and they had to stop as well. The next couple of hours were spent chatting away with the commander of the group, a Capt Rana as young as 27 (younger than all of us). The road was cleared and another hour later, we reached the road head – called Jhumma, from where we had a light trek (of about an hour to Ruing village). We reached Ruing around 3 pm. We’d had packed lunch on the way, so everyone including the staff was free. Luckily for us, we had fun setting up tents and helping the staff. My first hand at tent setting. 🙂

Ruing village was 200 mts further and we camped on the open ground just before the village. It was just across the river and on the other side was the road leading to the last village near the China border – to where the Army unit was headed. The clearing was peaceful and picturesque with mountains around, a river flowing down and pine trees everywhere. In fact, to me Ruing was one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve stayed in. There were no villagers in the village here & it was a different feeling all together.

Here’s a pic

ruing-campsite

Day 2

Ruing to Dunagiri (3610 mts)

A beautiful stretch that has it all. As one starts from Ruing, the pine forests make for a comfortable and enjoyable trek. There are waterfalls that one crosses, one can also trace the path to Dharanasi (Kanari Khal) pass on the hill across and there are pretty rhododendrons in bloom to make it a colourful and sweet walk. Another interesting part on this stretch is the snow crossing. At a number of places the snow has not melted out and one is required to cross about 10-15 meters of snow under which the trail is completely hidden. On these stretches the snow lies like a blanket over the hillside so basically its steep and a missed or slipped step can cause serious injury as well as a majjor slide or tumble downhill. I must confess that I was terrified when I came across the first such crossing (there were about 3-4 of them) fearing a missed step. Our guide Rawat though was pretty experienced and moreso a ski instructor and helped us safely across. He also showed us how to glissade down these with trekking poles. The remaining ones I crossed over with a lot more confidence actually enjoying the last one 🙂

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However about a couple of hours into the trek as we come to the end of one hill and cross over the the other mountain, it’s clear that this hill has started disintegrating and the soil is loose. Here we enter the hill leading onto Dunagiri , the last village before Bagini. Dunagiri is situated at a height of 3800 mts and is pretty high. It’s also a village where the inhabitants do not worship Lord Hanuman as they believe that he had pulled out half the Dronagiri peak to carry the sanjeevani to Laxman.

Coming back to the trek, this is a slightly risky stretch with the trail at a number of places becoming narrow as well as the gravel loose. Plus there are tricky stretches where one has to manouver to get around or under rocks to stay on course. This stretch of loose gravel and the landslide region takes about 45 mins to cover and it is advised that breaks here be few or nil and the region is crossed over as quickly as possible.

Our trials didn’t end here, just as we finished this stretch exhausted due to our quickened pace, we saw the Dunagiri village ahead of us. The challenge was the 3 km concrete stretch leading to the village. Tired and exhausted that we were it really was quite an effort to reach our camp at the other end of the village near the village water tank and school. This was marked out as the camp site due to access to constructed toilets as well as the availablibty of pipe water flowing from the river. The village site to me was mesmerising. Staying in cities as we do, there are seldom occasions where one can witness dwellings totally un0inhabited and abandonded. It was like a ghost village – some 50-60 huts and houses including the village temple at the top; all empty as if for ages. Waiting silently or maybe not waiting at all. Some doors locked, a lot of others unlocked. Scarce belongings. Apart from our group there was not a soul in the village.

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That evening after reaching around 4 pm, the group had chai, freshened up and rested in the tents for a while. It was windy and chilly and we were all totally fatigued. After an hour of rest, we decided to explore the village. We made our way to the temple on top – paid our respects to the Goddess there who’s had been covered. Looked around and were aghast to discover the carcass of a yak in one of the houses. It didn’t look like it had been there too long, maybe a few days at best. The body totally intact. It seemed like it had missed a step and fallen through the wooden floor onto the level below. A lot of houses in the hills are made on 2 levels.

Our tents had been pitched in an open patch near the school biolding and the organising team decided to sleep in one school room which was open. I learnt that day that tents are warmer than concrete houses with window iin the hills; as tents are wind proof and its possible to trap the heat (body heat inside). That night I found it a little difficult to sleep given the the feeling of sleeping in an abandonded village seemed eerie to me. After a while, exhaustion took over and thankfully I slept well.

Day 3 – Dunagiri to Bagini camp (4484 mts)

We departed around 8.30 am from Dunagiri and after about an hour and half and a small stretch of river crossing and some difficult boulder ascending arrived at Laungatuli. Its a beautiful spot right next to the river with a flat patch to pitch tents. We relaxed here for a while. Refilled our water bottles and took a short break as we’d been told that our camp for the night would be just off the glacier and it was a long walk up the river along the boulder strewn path. I’m sure those of you who’ve walked on river beds know exactly how painful it is to walk along river beds where you have to be careful of your footing at every step and where walking and stretching up boulders and rocks takes considerable effort. Its almost twice the work compared to walking on flat ground. At Dunagiri we were at a height of 3610 mtrs or so and as we started ascending, the altitude as well as the long walk started taking its toll on us. Thus, with numerous breaks we reached the bagini campsite at 4 pm in the afternoon. One of our friends was suffering from slight AMS and was terribly nausiactic. The rest of us had had 2 full days of challenging trekking at a fairly high altitude. The initial plan had been to start for the chang-bang base camp the same night at 2 am. Reach the base camp by morning, spend a few hours and return back. Given the exhaustion each of us felt, we decided to drop the idea of proceeding to the chang-bang base camp and spend the night resting. We were to decide whether we would spend the next night going up to the base camp. However, considering that we had carried limited provisions and an extra night would crunch the return journey, we decided to return back the next day.

The long trek up the river bed

Bagini Base Camp & Views

 

Day 4 – Return to Laugatuli (retrace your steps)

The trek back to Laungatuli took only an hour and half,  and we’d barely reached the camp when the weather turned and to our delight it began to snow. It snowed for an hour and half and it brought down the temperature suddenly. The snow got us moving out to click pictures and experience it falling softly. Hot chai and pakoris followed and so did loads of gupshup. That night however was the chilliest of all nights – temperatures falling to sub zero considering that we were right next to the river as well, and we discovered a layer of frozen snow over our tents in the morning.  Despite most of us having slept poorly the night before, spirits were high in the morning as the sun shone. The heavy trekking had been done and descending we all knew would be easy.

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Day 5 – Laungatuli to Dunagiri – Today’s walk would be an easy 45 min to an hour’s walk and so we spent another 2 hours walking up the other side of the hill leading to the Kanari Khal pass route. We returned after a couple of hours, having sighted enough Monals (birds common in the hills) to have had our fill. We camped at the same spot next to the school building in Dunagiri village. The place seemed familiar suddenly. Funny how even the most inhospitable places, seem comfortable once you’re familiar with them 🙂

Day 6- Dunagiri to Ruing & then Auli

We camped another night at Ruing, though it was possible to trek straight back to Joshimath the next day. I’m certain it was the beauty of the Ruing campsite that made us stay over. That night was the night for celebration. The Jack Daniel was opened, a cake baked, cut and devoured over music and chatter.

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All in all, it was a well rewarding trek (also considering that I lost a couple of inches in the process) 😉 , with wonderful views and good enough to challenge the body.

 

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